The Yellow Mini

It was her first one. Mum’s first car of her very own. A yellow Mini with a Black roof and bonnet stripes. In the brightest yellow that she could find. Yes it was loud and it resembled all of the things she wanted to be. Racy, Daring, Fun and it reminded of her of a bee, which she loved, because it was bright yellow and black.

It would take her to places she had never been before where the only limit was the fuel she could put in the tank. She would pack her bag and drive to her parents, once the caring for them was over for the weekend, she would return to her family. Racing the fast cars along the forest roads with a smile stretched out across her face. She felt alive behind the wheel, with a spirit of adventure, just for that short time.

It gave her the freedom she had so long craved. Freedom from the day to day, whatever the weather. The other motorists smiled as she passed them by. Her happiness beaming like a beacon across her face. She loved that car, for all it represented to her and they had no idea.

The Daily Post – Yellow

 

Saab Monte Carlo Yellow

image010It was his favourite of all the cars that they had owned together. They had enjoyed many Saab’s over the years but this one remained in his memories and had a lace in his heart. Of all of them this one was his smile factor.

A bright yellow Saab 900 convertible. It was not the original shape vehicle, but the newer model on a 1998 registration. A 2.3 petrol engine with an Automatic gearbox and as it changed through it’s gears it flew with a whisper quiet engine. They loved it. It took them all over the country on many trips away, exploring together in the sunshine. Even in huge rainstorms you couldn’t help but smile. It made you feel like you were a small child that had found the biggest puddle in your favourite wellies. A car which made you feel totally safe. It’s big comfortable black leather interior always looked smart and turned heads approvingly down whichever street we drove.

They took it to Belgium and France on holiday, on day trips. Visited family and felt sure in the knowledge that they were perfectly safe exploring new things together. Those were happy times when they were younger and more carefree.

When he decided to get her new car some time later, he gave it up included into the deal. He regretted it, not for weeks but for years but did not say so for she would have wanted him to keep it.

Although they had many other Saab’s of the same model it was never quite the same. Later when the truth emerged that it was his favourite they looked for another to recapture the times gone by, to create new memories and to drive through France again exploring new things together. They haven’t managed to get another one yet, always somehow missing out when they see one, but she has not given up hope of fulfilling that particular wish just yet.

The Daily Post – Yellow

La Bleu Chevaux

The Daily Post – EmbarrassingPhoto0112We walked out of the Hospital together, after another one of those appointments, which I used to dread. One where it would be suggested that I would try another drug or tablet, which may ease the symptoms of my Endometriosis. Often leaving me reeling from the reactions to it, I would always try their suggestions, for fear that if did not, then my Doctor or the Hospital, might refuse to offer any treatment at all and I might just miss out on the one thing that worked, if they ever found it.

I knew so little about it back then, completely uninformed with a condition that no-one spoke of. I didn’t know anyone who had it who I could ask and this was before the days of the internet, where you could look up so easily and find other people in the same boat, so you just trusted the Dr‘s, after all they must know, (Right?) and got on with it.

It was a sunny day, my boyfriend (who would later become my partner) had come to meet me from the Hospital that day, he wanted to cheer me up. At the time, we travelled by bus, walked a lot and he usually had a car. He suggested that we go for a short walk together and although I was sore from all the prodding and poking, I reluctantly agreed. I needed some air, after being cooped up in there and always needed to clear my head. As we walked along the road, we got talking about cars and when I thought I would learn to drive. It was something that I had wanted to do since getting my provisional licence at seventeen, but kept running out of money as I was due to take the test. But it was still very firmly on my wish list. As we walked arm in arm, he pointed out a pretty Blue Citroen 2 CV, also known as a ‘deux cheveaux’ which was parked in a row of cars, you didn’t see many of those around any more. “What do you think of those?” he said “Oh I’ve never liked those very much, although the pull back roof is nice, I prefer Mini’s” I had always loved the Classic Mini with it’s cute curves and smile. We paused to look at the 2CV. “Oh, that’s a shame he said, I’d better take it back then” I stopped dead in my tracks and quite literally fell about laughing. “You are joking, why on earth would you buy something like that?” I said, “You’d look ridiculous driving it” I feel that I should explain myself at this point, it was a little outspoken of me, but imagining my 15 stone hunk of a man, behind the wheel of this little Citroen made me laugh. I must have been a bit dazed from the hospital, since we clearly were just not on the same level. “No Silly, I wasn’t thinking of it for me, it’s for you” Suddenly I fell in with an almighty splash and regretted hastily voicing my thoughts, ALL CHANGE! HE HAD BOUGHT ME A CAR….
“Thank You, Thank, You, Please don’t take it back” I said. “But you said you didn’t like them” ” Yes, but I’d love THIS one after all, It’s a present!” He has on many occasions shed light on the fact that I can be fickle, sometimes it drives him nuts, but he has got used to it now.

