Thursday, 9 April 2009

Dog cars

We have a vehicle we fondly call 'the dog car' for we use it to transport four dogs (sometimes six) to the forest for their exercise. It was brand new in 1992 and even though it has done sterling service it still has only 58000 miles on the clock; that makes an average of just over 3400 miles per annum.

It has one or two strange quirks. Even though it is a French car, built primarily for use, one imagines, in the greater European land mass across La Manche, it takes an inordinately long time to heat up in the winter. It also requires more 'choke' for a longer period than would be expected. Most definitely it is Francophobe, intensely disliking French petrol and on the only two occasions it was filled with such, no alternative being immediately available, it did a passable imitation of a dying kangaroo – 'cough, cough, judder, cough, cough, splutter'.

Preparing to go to work one day I got into the driving seat and discovered the passenger foot well was full of water. Perhaps 'full' is a slight exaggeration but there were a good two inches of water sloshing about. It had rained heavily the previous night but all the windows were tightly shut and the car securely locked. Youngest daughter and I bailed out the water and were both late for school that day. The problem never arose again.

Another day I went out of the house to discover the car almost on the footpath. I had parked it at the top of the drive, which is twenty feet long, it was locked and the handbrake was engaged but somehow it had rolled back. Again, this event was unique mainly because thereafter it was 'belt and braces' – that is, handbrake and first gear were applied.

It has been broken into more than once, the windscreen smashed a couple of times, the door lock rendered useless. For the past few years we have been unable to lock it and haven't worried since we thought no-one would steal what had become such a heap of a car. Incidentally, a car can pass its M.O.T. without lockable doors but requires a petrol cap that is secure. So it seems that a car may be open to theft but its petrol should be made safe. We were proved wrong in our confidence a few days ago; when I loaded the dogs in the car I saw that the contents of the glove box were strewn across the passenger floor. I supposed that Barry had been looking for something but was surprised when he declared that he hadn't. Then we discovered that the petrol cap key was missing. We deduced that a person or persons unknown had attempted to steal the car and been thwarted because the key they found did not fit the ignition. Piqued by this glitch they had taken the key with them or thrown it away. The petrol cap was locked as required for M.O.T. so we had to call on the services of the AA to release it.

On several occasions men, young and older, have knocked at the door to enquire if we wanted to get rid of the car and we've always laughed and explained its purpose. Recently, the coal merchant looked at it and asked if it belonged to our son as it has a bike rack on the back. Our son would be mortified to be associated with this vehicle – it's growing lichen on the window frames and bumpers and looks a sorry sight. In fact, none of our children would lay claim to it and shortly, neither shall we. I opened the passenger door last week and saw a cigarette end on the floor. No-one in this family smokes. I have become increasingly uneasy at the vulnerability of this car and so we are taking advantage of Citro├źn's scrappage offer and replacing it with a Berlingo Multispace – lots of room for the dogs and more importantly, low carbon emission and central locking.

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