I’ve mentioned that my partner is a bit of a car enthusiast.
I, on the other hand, am not.
In fairness, when we first met, and were getting to know each other, we discussed our respective likes and dislikes. At the time (18 years ago), I had a bit of a soft spot for a flashy car. The important point to note, however, is that my interest was confined to new, state-of-the-art motors, with all mod cons. The common factor in all of my fantasy cars, was their ability to travel from A to, at least G or H, without belching out smoke, steam or oil.
So, at an advanced stage in our relationship, my partner manifested a worrying obsession with old cars which, by and large, don’t work for most of the time. Worse than that, it has become apparent that he labours under the delusion that if he pulls out the minutiae of the engines of the said cars and leaves rusty, greased-up widgets lying around the house and garage, then some time later puts back them back or replaces them, that the old crocks will go for more than a few hours. Despite the hard evidence of many hours spent by roadsides with me stern-faced and foul-mouthed and him sweaty, oily and equally foul-mouthed, his love for the classic car, and dismembering of same, endures. Daily deliveries of suspicious brown parcels arrive at our house, which have probably put us on the radar of MI6. This is not fake news.
At some point in the last 4 or 5 years, his obsession took a new and even more unwelcome turn (pardon the pun), with an interest in car rallies. For the uninitiated, these events bring together a large number of clapped out cars and geeky people who speak a strange car language, almost without drawing breath. Of those who attend, there are some women who appear to have a genuine interest in this whole classic car business. Good for them. There are many more whom I suspect are sceptics but don’t choose to out themselves, for whatever reason. Not a problem for me. My partner is under no illusion as to where I stand on the topic.
So, back to the car rally. The basic principle is that you take a bunch of cronky old cars and send them off on the worst roads imaginable, deep in the countryside, where any vehicle recovery company will really struggle to find them, should the need inevitably arise. Genius!
These roads, by the way, are clearly used infrequently, as there is often grass and weeds growing along them. We never meet my fantasy, modern, car venturing down these roads. Call me the girl with the dragon tattoo, but I think that’s because they have craters which would grace a lunar planet, interspersed with mounds of gravel, mud or twigs, likely to cause serious damage to any car which travels down them. The sleuth in me detects tractor tracks, but not much else. Small wonder then that the old crocks, which seem lower to the ground than most modern cars, invariably scrape their sagging underbellies along the road detritus and thereafter rattle and bang their way to the end of the car rally, if you’re lucky. All this seems to do is encourage the partner and fellow enthusiasts to stand around, at the end of the rally, debating what further repair and replacement might be required, all with an unhealthy and deranged gleam in the eye.
I should mention that the participants, in these escapades, are sent out into the wilderness with vague, ambiguous directions, maps and diagrams called “tulips”. These are little diagrams which show when to turn right, left, carry straight on etc. Now, I am keen gardener, but I just don’t get it. These babies are nothing like the flowers in my garden, but hey! What do I know? I’m just a modern car preferring, English speaking, level-headed person (not sure about that last bit).
Another feature of these car rallies is the fact that they are structured around pit-stops. At regular intervals, participants are encouraged to load up with food and drink, thereby boosting the profits of far-flung establishments, buried deep in the countryside, which would otherwise have no customers. Then back to the old crock, to bump along those dirt tracks again in order to go even deeper into remote countryside. What countryside is that, exactly? God help us, but I am the navigator and my head is buried in maps and tulips. I can see f*** all. About 5 minutes in from a pit-stop, either my partner or I will need to pull over to answer the call of nature. It’s not yet happened to me, but anecdotally, others pull over to be sick, due to continuous jiggling and juggling of food over bumpy roads, whilst being restrained by an old seatbelt, which clamps across the stomach like a vice, squashing all behind it, particularly the bladder. Too much information, I know, but I need to tell you what I am dealing with here.
Last but not least, there is the heat that these exercises bring into a relationship. Monumental rows break out, as I pour over the hieroglyphics and minuscule map markings to try and work out where to go next. We take a wrong turn. I curse and swear, throw the map round the car and tear it in a crucial place. My eyesight is rubbish so I have to peer through a magnifying glass and as I continue to turn the air blue, my partner declares “I’m going to turn around and go home. I’m just not enjoying this experience with you.” HE’S NOT ENJOYING IT! WOW!
On the most difficult rallies, we usually give up and head straight for the pub at the end of the rally. I neck about 3 g and ts before I am prepared to speak to anyone. We then sit there and endure the ritual humiliation of results and who came first, second, third and last. Guess which one we were?
Today, an astonishing thing happened. We arrived back first, having completed the course without any wrong turns. I can’t quite believe it. Unbeknownst to me, because I was tip-toeing through the tulips, loads of other competitors were behind and following us. Had I known this, I would have flipped with the pressure, but as it is, I’m feeling rather smug. What is more, my partner and I are still speaking to each other directly, instead of through the dog. I know he thinks this is the start of something car rallyish. All I can say is, life is full of disappointments. But I have agreed to another one…..in October!
PS. The car in the photo is one of my partner’s cars. He told me to put that in!