I’ve Been Driving in my Car… It’s Not Quite A Jaguar!


The last couple of weeks have seen me weighing up my options for buying a different car. Choices have included a BMW Z3, Toyota MR2 and Mazda MX5 – all a far cry from the first car I bought, shortly after obtaining my driving licence in March 1989. I passed my driving test in my parents’ Austin Maestro, a hulking lump of metal, with no power steering (parallel parking was a great workout for the biceps!) which had only a 1300cc engine, leaving it seriously underpowered. It’s therefore unsurprising that I yearned for my first car to be a Ford Escort XR3i Cabriolet (preferably in red, as we all know that they go faster). What I actually ended up buying was an 1975 Austin Allegro!

Because having a car known to most people as an “All-Aggro”, with a square steering wheel, wasn’t embarassing enough, my particular model was painted a particularly putrid shade of sludge, more commonly associated with the contents of babies’ nappies. Added to the fact that it only had an 1100cc engine, my Allegro failed to deliver not only on looks, but on performance too. Not for long…

With the help of my mechanically-talented Dad, we set about replacing the engine with a more powerful one. The new engine was a 1300cc, of which Dad skimmed the head, so that the car would move “like s**t off a shovel” – and it did. Rather ironic, considering the colour of the paintwork! Other than having my Allegro re-sprayed, which would have cost more than the car did, I was limited on what I could do to improve its appearance. However, a bit of T-Cut, a tin of polish, some tyre black and hours of TLC gave my baby a new lease of life.


You’ll notice how quickly Ally (don’t pretend you didn’t name your first car) became my baby, rather than something they produce. We became inseparable, leaving boy racers, in VW Golfs, staring in disbelief, as we left them standing at traffic lights. Even when she over-heated in traffic, and I had to blast hot air from the engine into the car, in the height of a sweltering summer, I stood by her. Paradoxically, as soon as winter arrived, the heater never worked unless I was travelling over 50mph. This not only meant driving in Eskimo-like attire, to avoid shivering throughout the journey, but that the windscreen would continually ice over during the harshest weather. It wasn’t uncommon for passengers to have to jump out whilst we were stopped at traffic lights, to give the windscreen a quick scrape! Driving, and often breaking down in, my Allegro was an adventure with a car of character – something mostly denied to today’s teenage drivers, due to extortionate insurance costs and the array of nondescript vehicles on offer – which I wouldn’t have had any other way. Now, I wonder if there are any Allegros for sale in AutoTrader…


Mega Monday: We’re influential bloggers!


Many thanks to the Write Romantics for my nomination as an “influential blogger”!


most-influential-bloggerThank you to Carol Cooper who awarded this badge to the Write Romantics.  We already loved Carol for inviting us to review her wonderful novel, being interviewed for the blog and for agreeing to write the introduction to our anthology, but now we love her even more.

IOne Night at the Jacarandan case you didn’t know, Carol is a doctor, teacher, writer, broadcaster and mother, whose debut novel, One Night at the Jacaranda, has received a wealth of rave reviews on Amazon. Carol is also a successful writer of non-fiction books, mainly on child health and parenting, and is The Sun newspaper’s doctor. As well as being a great friend of the Write Romantics blog, Carol has a fab blog of her own. If you’ve been missing out on Carol’s beside manner up until now, then you really should check out her blog.

Now we’re passing on the award to ten other bloggers. They…

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Rik Remembered…


There comes a point in everyone’s life when they become only too aware of their own mortality. In addition to its numerous other features, your mobile ‘phone suddenly becomes a harbinger of death, relaying the passing of family, friends and colleagues. Add the inescapable grapevine of social media, heralding the passing of those in the public eye who have touched our lives, and you can’t help but realise just how precious our limited time on this earth is.

Today’s sad news that Rik Mayall has died, at the age of 56, has compounded this belief for me. From the anarchic poet of the people Rick in the “Young Ones”, to Lord Flashheart in “Blackadder” – “She’s got a tongue like an electric eel, and she likes the taste of a man’s tonsils!” – through to Alan B’Stard, “Bottom” and “Filthy Rich and Catflap”, Rik Mayall, and his various guises, have been a presence in my life since I started secondary school. We would recite episodes of the “Young Ones” at school, the day after they had been aired. Woe betide anyone who missed an episode, as they would be clueless as to what everyone else was talking about for a week. As the antics of Mayall, Edmondson, Planer et al evolved into the supreme talents we know and love today, we grew up alongside them, finding hilarity in performances about which our older selves really should have known better. How can you not laugh at the slapstick sight of Richie Rich and a frying pan???

To a lot of people, Rik will be best remembered for his portrayal a of Cliff Richard-obsessed student. A few years ago, I saw Cliff perform at the O2 (a guilty pleasure!), and when he performed “Living Doll”, it was complete with Rick’s “Get Down” additions! Although, that is the character that saw me crying tears of laughter during my teenage years, I will leave you with my favourite memory of the comedic genius that was Rik Mayall…