York Life (and life in general)

By Rachel Ragg


The world, it seems, is evidently divided into two types of person. Or York is, at any rate.

The first type is the one who was possibly German in a previous life and points out the blindingly obvious (the type who tells you that you’ve had your hair cut, as if you hadn’t been present when it happened).

The second type is the very British one who goes out of their way not to point out anything at all, for fear of coming across as an interfering busybody (the type who would sooner let you be run over by an articulated lorry than poke their noses in and tell you that said lorry was bearing down on you).

This has been particularly evident recently thanks to my ailing car.

It started out as a slight scraping noise when driving down just a few roads (Portland Place was a particular culprit). I intitially thought that some roads must be oddly constructed.

But the scraping sound has become worse. And worse. To the point where people are stopping and staring. I have always wanted to turn people’s heads, though, so I can’t really complain.

Teenager Two can, though. “This is SO EMBARRASSING”, she declared, hiding her face in her hood. Not quite embarrassing enough for her to want to walk to school, unfortunately.

I look under the car in a manly manner, as if I know what I’m doing. All I can see is a bit of something-or-other hanging down.

Knowing that anything to do with repairing cars is bound to be unaffordable, I simply have to carry on scraping my way around York.

I am, as it happens, not a teenager so am generally unembarrassable (and I can always wear sunglasses and a wig). But even I have begun to dread car journeys. If I wanted to become a local celebrity, this was not the way I was planning to go about it.

You can hear Scrapey Car coming from a mile off. Probably literally.

The very British types, of course, glance around (there’s no way they could miss Scrapey Car) and then look away immediately, pretending they haven’t heard anything. If Scrapey Car had spontaneously combusted, they would do the same.

But it’s a different story with the other (Teutonic) types. If I had a pound for every person who stared, I could visit Love Cheese every day. But staring is the least of it.

A man taps on my window in Blossom Street. I wind it down. “You’ve got a problem with your car,” he informs me. Really? I hadn’t noticed. Of course, I do not say this, and thank him politely instead.

I also thank the next one who taps on the window. And the one after that. At some point, I might as well save all of us a bit of time, and just put a large sign in the window, saying “YES, I KNOW”.

Then there are those who point at the underneath of my car when I stop at traffic lights. Yes, I know.

Oh, and the Gillygate window-tapper who told me that the hanging-down thing was the engine cover, and that my engine was about to drop out. Now that I didn’t know.

Of course, cyclists are particularly keen to inform me that Scrapey Car has a problem. The most gleeful are the ones clad all in Lycra, who evidently feel no schadenfreude at all about a seriously ill car as they go about their non-gas-guzzling business.

There’s nothing for it. Scrapey Car will have to go. And, astonishingly, I find a garage which is willing to give me some money to part-exchange it.

As I grind my way out of the Bootham Row car-park en route to turn Scrapey into Scrappy, yet another person taps on my window. But this person doesn’t fall into either of my categories, as he is a policeman.

“You’ve got a problem with your car,” says Mr Plod.

“Yes,” I agree.

“It’s not roadworthy,” he adds.

“No,” I agree. “But I’m just on the way to get rid of it.”

Fortunately he believes me.

And even more fortunately, my stint as a local celebrity has ended. Phew.


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