No Gold Medal for This Driver

That old saying – when you let something go, something new comes into your life may be true – but they never said how traumatic the new could be.

So there was the dinky little new car waiting at my daughter’s house. They were all away, so I locked up the old car, patted it, said goodbye with tears in my eyes and climbed into the new. When you’ve been driving for fifty years, it’s a piece of cake isn’t it!

But as I pulled away to join the rush hour and looked at the gears, I realised that I had no idea what I was looking at. I assumed D/ S was the gear to drive in, but was ‘ L’ a top gear, since it was the last in line? The nearest petrol station was marooned in heavy traffic, so I went back to the friendly car wash, where the attendant had been so helpful. He put me right on ‘ L,’ so I sailed onto the motorway and into the going- home rush hour traffic.

Not being used to the sound of small cars, I wondered if the noise I could hear was mine or outside. I pressed the side window button, and got the left back window. Pressed the front, and it worked, and I listened and found I was making the sounds I could hear, so went to put the window up. It wouldn’t go. Neither would the back window. Bowling along in heavy traffic, I sat in the cross draught with an icy gale blowing, getting soaked as the rain flew in. I tried every button, and the car began to behave like a Mr Bean nightmare, push this, and the side mirrors curled in, push that and the wind screen wipers swirled, push another and a blast of hot air told me I’d got the heater. That was good, it slightly balanced out the bitter wind and rain.

Three-quarters of an hour later, frozen, I pulled off at the first petrol pump on the left and asked a man getting his petrol how to get the windows up. I didn’t have to put on a pathetic little old lady act – I was one!

It was quite simple, I just pulled the tabs up. As I backed away to resume the journey, the car started shouting at me. I jumped and nerves completely shattered by now, crawled to another pump occupied by a man and six sheep. He suggested maybe it was the seat-belt. It might have been. So I carried on home, and deposited it in the garage after various other tribulations.

Come the morning I had to drive over an hour and a half to get my frail husband to the airport to see his even frailer older sister, pushing ninety. Problem number one, we couldn’t unlock the doors. The driver’s seat was still unlocked from the night before, so in the end- quite desperate – I stuffed my bulky husband into the driver’s seat and pushed and shoved him and his unyielding stiff legs into the other seat. Feeling slightly unhinged by this, and with all the mud coming off the soles of his shoes into the pristine car, that he didn’t know where it had come from, I got in front of the wheel. The gears wouldn’t budge. Some time later, I unlocked the house, went back inside and rang the garage. Saturday morning and just a stand-in selling petrol. So I rang the boss at home and got his wife. “Try putting your foot on the brake,” she suggested.

Locked up the house, back to the garage, and trapped husband.  Foot on the brake and I could move the gear stick. Hooray. Off we go. But we don’t. I can’t start the wretched thing (and by this time four letter words were being used quite freely). Try taking your foot off the accelerator said my husband, whose advice had not, frankly, been too good up till now. This time he’d hit the spot. The car started, and as we backed out of the garage, I discovered why it had been making frantic noises the day before at the petrol pump. It does make these noises when I back. It’s the nature of the beast.

And so off to the airport, still not knowing how to unlock the doors, work the wind-screen wipers with any accuracy, or the heater with any certainty, and the inside light and the head-lights a complete enigma. Reader, (to quote Charlotte Bronte) we got there! A stop for petrol and a helpful attendant meant I discovered central locking and some of the other baffling refinements.

On the way back, travelling at my normal speed – which has earned me in the past the epithet of ‘racing grannie” – a number of large cars of the Chelsea tractor variety, passed me quite dangerously, and cut in on me. I was puzzled at first, and then it began to feel familiar. Yes, it was  ‘the- little- old- lady- in- a- little- car- must- be- driving- too- slowly’ syndrome. I’d experienced it years before when I used to drive a little Ford laser. Back home I mentioned it to a friend. “Oh yes”, she said, “in Mike’s big car, I get around no trouble. In my little car, I get hassled, and bullied, especially at roundabouts and junctions.”

