Three weeks ago I sold my car to WeBuyAnyCar.com. I don’t usually get attached to objects, but this particular car had belonged to my late mother and I did enjoy cutting around the country in it.
It was a silver 2006 VW Fox. At first sighting they are strange beasts and look too small to be practical, but apart from a very tiny boot there is actually a lot of room in these little cars. This particular model was pretty basic but it issued a warning if the lights were left on and the petrol cap was attached to the car; both essential features as far as I’m concerned.
I found it good to drive although I am by no means an expert. It was pretty good at accelerating past dangerous HGVs on the M1 and held the road well on the back roads in Scotland. It also served me very well when it came to moving house; with the back down it was excellent for trips to the skip or IKEA, it’s amazing what I have transported. I also liked the fact that it had managed to inherit a 1980s road map of Britain as well as hosting a Historic Scotland ruler in the glove compartment.
Last week I took it up to Scotland for what would be our last trip together. This was a trip of mixed emotions; it was the first time I had been up to my hometown since we sold my mother’s house three or so years ago and I went up to stay with a friend whose mother is also recently deceased. She was staying in her childhood home with her young daughter whilst trying to clear out all of those years of memories. We have been friends since we were two or three years old and so have a lot of shared memories as well as growing up in the same area. Our fathers worked together and our mothers shared a passion for gardening and botanical art, growing closer after they were both widowed.
It was strange to be back amongst familiar childhood surroundings without any real tie to any of them. I left home at seventeen and never really moved back but my mother stayed in the same house and I always felt that I had some kind of base there. Living slightly off the beaten track; my brothers and I had the run of the surrounding area and spent the majority of our free time outside during our younger years. We had dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits, various rodents and at one time even a duck called Sally. When I think back to the endless summer holidays it seems that it was usually sunny (despite being in Scotland), we had constant adventures, got into lots of minor trouble and were always half eaten up by midges. The only important rules I remember were to be back before dark and not to cross any main roads or rivers. What more could you need?
Everything now is much smaller and less shiny. The magical forests are now fairly small woods and the endless drive to the main road is now nicely surfaced and really not that long. The big house where the old ladies lived with a secret passage in the cellar is now a B&B with an unpleasant looking sign and the overgrown wilderness of a garden horribly clipped and sanitised. I haven’t been to see if the (legless) hut on hens legs is still in the woods as I think these days it would probably be classed as trespassing rather than exploring, although I still have that child’s sense that it is my world and I have every right to check on it. The track to the house where our closest friends lived is still dark and mysterious but I no longer feel the need to shut my eyes and run until I can feel the sun back on my face, and not just because these people are now long gone.
I skipped all of these things and went to see my mother’s next door neighbour. She was very close to my mother and I’m terrible at keeping in touch with people so I thought I’d drop in for the first time since we sold the house. I’m not sure what I expected but I didn’t really feel anything about passing the old house and gardens. My mother’s beautiful garden had been crudely fenced off to keep in an unruly dog and basically strimmed to within an inch of its life. The front looked waterlogged and unloved. The house itself didn’t look any different but my mother would never live in a house without a lovely garden so I knew she wasn’t in. I had a reminisce with the neighbour and endless coffee before going back to my friend who was in her own mother’s house trying to sort out a lifetime of bric-a-brac, dusty paperwork and many, many miscellaneous hand-crafted impossible-to-dispose-of items. Clearing out a dead parents house has to be up there with the hardest and most wrenching jobs of all time.
Despite the circumstances we managed to have a nice week up there. We drove round our respective old haunts and talked a lot about the past and our departed parents. We went for a lovely walk up Conic Hill and an enormous breakfast by Loch Lomond. We completed the day hike to the troll bridge in Callander in about an hour on our boring grown up legs and managed to avoid all dangerous creatures, mythical or otherwise. On the Friday morning I stopped at the butchers to stock up on scotch pies, haggis and tattie scones and drove back to the North East and the next day I sold the Fox. The car was probably my last physical tie to my mother but I don’t really need things to remember her, she’s part of me. I still miss her every day.