Cars: you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone | Jack Marshall's column

Cars are uniquely extreme things.

By Jack Marshall, Reporter
Friday, 21st August 2020, 9:32 am
Big Claz in all her glory
Big Claz in all her glory

When you’ve never had one, you don’t feel the absence in the slightest. Walking, cycling, trains, and buses are automatically the norm and, if you’re lucky, you can scrounge the odd lift. But there’s still that fundamental acceptance that door-to-door is a rare treat.

Then you get a car and suddenly the world beyond the steering wheel morphs into one of rage and fury and inconvenience and inaccessibility and frustration at timetables and weather and everything else. How the hell did you ever live without it?

I’ve never been a car owner, so this phenomenon has never affected me. I can drive and I like driving, but that sudden feeling of phantom-limb absence has never actually hit me because I never fully had the limb to begin with. But it has recently hit my brother.

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My brother is 20 and has an old Peugeot with a racing stripe which we have named Clarissa. It’s a boy-racer car if ever there was one and we call her ‘Claz’ as she screeches up tricky hills in second. She cost about £900 and so, naturally, recently broke down.

Unbeknownst to me, the battery light on the dashboard had been on for a while and my brother had kept it quiet in the hope that it would ‘just go away’. It didn’t, and as we ambled back to the car following an impromptu trip to Aldi for cheap beer and Haribo, Clarissa wouldn’t start. And nothing in Aldi’s famed random aisle could do anything about it.

Much to our father’s disappointment, neither of us are exactly engineers. But, after a taxi ride back home for some jump cables and a spare battery, we did manage to get Claz back on the drive and then to the garage the following day. A dodgy alternator was mentioned, as well as a few other bits and bobs which are quite a distance beyond my sphere of comprehension.

Suddenly, Aldi jaunts were off the cards. My brother could no longer chug along to the building site where he does odd jobs before uni starts again in September. We were housebound. He was feeling the phantom limb itching something fierce and, on top of that, his wallet was feeling the pain, too.

Clarissa is now back following her stint at the ‘car hospital’, as my brother says. And while it’s taken us no time to slip back into relying on her entirely, one can’t help but feel it’s just a matter of time before we’re reminded again of how inconvenient that reliance can be.