Motoring: My Worst Car - Christine Hamilton's Rover 800

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I'm not really that bothered by cars; to me they really are appliances that get one from A to B. But when things have gone wrong it's usually involved a Rover. Rather like the time I reversed into North West Railways headquarters. I always contend that it moved, but at the time it was teeming down with rain, and difficult to see anything at all.

I'll never forget Christmas a few years ago, when I was visiting friends in Hampshire exchanging presents and getting a stockpile of home-made mince pies, cakes and sausage rolls. Unfortunately the weather changed dramatically, and suddenly I was in the middle of a snowstorm. The car stopped and would not restart. I had to get out and walk to the nearest phone. When the RAC arrived, they promptly repaired the problem and off I went.

The Rover lasted precisely four miles before something else broke. I have never been so cold and miserable in my life. While I waited for rescue I went to the boot and got out all the food, snuggled up in the back seat and scoffed most of it. Comfort food, I suppose - but I felt much better.

Perhaps the highest-profile prang I've had was in Parliament Square. Neil and I had driven down from Cheshire in convoy. He was in my old Fiesta and I followed behind in the Rover. After hours of motorway we hit the usual snarl-up in the west end and crawled towards Westminster. I was in an automatic and my mind must have wandered. Neil braked, I didn't.

His face was an absolute picture. The Rover was all right, but the Fiesta looked a mess - which was a pity because we had driven it all the way down to London to sell it.

The most recent Rover upset was a petrol pump mishap, which I must stress wasn't my fault. We were on our way to Sky TV for an interview and stopped to fill up with petrol in West London. I went to the kiosk to pay and the attendant charged me for 10 gallons of diesel.

So we could not start the Rover, and looked likely to miss the interview. Incredibly, at the other pump was a peer we didn't know but recognised from the House of Lords. So Lord somebody-or-other agreed to give Neil a lift, and I eventually followed on in a taxi. We made the interview with minutes to spare.

Christine Hamilton has spent 26 years of her working life in politics, latterly as secretary to her husband Neil Hamilton, Conservative MP for Tatton in Cheshire from 1983 to 1997. Her book, 'Christine Hamilton's Bumper Book of British Battleaxes', is published by Robson Books at pounds 14.95. She was talking to James Ruppert.

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