My wife has bought a classic car. She says it will give us flexibility
My wife recently bought a car, a 30-year-old Mini previously owned by someone in her book club. I flung no obstacles in the way of its purchase – I did not, for example, repeatedly point out that we already have a car – because we had a tacit agreement that the person turning 50 was allowed one rash and ill-advised acquisition, no eyebrows raised. When I bought a second-hand banjo off eBay shortly after my birthday, my wife did not repeatedly point out that I already had a banjo. And the Mini cost slightly less.
She is not done paying for it, of course. On the day the sale was agreed, the little car was driven a short distance from one mechanic's premises to another. In the intervening six weeks, our mechanic has found many new and exciting things wrong with it. Every day, parts and accessories arrive in the post. There are new Mini carpets in the shed, new custom-made seat covers in a box in the sitting room and a vintage Mini steering wheel in the fruit bowl on the kitchen table.
For the moment I am happy to have my wife exhaust her savings on this project: better she spends it on an old car that may never be roadworthy than on, say, a plane ticket and a new identity. If she tried to leave me in the Mini, she wouldn't get far. It's a tremendous vote of confidence, when you think about it.
"I went to visit my car today," she says one evening before supper.
"Just to say hi?" I say.
"No," she says. "I had to drop off the new door panels."
"How was it?" I say.
"Hard to tell," she says, "when it's just a shell."
"He had to take the engine out," she says.
"Did he mention how much it was going to cost in the end?" I say. When my banjo arrived, I just put new strings on it.
"We agreed a budget," she says. "But I'm not sure if it includes the respray."
"The insurance is incredibly cheap, compared with the other car," she says.
"But we're paying for both," I say. "And only one car works."
My wife knows my primary unease is with us becoming a two-car family. We live in a city where having one car is an expensive pain in the arse. Running two strikes me as a needless and shameful extravagance wholly incompatible with certain values I have always held because they happened to suit my limited means.
In its defence, my wife chooses to characterise the two-car scenario as a brief transitional period, on our way to becoming an elderly couple whose transport needs can be met by one tiny and completely unreliable vehicle. When our children leave home for ever, we can get rid of the big car. In the meantime, she says, the Mini will give us flexibility.
"I suppose we can use it as a front shed," I say. "As long as we can get a parking permit for it."
"I must do that, actually," says my wife.
"Won't you have to transfer the other car from your name to my name, or something?" I say.
"I already did, last week," she says. "The paperwork came yesterday."
"Well that's at least one thing… wait – I own a car?"
"Yes," she says. "A black Mondeo estate with a mismatched wing mirror and a resale value of 400 quid."
"I'm a car owner?"
"Congratulations," she says.
"I've never owned a car before," I say. This, I think, changes everything.