I felt quite indignant. It’s bad enough being introduced to the same man over and over again, because men never recognise or remember women with grey hair, but to be hassled and despised in my car because I have grey (to white) hair as well is the pits! The family were mortified when I described my ordeals because they had actually thought I had understood their briefing on the car. But I am someone whose only kitchen gadget was a pop-up toaster for most of my life (made mayonnaise with a wooden spoon), and who has never learned to thread a sewing machine, so made all my curtains by hand. No wonder I struggle with my computer! As for the car manual – that’s another story, but I’ll spare you the details.

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

The winter weather seems to get colder with every day that passes, my huge pile of firewood is dwindling, and our need for comfort food increases. So today I did my  chicken stew special. Searching the deep freeze for something edible that would de-freeze quickly (no, I don’t use a microwave) I came on something I recognised – a couple of chicken thighs. I try to label, but usually decide I’ll recognise it when I want it. This means that the day I defrosted some lentil soup for supper, we ended up having Christmas pudding instead.

So I got out the big saucepan and sauted a couple of onions and celery sticks, added a couple of chopped leeks and browned the still frozen chicken pieces. Then I added two chopped carrots, one grated carrot, a big cup of mashed pumpkin from the day before, and another quarter of chopped pumpkin, a parsnip, a few chopped garlic cloves, and some chicken bouillon cubes, a squeeze of tomato puree, Worcester sauce, salt and pepper, and let it all simmer till soft.

Meanwhile I put four tablespoons of self raising flour in a bowl with two tablespoons of grated suet, salt and pepper, and a teaspoon or more of mixed herbs.

Mix this with enough water to make a soft dough, and leave to stand in the fridge for half an hour. Ten minutes or so before serving, drop large tablespoons of the dumpling mixture into the simmering stew, and cook for about ten minutes or until a needle comes out clean. On other days I would use whatever other vegetables I had in the house, or even add some washed lentils, but always onion, celery and carrots. If I put potatoes in I wouldn’t make dumplings, but would add the mixed herbs to the stew. I usually throw in a handful of frozen peas at the end, for the colour. There’s always plenty to have the next day as soup, and for added nourishment I add plenty of chopped parsley and grated cheese on top.

Food for Thought

Few have heard of Fra Luca Pacioli, the inventor of double-entry book-keeping; but he has probably had more influence on human life than has Dante or Michelangelo.

Herbert J Muller, 1905 – 1980     American philosopher


Filed under cars, cookery/recipes, family, food, great days, humour, life/style, philosophy

21 responses to “No Gold Medal for This Driver

  1. stutleytales

    This is hilarious, Valerie! My vivid imagination was with you all the way and I will not be able to watch Mr Bean again without thinking of you 🙂


  2. If only car manufactuers would standardise all controls! I had a similar no-start problem with a rental car, rang the help-line and they sent the breakdown service. The breakdown man listened to my explanation, got into the drivers seat, put his foot on the brake and the car started. Blush.


    • What a comfort to know that I’m not stupid! Great to hear from you… I looked you up the other day, and have been keeping tabs on you! You were my first follower, and it was such a thrill to see your name then, and now. Warm wishes


  3. You may not get a gold medal for the driving, but you deserve one for the writing! As a gray-hair myself, I couldn’t laughing! 🙂


  4. Valerie, this is hilarious! It reminded me of my experiences driving a rental car in California some years ago. SInce I live in New York City, and no matter how much we grumble about it we do have a wonderful public transportation infrastructure, I drive very infrequently and when I do they’re rentals. On this day in Palm Springs, CA, I had to ask a fellow driver how to take the gas cap off the tank! The thing I miss most when pulling into a gas station is that instead of the attendant coming to my window, asking me what I want, and proceeding to wash the windshield while the tank fills up, I have to remember which side of the car the gas tank is on, how to take the cap off, and how to pay for the gas. The days of “$2 regular” that got me around town for days are long, long gone! Good luck familiarizing yourself with your new wheels! 🙂


  5. Good to hear from you Margarita – yes, public transport is a wonderful thing! Out here in the busless, trainless country, we’re lucky that we still have garage attendants… though windscreen washing seems to have gone out of fashion!


