I took it to a specialist yesterday and he said, in typical idiosyncratic Alfa fashion, that to get at the faulty part, they would have to remove a great deal of the wiring, most of the engine and the front door of a small house in Worcester. But looking at the battered body of my Alfa 166 and thinking of selling, I realised how attached I'd become to the car. It suddenly occurred to me how every scratch and dent holds a memory.
I'm a safe driver, my only flaw being a tendency to drive slowly into things when I'm a bit flustered or excited, so over the years any car of mine will pick up a number of dings and bumps. There is the fact that the fuel cap is a slightly different blue to the surrounding rear wing - that first respray is a result of me driving backwards into a wall in France on a day out with my friend, Siobhan Redmond, when she'd managed to inexplicably navigate me into an underground petrol station while we'd been looking for that big shopping mall outside Calais. Then there is the white paint ground into the front bumper, when I drove into a gate post trying to get out of a hotel in Cheltenham.
I'd gone there during Gold Cup week to record an edition of The News Quiz for Radio 4. My wife and I had planned to stay overnight, but the hotel, like the town, was crammed with the sort of people you never see during the rest of the year: rakish men dressed in vibrant suits and snappy hats, as if they're in an amateur production of Pal Joey. The woman on reception told us our shabby room was "nice and handy for the bar". So we checked out right away - it's always seemed to me to be a particular pleasure to spend a night at home when you thought you were going to be staying somewhere else. This invariably makes the journey home feel a happy one, filled with the delicious anticipation of sleeping in your own bed as if you've been endlessly on the road with a jazz band for nine months.
But the strangest dents I picked up weren't my fault for once: these are a number of smallish indentations in the boot lid as if its been bitten by an elephant. One day a couple of years ago, I was turning right into a small road near my house, checked in the mirror, indicated, then slowed waiting for oncoming traffic to pass. As I did that, I heard a thump and, looking in the rear view mirror, saw a young man lying on top of my boot, rather in the attitude of an actor playing a man who turns into a cockroach in a production of Kafka's Metamorphosis as directed by Steven Berkoff.
Getting out of the car, it became clear what had happened. This particular young man, his brain substantially chemically altered, had come hurtling round the corner on a bike and, failing to stop or indeed even see my car, had gone into the back of the Alfa, projecting himself on to the boot lid. He had done remarkably little damage, considering, but what can you do when your car has been damaged by a cyclist high on crack? I doubt that he carried personal-injury liability, so should I take his name and address so I could go around and confiscate his urine-stained mattress? In the end, after a confused conversation about squirrels, we let him go wheeling his squeaky bike with a buckled front wheel. Ah! Happy memories indeed.Reuse content