We inherited my Gran‘s car last week. It came complete with boiled sweets, a faded but apparently unthumbed 1998 road atlas and a letter knife in the glove locker. Yet the most remarkable evidence of its one careful lady owner is that this J reg is in impeccable nick. This goes too for most of the carefully chosen contents of the car, and among the tyre pressure guages and oil cartons in a cardboard box in the boot I found a pang of warm grief inside a typed manilla envelope – The contents were a carefully folded collection of directions, clearly compiled over many years – lists of places I’d never heard of, quaintly formal typed letters of invitation from friends, detailed ‘navigators instructions’ to my childhood home in my father’s hand…
The respect my Gran had for the details of life never fails to impress me. I feel a little ashamed of the state of our previous steed. Out of respect I’ve vowed never to let banana skins and crumbly remains grace these pristine new floor mats. But more than this, I’ve been reflecting on my attitude towards cars and journeys in general. I’m not exactly a shiny car person – but there’s no way we’d actually do without one even if we do talk about it. Perhaps I’ve been neglecting our car as a sort of punishment to it for its existence? Perhaps I’ve been denying our dependence upon it, treating it as an ‘AtoB-mobile’, setting it in the shadow of destination. Perhaps I ought to think of it instead as an ‘Automobile’, embrace the skill, the art, the joy of motoring, the journey…
I think of the way my Gran drove her car: As little as possible, slowly, carefully. As always, an unwitting eco-warrior.
I think of architects Alison and Peter Smithson, who in their illustrated diary, ‘AS in DS‘, managed to celebrate the union of streamlined mechanical technology and picturesque landscape through the windscreen of their Citroen DS. I’m sure they washed their car once in a while.
I think of the child who beautifully referred to her shoes as ‘journey carriers’ in a new book I dipped into last week.
I think too of the way I rush about, trying to get somewhere while ignoring the place I’m in.
I look at the way my daughter celebrates journey, respects it, revels in it:
Gran would approve.