I’ve might have no testosterone. (My production is currently being stopped by injection once every three months.) But what I do have is a Fiat Barchetta, bought for a grand on a whim on eBay. It’s the prettiest little two-seater, an old-school, fun drive, with a lot of growl and it makes people smile. Left-hand drive. I’ve had it a month and so far I have yet to see another on the road.
The one obvious change thus far in my testosterone-free personality is my taste in music. I’ve gone from liking aggressive stuff like ZZ Top and AC/DC to preferring soppy Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell. The theme from Out of Africa. Gentler stuff. Triteness. I love you-oo. Also tabernacle choirs. Even folk. So I was belting along in my Barchetta under a windswept sky, Fairport Convention barely audible over the rumble of the exhaust, the road ahead long and straight, the moorland on either side wantonly disfigured by wind turbines.
My position on wind turbines (for what it is worth) is that I enjoy looking at the big ones. Those that are so enormous they beggar belief have a kind of majesty, I think. Or maybe that’s the lack of testosterone speaking. But these ones were elderly, small and crowded, and one was conscious only of a cretinous contempt for the landscape.
At intervals the road passed through straggling villages, narrowing as it did so. Parked cars on either side of the road in these villages constricted the way still further. I was sailing through one such village, disturbing the peace, when I clipped the wing mirror of a parked car, knocking out my own mirror. There was nowhere to stop in the village, not even a bus stop, and seconds later I was out the other side, on fast, open road again. Here, of course, if I were a gentleman, I should have stopped the car, turned around and returned to the scene to assess any damage. And I did feel a slight prick to what’s left of my conscience. But the clear road ahead invited me to press the toe down and forget all about it. Which, I am ashamed to say, is precisely what I did.
Then I noticed that my mirror, though fallen out, was dangling freely. I swerved sharply into a convenient lay-by screened from the road by trees, got out, and tried without success to clip the mirror back in. I was persevering in this, when a five-year-old Ford Focus with two people in it came screeching up. It took several seconds to realise that this was the car I’d knocked. They must have been sitting in it at the time, and had come haring up the road after me.
A man of about 45 got out, but stayed close to his car. He was trembling with anger, or perhaps the excitement of the chase, or both. His physique suggested that he had spent his life in a sedentary occupation, for which I gave thanks. His passenger, a woman, stayed put.
‘Why didn’t you stop?’ he asked entirely reasonably. I walked over to take a look at his nearside wing mirror, expecting nothing much. He looked the type to make a fuss about nothing. It would be cracked or missing mirror at worst, I guessed. But on the contrary, his wing mirror and casing were totally wrecked. The mirror, electrics, indicator pane, bulb, casing were all smashed. I couldn’t have been more surprised. I bent down to examine the wreckage out of morbid interest as much as anything else.
The woman in the passenger seat had a hard, 40-a-day face. ‘Why didn’t you stop?’ she said to me through the open window. The correct and truthful answer was because whatever the damage I’d done, I thought I would get away with it. ‘I didn’t think I’d done any damage to yours,’ I said, doing my bit for the nation’s moral decline. ‘Certainly not that much.’ She looked away out of the passenger side window in disgust and refused to look at me again.
The bloke seemed a decent sort. He was angry, but also devastated, as if it was one of the most terrible things that had happened to him. Seeing that, I was penitent. ‘How much to fix it?’ I said. He said his brother-in-law owned the same make and model, and the same thing happened to him, and the bill was £175. I had £200 in my pocket, fished it out and offered it to him, with a sincere apology. The woman still had her gaze averted. ‘You should have stopped,’ she said. Accepting the folded cash, the man said, ‘Accidents happen, I suppose.’ It was gallant of him to say it, but the stock phrase caught in his throat. And he was still trembling with anger.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 9 August 2014Tags: Fiat Barchetta, Ford Focus, testosterone, wing mirror