I hate to say it, but I think I'm actually enjoying this!
Today I've had various errands to run, amongst which was a run to Guildford to collect some supplies for the site I am working on. Originally I was just going to have them delivered, but not wanting to put even more work on the shoulders of my local postman at Christmas time I decided that actually, I should take the Mini for a run out. Besides, I figured that If I set my route out carefully, I could collect a variety of things in one swoop!
I've never really been one to name my cars, but this Mini has become known, atleast by my two little monsters as 'Clairadactyl' a strange name you may think, and you'd be right, but the reason for this was that one day as we drove along, this little fella, or should I say little lady (probably) popped out from under the drivers seat...
Yep, as you've no doubt already guessed, this is 'Clairadactyl' I'm guessing that she had been there a fair while as she was very dusty and grubby, but as to who owned her originally, I have no idea. I didn't purchase the Mini from anyone called Clare, or even Clair, so I can only imagine that she either belonged to the previous owners daughter, or perhaps even an owner before that. I dunno, but since finding her, and giving her a good scrub up, 'Clairadactyl' has been gracing my dashboard, and watching the road ahead as we drive along. Anyway, there's a fair chance that I'm wandering off on a tangent as usual, so back to the plot.
There are faster ways to get to Guildford I reckon, but I chose to amble along the A272. This piece of road has become a favorite with bikers, and infact my late friend Aunt Fanny was a big fan of that particular stretch of tarmac, and indeed it was upon it where he sadly was killed just over a year ago. Passing the spot I don't know why, but I always look, and still, the flowers are attached to a fence post near where it happened. I do still think about him and the times we had, and passing that spot sort of brings it all to the front of my mind again. My feeling is that it will always happen. But as I travelled along the A272 I can understand why he was such a fan of it. The road has various inclines, long straights, and plenty of twisty bits, when that road is clear, and you're on a motorsickle it must be quite a good ride. Probably quite challenging too at speed. Even on a day like today, a Tuesday, there was a fair amount of motorcyclists honing their talents along the road, although no doubt they weren't going as fast as they could've as the road was slightly damp.
It has to be said that in my younger days I was considered to be a bit of a speed merchant, however these days I have slowed right down. There are several reasons for this, firstly, I'm much older, and so I doubt I react as quickly as I used to. Secondly, I don't like fixing bent bodywork. Thirdly, I quite enjoy a drive, and don't want to be gaining any points on my license. Added to this little list is that as I've got older, I think about stuff more, like the consequences. This change came about many years ago when my friend and I were working in Aldershit, just 30 odd miles from home. Every night when we left the site for home we would time ourselves on a stopwatch, to see how fast we could get home. We drove that van like we stole it, nothing, and I mean NOTHING passed us on our way home! We drove really fast, took unnecessary risks, and in short, acted like a pair of knobheads putting everyone else on the road at risk. But one evening, just for laughs we thought that we might try to drive home like respectable motorists, keeping to the speed limits, and driving in a considerate manner. Of course, we timed ourselves, and to our horror it took us less than a minute longer!! That was the turning point for us, we just thought, whats the point of all that speed and risk, we're not really gaining anything! Ironically after we'd been driving considerately and carefully for a couple of weeks someone pulled out on us from a junction and we T-boned him writing the van off! We were all ok, but when we got back to the office we had our ears chewed off because it was no doubt caused because of the way we drive!
Anyway, I thought about this today as I drove along the road. I thought about how much more I enjoy driving at slower speeds on the road. Driving along the A272 at legal speeds was still quite pleasurable, even in the Mini. It holds the road very well, and I enjoyed the twists, turns, and undulations of the road. I got to thinking that I was really starting to enjoy this little car. When I first got it I sort of had my doubts. I wondered if it was as good as people seem to think, and in fairness I don't believe it is as good as people would have you believe, it's certainly not the be all and end all of small cars, but it is pretty good, and it is pretty capable too. the little 1598 cc whirrs away under the bonnet and propelled the Mini along the road very well, spirited driving was achievable even at legal speeds. But as I drove along I realised that it was more than just the drive that I was enjoying. I realised that it was the whole Mini experience. It's not just the way it drives, it's how it looks on the outside, it's how the cockpit is laid out, infact, I have to say that I pretty much like everything about the way the cockpit is laid out.
In mine it is a shame that my plastic panels have all been hastily painted with a rattle can of black paint, but I quite like the way it's all laid out. I like the chunky steering wheel, with the tachometer mounted on the steering column, almost paying tribute the the Mini boy racers of yesteryear. I like the big speedo in the middle of the dash with the air vents either side, I like how its reminiscent of the proper Mini, giving a nod to its inspiration. But of course thats pretty much the end of it as far as instrumentation is concerned, admittedly there is the little fuel and temperature gauges set into the speedo, again in a nod to the original Mini, but that's it. I guess that most cars only have the four gauges anyway, it's just in this I think I would've wanted a few more, like set into the centre console or something. But thats probably just a personal thing. Odd that my Mustang also only has four gauges, and yet somehow that's ok, although to be fair I have always planned to fit a few more, just never seem to get around to it. Another thing I like about the Minis interior is the switchgear. I like how the indicator is a bit chunky, and I like the little array of switches in the centre console with the half hoops either side of each switch. I have found myself wondering if there is a practical reason for this, or is it simply for styling? I like all these little touches, it's not a perfect car by any means, but stylistically I find the interior very interesting.
Before long I had completed my little mission, and was back at base. It's funny how when I drive along I get time to think. I guess it's because it's the only time that I get when I'm actually alone with some peace and quiet! As I drove along today I didn't even have the stereo on, I just listened to the sound of the car, and the road, actually, now that I mention it, the road noise is quite considerable. It was enough that it was hearable, even over the engine whirring away. It was actually one of the first things I noticed about the Mini, but I guess it's not too much of a distraction as even though it's always there, you just tend to ignore it after a while. I guess it just becomes like white noise, I've even come to the conclusion that it sort makes me zone out, and relax a bit. Arriving back on site after three or four hours driving about in the Mini I felt quite relaxed, and not at all stressed out by all the little annoyances that I have to deal with on site. Of course, this may well be as much to do with being away from the people on site I have to deal with as much as the white noise theory, but no matter what it is, driving this Mini was good for me today. Maybe it's time to call it a day with site work, and just get a job delivering pizza or something, just me, Clairadactyl, and the smell of fresh pizza in my Mini!