Last year we shared Jalopy for a few weeks when Danny's car was out of action. Living in the country, this could have been a nightmare but Danny became the chauffeur and Jalopy the only executive car in the exclusive Cottage Smallholder Mini Cab Service fleet.
I was driven to work and collected in the evenings. I must admit that I hadn't realised quite how eccentric this old lady looks. She stands out from the crowd of other ancient Volvos. Not just the fact that her paint is now a stylish matt but her back seat and boot are loaded with every conceivable piece of decorating equipment that anybody could ever possibly need.
Danny would drive away looking normal at the helm of this extraordinary chariot. She has an old lady throatiness too. I could hear her approaching in the evening so was always able to magically be waiting by the front door when my coach and driver arrived.
Jalopy is a friend. Our relationship is edging towards two decades. Apart from family, this is the longest friendship that I have ever enjoyed. She is comforting on a bad day. Always reliable. As reassuring as an old fur lined glove. I put my hands on her well worn wheel and we are instantly a team.
Her annual assessment is in January. Probably the worst month for spare funds to cover her expensive service and pre-MOT private medical care. Back in September, Danny mentioned that he wouldn't be able to help me out if Jalopy failed her MOT. A wise move as he valiantly stumped up £850 to keep her on the road last year. This is almost twice her market value but she has lived with me (almost) since she rolled off the production line. I know her history. She had a tough start - three months as a hire car - before I drove her back home for a long, sedate working retirement. With a decent annual service and a bit of care she has never let me down.
In November I discovered Danny looking at possible replacements for Jalopy on eBay. My heart sank. It would be so hard to say goodbye to Jalopy when the time came. I didn't want to drive a £400 eBay upstart even if it was a distant cousin of Jalopy. So I worked weekends and squirreled away funds to cover basic repairs.
On Friday we were booked in for 08:00. Jalopy looked chipper but I drove to Bury St. Edmunds with a heavy heart and a car bulging with paint pots.
At 9 o'clock I was called to the service desk. The man looked embarrassed. I braced myself for bad news.
After a short nervous cough he plunged in.
"Our service engineers just can't work on the car. It's impossible. Please take her away and bring her back on Monday, completely cleared out."
"By the way," the service man's thin neck wobbled, "there's a Stanley knife (boxcutter) on the shelf at the back. It's a health hazard!"
I shrivelled out to the car park and we returned to work, driving carefully to avoid being hit by a flying Stanley knife, cans of paint, boxes of roller refills and a hundred other health hazards. Admittedly she hadn't been Spring Cleaned for many months but she remained calm and sedate. Nothing slipped or shifted.
It took 2 hours to clear out my old pal on Sunday. I found a perfect slice of Christmas cake in the boot, a relic from last January. I stowed her contents under a huge tarpaulin on our drive.
After a sleepless night, I rose early on Monday, found Jalopy's papers and put them in her glove compartment just in case she had to be towed to the knackers' yard. I had saved up some contingency but not a pot of gold.
We rumbled back to Bury. Two hours later I was called to the service desk. Thin Neck had vanished and my old friend Dennis was officiating. He silently pushed a piece of paper toward me. It was an MOT certificate. After the basic service, she had passed.
We motored back to the village on a huge wave of boundless relief. That afternoon I discovered that the dishwasher had broken down, realised that fixing the problem was beyond me and called Graham, our engineer.
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