Switching, as I have done, from a Peugeot to a Volkswagen, is not without incident. I’ve been driving Peugeots for so long that my hands and feet reach instinctively for specific controls, and don’t find them. There is nothing so guaranteed to make you look like a complete idiot as turning on the windscreen wipers when you mean to indicate, or turning the indicators on when you want the windscreen wipers, or turning the radio on when you want to dip the headlights, or being unable to get out of the car because there is a strange locking switch. (Actually, I am one up on many drivers here, because my late mother came up with an amazing Christmas present about five years ago, which was a device to smash your side-window if you happened to be accidentally driving downwards in deep water. If I am ever forced off the road into a fast-flowing river, or given a short part in a soap serial which requires me to go at high-speed into a canal – the mandatory fate of serial killers in Coronation Street – then I will with one heroic swivel of the body open the glove compartment – does anyone keep gloves in there? Really? – and take it out. As the car sinks into the murk, and the screaming begins, I will whack the window and think of her optimistic and generous nature. It still says ‘Happy Christmas – Mum’ on the box. I think she wanted to be sure I thought of her at all times and in all eventualities.)
But it does seem to me daft that there isn’t some sort of universal rule which says that the indicator should be in one place, and the lights in the other – and also that Reverse gear should be located in the same slot. It is taking a real effort of the will to move from Peugeot reverse to Volkswagen reverse. Parking in tight corners has added frisson at the moment. That moment when you need a little nudge and twist to get the vehicle at exactly the right angle does depend on tiny touches like not being in fifth gear when you’re trying to go backwards.
I am also taking some time to adjust to my ‘entertainment system’, which, very eccentrically, allows me to feed six CDs into the dashboard, and/or one cassette (at last! a use for all those cassettes parked in ‘the shed’).
Perhaps, indeed, pursuing my theme, all cars should be identical, and we should stop this crazy business of consumer choice. Leaving aside the question of whether any of us should be allowed to drive cars any more, and whether we ought to have a free rail network built along all those deserted pre-Beeching lines, as well as along the motorways, B-roads, C-roads, and Z-roads, it makes a kind of sense to me that there should be one make of car, to a government specification, possibly right down to the number of radio stations receivable (do we need so many radio stations, too? Haven’t we reached the point where there is almost one radio station for every man, woman and child in the country?)
Down with choice. I am not saying of course, that all cars should be red, or that all cars should be blue. That would be plain silly. All cars should be silver-grey.