My Worst Car; Matthew Parris's Morris Oxford
MY WORST car was my first car, which I fell in love with. Like all great love affairs, it was bound to be a painful experience and end in tears.

The car in question was a 1958 Morris Oxford which my father bought for my 17th birthday. The idea was to teach me as much about motor mechanics as possible, and boy did it do that. At the time, I was living in Swaziland and it would regularly let the terrain get the better of it. On one occasion, the rear axle dropped off.

It was the U-bolts which broke, proving how well I got to know all the oily bits on that car. Other times, it was the climate, rather than the terrain, which defeated the old Oxford - it would overheat so badly that the radiator needed to be replaced more than once. Yet despite all the problems, I loved it. It was large, comfortable and gave me my freedom.

In fact, I was so convinced it would look after me, that when I left to go to England, I decided to drive. Unfortunately, I gave up in Mombasa as it proved too unreliable. But that wasn't the last I saw of the Oxford.

In England, I decided to make a go of it again, so had the Oxford shipped in. Not a wise decision as it turned out. By then I was working at the Foreign Office and it was costing me pounds 500 a year to keep it roadworthy, a small fortune back then. The final straw was the gearbox which broke and needed replacing. Unfortunately, I could no longer afford the repairs and had to abandon it in Andover.

Even today, I still feel terribly guilty about what I did. I couldn't face even seeing another Oxford, let alone buying one. In fact, the worst thing is that when I go to India I'm surrounded by the Ambassador. If you didn't know, that is their national vehicle and exactly the same as the Morris Oxford, my first, worst, but most lovable car.

Matthew Parris's book, `The Great Unfrocked - Two Thousand Years of Church Scandal', is out (Robson Books, pounds 17.95). He was talking to James Ruppert

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