Rebecca Tyrrel: Days Like Those

'My reluctance to take the car to Audi is not just financial, but because of my intense feelings for my loyal mechanic'
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The Independent Online

The economic crisis that is forcing me to do all my clothes shopping at Oxfam has clearly worsened; there is a financial advisor sitting at our kitchen table. A pleasant man named Alan; he arrived, settled down with a cup of fennel tea (after picking his way around the many boxes of drink from Majestic Wine Warehouse - the bulk purchasing of alcohol being a perverse symptom of Matthew's during any financial extremity) and had a quick shifty through some files. Then he looked up, turned down the offer of a Lemon Puff and said, "It is a priority that you make a will".

He is not the first person to have said this; they all say it. Every five or six years we reach a crisis point on the money front and an advisor is summoned who invariably begins by suggesting we write a will. My rational mind knows why this is. Should Matthew and I, for instance, drink all the newly purchased alcohol in one sitting and die in a stupor, Louis, the son and heir, would avoid having to pay large amounts of inheritance tax if we had made a will. We would also have named someone in said will, who would look after him until he came of age.

My irrational mind, however, tells me that the financial advisor knows that our gas boiler needs fixing or it will kill us, and that my car is on the verge of exploding in my face if I don't book it into Audi forthwith. Nice Alan is to my irrational mind no more or less than a Horseman of the Apocalypse, a harbinger of doom. The trouble is that in the current economic climate I don't know that we can afford to do anything about the car or the boiler, an estimate for which has come in at £5,000. I doubt very much if we can even afford to buy a WH Smith will-making kit for £7.50.

After nice Alan had left I asked Matthew how he felt the meeting had gone. "Well, it turns out we're in the most marvellous shape," he replied, "and that you should forthwith take the credit cards for a spree down New Bond Street." For a brief, happy moment I failed to recognise this as sarcasm and had a mental image of myself in Fenwicks scarf department prancing around to Ravel like Isadora Duncan. Then Matthew slapped his head into his hands and said, "How do you think it went? We must economise. That's all there is to it. Do you think you can do that?" "Well not really, no. I am already buying all my clothes at Oxfam." "I don't suppose," Matthew then asked, "that there is a charity shop a rung or two down the charity ladder from Oxfam that you could try. Sloughfam perhaps?"

I could, at a pinch, economise on the traffic offences. Last Monday's post bought the third £50 penalty charge notice this month. I had once again been photographed in a bus lane, fiddling around with a dipstick. The problem with the car is a computer problem. It was diagnosed by a mechanic who over the years has become so much more than just a mechanic to me, who, to save him any embarrassment, I shall call Dave. Dave cannot solve the computer problem himself, in fact he says that only Audi can. And even though I know that he is right when he insists that the flashing picture of a dripping oil can does not actually mean I am running out of oil, or that the red circle with a line through it doesn't actually mean, "put your hands in the air, exit your car and stand with your back to the wall," I still cannot ignore it because I don't just see an oil can, or a red circle with a line through it, I see more Horsemen of the Apocalypse, all carrying scythes and even larger bills from Audi. I can't help thinking that one day it will be a case of the engine that cried wolf.

My reluctance to take the car to Audi is, I must confess, not just finance-related, although they do charge exorbitant amounts compared to Dave. No, it is because of my intense feelings for my loyal mechanic that I am so loathe to consort with others. And so I put off the unfamiliar moment when I will have to explain to a stranger how I am checking the oil four or five times a day and sometimes as many as seven, how I have developed something close to an obsessive compulsion concerning the headlights.

It is not a romantic attachment that I feel for Dave, rather, I have come to regard him as a carer, someone who is always there and unfailing. And when he was forced to admit defeat his pain was my pain. How dare Audi do this to us?

Finally, however, I book the car in. Audi insist on making their own diagnosis (a snip at £135) and while this is being done I sit miserably on a faux leather sofa in their customer area watching a programme in which a tattooed man tells a chat show host why he isn't going to stop sleeping with his girlfriend's riding instructor. How different, I think, this is from the familiar comfort of the vinyl chair in Dave's office, leaking its rubber foam stuffing, and Jeremy Vine on the radio. It is as I sit here wondering who in the world would want to buy the Audi sponge-bag, or the Audi notelets in the glass display cabinet that I determine that Matthew and I must indeed do a will without delay. And it is Dave who shall be named in that will as the person to not just look after the car in the event of our death, but Louis too.