By Lauren Edwards
My first born is now in possession of a provisional driving licence. It only seems like yesterday that he was shuffling about the garden in his little red and yellow Cosy Coupe and now he’s 17 and about to take to the streets with an L plate. We had organised for him to receive driving lessons at the start of January but with this pesky pandemic putting the stop to any up close and personal contact, hubby now has the perhaps unwelcome task of becoming his driving instructor.
Those shaky first few driving lessons seem like aeon’s ago for me. The days before theory tests, where instead you were grilled by your examiner from his well-used copy of the Highway Code. I can remember burning the midnight oil studying braking distances in preparation for the test, then not being asked one thing about them! I passed my driving test second time and I happily swapped my provisional for a permanent licence, as not only did I now have a licence to drive but also a good form of ID for alcohol purchasing.
With a generous (at the time) budget of £500 from my parents, we decided a Ford Fiesta would be a sensible choice of vehicle. Now, at age 17, I was a diligent student at college, a dedicated waitress at an Elvis themed restaurant (it’s not easy to memorise all the gimmicky menu choices of ‘Love me Tender Steak’ or ‘Hound Hot Dog’ you know) but I was also quite an impulsive teen. So, with the money for my car burning a hole in my pocket and a friend of mine looking to sell her VW Beetle, I thought it would be a genius decision to buy it from her. We exchanged £500 for the car, its logbook and MOT certificate, which if I had bothered to look at would have told me that it had limped through its last service.
My parents are lovely patient people, very reasonable and supportive but as you can imagine were none too pleased when they heard the Sherman tank noise coming down the road and me pulling up in a bright pink beetle, with extended wheel arches to accommodate its massive tyres. The words ‘on your head be it’ I think were used in the resulting conversation, but I was unable to see sense, I was in love!
With my rose-tinted glasses firmly in place, my car had so many lovable features that any rational person would probably have seen as a negative. The vintage flat windscreen with one faulty windscreen wiper which used to stick when it rained so my passenger would have to part lean out of the window and help it move quicker. The horn and windscreen wash were little levers on the dashboard which I often mistook for each other. One day, when stuck in traffic, I tried to wash my screen and pressed the horn lever by accident, which then jammed so I was stationary with a loud horn on a continuous noise while I tried to shout, “my horn is stuck!” out of the window to not very amused drivers around me. The heating was two holes in the back seat and when turned on would burn the ankles of anyone sitting in the back and not reach the people in the front. The weirdest addition, however, were the enormous wheels. During my first MOT, the mechanic pointed out that one of the tyres actually belonged to a van and that I should really change it to a car tyre!
But, despite its many flaws, it was such a lovely car to drive, I can still hear the chugga-chug of its engine and the feeling of safety in its huge interior. However, it wasn’t built for speed as when I drove on the motorway and reached its maximum speed of 65mph, the car would shake and you had to shout to be heard. During one memorable journey to Brighton, my friends and I stopped to get petrol and as I waited in line to pay, a man in front said to his girlfriend, “look at that bug, it’s eye’s falling out”, to which I spun round to see my car’s headlight dangling from one wire!
After a few years of service, my beloved Beetle succumbed to rust and corrosion. I was planning a permanent move to Brighton and after a not very successful campaign to sell it in Loot, we sold it to a scrap dealer for £50. It still brings a lump to my throat remembering it being towed down the street feeling like I had let it down through neglect. However, my parents were now happy with the fact I was going to be driving the long-awaited Fiesta that they had bought for my brother and I to share.