It’s possible you’ve noticed that my car is a central theme in my life, and a fair amount of the ridiculous things that happen to me. Last year we made an ‘end of uni’ film for a friends 21st and Ralfred had a few appearances, most notably as a gangsta vehicle in “Young, Wild and Free”. Wouldn’t have been the same without him. Generally speaking Ralfred is a reliable friend and gets me from A to B without too many issues (although you can almost never guarantee a completely smooth-sailing journey); but over the past months he has decided to have some fairly extreme mood swings.
In the midst of winter you might expect most cars to struggle, but Ralfred likes to take this to a new level and gives up on life completely. I’ve been aware of this for long enough to know he needs a little drive around at least once a week to keep the engine alive; however there came a period in depressing February when I ended up neglecting the car for weeks on end. As you can imagine, he did not take kindly to such treatment. He refused to start for so long that the engine ended up flooding and I had to call emergency rescue out. What was wrong, you ask? He simply got a little bit cold. I now realise why you see many Ralfred’s around in hot Italy and absolutely none in England (nothing to do with their old school box nature of course).
Not one week after this palava I was all set to drive to Oxford for a fun-packed weekend of working at The Harvester, when little old Ralfred decided to have another grumpy day and fail me again. You could see this as a blessing in disguise, and I’ll admit a teensy glimmer of hope fluttered through me that I might not be able to get to work. However rationality set in and the realisation that like it or not, I had to get to Oxford at some point. So I got the screwdriver out, stuck my bum in the way of all manner of pedestrians, and fiddled inside the bonnet (having one hundred percent no clue what I was doing). But Ralfred must have appreciated the effort because he found the motivation to come alive and get me all the way to Oxford in time for my 12 o’clock start (shame…).
I’ll not lie, the dramas I experience with my car are not always the fault of it’s discrepancies. One journey from Cardiff to Bristol I had set off in a jolly mood with my haphazard speaker boombox situation on full blast, only to arrive at Bristol and discover that Ralfred was making an extremely worrying racket. I hadn’t noticed this on the journey due to the aforementioned loud music, but once I’d turned it down it was apparent that Ralfred was definitely not happy. I racked my brains for what might be wrong and searched the car when my eyes came across… the handbrake. Up. That’s right. I had driven the whole way from Cardiff to Bristol with my handbrake up. You can picture it now, me singing away and driving full speed (barely 70) along the motorway, blissfully oblivious to the fact that Ralfred was struggling against a barrier made to stop him rolling down hills and not to chortle along the motorway.
Whilst this situation was definitely at the fault of my overlooking and frankly retardness, I can safely (or not so safely) say the journey I had shortly after was not. This was a journey when I experienced not one, not two, but three fairly serious electric shocks. Owing to the fact that he is over 25 years old, the majority of Ralfred’s components are made of metal. As is my iPhone. Therefore an innocent song change multi-tasked with an adjustment of the choke or a movement of the gearstick can go horribly wrong. To be fair to Ralfred, I probably should have learnt from my first nasty experience and left the music to shuffle at it’s hearts content, but for some reason my mind does not take such life lessons on board.
Every adventure I have with Ralfred is taken with a pinch of salt, and I know that all of the escapades we go through are pretty much part of his nature. But the most recent happening took such drama to a new level. It was a more stressful day than most; I had driven from London to Bristol for an interview and had half an hour before it started when I rounded a corner and had a bus drive slap bang into the side of dear beloved Ralfred. As you can imagine I was slightly reeling from shock, but got enough wits about me to drive around the corner out of harms way – only to realise my wheel was completely destroyed. Poor Ralfred had done nothing to deserve such treatment, and was obviously not fit for getting me to my interview. So I left him in the capable hands of the bus inspector who got me on a bus to my interview and arranged for his engineer to change my wheel – absolute saviour! Ralfred now has a pretty sizeable dent and some pink paint rubbed off from the offending bus, but at least he still has dignity. And these things build character as we know.
It’s only now I’m noticing how long this post has gotten that I’ve realised just how many escapades and palavas Ralfred has caused me, and in a rather short space of time. It’s all really become an accepted part of everyday life when your partner in crime is a tiny semi-functional fake Fiat Panda. Personally, I think the idea that I’m basically taking my life in my hands every time I embark on a journey is rather refreshing. Makes you genuinely appreciate every safe arrival and every day that I don’t die. Can’t take these things for granted you know. It seems the Ralfred love is ever-spreading; my lovely father has taken it as his new project now he’s semi-retired, spending hours polishing and repairing the old thing. Some might see it as a pointless endeavour, we see it as devotion to the true art that is Ralfred.
I can feel the time when I have to give Ralfred up gently approaching, but until that moment arrives I’m going to enjoy every adventure and appreciate every quirk that is in Ralfred’s nature, even the life-endangering ones. Because it’s absolutely certain that I’ll miss them when he’s gone.