It was not the first car that had been bought for me to use. At seventeen, one had been purchased for me , which needed a whole load of work sat in a friends garden and rotted away since I couldn’t drive it to get it fixed up and was eventually scrapped. A few years later, another boyfriend thought that he would buy the perfect car for me, he put it in his garden along with the other vehicles that he had amassed there over the years and that would be incentive for me to learn to drive, if I passed my test then I would be able to drive it, maybe. Except that he was a control freak and his particular brand of control meant that was never going to happen.

On this particular day, he told me to clamber in and find something to tie my hair back with, the roof was pulled back and we folded the windows open. I was to learn that they had to be properly secured otherwise, they would bang shut if you went over a bump and could trap fingers. But in we got and took the car on it’s maiden voyage. I sat inside, noticed the funny gear change, up on the dashboard known as an umbrella gear stick, since it has a handle just like an old fashioned umbrella handle. “How do you drive one like that?”, I asked. “I will show you, it all” he said. “If you can use this gear change, then you can drive anything” We drove down to the beach, took it round the country roads and it turned out to be fun. “We’ll have to sort out insurance and L Plates then you can drive it.” He didn’t need to ask me twice, I think I did that the very same evening.

And so our adventures began. We covered thousands of miles in that little French Blue, Citroen 2CV. Had lots of fun and I learned to drive, we headed off to Brighton on the coast for regular weekends, on one occasion we broke down, the starter motor packed up and a friendly driver, gave us his wrench to get it started, you had to tap the side of it and then it would fire up. We did this until my next payday when I bought a new starter motor and my Dad fitted it for me, under sufferance. On one occasion when we drove back from Brighton, a lorry driver attempted to run us off the road, at that point my boyfriend decided that when we could we would change the car for something with a little bit more power, since he never wanted that to happen to me when I was out on my own. It was an unpleasant episode. In the time I had it, I only ever had to replace the starter and a couple of spark plugs. If I recall, it only had two, due to it’s very small engine. We kept the car for about 2 years, unfortunately, we bid it a fond farewell after the heels I was wearing went through the floor and I couldn’t find anyone anywhere who wanted to weld it. I was choked to wave goodbye to it, but it would not get through an MOT without the welding.
I saw the car some time later, it had been bought by some rich man for his Au Pair, welded and treated to a new roof to give it a new lease of life, I was pleased to see that it wasn’t scrapped and dismantled after all. I would have loved to have kept it, they are worth a small fortune as a modern classic car these days and have quite a following. They are full of character and are so basic in their design, but are so useful since they sit so high and can travel over awkward terrain with ease. Previous advertising campaigns for the car in their heyday, showed it being driven through a ploughed field with a box of eggs on the front seat, arriving unbroken at the other side. A whole box of Eggs! Well that alone should be enough reason to get one. Ours was able to be parked off road in a field or roadside for an impromptu picnic and life was all the better for it. Ah those were the days…

Unfortunately those were also the days before I had a camera, so I don’t have a photo of the original one.  This, photo is one I came across recently which brought the happy memories flooding back and prompted this post.

A Racing Certainty

IMG_1140As she chased her dreams of doing something with her life, she would enter a National competition with the chance to become a racing driver. The Exchange and Mart Drivers Challenge and it was run by Tim Matthews who was an experienced racing driver. Never thinking for a moment that she had much more than a slim chance, but seizing the opportunity anyway after all what did she have to lose?

She loved Cars and driving and if she could combine the two in a future career, then that would be fantastic.
More wonderful than that, she had a man who believed in her. It was the most exhilarating feeling to have someone in her life who did, who encouraged her to try something new and was behind her all the way.

She sent off the forms and began work to increase her fitness and stamina. Her strength was there, it just needed some fine tuning and whilst she did this she did not think about the application, she was just concentrating on getting fitter and stronger. So imagine her surprise when some short time later, she received a letter. She was invited to Worcester Rugby Club to take part in the first selection of the competition. She spoke to her boss about it, booking a couple of days leave so that she could prepare and he couldn’t quite believe that she had any aspirations. This was someone he had underestimated greatly and assumed that her position as she had risen through the company was as far as she was going to get.   He was flabbergasted, since his privileged son, who had an amateur career in Go-Karting had only dreamed of such an opportunity, despite his entering it had not been selected for the competition. There was this girl, with no prior experience of racing, who had been selected. She surely wouldn’t get through the first round and it would be all over in a flash, then he could take delight in reminding her that she had failed every day and that she was not good enough. It would soon be over and he would control the situation once again.

They travelled to the location and booked into a hotel the day before, it was a beautiful place with rolling scenery. The morning arrived and they set off to the venue. The place was jammed to the rafters, 1000 people had been chosen to be put through their paces. They were informed that 10,000 people had entered the competition and they were the lucky ones, as the competition progressed the heats would be recorded for a TV programme, if we were going to become racing drivers, then we would have to get used to the limelight. As a shy person, she wasn’t sure how to deal with this, but would do so if the time came.
Meanwhile, as the day progressed, when she was called for each task, she ran, listened, showed her strengths and jumped through proverbial hoops and impressed the judges enough for the selection with her man cheering her on, overjoyed in her achievement she was one of 100 people selected for the next round. As the event finished, she walked past someone who she recognised who had contracted work with her company. He stopped in amazement asking her what she was doing there miles from home. I got through, she said. She mistook his surprise for a new found respect, she had been placed in the second round, but he had not.

