Hat taught me to drive in my multicoloured Ford Pop. It came natural to me. I’d been riding my Honda for a year and just seemed able to transfer the skills over. There was nothing much too it. I got in, twice round the block and we were off.
One advantage of it was that old Ford was that it was a lot warmer in winter than the old bike. Another advantage was that you could fit eight people in – with a bit of a squeeze. Then lastly it was always good for a bit of pastoral shagging – variety being the spice of life.
Hat sat there like a maniacal driving instructor dishing out instructions.
“Left here! Straight on! It’s always straight on!”
We took the bend at the library at fifty. Easy to do on a bike where you could lean into it but quite different in a sit-up-and-beg Ford Pop which promptly rolled on to two wheels, leaned over threatening to go into a roll and squealed like mad.
Hat sank down into his seat.
Somehow it stayed up and we made it round.
“Whooooooooooeeeeeeeeey – Haaaaaaaaaa!” I yelled.
“Pretty hairy,” Hat observed. “Perhaps a little less floorboard if you don’t want to fuck up the paint-work.” He nodded to himself. “Or soil the upholstery in the passenger seat.”
We headed out for the open road and picked up two hitchhikers. That was mandatory. You always stopped for hitchers. It was the rule. If you had something you shared whether that was a joint or a ride.
I was really getting into it. The car roamed around the lanes a little because the steering was basically shot but it had a bit of poke and cruised nicely at 60 – 65 M.P.H… We were going out of our way to drop off our guests. It made for a good run.
Hat amused himself by rolling jays and passing them round as we hurtled down these narrow country roads. Everyone seemed quite mellow.
“Not doing bad, is he?” Hat enquired, leaning over the seat to converse with the hirsute couple in the back.
The hitchers looked a bit bemused. They hadn’t cottoned on to what he was talking about.
“Considering it’s his first time out in a car,” Hat casually slipped in.
I swung it round another corner and noted that the atmosphere had got a tad more tense.
Everyone loved my multicoloured car. I nicknamed it Herbert. It was a name that seemed to suit. One particular speed-cop seemed to especially take to it. At every opportunity he pulled me over to have a closer look.
“Mornin’” I’d say breezily.
He scowled at me.
“Lovely day for it.”
He would get his book out and write me up without a word and hand me the ticket. Then he’d get back on his bike, kick-start it and glide off into the traffic.
I’d have to go in with all my details – insurance, log book and shit. A right fucking nuisance though I was determined not to let them see it was buggin’ me.
I’m sure the guy used to lie in wait for me. Sometimes he’d do me twice in a day and he averaged three times a week.
“Mornin’,” I’d say breezily as I arrived at the cop-shop.
The desk-cop would fix me with a scowl.
I’d shake my hair out, stroke my beard and pull at the white scarf I wore under my flying jacket.
“Hey, you guys go to scowl school?” I’d enquire. I’d hand him my documents. “Same again.”
He’d start copying the details in without a word.
“Hey man,” I’d say conspiratorially. He’d stop writing and look up at me. “Just put ditto. Save you a lot of trouble.” I nodded and winked. “There, look, see, I’m on every page. Details haven’t changed.”
He went back to writing with a stony expression. I think I was getting to him.
Allie knitted me a big thick jumper to go with the car. It was multicoloured. I loved it and wore it every time I went into the cop-shop. For some reason I don’t think they were anywhere near as keen on that jumper as me. They seemed to take it as a personal affront.
Jack used to particularly love my Herbert-mobile. He often took over from Hat as co-pilot. Some nights he’d rap on the window and drag me off into the night.
“Hey, man, let’s get off to Brighton! You up for it?” We’d drive there and run up and down the shingle beach then get back in and drive back.
I’d drive and all the while he’d be yattering in my ear.