…Frequently quoted and referred to but never seen or heard, like the formidable wife of the legendary Arthur Daly.
All my life I have been surrounded by men and their motors. My Granddad was a Mechanic, my Dad is an enthusiastic car buyer and dabbler in all things automotive, my ex was obsessed with Lotus and my current beau, Mike Humble, is the total package of mechanic and engine obsessive (car, truck, bus, train or plane) who specialises in ‘fernerkling’ with anything covered in oil!
Just last week I returned home, to find a pair windscreen wipers, which had been newly painted in black, hanging by pegs off my pristine washing line and the dishwasher, which had recently finished a full cycle, with headlamp covers in it. I won’t mention my washing up bowl full of oil with the obligatory oil filter breaking the surface like Titanic on its way down to Davy Jones Locker!
Anyway, I digress. I wanted to write my first and only blog, so I have taken this opportunity to come out of the shadows into the sunshine and tell you all what it is like being ‘er indoors. I am sure this will no doubt resonate with your other halves and maybe encourage them to pen a few lines, who knows?
My Granddad was a no nonsense North Wales guy, a motor mechanic by trade who, in the war, was a motorcycle despatch rider. As a small child, he used to visit us in his duck-egg blue MG Midget wearing a black leather bomber jacket looking like the coolest Granddad in the world wearing ‘eau de 3-in-1 oil’ and even now the smell of oil reminds me of him.
When we visited him in Crewe, his kitchen was a workshop with automotive parts ‘you can’t get anymore’ mixed up with some new parts and half-done engine re-builds in the shed and garden. It was an Aladdin’s cave of auto jumble and my Dad always left with something, be it some air horns or a new thermostat (my Dad was obsessed with having a good heater and constantly changed thermostats in all his cars as, at the time, there were winter and summer settings, nothing like the new cars now).
Dad delights in telling the tale of when he and Mum were first courting and Granddad took them for a day trip to Wales. However, just past Chester he heard a knocking noise so he parked up and, for the next few hours, took the car apart at the side of the road. Daylight faded and the excitement of the day trip was forgotten once Granddad got it all back together again. Having fixed the issue, he drove all the way back to Crewe annoyed that the car had let him down and no one dared to speak. My Mum was highly embarrassed as he was her Dad but the day trip was never spoken of again.
My Dad used to change cars every three to six months. He was a regular customer of Bristol Street Motors in Hanley and all the salesmen knew him by name. ‘You here again, Barry?’ they’d shout when they saw him, ‘just looking,’ he’d always say in a cool confident reply. Even at a young age, I could see that the salesman were circling like the sharks smelling fresh blood and Dad, bless him, was always happy to hear them out.
One occasion stands out where Dad, whose eyesight was never brilliant, had to take our Hillman Imp (which he’d never liked as he prefers big cars) back to Bristol Street Motors as a ‘trade-in’ for our new car, a shiny silver Datsun 240K GT (above). However, the clutch had gone in the Imp and from Alsager to Hanley, around 20 miles or so, I had to shout out the colours of the traffic lights up in the distance so he knew whether to slow down or speed up. I was told if the car stalled at any point we would never get going again and the mission would fail!
At a mere eight years old I steadfastly took my role as key navigator very seriously and, when we reached Bristol Street Motors, Dad swiftly parked it at the side of the building and we both breathed a sign of relief. Dad regained his cool and strolled confidently into the showroom like his hero, John Wayne, and threw the Imp’s keys at the showroom shark. ‘There you go mate, she runs lovely,’ he said. All the way home in our beautiful huge silver car Dad chuckled away and praised me for my excellent observational work. What a team, eh! Needless to say he stopped going to Bristol Street Motors, just in case.
At 19 years old, I left home and moved to Birmingham with a boyfriend who was obsessed with Lotus. In the 13 years I was with him he owned a Lotus Elan Series 2 (G-reg) and also bought brand new a Lotus Excel SE in ‘dog knob red’ (below). Endless days were spent attending Lotus owners’ meetings and Castle Combe track days, interspersed with visits to Donington Park and Silverstone.
Fast forward to today and I am now 11 years into a relationship with another petrolhead, but this time it’s serious. He is a seasoned mechanic who can seemingly fix anything with an engine with a bit of fernerkling, a mug of tea and a fag – something I am constantly amazed at and proud of him for.
I am used to all my tea towels being covered in oil, mucky handprints on the walls and the faint smell of Swarfega in the kitchen (or his tried and tested Fairy liquid and sugar if that runs out!). I recall one day when he was a mobile mechanic in Darlington he needed some welding on his Corsa Van for it to pass its MoT. The next thing I knew my old microwave had been cut up and the metal sides welded into place. That afternoon a pristine brand new MoT certificate was displayed on the kitchen table for all to see,
Well, that’s enough from me, back into the shadows I go. I just wanted all you petrolheads to realise that your partner is inevitably carried along with your enthusiasm for all things automotive and I for one would not want this to change, it’s just nice to be heard.
Right, I’m off to B&Q to get a new washing-up bowl!