Remembrance of Mondeos and Escorts past

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The Independent Online

If I were a negative, complaining sort of person, I might have detected a sort of pattern in events of the past week. On Monday, I put my money down for a car. On Tuesday, the Government announced that it had "declared war" on dealers and that prices would soon come tumbling down.

If I were a negative, complaining sort of person, I might have detected a sort of pattern in events of the past week. On Monday, I put my money down for a car. On Tuesday, the Government announced that it had "declared war" on dealers and that prices would soon come tumbling down.

Not that the cash worries me. Frankly, I'm in too emotional a state to care whether I have been a victim of rip-off Britain. I'm changing cars, something I have done very rarely in my life. I have taken it all very seriously, spending time with a succession of men from the motor trade, discussing aircon and alloy, spoil-bars and rollers (or was it roll-bars and spoilers?).

I have become a connoisseur of the entertaining persona with which they pursue their craft: the Best Friend, the Hard Man, the Golf Club Secretary, the Good and Bad Cop.

I have heard how the makers of one Scandinavian car revamped their windscreen design after a director was tragically struck and killed by a moose. I have pored over copies of What Car?, I have engaged in an interactive motor search on the internet. And now I have made my choice.

It is not the acquisition that has made me solemn and silent; it's the loss, the saying farewell to an old servant and companion after six years together. We've been through a lot together, my Mondeo and I, in and out of all sorts of scrapes. Now Anglia Bodyworks has removed the scrapes, and it is as if my recent history has been smoothed out, covered over, traded in.

Of course, I don't love my car. It's a machine, for God's sake - mass- made and rather dull. Yet now I find myself gazing out of the window at its workmanlike yet touchingly aspirational lines, its proud metallic finish (silver to you, Starburst to me) and experiencing a pang of sadness. I have rather enjoyed my phase as Mondeo Man.

Unless one is one of those sad sacks who prudently trades in the motor once a year, the act of changing cars is a major decision in more than the financial sense. This has been the shell in which I have scuttled about the place - my mobile personality - over the past six years. More effectively than the places I have visited or maybe even the friends I have had, it has been part of that period.

Before the Mondeo, I now realise, it has been my cars which, almost more vividly than any other object, reflect the different phases of life - a Ford Escort for my confused, scruffy twenties, a Citroen hatchback for early marriage, a mighty Ford Granada (in my memory, packed with cases, tents, children, bantams, cats) for fully fledged family life. Heaven knows what the Mondeo represents, but it has suited me fine.

This faintly unhealthy nostalgia for things seems to be getting stronger. Selling a car to a dealer feels like a small act of betrayal. Chucking out old shirts has become unbearably poignant. Sending a much-loved pair of shoes to the charity shop is like taking an old pet on a one-way trip to the vet.

At this rate, the prospect of throwing away a knackered pair of underpants will soon reduce me to sobs. There is something infantile and insecure about it all - as if losing my Mondeo is an adult version of a two-year- old losing his blue blanket.

If we choose a car to suit the way we see our life going over the next few years, it seems odd that I have ended up with a second-hand Saab. I associate Saabs with jockeys, or press photographers, with dashing but slightly rackety freelances forever in trouble with their VAT. I knew where I was when I was Mondeo Man. Heaven knows where my new car is going to take me.

Terblacker@aol.com

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