Senyor Q, a wealthy elderly local, offered me a valuable piece of advice when my husband and I first set up home in rural Majorca. He told me never to be tempted to buy a new car and I assured him that unless we were to win the lotería any time soon, that would never happen.
Ambling along the street together we reached a dirty, diminutive and dejected apology for a vehicle that resembled a sardine tin seemingly beaten within an inch of its life. Senyor Q patted the bonnet affectionately. This, he announced proudly, had been his car for the last twenty years and in all that time he’d never locked it and never once had it stolen. I believed him. You’d have to have been a seriously masochistic and visually-impaired criminal to sink so low.
Some years ago we bought a second hand black Mini Cooper in good nick from an expat friend. A sucker for the stylish and sleek little devils with so much vroom vroom, I somehow managed, like a wily Delilah, to persuade my six foot tall husband that his legs were elastic enough to adapt like chewing gum to the constricted area beneath the steering wheel. He’s not stopped cursing me since.
The first few forays around our town were wonderful. Locals and expats alike complimented us on taking possession of such a gleaming, snazzy model untainted by scratches, dents or knocks but old Senyor Q loomed large on the street one day, the bad fairy at the feast, his finger wagging like an ominous wand. He told me that the purchase was a big mistake and that locals were shockingly careless drivers: the Mini Cooper would be doomed.
A week later I set off for an exercise class and returned to my parking space to find the side of the Mini buckled and covered in chalky white paint. The felon that had ruined its virgin flank hadn’t had the courtesy to leave a note. Had Senyor Q cursed the car, I wondered? Forlorn I returned home to receive an earful from Mr-not-so-elastic-legs about the benefits of larger, older and unsexier car brands. The next day he popped into town to post a letter and returned to the car park to find the bumper buckled. It’s been downhill ever since. We park at our peril.
Lamenting to a Majorcan friend about our rashness in buying such a pristine vehicle only to have it systematically knocked, shoved, scratched and generally abused she attempted to cheer me up with a cautionary tale. The previous week her sleek Peugeot had also suffered badly at the hands of an inept and cowardly driver in a car park. Infuriated she had photographed the damage done and colour of paint left on her car and spent two nights trawling the area in search of the culprit.
To her delight she identified an old banger on a side street displaying a crumpled side and traces of paint that matched that of her own vehicle. Locals directed her to the owner’s house and to her satisfaction the man finally admitted to the offence, pathetically arguing that it had been dark and that he had been in a terrible hurry. It transpired that he was a British expat proving that it wasn’t just locals that had a penchant for carelessness behind the wheel.
So next time around we intend to buy a bruised and battered old jalopy with more scratches than you’d find on one of our local fighting Toms. Opting for a miserable apology for a vehicle similar to that of Senyor Q might well offer us our only hope of withstanding the daily knocks and bumps of Majorcan rural life.
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