The next round, was scheduled, she booked another day off work to enable her to go, and at the weekend they headed off up to Birmingham, The next round of the competition was interviews and Go Karting, it was a competition track. She was excited, but the only time she had been go-karting was down along the pier in the amusement arcades, but she loved it and was hopeful that this experience would teach her. The weather was awful, he drove them through the worst storms and snow she had seen. It was cold wintry and people were standing around for hours awaiting their turn, she had dressed for warmth wearing ski jackets, layers and snow boots, in this freezing climate. It was mostly boys and men there, in a racing environment it was to be expected, but this did not phase her. She was going to give it her all.

They went through the track layout and how you should plan for the twists and turns, around the chicane and towards the finish. She watched intently as some of the other drivers took to the wet track, she noted their mistakes and hoped that when her turn came, she would do better. She listened to the instructions given by the racing driver, Tiff Needell who had become a celebrity as he extolled the virtues of learning the basics. It might be nice to meet him in person and shake him by the hand, she had admired his skill on the tracks over the years.
There was a race simulator set up alongside the track, the queues to have a go were lengthy and she did not want to miss her name being called, it would be there later, should she wish to try it.  Her time came, as she dressed in the race suit for the very first time, she was thrilled and excited to be a part of something big, this could turn into something much bigger if she handled it right.

She put on the helmet and found the smallest pair of gloves she could find, since this was usually a male environment they had not anticipated girls with small hands, they were enormous, she put them over ski gloves for grip and so that they would grip the steering wheel. She made a mental note that if she was going to go anywhere with this route, she would buy herself some gloves which fitted.

She walked out into the paddock with the other drivers, they ridiculed her for her snow boots whilst stamping their feet to keep warm, she didn’t care she had winning on her mind and selected her machine with care. Setting herself up for the ride of her life and drove out hell for leather on that track. She lapped several of the hopefuls and made a good track time and came back in, her Man was there with the camera, to record it for posterity. The helmet off, he could see an ear to ear smile on her face. As the other hopefuls took their turn, she was called off to one side. Mike, A man who was part of the team, had spotted her talents and wanted to talk. They sat in the meeting room with a coffee, even if you do not get through this competition, he said, there are other ways to get into racing, you seem to have a gift out there on that track. Are you competing at the moment? She tried to keep her cool, admitting to him that it was the second occasion she had ever been in a go-kart. He found that hard to believe and spoke about the projects he was involved with and that he could get young people into racing and get help with sponsorship etc, he was animated and gave her some literature to read, he advised her to continue with Karting if at all possible. He introduced her personally to the organiser and they talked about the competition and how it would progress, several rounds through to the final, where someone would be selected for the team, to join the professionals. It really was the chance of a lifetime.

After some time and more standing around they were called in to a room, to face the adjudicators. As names were called, disappointment was in the eyes of the people around her as they were whittled out. They would halve the people who attended the second round, suddenly she heard her name being called, they were pleased to tell her that she had been selected for the third round. The excitement was immense. She looked for her man, to share in the news, he stood beaming he told her she was so proud.

At the end of the day, they travelled back accidents all around them up and down the motorway, breakdowns and the snow piled high, visibility was non-existent. But they were happy and reached home safely. They discussed the next step, this is looking serious, she would have to book more time off work, she wondered how her boss would take that. The next day she called a meeting with him. He was not pleased, he told her that it was time she had to make her choice. If she really wanted to be a racing driver, then good luck to her! The raised voice made it clear he didn’t mean it, as he spat out the words. He would give her no more time off to pursue this fanciful dream, it wasn’t going to go anywhere, she should just concentrate on the work she was being paid to do, get back to doing the proper job she had working for him. All leave was cancelled, they had a business to run.

She went home, more than slightly disillusioned with her work. She wanted to leave there and then, but common sense overtook her desire to run. She spoke with her partner, there were tears of frustration and upset that she would have to put her dreams away. It was her responsibility to make ends meet, she felt that she could not pile extra pressure upon him financially, it wouldn‘t be fair. Times were different then, she hadn’t the first clue about self-promotion and is was long before social media would make it accessible for all.

It was no contest, If she had the finances, she would pursue her dream, with her man at her side, encouraging and supportive. They would have done it, she had made him proud and would do so again. He believed in her. Oh how she wished for a lottery win, or a benefactor at that time. If she could have had the chance to pay the bills, whilst forging ahead, what a career change that would be, he talent had been spotted and she might go far.

It was with great sadness that she contacted the organisers to let them know that due to work commitments, she would be unable to continue with the competition. They were disappointed, she had shown promise, chances like this just do not come along every day and the decision should not be taken lightly. She explained that without a job, she would not be able to finance the rounds and her taking part, they told her that they understood but that she should not give up, she had a talent and she should nurture it. They wished her luck with her future. She watched the TV programme later that year, they selected a man, who had a career ahead of him. Women in Motorsport, was it ever going to happen was it? There was hope.