… car adventures – home on wheels …

I hugely enjoyed ‘Women talking about Cars,’ Victoria C Mitchell interviewing Dawn French on BBC 4 Hilarious memories unfurled. Pollution problems were not on the agenda when cars begun do offer unprecedented freedom of movement during the last century, especially for women. One book would not hold my stories about cars, but I like to share a few snippets, if only to inspire some of you to travel down their car timeline.

My first car, a small Triumph convertible, was given to me by a friend who returned to his home country triumph-spitfire-4after his medical studies. There it was – a white little sports car in front of my door in Schwabing (Munich’s student patch during the 1970s.) By then I was working as a freelance photographer and paid a fortune for Taxis to get me and my gear to destinations. ‘This will motivate you to get your driving licence,’ my generous friend said.


From day one I took the Triumph round the block in the middle of the night, every night. With a thumping heart I practiced gears, parking and turning. Some weeks on an archaeology student friend visited from Munster. That day I had a photo shoot and was ready to call a Taxi. ‘But you have a car,’ he said. I explained that I didn’t have a driving licence, yet.

‘I’ll drive you,’ he replied. And so he did. At first I felt fairly relaxed when he stalled the engine in the middle of the busy junction on Feilitzsch Platz, now Münchner Freiheit, though drivers all around us were furiously tooting their horns and swearing at us. My friend managed to start the car again and made it to a small side road. He released a massive sigh. ‘Thing is,’ he admitted, ‘I don’t have a driving licence either.’

The incident motivated me to get my license. Only three sessions were needed. Sadly, this first car soon had its demise when, trying to impress a group of peers with the engine’s speed, I misjudged a corner and bumped into a curb. The combined weight of six bodies, some sitting on the folded down roof, damaged the axle.

From there on I fell in love with the sturdy VW Bus, several, over the years. Hitting the road with a self-vw-bus-a9657d6dbc47ba01d46ace182e65619econtained little house, which was, much like Dawn French shared, equipped for blizzards, resulted in countless adventures, some of them precarious:  Gears failing on steep mountain slopes, flat tires on lone country lanes, pulling windshield wipers with a string from inside the car during heavy snowfall, border guards wanting to arrest me because I wore an army jacket and a Che Guevara cap. Once, on the island of Elba, a companion suggested a shortcut which got us stuck in a vineyard. The farmer who had to pull us out was not pleased. But heck, life was exciting.

With yet another VW Bus, driving across Europe on way to my parents with my fiancée, the engine seized. My father bailed us out so we could replace the engine. The incident was, to him, a further confirmation of my uselessness, even when it came to choosing a partner.

Having moved to Somerset with my then husband, I endured his learner-driving escapades along the narrow tracks of the Quantocks Hills. With a baby in the back seat, these shopping trips stretched my nerves, acutely so when my ex stalled the engine in a narrow bend, with oncoming drivers shaking their heads and my dear husband reacting with injured pride to my helpful suggestions … but I won’t go there. The engine of the last faithful VW Bus, the one that had transported us, our bedding and our books to England, expired via a sudden and fatal oil loss. Serendipity brought along an old Rover with injection gear. I remember the absolute joy when overtaking snail-snared drivers on the steep stretch from Taunton to our Hamlet.

Having moved to Surrey, this powerful horse developed starting hiccups during a cold spot. Someone I won’t name insisted my Rover was a greedy petrol eater and convinced me to buy his tinny Renault.

Eventually I had a lovely Rover again, for many years, until repairs didn’t make sense anymore. These days I drive a sixteen-year-old Honda, which sails through every MOT without fail. I dread the day when all cars will be fully automated.

img123030-cran-canaryBy then I’ll get a good old sturdy Jeep, the kind you can rent on rocky islands.

Many people are anxious about driving, don’t want to drive, maybe never had the chance to acquire a license, or missed the opportunity.

I simply can’t imagine my life without independent transport. It’s a luxury I hardly pause to appreciate, though I should, very much, and be grateful. Only has to consider the surreal anomaly some cultures maintain to this day …  women being persecuted for driving a car.

*     *     *

You may be curious about the publishing process for my first novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ now that its production is in my control. I don’t know why, but I’m hugging the recently approved beautiful cover and am hesitant to share it online … just yet.

If you’re on my Christmas card list you’ll get the cover image in the post. But quite soon, promise, I’ll reveal the cover here, on my virtual island.


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19 responses to “… car adventures – home on wheels …

  1. Had a VW bus for a couple of years, blew a rod driving home from a Jimi Hendrix concert. Owned half a dozen bugs over those years. My old Ford truck (prominently featured in Penina’s Letters), 3 speed on the column, was a great ride – no heat, no air, no radio. Evolution of cars – soon the car will be a robot; well, maybe not so soon. These days I prefer walking:

