I was grateful on one account … I could walk relatively normally. The fact that the tyre was flat was of trifling importance. I could fix that in half an hour, including the trip to the service station.
My mug of tea warmed my hands against the retreating frost. Squawking crows punctured the pale blue sky as I looked around the collection of ageing farm machinery which lay idle about the yard. “So much decay”, I lamented inwardly, “on so many levels.”
My promises to myself that there would be renewal and fresh vitality in this rural backwater had suffered a few realities. My leg was getting worse, not better. The pain was wearing me down. The shrapnel had been removed, I was assured by the equally self-assured young surgeon. “Fucking upstart,” I railed, anger rising like an unwelcome guest.
I stopped short of repeating the usual mantra of self-loathing and headed back into the kitchen for more tea. The stove was warm and my three dogs were huddled around it, luxuriating in the cozyness. They were recovering after the exertions of stepping out for a morning pee. The day was looking as lethargic as those dogs.
Sitting at the table, as I so often do, I tried to rationalise my situation against the promise of my twenties. It did me no favours and my gaze simply announced further shame through disorder, clutter and dirt.
Rising from my seat, I grabbed at one of the dog’s beds and flung it towards its rightful place. My petulance caused a soft metallic clatter on the floorboards. Beneath the straggly old beanbag appeared a toy car from my childhood. “How the hell…?”
This relic of my childhood smacked my self-pity smartly and triggered me across a paradigm into creativity. So unexpected was it that I nearly missed the chair as I went to sit back down.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! I remembered seeing the film for the very first time; Dick van Dyke and his crazy contraptions; Truly Scrumptious, “you’re truly truly scrumptious”, I sang to myself; the child catcher; it all flooded back.
Before the dogs had a chance to stir their wet noses, I was half way across the yard and plans were formulating … magnificent car, shining in British Racing Green, splendid head lamps, oversized and a horn, a horn to wake the dead!
Dad’s old Bristol was going to get a new lease of life!
The next several hours were a whirlwind of panel selection and seat concepts. The handles from the church bell-ringing ropes would serve as steering wheel covers, the two old armchairs from my aunt’s conservatory became the seats. Being a hoarder became a blessing.
The dogs came and went, almost tutting in disdain. Various machines whirred into action showering sparks like plumes of stars against the dusty backdrop of my barn.
I knew that the engine was fine. The chassis was sound but the leaved suspension at the rear was a splayed confusion of rusty metal. As I peered past the brick mounts upon which she perched I decided that both sides were irrecoverable in terms of achieving safety.
Bristol cars are big and heavy. ‘My old jack had better hold until I get some more bricks under the old beast’. Chatting away to myself is a recent development. A lonesome life was the source, I justified.
Sizing and banding the suspension leaves from the old troop carrier was less of a problem than anticipated. A wire brush tidied the rust off the wheel housing. Brakes … not bad enough to cause concern as long as the fluid was still ok in the lines.
I drained them anyway and replenished the reservoir. Engine oil was drained and replaced. Spark plugs: check. Belts: check. Radiator: check.
Floor mats … I ran inside and found three starving dogs whom I had not noticed for hours. They each received double rations. They could chase me up the drive to work it off.
In the hallway I slid to a halt as I grabbed the two small Egyptian rugs which led to the front door. Perfect!
It was 2am and I was a wreck by the time everything was ready for the maiden voyage. The fatigue was as effective as a chocolate teapot. I was a like a seven year old kid on Christmas Eve. Dawn could not come soon enough. I was alive!
I walked outside today and found I had four flat tyres.
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