The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Companion chariot

Jalopy portrait

It’s that dreaded time of year when I have to accompany my faded friend to the Volvo garage in Bury St Edmunds. It’s like attending the Oscars and realising, too late, that you’re wearing muddy Wellingtons. Gleaming cars purr smugly past us as we make a five point kangaroo turn into the service bay.

Jalopy is gutsy and doesn’t appear to notice the smirks. Once she’s up on the ramp, I feel much more relaxed. She has a gruelling three hours ahead. I, on the other hand, am snaking my way to Reception.

I generally find myself sipping coffee beside a blousy couple who can’t decide between Baltimore Bronze or Roughneck Red for their slick 6 litre sports saloon. The answer is obvious: why not buy two? I’m sure the salesman would agree if I piped up. Instead I slip silently into the back of the chauffeured car that is laid on to distract nervous Volvo owners with a trip to the centre of Bury St Edmunds and the shops.

Often there’s a panicky call to my mobile as I’m thumbing through the New Age books in Ottakar’s,
“The brakes are down beyond the rims. If you’d brought Jalopy in seven months ago, we’d have been able to replace them before this deep invasive damage.”
“But I only need an annual service. Don’t I?”
Intake of air through teeth. Short pause, tactful tone.
“Well, the juddering at junctions should have been a sign.”

I was considering crossing the tracks this year and saving money by taking Jalopy to a local breakers yard for her annual service. I discovered this place last year when she clashed with a temperamental Fiesta in Newmarket. The insurance company rubber stamped dear Jalopy as a write-off. They kindly sent me a cheque so I could buy her back. They’d insure her again as long as I repaired her.

The assessor was fatherly. Had I ever considered a breakers yard for parts? I had £450 after all. The mobile panel beater ate up £350 but there was more work and parts required. There had to be an immediate MOT to prove she was safe and roadworthy.

Suddenly I was clambering over car wrecks armed with huge desperation and a large spanner. Jalopy and I spent so much time at the breakers yard that even the pack of Alsatian dogs stopped eyeing me suspiciously.

Feeling like Henry Ford, I replaced the damaged parts and was particularly pleased when I found a set of headlamps to replace the smashed ones. The drive home that night was a revelation. Poor Jalopy had been developing cataracts and now full 20/20 vision was restored.

I like the Bury garage but it takes a lot of neck to shimmy through the gates. Whereas in the breakers yard, my faithful Jalopy shines like a diamond. The guys do repairs and MOTs in a scary sort of subterranean bear pit. Eventually I floated the idea past Danny.
“You might take Jalopy there but I doubt that you would be driving your old pal home with her original bits and pieces.”

Jalopy has been booked into the Volvo dealership. When I mentioned that she didn’t really need the complimentary wash and vacuum (she is allergic to soap and Turtle wax), the lady on the service desk was encouraging.
“Go for the wash and brush up. You never know, you might find out what colour she once was.” Poor Jalopy. She is so proud of her moss and wildlife.

Jalopy will celebrate her 105th birthday (in dog years) on 1 August 2007. We’ll take her for a spin to the biggest car park we can find so she that can strut her stuff in her own quiet way.


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