And that’s it.
And that’s it.
…Paul from j33p.org, who has pledged to turn the jeep into an off-roading monster. Little emotional, but feels good - like when Dad said Fido had gone to live on the farm with that nice family…
Finally, after a lengthy hiatus (prevaricating? surely not…) the Jeep project is coming to an end. A winner will be drawn on Friday 30 Sept at 12pm. Any late takers, this is your last chance to try and get in the hat…
Last one, I promise. (Any late breaking news notwithstanding.) Earlsfield, March 2010. A big queue well ahead of lights at a crossroads. On the phone to DG, I glanced idly into the rear view and said “Sorry mate, I’m about to have a [SCREECH.BANG] crash”. A Mini Cooper. He didn’t see the queuing traffic until too late. Nothing he could do. Jumped out to take a look, thinking surely this time… And yes, the Jeep’s bumper was pushed in a bit, and a little more dented than it had been. Mr Mini Cooper meanwhile was collecting bits of bodywork from all over the road. A proper mess.
We swapped details as he apologized profusely. And he kept thanking me for “being so cool about it”.
But I’m with my Dad on this one. As he said after my first crash (four days after passing my test, two days before my 18th birthday): “Are you OK? Good. Everything else is just metal.”
And of course I thought “I’ll get that Sainsbury’s dent sorted now”.
OK, I know this is getting repetitive, but there is a fairly extraordinary pattern here. Reading, December 2009. Just left Junction 10 of the M4, and heading round the roundabout. Deployed a little local knowledge and stayed in the outermost lane to go all the way round the roundabout and miss pretty much all the queue. Dude in a BMW 3 series unaware that this lane carries on round (rather than filtering back on to the motorway) tried to leave the roundabout for the M4 slip from lane 2. Sadly for him I was in the way. I saw him coming and sped up, but he just caught the back of the Jeep. We pulled over on the roundabout. I think you can fill in the rest from here. Jeep shrugged it off. BM marked more or less its entire length. “I only picked it up half an hour ago,” he wailed. I left him to his tears.
It may be the momentous events which define a life, but it is the small things that mark the passing of time. With my Dad it was through the erosion of his (previously excessive) confidence in his driving ability that I could mark his slow decline. One evening my parents arrived at ours for dinner before I got home. Dad saw me pull up and told Mum he’d go out to help me park. Apparently he nipped straight back in saying “He’s doing it one-handed and he’s on the phone, so he’s probably OK”. This tells you how easy the Jeep is to park. It told me that my Dad was getting old.
October 2009. OK, it’s kind of the same thing again, but can’t pass without mention. And honestly it was no less special the second time round.
Cooden Beach, July 2008. Checking out of a hotel on the south coast when a fella came puffing in from the car park asking “Who owns a black Jeep?” Mum all in a fluster: “That’s yours, that’s yours!” Went with the guy into the car park. “I’m really sorry he said. It’s a terrible mess.” On the way to the Jeep we passed his Passat which – literally – had a gaping hole in the back, just above the bumper. “Look” he said, pointing at the back of the Jeep. I saw the Sainsbury’s dent, and nothing else. “Oh, it was already like that,” I said. He pointed at his car and said “B-b-but it can’t have been.” He seemed almost offended that I wasn’t interested in getting his insurance details.
I’ll keep this one brief. Some time in 07. In Sainsbury’s petrol station at Nine Elms. Overshot the pump. Stuck it into reverse. Screeched back too fast and slammed into a concrete bollard. Big dent in the rear bumper. Felt a complete tool. Frankly didn’t deserve protection against that sort of stupidity.
November 06. Now for the good stuff. Driving H to and from our wedding was pretty special, but I think every new parent will agree that nothing in your driving career quite matches up to bringing your first-born back from the hospital. There is a first magical moment as you shut the door, look around, and take it in that now you are three. It was the first time that all three of us were alone in our own space. This was our family. And then the drive home. Never I have I felt such a great sense of responsibility behind the wheel. The phrase ‘precious cargo’ is a cliche, but one that you cannot push too far from your mind. I drove the few miles home from the Fulham Road diligently, alertly, self-importantly, proudly.
I’ve written a few times about the Jeep being right for the occasion. Why is this? What’s so special about it? Well, it’s fast, practical, comfortable, capacious, bolshy, classic, utilitarian, luxurious, badass, classless, fun, lairy, noisy, anachronistic, sociable, easy-riding…
July 06 Late at night, heading down Great Cumberland Place towards Marble Arch. Pregnant H and Bryony P in the car. Coming to the lights, a tramp leapt into the traffic and landed right in front of me. I hit the brakes and stopped up short. The Corsa van behind me was too focused on changing lanes and didn’t. He slammed into the back of us. Tramp ran off. I jumped out to inspect the damage. The Jeep’s rear bumper looked fine, bit of a scratch on the paint but otherwise none the worse for the experience. The Corsa was ruined. Lights, bumper, wing, bonnet – all in bits on the tarmac. At the time I was just thankful for the let-off. I still wasn’t aware of a trend emerging.
Not having drunk for - um - quite a long time, I drive a lot. Practically this means obvious stuff. I arrive places kind of when I want. I leave places kind of when I want. I never have to find a taxi in the rain after a night out. And it’s what enables so many jump in the car and drive through the night experiences.
But it goes beyond this to deliver an enormous sense of freedom, over which I become very protective. My car is my space. I’ve never been the most comfortable in a crowd of strangers, and when I leave somewhere - whether it’s a gig or a corporate do - and get into the driver’s seat, I treasure the enveloping, the safety, the exclusion, the control, the isolation, the selfishness.
So while it’s nice that I can avoid a minicab driver’s chatter after a long flight when all I want is some peace and quiet, the real enjoyment I get from driving myself home from the airport is in the expression and celebration of this freedom.
And of all the cars I’ve owned, it is in the Jeep that this has most clearly come together. Why? Perhaps because I’m suckered by the advertising and imagine myself a frontiersman. Perhaps because the interior feels more like a space then a cockpit. Perhaps because I’m now older and better in my skin. Perhaps because it’s a car with extraordinarily good vibes.
Ads, Ben and me driving around Le Mans looking for the others with a fully erected tent tethered to the roof of the Jeep. Always nice to provoke a little head scratching.
June 05. Another roadtrip. C’mon! Big one this time. 24 Heures du Mans. Me, Ads and Mondo Ben in the Jeep. Tully in his rollerskate (stopping for petrol every 45 minutes). Few others. And some classic ingredients… A stupidly early start (of which I’m always a big fan). But in the end not early enough so a panicked last leg to Folkestone and the tunnel. A will-they-won’t-they-everybody-breathe-in twenty minutes hoping for a petrol station round each bend just south of Rouen.
- Incidentally, I’m always berating H for not learning from experience. She always says she doesn’t like change. Maybe she’s right, and I should just accept panic induced by nearly running out of petrol when I’ve shown far too much faith in unindicated reserves as part of my character, rather than behaviour that I can actually do something about -
Then, late on Sunday night, after a cracking weekend, a fuck it, let’s dodge the Monday traffic and just leave now moment of realisation. Out of the campsite around midnight. Ads and Ben both snoring loudly by 12.30. 5am Shuttle back to Folkestone. Home by 7. Perfect trip.