Opening a button of my shirt to get the horse lorry through its MOT is the sort of thing I like to kid myself about.
I know I’m not really getting a lorry through its MOT by unbuttoning my shirt, but at my age it makes me feel good to think that I might.
So I put on this tight gingham number, one less button done up than usual, denim shorts and a Stetson cowboy hat I bought in Bozeman, Montana, and I drove my lorry to its MOT retest on a stinking hot day looking like a poor man’s Shania Twain because I had it in my mind that I had to give it my all.
Never let it be said that I do not go all out when push comes to shove. And this was shove because the lorry is an old E-reg rust bucket of a Ford Transit.
It had failed because of a tear in a back tyre (fair enough); indicators that were ‘not working’ (not fair, they were working, he obviously didn’t turn the key in the ignition when he tested them); headlamps that weren’t ‘intense’ enough (seems a bit philosophical); brake oil that was ‘contaminated’ (again, very subjective); and a bulb out on the dash so the speedometer wouldn’t light up. Jeez, I don’t drive the horses around at night. Come on! I argued the toss, but he wouldn’t have it. The entire dash must illuminate.
I rattled back to the stable yard in my unpassed lorry and asked my mechanic to take another run at it.
He came over one night after work and starting siphoning off brake oil, sighing with exasperation: ‘Really? Is this a fail now? Oh, hang on, they’ve just changed it, haven’t they?’ And there followed some expletives.
It was a hell’s own job to pump out all the ‘contaminated’ oil and we were both so fed up that we didn’t even titter as, with me in the cab pushing my foot on the brake, he lay beneath the lorry shouting ‘Pump it up! Now hard down! Harder! Harder! That’s it! Go on! Harder!’ Not one titter. That’s how fed up we were.
After that he electrocuted the headlamps brighter with some sorcery, then he pulled the dash to pieces, took out all the fiddly little bulbs and put new ones in, dropping most of the screws that held the trim and giving me 17 kinds of heart failure.
It’s not as if I can ever get the damn thing over 40 mph anyway. But now I had a speedometer I could see in the dark and headlamps brighter than the sun, for when I’m not driving at night.
You can understand why, a few days later, expecting more pedantry, I put on the aforementioned slutty outfit. Before I went back, I texted a selfie of my embonpoint to a friend who knows the Transit: ‘Too much? Or not enough?’ ‘About right,’ he said.
When I got to the garage the manager looked askance as I climbed down from the lorry. Probably this was because he is not all that used to seeing middle-aged women in tight gingham shirts and cowboy hats in Weybridge.
Nevertheless, he did me the courtesy of taking a look at what I had put on display, which was generous of him. And when the lorry flew through its retest I kidded myself that I still had it, even though, let’s face it, the lorry passed because the tyre had been changed, the brake fluid wasn’t greeny-black any more and the speedometer lit up.
But on the drive home, the speedometer stopped working altogether. The cable had evidently snapped or come loose while the mechanic was doing the bulb.
Whereas before the MOT failure I had a perfectly good lorry with a working speedometer, after it passed the MOT I had a totally useless lorry with a broken speedometer, albeit one that was perfectly illuminated at night (when I would not be driving).
Until I can talk the mechanic into coming back — and the early signs are that he would rather drink beer and watch the World Cup — I can’t advertise the lorry for sale to bring in some cash to spend on the half-renovated house.
I desperately want to repoint and paint the front, but lack of funds means I have to find someone who will do it cheaply. And that means waiting for friends of friends to take pity on me and fit me in.
I find myself grappling with an ever-expanding array of odd-job men who have all promised to repoint and paint the front of my house at a time quantifiable only by its ability to recede into the future whenever I ask about it. Maybe I could undo two buttons, I tell myself.