Mark and Hugh and what our New Forest cars say about us

What our cars say about us

From the E-Type to E for Electric

Mark and Hugh signoff 600x400

Ed Note: Are Mark and Hugh being just a teeny bit contentious in differentiating between the sexes regarding driving ability and choice of vehicle? Please decide for yourself; and be kind - it's Christmas!

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Vive la difference?

If I were to ask you what was your ideal car if money was no object, I wonder which you would choose? An awful lot depends on what you want from the thing. There are those who view it as a beast of burden and others who care for it as if it were a pet. I have a friend who is a horsey type and she has absolutely no regard for the poor car at all. It’s overflowing with rubbish and the windows are so dirty that they can’t really be described as such. After all, windows are supposed to let in light. It has never been cleaned and is full of horsey stuff. I was allowed to borrow it a little while back and I used it to take my lovely sister from the main road up the muddy track to where my camper was based. Such was the clutter it took her ten minutes to get in but she’s a good sport and saw the funny side of it.

Other friends that my wife and I knew in France had a ten-year-old Audi which they cared for a great deal. They advised us that when parking in a supermarket car park that we should select a slot next to a shiny new car to lessen the risk of a scratch through a carelessly opened door. Also, that we should fold the wing mirrors in and that we shouldn’t slam the doors because it ‘ruins the rubber door seals’. My wife was baffled by such devotion to such an ordinary and elderly car. What makes us buy what we buy? Are lady drivers of a type? Men for that matter? With such a huge choice at hand what drives us, if you’ll excuse the pun. Is there a type and can buyers be divided into those of a male or female outlook? My view is that such a notion is bogus.

There are of course experts who will tell you from their habitual stool at the end of the bar that there aren’t any ladies that drive in Formula One; therefore, it follows that ladies can’t really drive. Dear expert, if you are reading this please switch off Sky Sports, engage what is left of your brain and read on.

One lady owner.

Is there a more sexist comment in any used car advertisement anywhere? Are we to imagine that all lady drivers are gentle doe eyed creatures who caress the accelerator pedal as if there were a tiny sleeping puppy curled up beneath it? Who make gear changes with the same tender loving care as Monty Don handling a tiny seedling? A good friend called Caroline (if you’re reading this, slow down!) used to drive me around from time to time and it was terrifying! For Caroline speed limits were irrelevant, only adhesion mattered. As an avid and sober football fan she would volunteer to drive her male friends to away games the length and breadth of the country. I think her passengers used to drink themselves senseless in order to numb the terror. I have it on good authority that on arrival the empty beer cans flowed out of the opened van doors with a deafening rattle. This girl drove like a maniac. I can vouch for the fact that despite enjoying sparring sessions in the boxing ring where she broke bones in her hand she is heterosexual. This girl drove faster than almost all men; something she inherited from her mother who lives in Cornwall. Caroline would call her just before dashing out to the car Le Mans style. Her mother, having noted the time, would then wait patiently to see if she could break her record for the trip from Southampton to Cornwall. Caroline’s choice of wheels? The humble Ford Fiesta and fellas, let me assure you that unless your last name is Moss, Stewart, Hunt or Hamilton, you couldn’t match her.  Was this irresponsible driving? Yes, and I wouldn’t condone it but this girl had the urge to push barriers and explore limits. We wouldn’t be who we are today without such people. By contrast I have been involved in two collisions when driven by friends who considered themselves good drivers. One, a chap called Paul, was driving me from Southampton to Bordon camp. It was wet as we descended the hill towards the Corehampton roundabout. As he turned for the right hand bend the rear lost adhesion and we went into a very graceful half turn. This terminated in a very abrupt meeting, rear end on, with a telegraph pole. Let me tell you, they don’t move one a bit and the car was written off. Another, Tim, was driving me from Dover to Southampton. On the Chichester leg there are roundabouts galore and he became ever bolder. Soon came the inevitable loss of control followed by a bashed wheel which meant we had to limp home slowly. So, I’m sorry guys, if you think you’re naturally better than women it ain’t necessarily so.

The vexatious matter of colour.

On a personal note may I say that your scribbler cares not what colour he drives, to me it is an immensely useful tool whether it be pink, yellow or black.

