I’d been putting it off for a few days. That’s what I do: I embrace the fun, positive, joyous aspects of life; I put off the serious things. I have the physically impossible, although metaphorically attainable ability to live with my head in the clouds at the same time as burying it in the sand. I look for the positive in situations. That’s what I do. Sometimes, though, it isn’t possible. Sometimes it is time to face the facts. Sometimes, you just have to admit when something is over and that it is, finally, time to say goodbye.
I walked through the crisp English air, looking at the smiles on the faces of the people passing by. The cold was bitter, almost painful but, despite the harshness of the winter, the air hung with a feeling of love and excitement. I was lost in thought as I wandered through the crowds, wondering where these people were going, who they were buying presents for and who they were thinking of. My heart felt happy. I would soon be buying presents for the people I loved, sharing laughs and stories by their side once again. It had been a while. Too long, in truth, since I had seen the people who filled my world with happiness and love. It was as I was lost in such thoughts that my phone rang. The warm, comforting tones of Dean Martin’s “It’s A Marshmallow World” sounded out like a soundtrack to my walking journey. It felt right. I answered it with a joyful, “Hello?”
I knew the voice. A rich, manly voice belonging to a someone I’d only met once before briefly, and not in the most welcoming of circumstances. Friendly in his way, he’d been a matter of fact sort of man; polite yet not one for trivial conversation. He asked me how I was in that way that’s not an enquiry as much as a way to bridge the link from a greeting to the main body of conversation. I told him: I was really good. He took this information in, absorbing it fully before processing just how he should respond. I sensed the pause. The lack of immediate response to my reply wasn’t an indication of a man at ease. “Al”. Another pause. “Al… I’m afraid I have to tell you…”
You know how sometimes the reaction to bad news takes you by surprise? Sometimes your legs buckle. Sometimes you instantly break down. Sometimes you laugh a booming laugh in a crowded street of festive shoppers because you haven’t quite taken the news in. That’s what I did. I laughed. I’d had this news, this bad news, and my body had responded with a laugh. Was it shock? Possibly. Was it relief? I I’m not sure. Was it a laugh? Yes. Yes, it was definitely a laugh. After three and a half years together, I would be alone.
I say “alone”. I should probably point out at this stage that I am not alone. I have friends and family. My friends and family are amazingly supportive, understanding and caring. So much so in fact that I felt like I’d probably over-played my reaction to the news. I am getting that feeling once more as I write this. I mean, when it all comes down to it, I suppose it is only a car.
Oh, but what a car is was. Is. No… was. We had been through so much together. We’d shared so much together: births; marriages; divorces; various moves and career changes… although no actual relationships. Well, none of mine, anyway. Actually, none of the births, marriages or divorces were mine either. Although that beautiful car had steered me (ok, I steered it but you know what I mean) through all these times with friends and family. We’ve been through a lot together. So, for all it is “only a car”; it’s been an amazing companion.
We met on a sunny evening in a small Worcestershire village. I’d been asked to host an event but I didn’t have a car. I asked how much I would be paid, I was told, and I went out and bought a car for half the price of my fee. When I saw it, I didn’t have much feeling for it. Like those couples who grow relationships based upon mutual likes, I thought it was alright but I wasn’t struck by lightning. I wasn’t Marty McFly and this wasn’t a DeLorean. Although, to be fair, it did look a little bit LIKE a DeLorean. Silver, sleek, and it had definitely driven a few miles in the past. I paid the money and thought nothing of it.
I moved to my Camp Little Cottage Where I Lived On My Own and my car came with me. It sat, proudly, on the driveway near the canal. I met a girl who became a friend. My Mum and Dad visited me and we drove down from the East Midlands to a little place in Devon where their friends lived. On the way back, my Dad had one of those sincere moments where he asked if I liked this girl. I did, I said. I quite liked this girl. We got back into the car and headed north where I introduced my parents to the genius of Hamish & Andy’s podcast. We listened on that trip back. We listened and we laughed as my old car clocked up the miles that add up touring half the country.
My friend had a baby (neither myself nor my car were instrumental in the conception). My car drove to pick my friend up on the night that she broke the news. A few months later and my heavily pregnant friend and I toured into the heart of Yorkshire and visited a cheese factory. My car had never been to a cheese factory; I think it liked it. A few months later and my car and I picked up my friend and her new baby girl. I was excited but I’d never driven with a baby in my car before. I was quite nervous but my cool, slick car handled it with ease. We made a good team, me and that car. We all went to a safari park and fed Quavers to llamas. We then got told off for feeding quavers to llamas. The ranger told us that llamas don’t like Quavers (they flippin’ do, actually. I know this because they ate all my Quavers).
