Tuesday 22 January 2008

A missed opportunity for hilarity

14st 13lbs; 7.5 alcohol units; 1,474; Humber.

Could there be anything sadder than a man in late middle age whose only meaningful activity is writing a weekly column in the local newspaper, which on the evidence of two years’ accumulated fan mail is read and enjoyed only by a handful of eccentric female coffin-dodgers?

Well, there could, actually. How about being a late middle aged etc who drank most of a bottle of wine last night to get over his feeling of non-fulfilment, and then woke up this morning to find that his slot had been filled by a 14-year-old schoolgirl. Now then, now then. No smut, please.

She’s certainly a much better writer than I was at her age. The worrying thing is that she might also be a better writer than I am now, almost 40 years later.

Still, mustn’t brood. So I head off to Alnwick to pick up my new car, on roads rendered extremely hazardous by the fact that yesterday’s snow turned to rain before I could get out to take some atmospheric pictures, and the whole lot then froze overnight.

There is a veritable mountain of paperwork to complete at the garage, then a “handover” ceremony which proves to be as ritualistic as anything practised in a Japanese tea house. Only without the geishas.

First the sales Bloke stands up like an air hostess pointing out the emergency exits, and draws my attention to the salient points of the garage, which I have been visiting for years. “Over there is the parts department …”

“What, under that bloody great sign that says ‘Parts’? How amazing.”

Then he takes me outside and does the whole thing again with the car. “If you pull that lever there it will release the bonnet. Now if you come with me, this big black thing is called an engine. You probably don’t need to bother too much with that except for this thing here called a dipstick and that stuff there called coolant. And this is where you top up the windscreen washer fluid.”

“What, under that cap with a picture of a windscreen being sprayed with water? Who’d ever have thought it?”

Eventually the “procedures” are completed and I drive away, very slowly and carefully. Because the roads are like glass and I realized, about three quarters of the way to Alnwick, just as I was congratulating myself on my attention to detail in remembering to clear everything out of the old car and bring all the paperwork with me, that I had forgotten to put the new one onto my insurance.

It would make a much funnier story for you if I’d skidded and written the thing off on the way home. It would also have been typical of my luck. Remarkably enough, though, the journey was completed without any hilarious incidents whatsoever.

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