Monday, August 03, 2009

Feral Parents

I've just spent the weekend at my Mum's. An unplanned weekend. She phoned me earlier in the week and I said I'd cancel whatever I had on and be there by Friday. Sounds bad doesn't it? It wasn't - don't worry.

I had to go up there (it's a 500 mile round trip so 8 hours of driving) to help her find a new car. She's 71 and needs a car to get around. A nice little hatchback runabout you might think so she can get down the shops a couple of days a week and go see the granddaughter now and again. No, it's not quite as simple as that.

This is the second time in two years I've had to rush up there at short notice and perform this particular duty. What had actually happened was she had written off ("totalled" to use the American terminology) her current car. She did exactly the same thing last time. So, in the last two years my Mum has demolished two cars in quite spectacular accidents. This is the kind of driving record your average teenager would be proud of. The kind of thing that would drive parents to distraction. Except I now find it happening to me in reverse.

These are no ordinary cars. For the last 30 years she has driven only Saabs. Big, sturdy, high-performance Swedish cars that the advertising campaigns would have us believe are designed by the same people who make a particularly intimidating and supersonic fighter jet for the Swedish Air Force. My mum likes this. She seems to fancy that driving a car modelled on a fighter aircraft lends her a certain quirky kudos amongst her increasingly elderly chums. It makes her feel she's not quite ready for the scrapheap. This is OK by me - keeps her young at heart and all that.

But two write-offs in two years? It's time she calmed it down a bit you would think. I was relieved to find when I got there she had been given a seven year old diesel powered Ford Mondeo. The kind of car it's difficult to tell is moving even when it's going flat out in top gear. This would reign here in I thought. She would be suitably contrite after managing to destroy two substantial Saabs in the last two years. Not a bit of it. She hated it. Despite it's practical attributes, she could not see past the fact it would not do 90mph (approaching 150 kph) down the motorway and blast everything else off the road as she screamed "Eat my dust losers!". She's 71 - did I mention that?

She'd already been perusing the car ads in the papers and was eyeing up locally available Saabs. She'd also been wondering whether a 4x4 would make a change. She lives in the North of England and a 4x4 is handy in the winter sometimes. Various other high performance cars were on her prospective shopping list. Audis, Mercs, Volvos....you get the idea. Of course, her budget wasn't quite up to her desires (isn't that always the case) and I had to point out with her budget, any car she could find on her list at that price would be likely to have had a long and probably interesting history. So it was down to me to find her something that ticked all her boxes on her wish list, but that would allow me to also sleep at night.

To cut a long story short, I had to show her the kind of car she wanted, for the money she had, to finally make here realise she couldn't afford one with anything appproaching decent provenance. I then had to find her something she would consider an acceptable compromise. Her specification was roughly as follows:-

  • acceleration of a scalded cat
  • build characteristics of a chieftan tank
  • fuel economy of a Vespa scooter
  • carrying capacity of an Antonov cargo plane
  • reliability but simplicity of an AK47
  • cheap
  • cool

A pretty unachievable wish list. We went round the local dealers. She sat in various cars, test drove a few of them. All failed to reach her demanding specification. They were all either too small, too large, too slow, too expensive, the wrong colour, too noisy, too quiet, too old, too boring, You name it - they failed the test.

I finally found her a car. It doesn't fit her spec. but it's close. It's quick, roomy, reliable, and almost within budget. It probably won't impress her friends and it won't be much good in the snow but despite her mumblings about a 4x4, she's never actually had one so I knew that wasn't her top priority. Two litre engine, six speed gearbox (she refuses to drive automatics), lots of gadgets (it's the top spec. in the 2.0) should do 90mph with ease. One of these - hope she likes it. Bloody parents.

1 comment:

sabrina said...

LOL!!! Your mother sounds adorable and very cool!

At least she is independant and can drive herself around. My mum never took her license so i have to drive her around everywhere...not that i really mind...it's just that everything has to be according to her schedule, not mine :p