Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Exquisite Pain of a Lingering Death

When I first bought the MG back in 1998 my intention was always to use it as a daily driver. The car wasn’t going to be pampered; no long winters tucked up in a cosy garage followed by frenetic weekend activity over the summer. Right from the start it had to deal with rain, snow, mud, salt on the road, kamikaze drivers and Tesco’s car park.

It wasn’t my first choice as classic transport but, in time, I grew to really care for that car. We were just two characters occupying similar space and time. Every day the car was different, it was almost as if it had a life and a character. We often tussled with each other and I would sometimes yell at it in desperation as it failed to start or broke yet another bit. I tried hard to make the car understand that I’d look after it if it would try its best to look after me.

When I lived in the UK that was fine. My philosophy was that as bits fell off or needed replacing then I would stick them back on or replace them. The UK is full of people who know how to look after MGs and other people keen to sell bits for them. I was happy to employ the mechanics, trimmers and body repairers and ready to buy the parts.

When I moved to Spain there was never any doubt that the car was coming with me. What I hadn’t quite realised was that my life was going to change so drastically that I was not going to be able to offer an appropriate level of care to the car. The big difference is that I have no money, no, that isn’t quite true. What I don’t have in Spain is credit. I never had enough money but when I was in the UK I had a salary that was sufficiently high for any number of banks and credit cards to want to offer me money. I might wince when Alan (my regular mechanic) gave me the £500 bill for the 6000 mile service on the car but I was always able to pay it.

In Spain credit is not an option. Firstly because I don’t have a regular income but secondly because credit here is quite old fashioned. Credit cards either have to be paid off at the end of the month or there is a set payment. You don’t have the flexibility of paying off either a little or all of the debt as you choose. There are annual fees with credit cards too. Bank loans are easily available but only against set items. So you always need a price quote of some sort before a bank will agree a loan.

So, I’m still driving the car every day but it is no longer getting regular checks and care. At the moment it’s doing about 16mpg but a British mechanic said he didn’t know anything about tuning anything with carbs and the Spanish garage told me that it was impossible to sort the carbs as they were worn and had the wrong needles (the carbs are recon and only about 3000 miles old). I might have believed them but because I didn’t specifically ask for a grease up it didn’t get one when I took it in for a service and they overfilled the sump by at least two litres of oil. There may be MG experts in Spain but they’re not just around the corner from where I live anymore.

Worse than trying to care for the car mechanically though is the bodywork. The poor car is gently rotting away. There is hardly a panel without at least some corrosion and the rear wings are dreadful. There is even a hole above the passenger side arch. I’ve had two large pieces of paint and undercoat just drop off leaving bare metal to view and I don’t dare poke around under either front or rear wings for fear of finding there’s no metal left. The mud flaps have dropped off; the alloy wheels are corroded – all in all not a good situation and one I simply can’t afford to put right.

Short of a major cash injection the car is going to fall apart. It’s horrid to watch my old car turning from cared for classic to old banger. Even worse I can imagine a time when it won’t be an option to keep it on the road. It’s quite easy to foresee a time when our last ride together will be to the local scrap yard. Not quite what I had in mind when I handed over the cash for the car all those years ago.

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