I HAVE only ever owned one car and that was seven years ago. Even so, it turned out to be the worst possible car that I could have bought, despite costing only pounds 300. It was a rusty old Renault 5 which didn't know the meaning of reliability, a pretty fundamental flaw in a car which was meant to get me to drama school and auditions every day.

It all started so well. I fell it love with the Frenchness of it all. For a start, the radio could only pick up a French radio station. I didn't mind one bit because I would drive around London loving every minute of it half-convinced I was appearing in an arty French film with subtitles.

However, it was not too long before the love affair became a nightmare and the Renault was rapidly christened the baked bean tin.

Every morning, without fail and especially when it was cold, the Renault would refuse to start. In fact, I got into quite a pleasant routine whereby I would ring the AA first thing in the morning, have some breakfast and, by the time I'd finished, their mechanic would be tinkering under the bonnet. I soon got to know all the local patrols by their first names and they would say: "Oh no! Not you again Charlotte." That cozy arrangement had to end, of course, and the AA wrote and cancelled my membership because I had used them more than 60 times in less than a year.

The Renault kept on misbehaving though, especially on the move. Often it would just break down without warning, but I knew how to cure it. I kept a sledgehammer under the seat, so I'd jump out, grab the hammer, open the bonnet, whack the starter motor, then jump back in again and it would start. Goodness knows what the other drivers thought when they saw me running around - it must have been quite a bizarre and frightening sight.

Then I went away one Christmas and left the Renault parked outside my flat in Camberwell. When I came back after a few weeks, someone had taken exception to the little car. The doors had been ripped off, the windscreen smashed and a bin liner full of rubbish dumped inside. I had to pay someone to tow it away. Now I go everywhere by tatty push bike. Deep down though, I'd quite like a Volkswagen Beetle.

Charlotte Bicknell has just landed a lead role in Ben Elton's "Popcorn" and also played Delilah in "This Life", which is showing every Tuesday at 9.40pm on UK Gold. She was talking to James Ruppert.