The new car, and the ageing process (contd.)

I got a new car a few weeks back. It’s a very fine car. Being somewhat sporty in appearance, it was suggested in certain circles that I might be having a mid-life crisis. I protested, with a certain degree of justification – I believe – that I have already had my mid-life crisis – having sold my flat, got tattoos, moved to the USA and bought a sports car.

In response to this, a certain member of said circles suggested that my crisis be upgraded to a three-quarters-life crisis. Which, I thought, was a touch harsh of him, or at least not especially charitable, since my mid-life crisis was only seven years ago. And since that gives me only another fifteen years to live, approximately.

Speaking of ageing, I also attained another year a few weeks ago. It’s a very fine age, and I’m quite proud of having achieved it. It’s taken me quite a while to get this far. But I still feel roughly 28 in my head. And even younger at times. Occasionally I feel mild surprise when somebody entrusts me with any kind of responsibility, especially when there isn’t an adult around to supervise.

Simon Zebo, the Irish rugby player now exiled in France and playing for Racing 92, received a certain amount of abuse from the Belfast crowd when returning to play against Ulster recently. Unfortunately this included some racist comments, which were – quite rightly – roundly condemned. But I noted with alarm that Mr Zebo’s tweeted description of his abuser included the phrase

“He was an elderly man, like 40-plus.”

Um, thanks Simon. Right on point, 27 Across in today’s Daily Telegraph:

Old tree likely hollow (7)

Back to the car. It is, as I’ve said, a very fine car, with something of a split personality, combining the frugality of a hybrid (for it is, indeed, a hybrid) with the performance of a sportyish car, if not an actual sports car. It has a hilariously useless back seat (even Ickle Bef doesn’t fit), and a surprisingly usefully-sized boot. I haven’t tried to fit anybody in the boot, yet.

It’s the first car I’ve owned which has the automatic start-stop feature so prevalent in modern cars. But the effect is not new to me – I did in fact master the manual start-stop thing quite a long time ago. My driving instructor, I recall, referred to it as “stalling”, being criminally unaware of quite how far ahead of my time I was.

In Sport mode, it handles and responds beautifully and slightly aggressively. And all the time, it looks great, and sounds wonderful. However, there is no question in my mind that Honda wants you to drive it like a grandad.

The onboard multi information display can display any number of different options, nearly all of which relate to the mpg or one’s driving efficiency.

Each time one turns off the engine, said multi information display shows a picture of a row of plants. One is awarded points over a driving lifetime (I’m not making this up, folks) based on the eco-friendliness of one’s most recently-completed drive, and the points are translated into leaves on the plants. Over time, the aim is to get four leaves on each plant, after which – if the good behaviour continues – the plants get a flower on top. 

It’s all very lovely, and slightly controlling.

The dash, filled with a bewildering array of gauges and information, glows green when one is driving carefully. Green for go. Green for eco-friendliness. Green for green and pleasant lands. Green is good.

Should one have made for oneself a sub-optimal gear choice, revving the engine slightly more than necessary and thus critically endangering the planet, a subtle (green) arrow indicates it’s time to change up. And the green-and-pleasant dash changes into a sterner ‘tsk-tsk’ shade of blue until one has complied.

But in Sport mode, the green and blue are replaced altogether by an angry glowing red. Red for danger. Red for stop. Red for shame-faced embarrassment.

And in such ways, Honda try to influence you to never really engage sport mode. Of course, for a Hearts fan such as myself, green is emphatically NOT a good colour. Red is the closest option I have to maroon, and so it’s sports mode all the way folks. At least until the Rugby World Cup or the Six Nations, when green becomes good again for me. Perhaps the car isn’t the only one with a split personality.


I, quite by accident, reconnected with an old friend yesterday. We stood and chatted, in the middle of a Balerno field, briefly catching up on the not-inconsiderable number of years since we last spoke, she keeping a watchful eye on her brood. I was reminded of a comment she made eighteen years ago, quite some time before there were any broods to keep an eye on, and long before I found myself in Balerno fields on such a regular basis. 

On discovering that I had acquired for myself an extremely sensible medium-sized estate car at the age of 27, she enquired if I was planning to use it to go “cruising for single mothers”.

Today I decided not to mention to her that I was now, aged 45, the owner of a small sports car. I can only – and prefer not to – imagine what she might have said… 

The ageing process

Now, I know that we all get a little older every day. But whereas on most days this a fairly imperceptible process, today I think I aged 10 years in a matter of hours. Firstly I caught myself listening to Radio Scotland, to some programme where a panel of ‘old’ people were discussing what it was like to be ‘old’ and the things that annoyed them and made them grumpy. Things like people not talking properly and, like, using bad grammar lots. And not being able to remember what they did last week while being able to sing their school song verbatim, in Latin, at the drop of a hat. It was quite an amusing discussion, at least until I realised that I had, for probably the first time ever, deliberately been listening to a radio programme with people TALKING. No music. (Clearly football and cricket commentaries don’t count here). On Radio Scotland. And I was enjoying it. What’s more, I found myself agreeing with a lot of their experiences, especially the being-grumpy ones. These people were, on average, about 70 years old. I am 32. This is worrying.

It got worse. After this trauma I went to see a customer who showed me a photo of her new baby grandson. And I had to agree that he was cute. And then I experienced the sinking realisation that all babies don’t look alike after all. I have definitely seen a lot of babies that were uglier than this little kid. I am not going to mention any names. I have always thought that all babies looked the same. It is almost a defining characteristic of my bachelor-ness. This worries me. I think I may have got married and turned into a sap without realising it. Interestingly I had a dream the other night where I got married. My ‘wife’ started out as one person, and halfway through the dream morphed into someone else entirely. Once again I’m not going to print any names here. I think this was a visionary illustration of how women change dramatically in a relationship from the fun-loving game-for-a-laugh character they are when you first meet them into… well I’d probably better stop there.

My Radio Scotland experience occurred while I was parked in the car park of McDonald’s, having a McFlurry. This, in hindsight, seems like the behaviour of an ageing man desperately trying to cling on to his youth. Perhaps I’m overreacting. Perhaps I need to spend more time in the company of older people, which always makes me feel ‘current’.

Wiseman, where’ve you gone, m8…