Learning to drive in a brightly painted Ford Popular.
I could already drive because I’d been riding about on a motorbike ever since I was sixteen. So it was no big deal.
My friend Hat taught me to drive a car. At least he sat in the front while I mastered the controls. Sometimes he slid down a bit lower than other times I noticed.
I had bought my car a couple of months prior to my birthday so all I had to do was get it ready for the road. With most people this might have involved checking the tyres, topping up oil and water and tuning the engine, stuff like that. With me it meant painting it.
I raided my Dad’s garage and got an array of different coloured gloss paint. I augmented this with a few more tins from the local store. I lined up my array of bright orange, crimson, yellow, lime green, sky blue, pink and dark green and planned it out. Orange grill. Orange headlights (raised on the mudguards). Lime green body with pink stripe. Pale blue mudguards. Crimson accoutrements (Wing mirrors etc.). Green bits here and there.
My Dad came out to have a look at the final version and went in to get his sunglasses.
My mum loved it. She thought it was fun.
It later turned out that the police loved it too. They must have done. They stopped me in it every other day and wanted me to take it to the station regularly! My Dad thought they were harassing me because of my coloured car and long hair but I knew they just wanted to have a close look at my artwork.
On the big day Hat (Called Hat after Hattie Jacques because his surname was Jacques) got in and we were off. I drove twice round the block to orientate myself to the controls and then it was all systems go. I was in charge of a lethal weapon.
We headed off first for the centre of town which is where I made my first mistake. There was a sharp bend at the beginning of town where the road skirted round the library. I took the bend as I would have done on my motorbike. But you cannot lean a Ford Popular car in the same way that you can a motorbike. The car went over on two wheels with tyres squealing, leaning at a ridiculous angle. Hat sank right down and exclaimed something vaguely religious – no it was outright blasphemous! But there was no harm done. We didn’t quite roll over. We came back on to all four wheels and the paintwork was undamaged.
After that I perfected a different technique for corners more suited to a car and we headed for the country. Hat was navigating complete with a six pack of beer that he was working his way through and no map. When I asked it was always ‘Straight on. It’s always straight on’. Straight on we went.
At one stage we stopped to pick up two hitch-hikers. I always picked up hitch-hikers – even on my motorbike. I’d been there. I knew.
The two sat in the back looking a little hesitant as Hat leaned over the front seat as we hurtled down country lanes flat out (which wasn’t a huge speed for a Ford Pop. ‘Not doing bad for his first time out in a car,’ Hat chortled reassuringly.
I can’t say they seemed very reassured. They sunk down in the seat like startled rabbits going over a precipice.
We eventually got home.
That car was difficult to drive. You had to juggle the steering wheel to keep it in a straight line. I thought that was normal for cars. When Hat had a drive he couldn’t steer it at all. Seemingly the King Pins were shot.
I loved that car as much as my local constabulary did. Wish I still had it.