Sometimes in life things come along that are just rather unexpected and that has certainly been the case this week, which started with Andy in France and has finished with us both crashed out on the sofa in front of the fire after a 24hr adventure, which has resulted in us having a new member of the family.
When I first met Andy in 1986, he introduced me to Amy, not another woman, but the shell of an beautiful Austin 10 that he had in the garage with the aim of restoring her. Sadly his dreams of being able to drive Amy once restored ended up being sacrificed, when she had to be sold to help us get a deposit together for our first house.
It was a dream that was really going to have to wait as we kept moving and working on houses that were effectively money-pits and we found ourselves without the time and money to really do an old car justice.
A few years ago Midge arrived on the scene, a pretty little MG Midget, but she too became another casualty of our house-buying, being sold to help us finally realise our dream of owning the house in Provence.
So time has passed, but with it the dream has never died and we have constantly kept an eye out waiting for the right moment and more importantly the right car.
Of course our love of France and everything French has become more and more of a passion and for years now I have longed to be able to potter around the back roads of Provence in a 2CV. I have looked longingly at the sleeping beauty gently collapsing under a tree in Simiane La Rotonde….
I have had my head turned by the little one that is usually parked by a house opposite the cafe and boulangerie in Saignon…..
And stop to watch whenever I hear the tell-tale sound of one coming towards me or see one beautifully decorated at one of the local festivals or in the Caravan for the Tour de France …..
Over the last few years the dream has shifted from simply owning an old car to wanting our own little 2CV in France, to explore the area, potter to markets and to drive to watch the sunset …..
They are such iconic cars, built to meet a truly unique specification in the late 1930s.
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall of the design meeting where the spec. was outlined that included having to ‘carry 4 people and 50kg of potatoes or a keg, at a maximum speed of 60km/h ‘. The prototype had just 1 headlight and was known as Cyclops (French traffic laws at the time didn’t require 2) , it was expected to be able to cross a ploughed field with a basket of eggs in the boot, without breaking any and because of its basic features was known as ‘four wheels under an umbrella’ – hardly luxury motoring
They may be basic, but they are incredible characters and I know people who have had 2CVs in the past, who still talk fondly and with great passion about their time driving them. My oldest and dearest friend had a bright red one, called Matilda, that she drove around Wiltshire as a Health Visitor in the 1980s. I remember her being devastated when Matilda’s face got crumpled after skidding on ice and again when she was sold when her children arrived.
They just seem to get under people’s skin and really become a friend, part of the family and are loved forever, even when they have gone.
I never imagined for a moment though that this long-held dream would ever become reality, but it appears that this week the stars aligned and a very pretty red one came up for sale. Not only was she very pretty, but she was left-hand drive (so perfect for France) and at nearly 50 years old looked fantastic for her age.
So yesterday we hired a car trailer and started the long drive North to go and take a look at her, hoping with every fibre of our being that she was as good as she appeared to be and it was fair to say it was love at first sight…
and within a couple of hours she was being loaded onto the trailer for the drive back.
What was so lovely was that Robin, the chap we bought her from is passionate about 2 CVs and drives one daily called Wilma. Amazingly Wilma started life in the Vaucluse, bought by a couple who needed a car light enough to cross a rickety old bridge to their house. He still has her original numberplate with the 84 (department) registration, which was just fantastic to see.
It seemed even more apt that we would be taking one back.
The journey back was stressful as we pottered around the motorway below Birmingham in the dark and at rush-hour…
breaking the journey by stopping for the night with our friend who had owned Matilda, reminiscing about their time together.
Then finally back down to Devon, carefully unloading her from the trailer and breathing a sigh of relief that we had made it back with her.
Andy then drove her home, with me following just grinning watching her lean into the corners, seeing people turn to watch her pass and finally realising we had our own little 2CV to love, cherish and become part of our story too.
This afternoon I finally got to drive her, taking her out for a little run along the estuary and she was everything I hoped she would be. Even our 18 year old was in love….
by the time we got back and I can honestly say that not even the Cheshire Cat could have a grin as wide as the one I had on my face ….
So please say hello to Rose, the newest member of our family and one that will be with us on our ongoing adventure in Provence …. I have a feeling she’ll be turning a few heads there too.