I was listening to an article on the radio the other day discussing the latest fundraising idea for these cash-strapped times: hiring out your car. Yes, once we took in lodgers, then we started renting out our drives, now we can hire out our cars. Sounds great, but the ensuing discussion concluded that as people treat hire cars very badly, trashing the gearbox in particular, it's a very bad idea. I sat cringing. Not that anyone would want to borrow the 'Tales-mobile' with its ankle deep detritus of half-eaten chips, Christmas tree needles and ancient receipts, but when it comes to the treatment of hire cars, guilty as charged mi'lud. Ahem.
You see, last week the Tales-mobile came off worse after an argument with a particularly belligerent pothole. Turning up the radio didn't drown out the metallic grinding sound coming from the front wheels, so it was off to the garage with my funky green golf. Now, a country gal can't live without her wheels, so I hired a car.
Son-the-elder took one look and christened it 'Hannah the hired Hyundai' in an attempt to make the silvery grey car sound more exciting than it looked. I took one look at its pristine paintwork, immaculate interior and minuscule mileage, and promptly handed over extra insurance money. I drove home like a mouse creeping through a cat jamboree, apologising to the car every time we hit an unavoidable puddle, and going to great lengths to avoid potholes. I was being so careful - so far, so good.
But, and this is a huge 'but' - the Tales-mobile boasts an automatic gearbox, and Hannah the hired Hyundai was most definitely, squareishly manual. And yes, while I surprised myself at how easily I made the transition from automatic to manual, there were some real howlers.
I stalled it more times than I care to admit. Hitting speed along the dual carriageway, it was some miles until I realised that screaming sound wasn't a particularly unusual backing track on the radio,
but what happens if you hit 60 in second gear. "Is it meant to do that?" son-the-elder vocalised both boys' concerns as it broke Olympic long jump records, kangarooing up the drive as I tried to start it having forgotten I'd left it in gear.
I gave my most charming smile as the man at the hire garage asked if I'd had any problems. "No, not at all," I breezed. What I meant was I'd probably caused all sort of damage, but no way I was going to admit to it.
So no, in case you were thinking hiring out your car is a good idea, it isn't. You might get someone like me driving it. She whom the garage ask without fail every time I ring them "what have you done this time?" Some of us shouldn't be allowed to hire cars. But don't tell anyone. After all, a country gal needs her wheels.