by Paul Sweeney
Since relocating to Tamworth, wifey and I had somehow acquired two of the small humans commonly known as children. These little creatures had a curious effect on the previously very unsentimental Mrs S, who suddenly became extremely homesick for Bristol.
We had been in the Midlands for some five years by then. All I really wanted was a quiet life and with no real objection to going back home, plans were made. I sought a job transfer back to Bristol with my employer CIS, but they had no suitable vacancies at the time, so I got a new position with National Westminster Insurance Services of Bristol instead.
This of course meant handing back my company Astra. My job in Birmingham had brought with it the right to park in the company parking facilities under our office building, and on my last day Head Office sent two skinny youths down from Manchester to collect the car. I blame the air 'up North' personally.
The car park had numerous awkwardly-placed pillars dotted about - they were something to do with holding the building up apparently - and on that day I'd had to park the Astra against one of them. I knew that getting the car safely in and out of that particular space required no small degree of expertise and practice, so when the young guy demanded the car keys from me, I explained the issue and offered to back the car out for him so he could drive off safely and easily.
"No" he answered - a bit snappily, I thought. "Just give me the keys - I do know how to drive". "In that case, you will have to sign this paper confirming the car was received from me in A1 condition before I'm giving you the keys" I retorted (luckily I had typed it up beforehand precisely in case this scenario arose). He rolled his eyes, sighed but signed the statement, whereupon I handed him the keys.
No doubt keen to demonstrate his driving prowess, the lad practically leapt into the Astra, started her up and immediately reversed rapidly, rubbing the whole of the Astra's nearside along the pillar in the process. Did I mention that the pillars were painted with bright yellow and black stripes? Quite noticeable along the side of my dark red Astra, that yellow paint was - not to mention the dent in the rear wheel arch.
"Oh that was unfortunate" I called to him as I took photographs of the damaged car while it was still wedged against the pillar (I am a fully-trained insurance assessor, you know!). "You appear to have done some damage to the car, but it looks like the pillar is OK. Don't worry, I'll fax this (waving the statement I had made him sign) to Head Office while you are driving back to Manchester and follow up with the photos, so they know exactly what's happened."
He didn't answer. Instead he roared off out of the car park closely followed by his pal in the car they had arrived in, leaving me with an amused grin on my face. I never did hear from the company about it.
So with the Astra gone, I once again was in need of transport - cue my next used car search! I'd had two brand new cars but couldn't possibly afford that out of my own funds - so what would it be? Something old and familiar probably - simple, cheap to run and suitable for carrying a young family. That felt suspiciously like my old selection criteria of, "dull, British and thoroughly normal" to me, which was a tad depressing.
So would it be another Cortina? No - that was just too tiresome to contemplate. It would have to be something else - but what? Find out next time!
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