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Falling in Love on the M40 Northbound
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Have I mentioned before that I do not drive? This is not altogether true. What is true is that I do not officially own a motor vehicle. What is true is that I do not possess a valid UK driving license, MOT test certificate, motor insurance certificate, or road tax. As far as the DVLA are concerned I am a non-entity. I simply can’t justify the overheads incurred during conventional car ownership.
Where not so long ago you could sell a tainted car for scrap and make a small profit. The government now erect fairly hefty financial hurdles along this particular pathway. There are other cheaper ways to dispose of unwanted motor vehicles nowadays, not all of which involve their torching on a deserted backstreet. This situation serves only to make it easier than ever before to secure the acquisition of a single-use motor vehicle. Especially easy that is, if you have a friend named Yuri.
Unlike his ragtag clientele, Yuri is a naturalized British citizen. I stop deliberately short of using the term legal, as his immigration status is arguably his sole legal attribute. Yuri’s country of origin is the war-torn Baltic state of Serbia, but considers himself to be thoroughly British. His Eastern-European roots invariably fail his Britishness on all counts. His suffering attempts at a Jamie Oliver mockney slant are reassuringly poor for example.
Yuri’s livelihood pivots on the resale of deathtraps to illegal immigrants and assorted unsavory others. Those who like me, cannot abide the entanglement of red-tape involved in legitimate car ownership. Individuals who could not navigate the necessary bureaucracy in any case due to their questionable immigration status. When it comes to matters of business Yuri’s deep-rooted racial prejudices tend to take a back seat. Croatians, Kosovans, Montenegrins, Lithuanians; even ethnic Albanians and Turks. If you want to buy a insanely cheap yet structurally unsound car, no warranty, no return, Yuri is your man. His stock is accrued from a wide variety of sources, though mainly from dodgy eastend garages. Cars deemed un-roadworthy by the authorities will often be taken from their owners in part-exchange to be passed on to backstreet middlemen like Yuri. Profit margins are close to the bone but turnover is exponential. It’s a growing industry and the marketplace is vast.
Yuri’s merchandise is inexpensive yet highly transitory. If his cars don’t fall to pieces within their first few months of use, they will be towed away by the council, or acquisitioned by unscrupulous bailiffs. It’s all a part of the unparalleled experience that is driving one of Yuri’s motors. When one is finished with ones single-use automobile, one simply abandons it by the side of the road where it becomes the councils problem. If you’re feeling industrious there’s always the option of torching the damn thing but there’s little point. These phantom machines are untraceable. Untraceable to you at least.
I tell you all this for a reason though. She called last night. I hadn’t heard from her in days, but last night at around eleven thirty, the phone rang. I was half asleep as I answered but instantly detected the familiar tone of distress in her voice. It was her sister again, on the run from a loyalist paramilitary group calling themselves the Red Hand Defenders. Carla had received a blunt message that she was to collect her sister from a B&B just outside Holyhead. She was to escort her to safety. What happened after that was “her concern”
Carla and her sister were born and bred in a catholic ghetto of West Belfast. Whilst Carla had wisely left home at the age of eighteen to pursue the golden streets of London, her sister Eadie had foolishly shacked up with a fellow named Steve from Derry’s (predominantly protestant) Waterside. Of course, on the Waterside they call it Londonderry. You can call it what you like though. You can call a piece of shit a fairy cake, but it’s still gonna make your breath smell bad if you’re stupid enough to eat it.
If looking to gentrify an area, there must surely be a more fitting prefix than London. Miltonkeynesderry would perhaps have been a more neutral alternative. But I digress; How the couple had come to meet, let alone come to marry was anyone’s guess. Without doubt it was a civil ceremony. No minister on either side of the divide would dare administer such brazen unorthodoxy. Steve was now dead, neatly dispatched with a customary double-tap to the head. It was their own fault, and retribution had been a long time in coming. Eadie’s world was unpicking its seams, and now of all people, Carla wanted me to help her in stitching it all back together. I decided without delay that it was the least I could do. My immediate reply was abrupt but courteous.
Not a word was uttered as we chugged along Marylebone Road. The silver 1986 cut-and-shut Ford Escort that Yuri had seen fit to loan me was in fairly good condition for its age and chequered history. He had assured me that despite my misgivings, the car was structurally sound. This was prime stock and Yuri made a point of nervously reiterating this fact several times before allowing me to pull away. I deliberately neglected to mention that I was contemplating a grueling return trip to North Wales. In the rear view mirror of my pimped-out new ride, Yuri’s unkempt look of bemusement grew smaller and dustier; ever more distant as I sped toward the city. Toward where I was to collect Carla.
Not a word was spoken between Carla and I as we catapulted onto the Westway at a breakneck fifty five miles an hour. As we passed the grand union canal and joined the M40 motorway I felt a familiar rush of expectation. There is still a residual crumb within me; an evolutionary relic which hungers for wide open spaces, rolling hills and fresh air. I always seem to come alive outside the M25 - The London Orbital.
Beaconsfield, Oxford, Banbury, Royal Leamington Spa all passed by in an awkward silence that continued until we arrived at a point where communication became a prerequisite of survival. If we could navigate the entangled mass of homogenous conurbations which comprise the midlands, we would find our way clear onto the more placid winding country roads of the Westcountry and Wales. If we took a mistaken turn on one of these spaghetti-like concrete arrangements we could equally find ourselves circling for all eternity. Somewhere hellish. Somewhere like Wolverhampton.
To be continued… (perhaps)
This article has been viewed 33441 times in the last 9 years
elaine: 4th May 2005 - 10:19 GMT
or your car could die on the clifton suspension bridge and you could be left staring into the abyss forever...
buzzy: 4th May 2005 - 14:39 GMT
yeah i concur. you should def continue this story. everyone loves a good story and this one has definitely sparked my interest. i would most def return to read further installments if available. it sounds like a really fresh take on an eccentric romance/gangster vignette with an interesting POV. altogether, a thoroughly good read. please continue!
hasslehoff: 4th May 2005 - 14:42 GMT
Anonymous: shouldn't you be concentrating on that aeroplane you're building?
a disturbed young man: 4th May 2005 - 15:05 GMT
wow, thanks for the positive feedback. posted a few short stories which preceed this but never had such a positive response. thanks
elaine: 4th May 2005 - 15:19 GMT
how you flesh out is the difference i think, this is 'thick description'
elaine: 4th May 2005 - 15:44 GMT
are you fishing for complements, coyly unnamed young man?
kobe: 4th May 2005 - 15:48 GMT
yea man, this is a good story. id read more if you were to write more
elaine: 4th May 2005 - 16:22 GMT
glad to hear it eeyore.
a disturbed young man: 4th May 2005 - 16:26 GMT
ask peter and he will furnish you with my email address, won't you peter :-)
a disturbed young man: 4th May 2005 - 16:29 GMT
p.s. will you marry me? though don't tell my (common-law) wife she would kill me.
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