    I Know a Man
    By Robert Creeley

    As I sd to my
    friend, because I am
    always talking,—John, I

    sd, which was not his
    name, the darkness sur-
    rounds us, what

    can we do against
    it, or else, shall we &
    why not, buy a goddamn big car,

    drive, he sd, for
    christ’s sake, look
    out where yr going.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I had a bug at some point. Didn’t like the airtight feel when closing the car door. Much on the edge stuff is omitted here, like the occasion when I took my little Triumph to a rock concert in Heidelberg – Deep Purple and all. I was too stoned to dare the motorway, but luckily sourced some friends to drive us home.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So many connections! Schwabing, and Morris Minors, and Vw buses…but lovely to get your ‘down-home’ memories. When we moved into our derelict barns ( before they became houses) there was one full of vintage car parts ( copper headlamps and Austin 7 wipers, and toot-toot copper horns) After an auction it all disappeared except for a Morris Oxford ( c 1930) which had no tyres, and was covered in lichen and moss. Dandelions growing from the window ledges. Husband suggested dragging it onto the verge and putting up a sign ‘Waiting for the AA’ but turned scaredy cat and thought we could be sued. I thought it more likely they would pay US a large sum to remove it!

    Poverty was much more fun!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great memories evoked here Ashen.
    No Rover. No Renault. No Bug.
    But a dirty great “Shaggin’ Wagon”.
    It was green with sports strips up the side, a convertible sitting/bed arrangement and a cool box for the occasional beverage.
    As roving the the continent and the big city was a bit out of reach, the “SW” brought a little of the big world to my yokel life.
    The radical woman of my world, drove a mini (Cooper S if really cool). We didn’t even know what a Rover was. Plenty of Bugs about, but a Renault was instantly designated as the car of, shall we say; the discerning woman.
    Great days Ashen and thanks for the reminder.B

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I definitely chuckled at your experiences driving. I started out with a VW Bug. We lived on a very steep hill at the corner intersection where there was a stop sign. I spent a great deal of time rolling backwards down the hill learning to get the car into first gear. Driving can be quite an experience… especially when I visited England, Scotland, and Wales so I had to learn to drive on the opposite side of the street than here in the States. Thanks for the memories!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heroic moments. Rolling backwards down the hill, hair raising, and familiar. I remember dashing for rocks to put under the back wheels to give some moments to think and to regain my regular heart beat.
      Rural Britain 🙂 is a challenge for anyone not used t narrow lanes, like Americans.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Eduard

    Talking cars, this reminds me, returning from your wedding in the Sufi temple in the dunes all those years ago, driving my Simca home to Amsterdam, with some other wedding, it stalled on the motorway near Lisse. It was raining heavily, and we sat there in this car waiting for roadside assistance. When he arrived, it appeared the alternator was broken and the load of headlights and wipers had drained the battery so much that it couldn’t feed the spart plugs any more. The battery topped up with a bit of charge from the assistance van, we made it back to Amsterdam, albeit with almost two hours delay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow. Did you share this with us, E.? Maybe a blessing you were stranded. Driving in heavy rain is dangerous. We had travelled from Amerongen and either escaped the heavy downpour, or the novelty of the day, with rare relatives having a rare experience, charmed away the memory.


  6. Seems a good place to tell a true ‘tall’ tale. An impoverished friend drove a Morris Minor with dodgy brakes and a dubious electrical system. You could have either lights OR windscreen wiper but not both. The hooter did not work at all. In torrential rain, in London, she skidded into the back of a Bentley stopped at a light. When it pulled away she realised her front bumper was hooked under his rear one. He sailed away unaware in the pouring rain that he was twice as long as he thought. She tried flashing lights which he could not see as they were up too close to his backside. Her windscreen wipers kept going furiously showing her how narrow were her escapes as he crossed intersections on orange failing to clear them as the on coming cars hooted and gesticulated at HER! This went on for perhaps three miles.

    Finally he reached home and pulled into his driveway. By which time she was shredded! He got out and walked around her appendage of a car. All he said was ‘I thought she was driving a bit heavier than usual!’

    John Cleese could have used that sketch!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I found a laughing out loud emoticon but can’t insert it here 🙂

      One thing working – another thing not working – isn’t that how we are guided by necessity, or by hook and crook 🙂 to whatever undefined goal is lurking in our unconscious? A hilarious timeless moment, providing grist for stories to spin off into countless directions.


  7. I will always remember my Grandma at the wheel of her prized possession, a 1972 Chevelle. She wore a scarf and driving gloves and kept the vehicle in pristine condition. A sad day when she could no longer drive it, another when I sold it to a collector. Yes, the freedom, the wind in our hair! Lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I looked up this car on googles, Mary. Grand and stylish. The bulk upfront would’ve given your grandma a sense of security. Shawl floating in the wind, gloves, probably sunglasses, the exhilaration of speed no feet could master. The image encapsulates a time of expanded freedom and vision.
      We’ve lost that flair somewhat, and by necessity our dreams have become more practically-minded.


  8. Real good story.
    And I like the photos, too. Especially the one of the Triumph, which is a beautiful car.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I loed reading along your driving adventures… and was particularly “driven” (well timed word, right?) by the anecdote concerning what motivated you get the license… (Oh the irony! 😀 ) I think the Triumph convertible is so beautiful!… Thanks for sharing this special memories and thoughts with us… Best wishes & happy holidays! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you Aquileana. Those car-timelines bring up rich adventures.
    Wishing you and yours, too, joyful festive days.
    A little precious time of peace snapped from the turmoil in the world.


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