I half-promised the other day to write about a certain breed of small vehicle (now thankfully extinct), and as I’ve resolved to blog more often, in the hope of doing my bit towards revitalising this dying art, here goes.
The car in question was an anagram of Brian Retail – although I’m sure they’re no longer made, I’m also sure there are still owners, whom I wouldn’t want to upset should they goggle their enthusiasm and light upon this post. You know what I mean.
Anyway, this particular one was owned by one of my first digsmates in Brookfield Avenue, Leeds, whose name, as it happens, was Brian. Brian (who was a dental student and as far as I know never went into the retail trade, but never mind) was quite challengingly mischievous, in a good if dangerous way. Having ferried me around for a while in this contraption, one day he asked me if I’d like to have a drive. I’d recently passed my test, and any such opportunity wasn’t to be passed by, so I naturally accepted.
The driving position, as I recall, meant that a tallish person like me had to scrunch himself up like a used tissue just to fit in there, never mind drive the thing. Having been instructed in the peculiarities of the pedals and the column shift, we set off.
Brian gave me directions – “left here, straight on a bit, right” – and I was getting quite into it, feeling my way into the car’s unusual responsiveness to instructions, until he said “OK, go left here. Best you change down to first.”
I did say he was mischievous. He’d taken me to the top of the steepest hill in, if not all Leeds, then certainly the Harehills district. It was about one in eight, a good hundred yards down. There was a set of traffic lights at the bottom. Giggling, Brian told me how to proceed.
“What you do now, you put both your feet on the footbrake, you pull the handbrake up as hard as you can with both hands, and you stand up. Oh, and pray for green.”