I’ve loved driving ever since I was 17, when I learned behind the wheel of my mum’s navy blue Peugeot estate. She was an exceptionally patient teacher and only shrieked out loud every three or four seconds when I threw us round a corner too quickly. It was alright because we lived in the Scottish borders so there was rarely anyone on the other side. I took my driving test up there too, half an hour of which was spent crawling in second gear behind a flock of sheep. The slow-moving sheep meant we ran out of time to faff about with parallel parking or three-point turns. I passed.
I duly inherited my step-sister’s Fiat Panda – red, this one – and vividly remember the first time I drove myself back to boarding school in it, chugging down the M40 with Kylie Minogue yowling from the cassette player. I could have walked back to school faster but I felt magically free. Suddenly, I could get myself from A to B without the aid of a parent, a bus, a train, a tube blah blah. And I could carry as much as I liked with me, providing it wasn’t too heavy for the asthmatic Panda. PLUS I could sing to myself at the same time. Eminem was another favourite back then, so I’d cruise around in this kidney bean on wheels while rap lyrics about bitches and guns floated through the windows.
The point of all this recapping is that I am the writer of a new car column in Tatler called Toff Gear, launching this month. But it’s not going to be the kind of column that bangs on about torque and horsepower because I don’t absolutely know what a torque is (someone from Torquay?) and I still wonder if horsepower refers to lots of little horses in an engine making all that noise.
Instead, it’s going to be about whether a car has enough cup holders and well-positioned nooks in which to stash bags of chocolate eclairs for long journeys. That sort of high-tech thing. A friend of mine in the car industry recently that the trouble for car reviewers these days is that most modern cars all drive pretty well. They’re smooth. They’re comfortable. They’ve mostly got sexy sat nav systems. So I’m going to take these cars off for weekends away, weddings, dog walks with my mum (there’s *slightly* less shrieking about my driving now) and so on, to see how they work in real life, Tatler-y scenarios. Get the new issue to read the first one. Vroom vroom.