Time Out III

Despite the fact that the raison d’être for our presence in the Pyrenees is walking, cars remain a subject of much debate and arrangement. Old cars don’t come in to it; we have a 9 seater Fiat, a 7 seater VW and a Renault Clio – this last being the staff car. The 2 people-carriers transport the walkers up into the mountains each morning and collect them at some pre-arranged point at about 4 in the afternoon. What we don’t have, it emerges, is enough drivers and I’ve been promoted ‘in the field’ to the rank of acting chauffeur.

I’ve embraced my new responsibilities enthusiastically. I’m happy to throw a van about the mountain – it’s actually terrific fun – but with company, I’m considerately restrained. In traffic I’ve yet to pull out on to the wrong side of the road (but that doesn’t mean I won’t) though my record for jumping reds is not unblemished as the sequence over here is slightly different. Generally, I’ve always found the most difficult transition that of adjusting to the ‘right’ side of the road on returning home and it’ll be at least a week before I’m resettled.

Tucked away in the barn at Etxexuria (pronounced ‘etch-a-turia’ and meaning ‘white house’) is the old Renault 4 van which was much loved by us all. We christened it ‘The Bomber’ and bomb along it certainly did. It also lent us an air of authenticity. Not for us the shiny new hire car, we turned up at market in transport that had been through the same wars as any other farm vehicle in the market square. On the subject of Renault 4’s, a red example was the second new car our family owned. I recall that the Renault cost the princely sum of £465 and the Michelin tyres at 40,000 miles still looked good for another 10k when it was sold.

Anyway, despite all the larks in the Pays Basque, the Special is never far from my mind. Today, as I was prepping the veg, I arranged a series of carrots on the bench to see if I could make some progress with the conversion of the action of the column change to that of the proposed floor mounted lever. I could have done with a couple of thin leeks and a bit more time really.

I’ve also been thinking about the instruments and all the paraphernalia in the cockpit. When you build a body from scratch to your own design, there’s license for all sorts of fun, especially in the detail work. New ‘vintage’ instruments, besides being outrageously expensive, always look to me like they’ve come from a Christmas cracker and, having created instrument faces for 1st World War aircraft (and the oil system for a 1905 Darracq- above) in the past, I think I’m going to do my own faces for the Special and that way I can get the look I want – I might introduce a continental flavour, even a Futurist element perhaps. I’m very fond of the Futurist movement and all it produced. A collector friend has a catalogue from an exhibition of Futurist art held in London in the early 90’s and every time I visit, I make for the catalogue; it’s an inspiration.

I made a bit of a living as a painter for a while…….


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