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