Home » Apologies for everything » The dead giveaway

The dead giveaway

Talking about secondhand cars has reminded me that I am not quite right in the head.

Most of the time, I think I am more than okay, and can function well in the world. After all, I am nearly 64 and still here, unemployed but in full working order, sitting in my lovely garden studio, that I can’t sell, Hunzi dreaming fitfully at my feet, writing my interesting and amusing bogl, that nobody reads; or, if they do, they must be too stunned to Comment on it.

Evidence, then, of normality.

Except that, when I look back on certain events in my life, I beg leave to remark that only someone who is missing synchro on third gear would behave the way I do.

It might fairly be observed that no-one in their right mind would ever have bought a short-wheelbase Mitsubishi Pajero in the first place, a ‘grey import’; something I later discovered would reduce its value considerably. The insurance companies hate them, owing to their untraceable origins. Be that as it may, I had decided to sell it and buy something more economical, that would not be quite so much like driving a cement cavity wallblock with no sense of direction.

This being West Wales, pop. 503, there are few car buyers looking for any given car at any one time, and no-one has any money, so it sat on the forecourt of the mansion for months while I advertised it in the paper. I soon became impatient, and ‘borrowed’ a month’s wages in advance from my employer to  buy a low-mileage Renault Laguna for a knockdown price. It seemed to be made entirely from recycled plastic spoons, but it ran pretty well; until, driving on what passes for one of our main city-to-city trunk roads, basically an unmarked rutted track with livestock, a salesman in a Volvo pulled out from behind a van as I was passing, and his sturdy Swedish wheelnuts chewed all four panels off my driver’s side. Another six inches and I would not be bogling so interestingly now.

Shortly after this incident, a fish nibbled the hook: a man turned up with his entire family to see about buying my Pajero – which, I have been reliably informed, is Spanish for ‘wanker’.

I was faintly appalled then, when the man produced from somewhere a pristine blue overall, zipped himself in, dove under the bonnet (hood) and started tugging expertly at the wires and hoses while his wives, children and aunts looked on in admiration, to discover what any expert mechanic might: that is, anything that could conceivably lead to a more insulting offer being proposed.

Having minutely examined every inch of my car, sucking his teeth doubtfully, he emerged after about twenty minutes from beneath it and triumphantly announced in his whining Brummie accent* that one of the outriggers that secures the bodywork to the chassis was rusted through.

By this time, gentle reader, one of the outriggers that secures my sanity to the inside of my skull had rusted through too, and my inner Basil Fawlty emerged. “Oh, my God!” I cried. “But that would mean an automatic MOT failure! I couldn’t possibly sell it to you in this condition! I must get it repaired first. Thank you so much for pointing it out!”

“No, it’s okay” he replied, doubt and alarm creeping over his face. “I can do that, honest… I’d really like to buy the car…”

“No, I won’t hear of it!” I persisted. “I am absolutely NOT going to sell you my car in this unsafe condition. Give me your number and I will call you when the work is done.” Which, of course, I had no intention of doing because, by now, the man and his prissy blue overall had earned my undying scorn. Albeit that he was the only person who had even glanced at the car in six months of advertising, I was damned if I was going to sell it to him.

So, he and his family trooped off disconsolately, fleas ringing in their ears, while I pondered how, having recently paid another month’s salary to have my mangled Laguna fixed-up with four non-matching panels and two illegal secondhand tyres (for reasons I can’t go into, I needed to avoid making an insurance claim), I was ever going to afford to have the chassis of my wankermobile (as my son christened it) welded.

As if cutting off my nose to spite my own face was not enough – the offer the man had proposed was not actually beyond considering – I then did something so extraordinary, so bizarre, that I cannot explain it, other than in terms of some underlying mental deficiency.

There was a garage up the road, and I took my Pajero there and asked them to estimate for the repair work, and I didn’t hear back from them. This being West Wales, you never do, no-one ever phones you back with a quote, they just do the work, sometimes not, and invent a large sum of money you owe them, which they forget to tell you about, sometimes for years, until you get notice of a court judgement in their favour.

Days, then weeks went by, and I forgot about my Pajero, other than from time to time I would drive past the garage in my two-tone Laguna (shiny red-and-blue, my family referred to it callously as ‘the Bruise’) and see it parked outside and wonder anxiously how much the welding was going to cost, and would I ever be able to afford it – I was paying my ex-wife half my net salary at the time and living on practically nothing. Plus, I still owed my employer the money for the car.

I also owed another garage £500 for work they had done two years earlier, and at this time they tracked me down and sent me a reminder. So I wrote back and said they could have the Pajero in lieu of payment if they would care to come and collect it; which they tried to do, and then complained that the other garage had said I owed them money for the repair and would not release the car until I paid them.

This all seemed so impossibly complicated that I decided to ignore the whole thing.

One day the following summer I came to my senses and thought, this is ridiculous, I should go in and settle the matter as I was not going to pay for a repair they should not have done without my go-ahead while I was still waiting for them to tell me how much it was going to cost. Besides, I hadn’t even seen a bill.

So I drove up there, and it was gone.

I never saw it again.

* Demographic note: The Birmingham accent is distinguished by its tendency to induce suicidal mania in the listener. Examples: F1 driver Nigel Mansell; comedian Jasper Carrott; Dr Johnson.


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