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:: Friday, 29 September 2006 ::



Handed him back at half 12, exactly 14 days after collecting the little buddy.

We did over 3000 miles together, many of them really memorable for the gorgeousness of scenery and the sublime funcitonality of the car. What an engine, what handling, how comfortable, top stereo, goodenuff bootage, good security, supereasy soft-top roofage, oil pressure always great, excellent mileage, brakes (never really tested hard) felt very solid.

I see entirely why it has made Car of the Year 2006.

We did not see a single twin in over 3000 miles. Not one. Closest I came was to a red 1989 MX5 parked round the corner from my digs in London. And that was Car of the Year back then too. Synchronicity. Perfect.

What have we learned?

That driving France and Spain is eminently doable. The tunneltrain is quick and simple. The destinations are really worthwhile for the scenery, the architecture, the quality of the light. You can really get into the drive, or you can tootle and stop and see fascinating stuff whenever and wherever you are. You can mix it up and do both.

Driving those zones in a reliable sporty car that is not too big is definitely the way to go. In Oz there is so much room, so much space. But the continent - tiny carparking spaces; eleventeen point turns to change directions; squeeezing into spaces, into streets. "Phew", is a common sentiment. Because man, oh man, the carparks, the lanes, they are all just a bit too tight, relative to Oz, say. And the lanes on roads are real tight too.

There are many many trucks that one has to share the roads with - I never did understand why I was always - and I do mean always - getting lights flashed at me after overtaking a truck. Any truck. I was not speeding (..... not always) I was not lurching out from hiding behind the truck, or anything untoward. I understood the flashing lights coming the other way - that is a freindly French habit to warn oncoming drivers of the presence of roadcoppers round the bend/over the rise etc.

But the flashing once I have gone past - were they being friendly? I figured so, so made it a habit to wave. Either they appreciated that or thought me out of my gourd.

Did not see too many police. There were definitely speed radars, but always sign posted in advance.

Spaniards are lead footed but the French mostly tootle. They - the French (and the Spanish a bit too) have fallen utterly in love with the Renault Megane. Ubiquitous. And often a kind of dirty cream colour. A bit off, really. Only saw one Citroen DS - the Charles de Gaulle hydrolics special.

Friendliness is definitely a terrific characteristic of both folks. Had beers with French folks, talking all Segolene Royale and Nicolas Sarkozy - smart money is on Sarko according to my "sources". And for the Spaniards? The big issue she is the immigrations, oh yes.

All the good hotels are in the centre of town. So just go there and drive round. You will be fine. I have not made a single booking on this trip. Not one. Only missed a spot one night at Amiens and took it as a sign to get the heck outta there and move on to the next town, Abbeville. My criteria for a hostelry - check that they have internet and parking and you know you have decent joint. One only of those things, and the odds are it ain't so good.

Make an effort with language if you want to, but most of the folks I came across spoke English so there was not a moment of feeling isolated or uncomfortable.

If any of youse feel encouraged to do a drive like this, or like last year's LEJOGLE escapade performed in a little green Morgan 4/4, consider it highly recommended. In fact, it might be appropriate, albeit a bit sombre, to think that these sorts of drives might start to not be so much fun in future. So now or never, eh?

I mean, who among us can imagine feeling any joy at all at driving over 3000 miles in a car that does not operate using a 100% combustion engine.

I mean, what would be the point?

Really, what is the point of moving about in a vehicle that is designed with its focus entirely on the bloody tank at the rear of the car, instead of the motor up the front where all the fun happens?

And plus too, as places like the UK and France and Spain just get too durned filled up with people, people everywhere, and stuff that people need everywhere as well, you have to wonder where the wild wilderness, dare I say it, the "environment" in which to perform some A-grade distance driving is all gonna go.


O. Mo. Go.

I just said "environment" and not in a bad way.

Am I going green? Well, only if "green" can mean protecting roads and roadside stuff so it can enjoyed by roadenthusiasts. Yeah, that is better. That I can live with. I reckon that if we all, youse all and me, we want to have drivey fun we have to use roads for good stuff - enthusiastically, yeah? - not just that whole boring [pinched nose voice]: "cars are just for getting me from a to b". Because from that empty headed bollocks comes [that voice again]: "car theft is a victimless crime. Insurance you know".


See, the Mazda is a little mechanical person made by loads of actual folks and designed with mucho care and attention and, likely as not, affection. He has feelings. He does not want to live his life on motorways or doing a school run. He wants forests, and mountains, and all his gears given a good old workout. He wants the novente-ocho perciento unleaded stuff. Oh he can tolerate the blistering heat of a Madrid traffic jam and the howling wind and torrential rainyrain of a French motorway. But he stays in the relationship for the good stuff. The fast hairpins turns, high revs and loud music. Good living.

You know, the renty place where I found him is just going to sell him off.

Turnover turnover for those guys. It is all about the residual and the insurance. Do not get me wrong, that is fair enuff - it is business. Really, no offense. It is a big world and we cannot all be overly emotional wogs about cars.

But Jeez. Swear to God, I got so sad there were tears welling. I mean, that car has taken me places I have never seen before. He has made me a better person. And he kept me safe. When I see a real good car I see every person who ever worked to make it. I see its previous models and its history. The folks for my MX5 should all take a bow. I do think that if you are the sort of person who alls you can see when you see a car is an inamimate thing, you should have another look and see a bit more of it. There is a an awful lot to like. And if you cannae bring yourself to really like 'em, at least respect them. Things - cars a heap - absolutely reflect the people who design and make them. And sports cars absolutely reflect history, innovation, engineering, design, art, passion, psychology, religion - the lot of life. And what is not to like about all that?

In London after dropping off the car I needed something to lift my spirits. So I stopped by the Victoria & Albert museum for the Leonardo Da Vinci notebooks exhibition. All his scribbles showing how stuff worked. You know he even had an amoured car thing in mind.

I reckon Leonardo, with his passion for things that go, he would have loved the Mazda.

Would he have loved a hybrid car?

Gi. Fa.

Thanks for reading, all. Out.
:: WB 8:55 am [link+] ::

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