Friday, December 11, 2009
For years my family always owned the same car, in different iterations: a Saab 95. It was never a new car; often rusty, sometimes featuring rustproof paint along the side in a different colour; usually in an an unlovely hue of orange or green. At the school gates or pulling up alongside a satirical queue of couples outside the ABC Cinema in Lothian Road (yes, that's a real memory), it was an embarrassment; shamefully, in conversation with a school friend I once made it (by a slip of the tongue, of course) into a Saab 99; but on journeys it was our car, and there was a peculiar warmth and cameraderie about it. Saab 95 owners would wave to each other: acknowledging, perhaps, the joy and suffering associated with owning a car prone to rust and impossible breakdowns.
Its peculiar design meant that you could sit in the back seat facing backwards, and as a child I used to love being in the back, until I began to develop chronic travel sickness and a directly connected and instinctive loathing of watching the road running away behind me.
I clearly remember travelling along Ferry Road in Edinburgh, having just crossed the Forth Road Bridge on the way back from, possibly, a trip to Fife to pick up clay for the pottery. We were waving at the car behind. The woman in the passenger's seat (and in the 1970s that's where they almost always were) stared stonily back. "Superfluous Doris" we immediately nicknamed her in retaliation (with the emphasis on the "flu" - as a reader, I never had any idea how to pronounce anything, but the word must have stuck in my mind), and we howled with laughter and stuck our tongues out like the little urchins we were. Good memories of this car, then. I still remember the registrations of two of those cars: KNU 459J and GGB 886N. And in the picture above, it now looks like a surprisingly attractive, homely but shapely car.