The Volkswagen BackSpasm

“All set?”

“You sure you don’t want me to drive?”

No. With a full Scottish – a full English minus beans plus haggis – inside me I want to drive. I have to drive.

Sitting in the passenger seat checking my e-mails as my beloved hurtles along a narrow country lane isn’t what my digestive system needs…

And it’s a long way. Mid-afternoon according to whatever app we’re using to tell us where the speed cameras are…

Or possibly not.

Mid-afternoon may be a touch optimistic.

“There’s something wrong with the car.” We’re 500 yards down the road when I deliver this grim verdict.

“What do you mean there’s something wrong with the car?”

A two second glance is enough. “We’ve got a flat tyre.”

Cast your mind back to the old days. You’ve got a flat. It’s raining. You dive into the nearest shop. ‘Where’s the nearest garage?’ ‘Dunno, mate, I don’t drive.’

Or you search for a phone box. Someone’s stolen the Yellow Pages.

What’s that? Change it myself? My wife values her life. And she knows the limits of my mechanical expertise. Two hundred miles when I’ve changed a wheel and we haven’t got a spare? Nae chance, as the locals would say.

“There are four,” she says, consulting her phone.

“Four? In a town this size?”

We’re in St Andrews. We’ve dropped Alex’s things off in Edinburgh and taken him up to see his girlfriend.

We’ve never been to St Andrews.

The beach, the harbour, the ruined cathedral. And the industrial estate, to complete the sightseeing.

Still, four tyre and battery places. And only a very slow, very careful drive away.

Kwik-Fit’s the first one. “Aye, nae bother. We can do it tomorrow afternoon.”

I wish I’d taken a photo. Beverley’s expression was something to behold.

“I’d prefer not to spend another night in St Andrews,” she said. Or words to that effect.

She wouldn’t have. The second garage could do it. But not until the middle of the afternoon.

“Where’s the next one?”

It didn’t matter. “Nae chance this week, I’m afraid.”

“What’s going on in this town?” I said. “It’s half the size of home, has twice as many tyre places and they’re all booked solid. Home of golf my £$%&. Home of the puncture more like.”

It’s always darkest before the dawn. The Fife Auto Centre rode to the rescue.

The three of us – me, my wife and my indigestion – were finally on the way home.

And as we crossed the Forth Road Bridge we had a depressing conversation.

“I’m going to have to change the car. It’s got to that stage. That’s two visits to a garage in two months.”

“It was a tyre.”

“It’s a sign.”

“I suppose you’re right,” she said. For some obscure reason she was staring at me. “Things do reach an age where everything starts to drop off. Or stops working…”

Was that one of her ‘subtle’ comments? No, definitely not.

“What are you going to get?”

“I might go back to a Golf,” I said. “Maybe a GTI or whatever the boy racer ones are called these days.”

“Er…” she said.


“What about your back?”

And that, gentle reader, is the sad truth. That’s the determining factor in buying a new car. Not performance. Not economy. Not carbon emissions.

How low is it? Can I get into the damn thing without injuring my back?

The story of my life, told in cars.

Battered Mini – slightly less battered Mini – first ‘proper’ car – my beloved original Scirocco – sensible family car – the very sensible Tiguan that carried the kids backwards and forwards to uni…

And now. The final humiliation.

A Volkswagen BackSpasm…

His best friend’s been murdered, his daughter’s in danger

There’s only one answer. Going back to his old life

The one that cost him his wife…

My first novel – Salt in the Wounds – will be published on Tuesday September 29th