Saturday 21 December, 2013 by Uncle Spike
This is the Volvo 245DL, one of those boxy 2100cc station wagons produced by the safety loving Swedes from 1974-1993. You’ll probably have seen these, often in mustard colour for some reason, in those countless American 80’s TV movies that portrayed life with 2.4 darling kids, a clean well-behaved pedigree dog, massive kitchens and even bigger fridges; all usually featured in a large split-level home in some spotless tree-lined wide street suburban utopia.
In the early 80’s my parents owned one, a white one no less. It was their workhorse as they landscaped their property, for carting hordes of teenage kids around and kept the family safer than if we had hired an armoured truck on Sunday drives through the picturesque New Forest in southern England where we then lived.
Jump forward 10 or 12 years and both my wanderlust years of adventure and the seemingly endless paths of self-destruction had come to an end – I was a married man, Mr Responsible. Now, due to financial circumstances, neither of us had a car, and so the old Volvo was passed down to yours truly. It was clean. I mean spotless. It had a full dealer maintenance history too, having been lovingly cared for over the years. But that was all about to change. No, we didn’t wrap at around a lamppost in the first month or anything like that, but it was, how shall I say, ever so slightly prone to mishap… and this tale is one of the classics.
By then, I was working in the bank, and my late wife, Ann, was working in the Pathology labs of a local hospital. She basically played with blood and other bodily fluids for money; charming work, but between us, we paid the bills. It was a happy, but challenging time in my life.
One crispy Friday winter’s morn I was at work. I had taken the early bus into town as I was on ‘post duty’ – someone had to open and process the banks daily post bag. Ann was on a later shift, and had the car.
Sometime about mid-morning, I was sat at my desk and took an external phone call (this was still in the pre-mobile/cell era), and it went about like this…
Ann: “Hello. I had a small accident in the car”
Me: Knowing it was cold and icy on the roads that day. “Oh crap. Are you ok?”
Ann: “Yes, fine”
Me: “And the car?”
Ann: “Not so good”
Me: “What happened?”
Ann: “The car was completely frosted over, and I was running late for work”
Me: “Yes… go on”
Ann: “I needed to clear the windows of ice, so I used the spray can you put behind the front seat”
Me: “What can?”
Ann: “Well I thought it was de-icer. But it wasn’t, was it!?”
Me: “What did you do… come on?”
Ann: “I sprayed the car, with black Hammerite spray paint”
Ann “Coz I thought it was de-icer, dummy. It’s all your fault for leaving the can there for me to use!”
Me: “It wasn’t there for you to…. never mind.”
Me: “Then what did you do?”
Ann: “I sprayed in again”
Ann: “Coz it wasn’t working. So I went around the whole car again”
Me: “Of course it didn’t work. It’s specialised anti-rust paint for my motorbike sub-frame!
Ann: “I know that now! Coz the ice went all black”
Me: “What did you do?”
Ann: “I was running even later now, so I panicked. I tried to clean it off with a roll of kitchen paper towel. That didn’t work. It stuck to the paint on all the windows”
Ann: “So I had to drive to work like that, with my head out the window to see where I was driving. It was bloody freezing and my make-up all ran!”
Me: …realising an argument was a lost cause… “Ok, no problem, we’ll fix it. We’ll talk later. Don’t worry”
I then put the phone gently down, put my head in my hands and silently asked the big man upstairs “Why me?”
Later that day we managed to meet up. The winter sun had cleared all the ice, and the car was indeed ‘ok’, no structural damage at all. But there was a black gunge across every single window – and those cars had a lot of glass! Her colleagues had tried to help out too, using some form of alcohol based liquid from the laboratory; but those specialist metal paints go like glue when mixed with normal paint thinners or suchlike. It was a mess. It took the entire weekend to scrape the windows clean with a razor-blade scrapper and the correct cleaning fluid. But the white paint on all of the door bars now had lovely black lines added to them – like some weird go-faster stripes, although on a Volvo station wagon they seemed somewhat out of place.
It was a minor calamity really. No-one was hurt. But for over a year after that, whenever we travelled up to see my parents (remember it was originally their car), we always parked up the road a bit, or facing the ‘wrong way’, or half obscured by a hedge – anything to hide the fact we had sprayed their lovely ‘white’ Volvo into some sort of zebra stripped vehicle out of the Daktari series!
In memory of…
Today is the birthday of my late wife and this post is dedicated to her memory. She was a fun-loving, caring and altogether zany person, who is no doubt causing absolute havoc up there on her cloud right about now.
I want to thank the girls for their consent to me sharing this story about their mum, and to my wife, dear Aunty Spike, for being so gracious and supportive of my writing memoirs from before our time together.