Monday, 26 September 2016
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I was too young to realise that my dad had bought the most unfashionable car he could have possibly laid his hands on. So when he brought home the shiny new red brick, I was over the moon. I explored it thoroughly. Running my fingers over the square headlights, the oblong door handles and admiring the Viking ship on the badge. It was, in my mind at least, a thing of beauty.
Sadly, my more technically savvy mates in school knew all about the supposed shortcomings of the make and model. I remember their laughter as my mum dropped me off in school for the first time. They seemed to have a new joke every day.
What do you call a Lada at the top of a hill? A miracle.
What do you call a Lada convertible? A skip.
My Lada can get up to 75 up that hill. Wow that’s good. Hmm not so much I live at number 90.
I laughed along with them, not really understanding the jokes; a car was a car was a car as far as I was concern. Yes, okay it wasn’t quite a sleek as Jamie’s mum’s Capri, or as curvy as the Allegro Van Den Plas that Simon’s family had. Yes, okay, it was built like a tank, it even had the gun turret, but it was solid and square and reliable, some might say just like me.
I don’t ever remember that car breaking down. I do remember it taking us on family holidays to East Anglia and the Loire Valley and the Netherlands, with my sisters and me squabbling about who sat in the middle and who was the best looking Nolan sister, (Maureen, not Bernie) and other things that seemed so important at the time. But I don’t recall waiting for the AA man to come and rescue us. Red Ruh, as we affectionately called her, got us from A to B and those Bs were scattered all over the place.
No, I don’t recall any problems with that car, but the thing that really sticks in my mind about it was the day the army came.
I was never really into guns and uniforms and the like. I had Action Men but they were just as likely to be cooking in my sisters’ Cindy kitchens as they were fighting the Germans. But that didn’t stop me from being a bit over excited when four Land Rovers rolled down out sleepy hill, four soldiers in each, each carrying a gun. I swung on the front gate watching them get out of their vehicles and walking towards me. I didn’t for a minute think they were coming to our house.
“Your dad home sonny,” the one with the funny moustache asked. “Daaaad,” I yelled up the stairs.
If my dad was shocked to see sixteen soldiers outside the house, he didn’t show it. He had a I’ve been expecting you, expression on his face.
“Can I help you?” he said.
“This your car?” the moustache danced as the man spoke.
“It is,” my dad confirmed.
“Mind if we have a look?” The moustache danced again.
My dad shrugged.
The soldiers swarmed all over the car like ants. If I thought I’d explored it thoroughly, it was nothing to what these guys were doing now. They were ripping it apart right there on the street.
“Don’t worry sir,” the Moustache said. “Once we’ve finished with it, you won’t even know we’ve been here. And it won’t need a service for another six months.”
“Got it!” One of the men held up a small device, no bigger than a mouse trap.
“Listening device,” the Moustache said. “The Ruskies bugged these beauties before sending them out, so they could listen in to the lives of the average British citizen.
My jaw nearly hit the floor. I couldn’t wait to tell the boys in school, that the Russians had been listening to us. That would silence the jokes.
“Oh and by the way,” the Moustache said, as he was leaving, “I agree with you sonny, it’s definitely Maureen.”
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