Sunday, 17 February 2008
When we originally left the UK for the Gulf, we had to sell our car. Back then, at the dawn of time itself, things at work had been a tad stressy: Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait had brought business in the Middle East to a grinding halt and that meant a great deal of corporate belt tightening – which had included giving back the shiny company MR2 T-Bar and getting my own car. Having been warned by Sarah that I could come back from the dealer driving anything I liked as long as it wasn't a Volkswagen Polo, I duly arrived home in a Volkswagen Polo.
Green with beige velour seats, equipped with manual brakes (it took three miles to stop from a 30mph start) and generally crap, it was soon clear that the Polo was a nono and would have to gogo. The ensuing search was a long one, but we finally ended up with a stunning car: a Renault 5 Monaco. A limited edition ‘hot hatch’ with leather seats, a powerful injected engine and electric everything, all the Monacos were brown with a gold speed stripe. But golly did that car move – and it held to the road like glue, too. It was about as fast as a GT Turbo but without all the insurance overhead, fun to drive and just plain peachy.
But we had to sell it to move out East and so duly put an advert in Exchange and Mart. Sure enough, the calls came in, including one chap calling from the East End of London: the Isle of Dogs to be precise. He was going to travel up to us in Hitchin (an hours' journey at least) and take a look at ‘ver motor’.
The day arrived and he turned up with his fiancée Vickie in tow. They walked around the car, poked around in it and generally started the whole slam the doors and kick the wheels thing. But then Vickie retired, looking sulky. Whatever-his-name-was continued to do the What Car 25 Point Inspection Routine, but it was clear that there was trouble in Paradise. He eventually went over to Vickie and they had a conflab. And then he came over to us and uttered these immortal words.
Both he and Vickie had that full-on East Enders meets Del Boy accent that uses the full stop as an invitation to sort of tail off the sentence on a long, limp downward cadence. You know, ‘Braaahhhhnnn.”
I was shocked, to say the least. The Isle of Dogs to Hitchin is a considerable schlep and the advertisement had clearly stated ‘Renault 5 Monaco, brown’. All Renault 5 Monacos had this in common, a version of the Henry T Ford promise: you can have the car in any colour you like, as long as it’s brown. Monacos were to brown what Kate Bush was to sex.
I might have revealed too much there. Onwards.
“We said it was brown in the advertisement!” I managed to gasp.
“Yeah,” he said. And then, morosely: “But Vickie don’t like brahn.”
That was 15 years ago. Ever since, we have both made each other laugh time after time when anything brown comes into our lives. It’s a joke that has run and run: “Vickie don’t like brahn.’
Yes, perhaps we are simple minded, but there it is.
Something struck me this morning as we passed, laughing, a new house that a local gentleman is building on our route to work and has, for some bizarre reason, clad in precisely the same shade of brown as the inside of a Crunchie bar.
I’ve never had the chance to thank Vickie for the years of smiles and laughter she gave us that day...
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