  6. Valerie, you don’t need a gold medal – you are gold already 🙂


  7. You are absolutely brilliant and just so you feel better i do not have white hair, well i might but i never let it show and I AM ALWAYS doing this kind of thing. I have an old VW, manual, (a rarity in the US that only a NZer would have found.. actually it runs on cooking oil) with no frills and I am NEVER giving it up.. i just cannot do those modern cars, my Mother In Laws jeep terrifies me.. What an hilarious story.. priceless.. I was so excited reading it I forgot to check out the food and will have to go back!! celi


  8. Celi,loved your message. Have you found a mechanic who can keep your precious V-dub on the road?
    This completes the picture of your lovely farm and your life! warm wishes, Valerie


  9. C’est le vie, my dear Grannie! What a story! It is so wonderful you are posting these on a blog for they will one day make a great book! I have laughed until my sides hurt and can envision you in that little car throughout the whole story. What a classic and a great read for a Sunday afternoon:>)


    • LOvely to hear from you Sharla and your lovely words of encouragement. Isn’t it funny how it’s the little everyday dramas in our lives that connect us?. One of my favourite posts of yours is the story about you at the supermarket getting the ingredients for a cheese cake , and the photo your husband took of you as you came to the check-out!


  10. This was such a delightful read, I am looking forward to more. So lovable, all wonderful, nice to meet you Valerie! Linda, here!


  11. So good to connect Linda, I’m going to enjoy reading your beautiful poetry and feasting my eyes on the exquisite photography, Valerie


  12. I told Celi about you, Valerie – am so pleased to see her here. I just KNEW she would like your writing.

    I roared over this post, but with a bit of agony. I have had similar experiences with rentals. Before I move an inch, I go over all the controls, but there’s always one or two obscure controls that become vital at some dangerous time.

    I am still adjusting to being overlooked, unseen and unheard. It hurts and I now understand why older women become quite flamboyant with dress and manner. At this point in my research, I’d rather be considered a tad eccentric than “Who?”.

    The beloved Franciscan…so long ago. I thought double entry accounting was something we created at the Bank. Ah, the arrogance of youth. Did I say that?


    • Amy, what a delicious message from you… Interesting that even someone as young and glamorous-looking as you knows what I mean about the invisibility of grey haired women! At a party where my seventeen year old grandson was sitting on the edge with me, scoffing the goodies the waiters were spoiling us with, I said to him, that man over there looking through me, I’ve met half a dozen times, but he never remembers, men think all grey haired women are boring. To which he instantly replied, “you’re the most interesting person to talk to that I know, Grannie”. That is my comfort, and blow the rest! I was so glad you put Celi onto me-I just love her, and her blog… talk about sweet dreams. I’m just referring to your wonderful TED talk in my blog for tomorrow, hope that’s alright…I cried it was so inspiring. Also intrigued with the way she handles fear, as I do much the same, counselling people. Lovely to be in touch, Valerie


      • Of course – I’m delighted that you want to share the post. Many thanks.

        My gravatar is a couple of years old and at the time, I had so many blonde streaks I looked like a blond. I’ve stopped the hassle, am now an “arctic blond” and therefore have joined the Intrepid Invisibles!

        Blessings on that grandson. What a joy he’ll be for some lady who falls in love with him and plucks him for herself.


  13. I love the arctic blonde look – very elegant… can’t believe that qualifies you for the Intrepid Invisibles – what a wonderful phrase. – feel I shall be using that in future – with acknowledgements to you!.
    Yes, aren’t they darlings… have you got grand children…are you old enough!!!!!!.


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