A few months later, another old friend called me out of the blue. We’d not spoken in ages (in that way that friends don’t but in the same way that it doesn’t really matter). My friend invited me up to his place in the Yorkshire Dales to work on some ideas. Whilst there I met his wife and his boy. We filmed an odd little sketch involving my car’s tyre and a vase of roses which, we claimed, should’ve been the actual video made for “What A Good Year For The Roses”. Even as I write this now, I am distinctly proud of that over-elaborate pun.
As my friend worked early, my friend’s wife and I stayed up late and chatted. We chatted about dreams, we chatted about hopes and we chatted about ambitions. We chatted about how we wanted to write, present… DO things. So it was that, after some more wine and, despite having seen the whole car tyre/roses filming thing, she asked me to write a sitcom with her. It was then decided that I should move in with them so we could all work together on various projects. My friends and their boy; me and my car. Before that time came, my car and I travelled to Manchester to film the pilot of that sitcom we’d spoken of. An actual pilot. An actual pilot that ended up being sent to New York, Canada, Australia and Europe. An actual pilot that came about because of my car and its tyre. Sort of.
Remember my friend who had a little baby (I forgot to say that, when the windscreen washer broke on my ace car, it was my friend and her 8-year-old daughter who fixed it; I made cups of tea and glasses of orange juice to help)? Well, last Christmas I’d arranged to go and meet her. A few weeks before I was due to move down to live with my friends and start some sort of amazing empire, I thought I’d have a pre-Christmas visit to my friend before I left the north. Sadly, my car had other ideas. It had happened twice before when I specifically went to see this friend and it was playing up again. Looking back, it’s quite obvious that my car fancied this friend and just got shy. I understand that. I am rubbish around people I genuinely like and, well, I understand my car was the same. So, out of self-doubt, my car’s steering lock broke. It was Christmas eve-eve and nothing could be done. They smashed it off. No beautiful, Grey’s Anatomy McDreamy style craft to this operation. No… they smashed it off!
So it was, after a Christmas back home, my car and I set off for a new life in the south. Me, a few suitcases… and a car that could only be started with a knife. Or a screwdriver. I quite liked it. People mocked my car for being old, for not being a flash new car. What they were doing was simply mocking it because they were envious of its beauty. Its difference was what made it beautiful. The same difference that caused it to be self-doubting around my friend that it fancied was the same reason everyone loved it; even if they didn’t admit it. They couldn’t start their cars with random sharp implements. They just used keys. I felt sorry for them.
2012 was to be our third year together. The beginning of the year didn’t go to plan. In fact, it was as if the Men In Black had come and blitzed the plan from everyone’s memories. My car and I jaunted across the country and to various places across the south and then, after a calmer summer, we moved back to the Midlands. Not before my little sister had given birth to my niece though. My car and I drove that night to visit my niece in hospital for the first time. Another special memory that we could look back on as a shared experience.
The plan was to come back to the Midlands and to see out the year before making things happen next year. There was talk of a new car to go with my new job but it was never something I was intent on. I loved my car. My car had been the one stable part of my life over the past three and a half years. My car and I had taken friends on journeys, we’d travelled to new places and we’d seen lives begin. We’d even been through more breakdowns than Lindsay Lohan. My car and I had been through a lot.
As I write, we are merely days away from 2013. In the past few weeks, life has got exciting. Very exciting. It has felt that life has been just ticking over in the past 18 months or so. Just idling away with the handbrake on. Slowly moving in a forward direction before stopping and idling whilst waiting for things to pass. It was idling away, slowly moving but not really getting anywhere, that caused my car to overheat which, in turn, caused it to be taken to the garage and pronounced, in the words of that mechanic who phoned me, “…it’s f***ed!”.
So, as I head into the new year with a feeling of positivity, ambition, and that anything is possible in my life that I haven’t felt in some time, maybe now is when it is right to say goodbye. After all, life is a journey and we have had a fair share of those over the years. We’ve been fortunate to see some old friends and make some very special friends along the way.
So, as I bid farewell to the companion I shared many an hour with, Here’s What I Have Learnt Today: The future is brilliantly unknown with many an untravelled road leading to journeys I can’t yet begin to imagine. All with a brand new companion perhaps? How exciting is that?
Thank you for sharing in those times, my car. I will always think of you whenever I have a Gingsters. You beautiful silver machine, you.