I had a friend called Roger whose wife would not ever, under any circumstances, sit in a green car. To some of us colour is important, but why? After all, we can’t see the colour from inside the car, that’s for others, does what they see of us and our cars govern our choices?  Your very own Hugh, artist and cartoonist to royalty (and sundry foreign tax exiles), has a fixation with midnight blue. A colour ‘so dark that it might as well be black, but isn’t’. Is colour only a female consideration? How ridiculous. We all strive for identity and a sense of being; what we drive is simply an extension of that.

Diesel or petrol? Would Madame prefer the three litre V6 or the two litre straight four?

It’s both sexes that can be equally baffled by this question and I secretly believe that car salespersons throw in these statements in order to gauge how many technical yarns they can spin during the ensuing sales patter. You and I both know equally well that there are both men and women who are ignorant of what lies beneath the bonnet. However, there are those of both sexes that do know in great detail what lies there. Hugh tells me of a lady who is a top flight business woman and an avid car fanatic who can afford the best. She is an enthusiastic and safe driver who treats speed limits as advisory. Apparently, she receives many envious looks from men; after all, how on earth can a beautiful woman drive the car of their dreams faster than them? I was once with a lady who simply loved her cars and enjoyed driving with the roof down. On arrival she would relish the public spectacle as the miracle of engineering origami that was the electric folding roof reset itself.

Dip your toe into the past?

Have you ever wondered what life was like before air bags, crumple zones and drinks holders? If you want a little taster you can easily take yourself back to a bygone age. All you have to do is hire a thirties classic for the day. I called Beaulieu Garage who tell me they rent classics for the week day, weekend, week, whatever takes your fancy. I’ve seen some lovely classics on their forecourt for including an Austin Healey 3000 and, joy of joys, a Jaguar E Type. Owning a classic is not for the faint hearted or those without a toolchest the size of the Albert Hall. My thirty-year-old camper has something new in store for me almost every day. Once my fingers touch that ignition key, I am ready and waiting for the next catastrophe, she rarely disappoints.

Driving through the forest in a modern car fitted with pollen filters and climate control is one thing. The same exercise carried out as nature intended is a different affair. When was the last time that you smelled roses as you were driven through the New Forest? Or perhaps the last time you heard the mewing of a buzzard and looked skywards to actually see the graceful creature wheeling effortlessly through the sky. I know that there are modern rag tops but I’m sorry to say that they are rather dull. Modern cars have engines that are smooth, powerful and fuel efficient. There are acoustic covers that shield you from engine noise; combustion air enters through something called a plenum which has its own sound insulating properties. In an old sports-car you get the lot. As you press the accelerator there is a rasp from the carburettors, greedy for more air. The exhaust which is rudimentary and only designed to take the smelly stuff from the front of the car to the back sings a rorty tune. The whole thing is utterly intoxicating. This is what motoring was like before speed cameras, crash tests and, as it turns out, fabricated exhaust emissions statistics. 

Progress never ends.

As you may know you writer understands old cars and their old-fashioned systems which have been superseded by today’s motor industry. But think on, the car you drive today will almost certainly be unrecognisable in fifty years-time. Isn’t the prospect of innovation fascinating? I doubt anything will ever beat the feline grace of the Jaguar E Type.

Here’s to the future of personal mobility.

cars on a forest road cartoon


More tales and cartoons for Lymington and the New Forest from Mark and Hugh

If you'd like to read previous articles on diverse subjects written by Mark and illustrated by Hugh's cartoons here they are, click the links embedded in the titles:

The litter pickers of the New Forest
A roof over your New Forest head

Richard St Barbe Baker

Our star, our sun, our salt!
To Lymington or Cuba
The Auld Mug

Seeds of success

Moonlit meeting with cetaceans 

Trees and what they tell us
Cartography and trig pillars

Pony drifts and pannage in the New Forest
A journey from the New Forest via Lymington
The brilliance - and persistence - of Marconi

Equality in the skies
Bees pollinators par excellence 
Cordless home entertainment

The joy of sheds

When the Isle of Wight was just Wight
Bucklers Hard

Salisbury Cathedral 
Pond Life in our Forests 
Bombs Away 
Baileys Hard 
Rufus Stone and Sir Walter Tyrrell
Graffiti through the ages
Freedom of the roads
Heath fires
Lymington Lido
Watch the birdie
Unstoppable momentum of nature
Socially distanced socialising
Calshot Spit, a curse for mariners...



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