About 13 years ago, I moved with my first husband and our five young children to a small, pretty village on the edge of the Dales in North Yorkshire. We had previously lived in a remote farmhouse high up on the windswept moors and I tended and ran a 40-acre Organic smallholding. We kept goats, sheep, pigs, cows, chickens, geese, ponies and donkeys, and with the gallons of milk, I made cheese, baked bread and sold our meat produce to local organic outlets and butchers in the area. It was an idyllic time in our lives and worthy of a blog in its self, but maybe that’s for another day.
Moving from our almost hermit like existence on the top of a hill, it was fun for all of us to join a village community and the children soon embraced their new life and made friends at the local school. A few months after we moved into the village, a new dapper young vicar appeared on the scene. With his angelic mop of blonde curls, brightly coloured, stripy scarf and black trench coat, he was not what one might describe as typical vicar material, well certainly not in those parts. He cut quite a dash as he made his way to church, and all the local girls had a bit of a fancy for him, including myself. When he was not preaching or doing home visits, he could be seen driving around the locality in a very old, rusty, red Fiat Panda.
One afternoon in mid-winter as I was driving back home alone from college, I approached the end of the narrow country lane close to home were there was a T-Junction. I stopped, and looked right and then left but forgot to look right again. The low red winter sun was shining directly into my eyes as I started to turn and the next minute there was an enormously loud bang followed by a dull thud. I looked around but could see nothing. In those days I drove a short wheel base Land Rover, which was hellishly uncomfortable for the kids as there were no seats, just cold, metal benches in the back, but it was magnificent for transporting sick farm animals to the vet’s or carrying feed and hay around in. It was also quite high off the ground and only had a small rear window so I had to use my wing mirrors for navigating. I stepped down from the Land Rover to see what had happened.
Squashed into the hedge, was a crumpled, battered red Fiat Panda and alongside it, a vicar in a brightly coloured scarf and, what looked like the remains of a car door.
‘HOLY FUCK’ – I wailed, running across the road to the side of the visibly shaken vicar. “Oh Christ’ ‘I am so sorry’ – ‘Jesus! Are you alright?’ – ‘Oh God, It’s all my fault…’. ‘Holy, Mary Mother of God, I am SO sorry’. The vicar brushed the mop of angelic curls out of his eyes and suggested that we might try to shift the wreckage out of the road and pick up the pieces of random Fiat Panda that were strewn everywhere. Once that was done I offered to give him a lift back home, as now having no car, plus stuck out in the middle of nowhere, it would have been a cardinal sin not to.
We climbed into the Land Rover and his face became an absolute picture. (There are a number of places that a woman should be a slut and I count my car as one of them.)
Mud, hay, sweet wrappers, old tins of diet coke, apple cores, sheep shit, dog hairs, fag ends, crisp packets covered the floor and to top it all, the remnants of a half eaten pack of McDonalds fries which were wedged between the hand brake and the drivers seat. There was no doubt about it, my car was a disgrace.
I blushed to the tips of my roots, but once I’d composed myself, I then looked the vicar straight in the eye and said to him, ” Vicar, if cleanliness is next to Godliness, do you think I stand a hope in hell of ever getting to heaven?’
The vicar looked back at me and said ‘ Not very likely’
To atone for my sins, I spent the following week chauffering the vicar around to various appointments and Diocesan meetings. It was wonderful and I was the envy of the entire female population of the village. We talked about God, religion, and life and just about everything in the universe. It was a joy to share thoughts and ideas and pick the brain of someone well versed in all things theological.
I was extremely sorry when the insurance guys finally paid up and the vicar got himself a new motor.
I don’t have a car here in Jakarta. For the first time in my life, since passing my test 31 years ago I am without wheels and I don’t like it. I love driving (despite nearly killing myself by skidding on an icy road, hitting a tree and going through the windshield. I still have pieces of Renault 5 windscreen embedded in my face from 30 years ago) and have driven in Europe, East Africa, major cities, and most notably from the North of England in a long wheel base Land Rover with 5 children down through France, Spain to the southern most tip of Portugal.
Driving in Jakarta though, would be total madness. The traffic here is something else, and the road systems and layout are positively crazy compared to anywhere else that I have been. Not least that the police who are well known for their corrupt ways, could stop me and fine me for something real or imaginary on the spot.
I am a bit stumped now as I have to rely totally on taxis which can take over an hour to arrive at the apartment, or, use Pedro’s driver if he is available. On the plus side, it’s quite refreshing sitting in the back of a pristine car with no dog hair, sweet wrappers, scratched cd’s and all manor of shit, while I get driven around and can take in the sights and sounds. It also means that there are no marital ‘scenes’ if we go out in the evening. Neither of us are looking at the other and saying, ‘Whose turn is it to drive home?’ That constitutes a blessing in itself.