Yesterday was the British Car Club of Charleston‘s British Car Day car show. (That was a mouthful!) Anyway, I was very pleased that at this 30th anniversary show Catherine took home first place in her class. No, it really doesn’t bother me that she was the only one in her class, because in reality she is in a class by herself.
I will admit that I am really tired. I didn’t get much sleep last night, and I have been busy recently with everything from work to helping family and friends with different projects. But everyone else is out of the house tonight so I can do what I want to – and be as noisy and as smelly as I want. Which means working on one of my cars!
But, there is a fly in the ointment. Or, day I say it, a feline in the fray. It may seem a tad ungrateful for not accepting aid where it is offered, but I just don’t think a cat under the hood is going to help with the diagnosis of my MGB’s electrical problems. Honestly, I also fear that if I spark the wrong wire or she steps on an exposed connection that she will really live up to her name of “Mayhem”. Shades of the Allstate Insurance spokesman with smoke coming from his hair.
Please note that Catherine is one of my cars. More precisely she is a 1966 Vanden Plas Princess 1100 – a small British four-door sedan that I cherish immensely. I am writing a series of posts to document how I came by her, why she is important to me, and why I am crazy enough to anthropomorphize her and call her by name.
My history with Catherine actually goes back further than when I got her in 2010, further back than when I met her in about 2002, further back than when I became friends with her previous owner back in 1990, all the way back to the job I had during college back in 1984.
Back then I was attending the College of Charleston as an English major. I was young, idealistic, and I wanted a car. Unlike most of my friends who either got hold of the cheapest thing the could afford or saved up for American muscle cars, I was determined that my first car was going to be an MG. Yup, I wanted a small British sports car that was no longer imported into the US. The first time I got to drive an MG was between high school and college, and the car belonged to actress Stockard Channing. She was living in Charleston at the time, and I was working for her then husband, a local marketing personality. She was nice, friendly, and had an MGB that I got to drive occasionally. It was great.
I left that job, but didn’t forget about the MG. That is what I really wanted. About a year later I found and bought my dream car. I fell in love with an orange 1971 MGB GT. The GT is a hardtop coupe vs the more common convertible. I was quite happy – and promptly learned that although I might have been able to afford the car, I couldn’t afford the maintenance or repair bills. Seeing as I wasn’t going to give up my prize, the only alternative I could see was to learn to do my own work. Slowly I learned to change the oil, rebuild clutch hydraulics, tune carburetors, and eventually about every other automotive task. Through that process I became good friends with the owner of the foreign car parts store at the front of my neighborhood, and eventually an employee.
The clocked winked. I swear it winked at me. Four in the morning, and I cannot fall asleep. On some days this would be fine – lying awake in bed in the small hours of the morning the cool sheets against my skin and no one to interrupt my thoughts. But those are days other than today. Today I am lying awake, legs twitching nervously, checking the clock every few minutes to see if it is any closer to morning. It is not. And I would testify in court that the clock winked at me in condescending acknowledgement that time is not passing. The clock and I are stuck here at 4am with nowhere else to go.
It feels like Christmas, but no not Christmas. And I am too old for that, for the toys and the stockings and the candy. And being too old for those things there is no one who would give them to me anyway. Santa stopped coming when I was just a little kid, and there is not family to fill in like back in the tight times. No, this isn’t Christmas. Heck, it isn’t even winter. Nope this is early Autumn and the reason my nerves are so jangled and sleep evades me is because I am going on a trip. A road trip. I love road trips.
There is something about the act of driving that just makes me happy. And calm. Driving has the opposite affect on my system that the anticipation of driving does, and the opposite affect on me that the sheer dread of driving inflicts on others. When I get behind the wheel and put the car in gear my blood pressure will drop, my anxieties will fade, my mind will clear, and I will become one with the road. Then, as the miles begin to slip smoothly away beneath the wheels of the car all my cares will slip away with them. The mile after mile of white lines and asphalt will be, to my mind, like running a comb through tangled hair. The strands of thought will straighten out, the twisted knots will become undone, and a smooth stillness will take over.
In honor of all my British friends, today’s exercise calls for me to list “Fifteen of Your Favourite Things”. Well one of my favorite things is alternating between British and American spellings so that it freaks out the spell-check and makes me seem mentally unstable. Yes, I am going to blame the instability on the spelling. Might as well. And since I am going to do that, it only makes sense to start my list of favorite things with …
1) British cars. I have been a devotee of British cars since I was a teenager. My first car was an MG. There has barely been a year since then when I didn’t own at least one British car, and often many more. The cars do not have to be convertibles, but they are usually old. And in various states of disrepair. I love the way they drive, the way the smell, and the way they feel. I do believe Castrol runs in my blood.
2) British television. Since we are already in the Enchanted Isle for the cars, we might as well stay for the telly. I don’t know why other than the shows are better! I started out early watching Monty Python and Doctor Who (Tom Baker was my Doctor), and I am still watching them. Oh, and Top Gear. And lets not forget Sherlock.
3) Trains and Trolleys. Again, one of those loves I have had since I was a kid. Things on rails. Big and small. Real and model. If you are really board you can check some out at Michael’s Trains.
4) Soccer. I never have been a fan of baseball, basketball, hockey, American football, or any other sport. I like soccer. And by the way, Man U rules!
5) Apple products. “Finally!” you are saying. “Something closer to home,” you are saying. And you would be right. I prefer the Mac operating system. Just cleaner and more stable. I make my living, or a good portion of it, supporting Windows. That tells you something. It needs a lot of support.