I’ve spoken before about the number of miles I drive, we drive – The Bean and I and whenever possible my Two Brained husband too. But there is a fourth crucial element without which it would not be possible to even leave the house here except on foot (or pedal power which is another story entirely). That is the car. The car that since we moved here (and including the long drive from Oxfordshire) has covered an eye-watering 30,000 miles – that’s in one year and a handful of weeks. I have been remiss in not speaking of this wonderful little beast – bright yellow and Spanish (SEAT) it was originally called Devendra Flan when I got it 2 and a half years ago. My mother helped me find it and wanted to call it Buttercup (in fact she insists on calling it that to this day and I don’t correct her). The name came from a Devendra Banhart song called Little Yellow Spider and the ubiquitous Spanish pudding found on virtually every menu across that great country’s girth which is actually Creme Caramel but which the Spanish always refer to simply as Flan (or Flarn ‘you don’t know flarn’ – Ben Stiller and Jack Black know). Anyway since becoming French the car is known as Fronk and his voice, courtesy of the TomTom is beautifully gaelic.
Why now? I hear you ask … why the sudden reverence to this 4 wheeled delight? I’ll tell you … they say that you only realise you love something when you are about to lose it. Fronk has had his share of scrapes this year including a broken wheel when I frappéd a concrete pillar in a blizzard but I knew he would pull through and he did. He’s driven to and from England 6 times since and had a service there in May followed by a new drive shaft (cambelt) and a bit of surgery to replace something in his ignition timing in September when he went into Limp Mode (yes, honestly that’s what it’s called) on the M4 to Bristol. New tyres to complete his all weather set (which took some ordering in the UK in September ‘no, madam – they won’t be available til November’ but were eventually tracked down and fitted and the English tyre man paid tribute to the French workmanship on the front wheel (from the frappé) which was a moving moment in my personal journey of entante cordiale. He seemed so well on the trip back earlier this month, so well when I drove to Clermont to meet The Brain from his plane the following week, so well as we travelled the typical couple of hundred km around the place to walk and visit houses and just generally potter around. The shock when we sashayed out in the late Autumn sunshine last Thursday to drive a few km to do a couple of hours walk and settled behind the wheel, turned the key and nothing, absolutely nothing happened was a fully armed body blow. Panic! Rush back indoors, Google wildly for homestart information when you don’t have roadside assistance …. blank, zippo, Google say ‘no’. Fortunately The Brain was calm and I have a good filing system – a call to the insurance company revealed that homestart is part of our policy with MAEF and half an hour later the cavalry arrived. The car started – I was watching from our balcony – smiles all round. Then confusion (me) as the car was loaded onto the breakdown truck (Depanneuse) … phone calls were made and the men stood round in a circle being well … men. The truck was driven away with Fronk on top, I was beside myself – he had clearly died and I hadn’t even said goodbye. Tears were soothed by The Brain – apparently it was the spark plugs, the man had ordered them and they would be fitted the following day when they arrived (French for spark plug is Bougie incidentally which is the same as candle so it was fortunate that it wasn’t me doing the talking because that really would have been an invitation for misunderstanding …)
The following day the car was returned. Humming, frankly and I was singing along. I love that car. I don’t care who knows it and I will never again commit the sin of omission and fail to mention the crucial part he plays in my life. Thank you French insurance, thank you French garage. I love you all.
PS: You might like to take note that according to the garage here, it is common place for garages not to bother to change plugs when they service a modern car … these had never been changed and the car has done 135,000 miles in total and had a major service in the summer. You might like to make sure your garage does bother. Just a thought 😉