I’m mobile again. You really don’t know how much you rely on the car till you don’t have one. Living in the city years ago it was no problem; public transport filled the gaps, and made having a car not only largely unnecessary for day to day life, but pretty pointless. It is quicker, easier, cheaper and ecologically friendlier to use buses than it is to sit alone in a traffic jam or fight for a parking space.
Here, however, in a rural village, it is a different story and your choices become very limited. Expensive too, when taxis have to plug the gaping holes in public transport, where buses per day can be counted on your fingers and destinations are even more limited.
There is more to it than the practicalities though, the car represents possibility. Even if I don’t go anywhere… I could. And that freedom from constraint makes a world of difference. I’ve felt as if my wings had been clipped and I can’t say I like it.
The morning brought pouring rain; I was soaked before I got to my son’s and wetter still before I finally picked up the car. The mechanic explained what had been done… and I kept my smugness to myself. I had been right… fuel delivery problem. I’m no mechanic, but I’ve been around engines long enough to know something, if not a lot.
My very first car was a Mini. I had bought it thinking it small enough for my hobbit-sized proportions, only to find it had been built with room for long legs. And bigger feet. After I had installed a false floor so I could both reach the pedals and actually operate them (yes, that short) I set about learning my way round the car.
I had helped enough with my first husband’s determination to swap the engine and gear box on every car we ever owned, so I could identify most bits. The thing wasn’t firing on all cylinders, so the idea was to strip it down, clean it bit by bit, replace the valves and reassemble it. That way I should have both a car that ran and a reasonable idea of how and why. “Suck, squeeze, bang, blow” may well be a reasonable definition of the internal combustion engine, but it doesn’t actually tell you a lot about what to do if you break down.
I knew the obvious things of course… like how to fix a broken fan belt with a stocking and putting an egg in a leaking radiator. These, however, seemed somewhat unprofessional approaches. I rolled up my sleeves and got down and dirty with the innards under the bonnet.
The methods were typically unorthodox. A friend who knew engines was giving me step by step advice and cringed to find me cleaning the engine block with oven cleaner and scouring pads. It worked…He was even less pleased to find I had abandoned the laborious process of grinding down the valves by hand and stuck them in the end of an electric drill…
However, following his instructions the engine was eventually reinstalled. And still misfiring. It took an investigation worthy of Sherlock Holmes to eventually realise that the carefully labelled HT leads we had removed and replaced in the correct sequence had not been in the right place to begin with. That had, apparently, been the only problem. However, I learned some valuable lessons that have helped keep things running even when I can’t afford the garage.
I fell in love with driving… and I have been climbing the walls without my wheels.
This morning. the mechanic finally handed me the keys… and the bad news about what else will need to be done. Then feeling less like a hobbit and more like Gollum by the second, I sank into the well-worn seat and placed my hands on the wheel. A turn of the key and she sprang into familiar life.
I settled back in with a sigh of relief.