It’s Automatic!

Skoda Roomster

Skoda Roomster

I’ve just realised that I am a control freak.

This fact, which is probably blindingly obvious to my family, is a total surprise to me.  It was revealed yesterday when I changed my car.

I have been driving for well over 40 years.  While I was at college in Newbold Revel in the 60s we had the chance to learn in the gorgeous country lanes and villages of Warwickshire.  We occasionally drove into Rugby or the outskirts of Coventry, but these roads were not so busy then.  There was no A45 for a start!  We just tootled along the ‘B roads’ through sleepy little villages like Brinklow.  I had no nerves in those days and my instructor said I was a natural.  Lessons cost us 17shilling and 6pence (17s6d) in pre-decimal money, which is about 87p now.  It sounds really cheap but of course a pound was a lot of money then.

When I left college I moved to the Cotswolds with my room-mate and dear friend Pat, whom I have written about before.  Pat already had a car while we were at college.  She used to work at riding stables in Somerset during her holidays so had learned to drive early.  We made quite a stir wherever we turned up in her car because she used to take the back seats out of it to transport her tiny Shetland pony, Rupert.  Did I mention that Pat was a ‘one off’?   In her prime she rode the iconic London to Brighton Cycle Race, but Pat did it on a unicycle.   She certainly lived life to the full and squeezed every ounce of fun she could out of it.  Later on in life she became a really serious cyclist, what is known as a ‘hard rider’.  She did time trials, road racing, cross country mountain biking and hill climbs, which were her favourite.   She won lots of titles including National Ladies’ Veteran and Bog-snorkelling Champion!  What makes this all the more amazing is that she did it all with a metal frame supporting her spine after she fell from a tree and broke her back many years ago while picking fruit.  She was a great friend and I miss her.

Anyway, by the time I got round to needing a car I was married and had a baby.  I actually passed my test with the baby in his carry cot on the back seat!  There was no law about child seats in those days; there weren’t even seat belts in the back seats of most cars!

Since then I have had several cars of different marques.  I loved my little red Fiat but hated the VW Beetle.  I once had a brand new silver Mazda which was my favourite car, but usually I had whatever my dad was replacing, as they were free!  By the time I had 4 children I had a blue escort estate which my dad had used for work.  This would be early 1980s and because he travelled so much for work he had a very early mobile phone.  The phone itself was huge by today’s standards but the battery was ridiculous.  It was the size of a small suitcase and was fitted under the driver’s seat.

Following that I had little metros and lastly a Renault Clio.  This car was ideal until this summer when my husband had a couple of bad falls.  He has peripheral neuropathy among other things and since the fall he has hardly been able to walk let alone drive.  So I have been taking a wheelchair with us whenever we go out.  The boot on the Clio is quite small and quite high so lifting, folding and stowing the wheelchair has been really hard for me.  Hence, the need for a change of car.  Unfortunately due to his age mainly, we don’t qualify for the wonderful ‘Motability Scheme’, but we were told that when people with disabilities return their adapted cars, they are forwarded to dealers and sold ~ the cars that is, not the person with disabilities!  So we started a search of dealers in our area.  I took some advice from an expert, Zog Zeigler, who writes brilliant car reviews for TV, newspapers and various magazines, and eventually found just the car for us.  It is a Skoda Roomster.  The lady who had it from new had returned it after only 6 months, so we really got a bargain.

It has a huge low boot which is easy to get a wheelchair in even unfolded.  It has parking sensors front and back.  It has hand controls for braking and accelerating.  It has a huge glass roof so my grandson can watch the ‘cloudbabies’.  And, it has 4 doors which open wide so the other grandchildren can get in easily loaded up with schoolbags, football kit and musical instruments!  BUT, and it’s a big but, it is AUTOMATIC.

I have never driven an automatic car before so it was probably not the best decision to pick it up while my hubby was in hospital, in the rush hour, and drive it home along one of the narrowest roads in Gloucestershire while the factory workers were racing home on bikes, scooters, motorbikes, cars, lorries and buses.  It was the most hair-raising drive I have ever undertaken ~ and I’ve travelled in cars in Africa and Russia so that’s saying something!

Just getting out of the showroom carpark was a challenge.  Apparently the ‘selector lever’, which replaces the gear stick, will not budge unless you have your foot on the brake.   Who knew?  Everyone apparently, except me!  This threw me to the extent that I blocked the main road causing a huge traffic jam of tired workers on their way home.  Not a good start.  I could see the driver in the lorry at the front of the queue was not happy so I had to resort to going back into the showroom to ask for help.  So my pride and joy at having a shiny newish car was quickly replaced by humiliation as I did a good impression of a pathetic female.

I did get home eventually although every bend, junction, passing vehicle and set of traffic lights was a source of fear.  What do you do with your left hand and foot when they are not needed for gear changing?  I just feel that with a manual car I am in control, but with an automatic some hidden bit of electronic wizardry is in control.  And I DON’T LIKE IT!

Pat and the dangers of Cycling http://wp.me/p2gGsd-t7

My Friend Pat on her bike

My Friend Pat on her bike

 

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