Too Tough to Die
A friend of the family is back with us after a spell in sick bay. The Beast, aka a 1977 Series II Land Rover, has returned to suburbia and is on full 'waking up the neighbours' duty.
The Beast was, I admit, a bit of a whim. The move to Orkney means the family's No. 2 car - a nice little blue Vauxhall Agila - is surplus to requirements as you can't fit a pig in the back. Well you could try, but getting the seatbelt clipped in would be tricky.
"What we need," said the wannabe pig farmer, to a dubious silence from the other inmates, "is a Land Rover."
So I scanned the websites, trawled through the magazines and, to cut a long story short, came up with The Beast. It wasn't perfect, but it didn't cost much either and at least gave the vague impression that I might know something about what I was doing.
I soon learned you get exactly what you pay for. Three weeks later it refused point blank to start. My stepson Pat - a motor mechanics student - narrowed it down to the starter motor or the solenoid, for which I offered to go and buy some cream. After a couple of hours grunting and swearing we retrieved Pat from under the vehicle and he stumbled upstairs to the shower muttering words like 'knackered', 'nail', 'sucker'.
The very very very nice people at a garage (garage, you note - not service centre) just outside our home town, said they would come and pick it up, get it started and then have a look at the rest of the 'damage'.
The getting it started cost just over £100 and the quick once-over unearthed rusting frame, brakes spongier than a Battenburg and a series of other expensive 'difficulties'. The only option other than to give the go-ahead was to say a tearful goodbye, flip the switch on the life support and move on.
Dr L Rover performed the surgery and in a week or so, The Beast was sitting up and joking with nurses, while I fumbled down the back of the sofa for the cash. Several hundred pounds later, The Beast was back in front of our house, blocking the light out of the neighbours' living room, acting as a mobile traffic calming measure.
It still rumbles as if the end of the world is imminent, handles like a hippo with a hernia and bounces like a. . . well, like a very old Land Rover. Somehow, though, I love the thing, although just how long the 600-mile journey up north is going to take fills me with dread.
Incidentally, the Agila is still for sale. It's on an 03 plate, 46,000 on the clock, regularly serviced at the local Vauxhall dealer and a bargain at £2,795.