Charlie Micra and I have been together since May 2007 and for the most part, it’s been a rather happy relationship. I’m really anal about servicing and Charlie starts first time, every time.
Except Friday, when I really needed to go out.
Whilst I love cars, I’m actually a bit of a n00b when it comes to figuring out what’s wrong with them and how best to put it right. I’ve always had Dad around, or enough money to hand the keys over to a garage and say, “Make it better.” Not this time though, and frankly, it scared the crap out of me – it’s been almost 4 years since I’ve turned a key in the ignition without success. What if my car wasn’t going to start again? What if I was about to flood the engine? What if whatever I did to try to make Charlie run actually ended up wrecking what – until now – had been a glorious triumph of internal combustion.
Screw it, I thought in the end. It couldn’t be worse than that fan belt incident, or the time Percy Polo ended up with engine coolant instead of washer fluid.
resolutely, I opened the bonnet and stared in. As I said, I love cars and despite being a rubbish fault finder, I know a fair bit of theory about engines. When you’re confronted with something that’s been laminated in black plastic, though, you can’t really tell which bit does what and all former good intentions fall away. With what was left of my resolve, I ran into the house and frantically began leafing through the Haynes manual.
Since the starter motor was still turning over nicely, the font of all Micra knowledge suggested cleaning the battery connectors, and if that didn’t work, replacing the spark plugs.
Crap, thought I, I haven’t got any spark plugs, or anything to clean the battery connectors with.
At this point, I decided that I should try to start the car again because for various reasons*, public transport is a no-go for me. After a little cough, the old boy came to life and stood rattling on the field. Then something in my DNA triggered and I knew I didn’t need spark plugs. I needed WD40.
You see, I reckon my genes are made up of at least 25% WD40. This non-silicone based spray is actually one of the corner-stone scents of my childhood as Dad’s dad would use it on everything. I am fairly certain that if presented with a first aid situation**, his first instinct would have been to reach for his trusty blue and yellow can. Nan and Granddad’s house smelled like a combination of car engines and baking, so naturally, when the WD40 had worked its magic on the battery connectors and Charlie had sprung into life, it was necessary to spend the rest of the afternoon making scrummy treats and knitting tea cosies.
It’s funny how something so simple can take you such a long way back in your memories, and it’s amazing how these small hints of the past can offer such a huge insight into why we are the way we are. I am an accumulation of WD40, complex knitting equations, Aga love, Top Gear, Sonic the Hedgehog and antique shops. And I couldn’t be happier. I used to worry about not being me – not being something new and individual – but I actually love the fact that I can see where I’ve come from.
* “Hello,” said a scary looking man in his 40s at the Soham bus stop, “You’re pretty. Do you have a boyfriend?”
“I’m married,” I replied.
“But you’d be a better wife for me,” he said.
“Please stop talking to me,” I nearly begged, and pushed my headphones further into my ears so I could better ignore him.
This isn’t an isolated incident. There was also the time the weird cadet guy from Fiji thought I was in the logistics division of the US airforce because I was wearing a vintage Vietnam surplus jacket. He took my phone off me, copied my number and kept sending me dirty text messages until one day I called him back, putting on a posh accent, telling him to stay the hell away from my fifteen year old son.
And don’t even get me started on Superdad on Norwich’s 25 bus.
No matter which form of public transport I take, I seem to attract creepy people. If I ever need to use it again, I’m going to shave my head, get some fake tattoos and a toy gun and see how much people talk to me then.
** Granddad did once drop an engine on himself. He had been working on his camper van when, during his tea break, it started to snow. Rather than rushing out and covering the naked engine in a tarp, Granddad rushed out in his slippers and decided to lift the camper’s new crowning glory. Needless to say that the snow, combined with the Sheffield slope and flagstone paving, was far too slippery for such a feat to be properly achieved and he fell, the engine landing on his hand and crushing his little finger. I am fairly certain that had the engine not already been saturated in WD40, thus soaking his bleeding stump, he would have made sure to add an extra layer before casually making his way to the hospital.
For those interested, the finger stump healed well, and Granddad enjoyed pretending that he’d lost the top two knuckles of this extremity up his nose…