We got a new car last week. I am very unbothered by cars, as long as they work then that's all I'm after. Our Vauxhall Astra 1.6, a 16 valve variety, finally decided not to work any more. Well it did work but occasionally bunny-hopped down the road, emitted thick black smoke when you started it, drank 5 litres of oil a week and passed out when it felt like it, but it still worked. I had to admit defeat though, when the garage told me how much it was going to cost to fix it. One of it's 16 fabulous valves had gone, broken, and it was more than the car was worth to mend.
So we bought a new Astra, exactly the same make, model and colour even. I know where I am with an Astra, safe, reliable, very un-sexy and plenty of room to shove allotment gear and riding boots, tents, cat baskets and suitcases.
On Friday I went to pick up the new Astra in all its shining and valeted glory, leaving the old one behind. And as it sat in the garage forecourt, me betraying it with a younger model, I felt a little lump in the back of my throat. Oh Astra, we had been together for over 8 years, all that we shared played out in my mind on the way home - as I heaved from the new-car smell and screamed at the kids not to make a mess.
Astra, you lived with us in London and took me shopping every week to the supermarket, that was about it in those days, occasionally having a spin down the M4 to see my mum. I scratched you good and proper in the first week of owning you, bought the paint to cover the marks but never got round to it. You brought A home from hospital, I sat in the back tense and worried at the wobbliness of her little newborn head. You took us to France, twice, loaded to the max, happy to travel on the other side of the road. You have been stuck in the mud at festivals, blew your radiator in the snow but still got us home safely, you popped a tyre twice, failed to start a number of times on cold frosty mornings. Remember that time when you killed a deer and I had to remove its tail from the air conditioning unit?
You put up with his incessant house music, the children's mess and crumbs, my shit-strewn boots and even managed to hit 90 when we were in a rush to get home. I never treated you to a wax and a polish, but that didn't mean we didn't love you.
I hope you don't get crushed straight away, 120 000 miles is no age for a car.