Friday, 15 June 2012

Three times round the world

I look around one more time, just to make sure I've taken everything that's mine. There's an old book behind one of the seats and a boiled sweet that was once hard and shiny but is now softly slimy. I slip both into my handbag and then, satisfied that I've left nothing else behind, I turn the key and start the car for the last time.

I've only got a couple of miles to travel, just to the other side of the village. I've driven this car so many times that I'm almost on auto-pilot and I barely notice the journey. But when I glance at the dashboard I see the mileometer, slowly ticking up the distance - by the time I arrive, it has reached a total of 72,492 miles.

72,492 miles - that's almost the same as driving round the world three times. This car has never left England but in the last three years it's taken me the length and breadth of the country, delivering me to a strange hotel on a dark wet night in Manchester, touring the coastal paths of Dorset last Christmas, travelling to countless football matches on Saturday afternoons. When my grandson was born two years ago it was this car that ignored the speed limits and got me to the hospital safely. When we moved house last year it was this car that carried all the precious things we didn't want to trust to the removal van.  And it's never once broken down.

When I get to the garage I feel hesitant for the first time, not sure where to park, aware that my vehicle looks shabby and unloved next to all the gleaming paintwork. My car carries with it the marks of all the journeys I've made over the last three years. It bears the grime of dead insects from my daily commute on the motorway, the scratches of my return home each evening through narrow country lanes. The sticker from our last visit to the Silverstone Grand Prix is still firmly fixed in one corner of the windscreen.

Before I get out I sit for just a few more minutes, thinking about some of the other journeys and the people who've sat beside me. I think of Philip sitting there in the passenger seat, how he always turns up the volume on the radio for a song he likes, how he never turns it down again. I think of the number of times I've stroked his leg while we wait at the traffic lights - reassuring myself that he's still there at the end of my arm. I think of Megan choosing one of our favourite CDs so we can both sing along at the tops of our voices, knowing she's still the only girl of her age to know all the lyrics to a Beautiful South album.

I look up across the forecourt, through the wide glass doors of the showroom, to where Elliott the salesman is waiting.  I thought I'd be more excited. I hadn't imagined these feelings of regret and I hadn't for one minute expected this sense of betrayal in trading in my slightly ageing car for a different make and model. But it only lasts a moment, then I get out and lock the car, for the very last time, and stride towards the man who will talk me through the reams of paperwork, before he hands me the keys and takes me to my new car.


14 comments:

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

It is hard letting them go isn't it? Almost like a child leaving home. We had our last car from new for eleven years. I couldn't just dump her in a used car lot. We found an owner for her ourselves. She's in Vancouver now having adventures she would never have had with us.

Unknown Mami said...

May you create many wonderful memories in your new car. Beautifully written.

Bill Dameron said...

I don't drive or own a car anymore. Paul loves cars, loves his car and even has a photo album of all the cars he has owned. Because of that I love his cars too. And because of this post, I understand where that love comes from.

Cle Reveries said...

Cars are like houses. Mobile homes full of so many private memories. A part of our body, a friend that is sometimes loyal and obedient. It always gives us a valid hand but in our life "tout lasse, tout passe tout casse". But what a sorrow! :(
A hug

Chantel said...

It's strange, some of the most intimate moments occur in a car. There is almost a magic cocoon effect, as if the metal walls are somehow thicker than the wooden ones of our homes. A safety in the back of our minds that we could just keep driving...if we had to. I've spilled my heart to another and listened to my children's time and time again. Kisses and tears and laughter and rage.

I miss bench seats.

Pat said...

I've only once felt emotion about a car. It was a white Triumph Spitfire and I drove it down to the South of France and back and all over the southern counties. Then it was stolen and found in a field with the top taken. It was beyond repair and I cried.

Nicole said...

I've been very busy with life and projects, and here I am realizing how much I've missed while I've been neglecting your writing.

Sharon, even when I'm an intermittent guest, I'm always glad to return here.

Susan Cooper said...

I can relate to your article. I have a 12 year old Honda CRV. We love that car and can't sell it. It still looks great runs like a top. It's like an old friend that needs to stay around. ;), Susan Cooper

ND Mitchell said...

My car's just clocked up 80,000 and I sometimes think about the journeys we've made in it. Like you, I'd be sad to see it go, although I'm sure your newer model will be more reliable and will bring lots of memories that are just waiting to be discovered...

Lady Jennie said...

I think we will run our 92 Corolla into the ground.

Happy Frog and I said...

I was very sad to see Magda the Mazda go to the great scrap heap in the sky as she had been in our family from 1987 to 2006. Still she'd had a good innings.

I wasn't sure if there would be a twist and your car was going in for its first MOT or if it was being sold. Beautifully written.

savannah said...

the 2 cars that live in our garage have been around since the mid 90's. they both are in fine condition, so their places on the plantation are secure, sugar. i mean, they're still holding up their end of the bargain to get me from point a, the house, to point b, the beach, so why should i replace them with something younger or newer? ;~) xoxoxo

(but all that aside, i do miss the new car smell! congrats, sugar!)

Dicky Carter said...

A car is a very personal thing (I think), but most importantly they have their own character, which can make them hard to let go of. A lovely story Sharon.

Anonymous said...

I think this is the dullest piece I have ever come across. Well done.