January 11 1999
10 Forsythia Grove
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT
My Dear Ralph
Sorry to write out of turn pet, but I really must tell you about my recent endeavours on the automobile purchase front! Having (sadly) come to the conclusion that the under-side of the Banger 0.9L was really too corroded to support the weight of any person unluckily situated in the passenger seat, I decided to attempt to fulfil a long-held dream: the purchase of a Citroen Dyane ‘Piebald.’ As you may know dear, these vehicles positively occupied icon status in the 1980’s (and beyond) with production ceasing in 1985. Really, I think I have been pining for one for years because, unluckily, the Service equipped its agents with the Ford Cortina Mk IV (in black) during the period of my directorship. And, although these are undoubtedly equipped with larger windows – giving an enhanced view through them – I was still oozing envy whenever a colourful Dyane whipped past at the lights. And not even my registration plate – SIS1 – mitigated this sensation!
My first test drive of a Dyane took place last week. The Banger 0.9L and I motored over to Bright Litton early one morning and it did not take long before I was ensconced behind the driver’s seat, keys in hand. Unfortunately, the car’s owner was a little busy and waved me off (in a completely unfamiliar part of the city) with the instructions to simply turn right and right. So off I went dear, into what rapidly became conditions of rapidly decreasing visibility . . . And there I was, no lights, and no idea how to turn them on. I did, eventually, work it out and off we went again. At the top of a very steep hill – and feeling a little spooked in the murk – I discerned a public house and decided to turn round in the forecourt. This was a mistake. The forecourt turned out to be minuscule and I could not turn round without engaging reverse gear. Of course, I could not find reverse gear . . . Naturally, pet, it is unlike a former agent to actually panic – but I must admit to a slight outbreak of perspiration at this point. The problem did, eventually, yield to reason – and multiple ways of twiddling with the gear stick – but, nevertheless, I determined to cut short my drive and set off back down the hill. I don’t know whether I had been breathing rather hard but, after a few hundred meters, I realized that the interior of the windscreen was becoming increasingly obscured by fog. Absolutely no idea how to use the electric windows or windscreen wipers of course! I did get back intact but it was certainly a lesson learned: do not set off alone without having the controls explained to you and without a map!
My second experience of test driving a Dyane, took place in the city of Middle Bit – and this time I went by train. On this occasion, it was a dealer who was selling the car and I requested that he escort me on a test drive. We got in and I turned the ignition. Silence . . . We got out again and he suggested that I went into the dealer’s while he ‘power-charged’ the battery. After about ten minutes had elapsed, we set off again. Do you know dear, we only got about half-a-mile down the A909 before the car stalled and would not start again! There we were, in the middle lane of a busy ‘A’ road in an immobile vehicle. I naturally offered to give the young man a hand in pushing it on to the grassy verge, but it was there that things took a downhill turn. As there was only two of us, we both got behind it in order to run it up and over the kerb. I think we may have run a little too hard dear, as the car sailed across the grass and penetrated the crash barrier. It was certainly unfortunate, I must say, that beyond this barrier was a steep grassy bank leading to the river. ‘GLUG’ went the car as it first settled upon the waters and then started to sink beneath them. We were mortified as you can imagine! I don’t know what the young man said to his manager about this, as I’m afraid I slunk back to the railway station – fortifying my nerves on the platform with a little nip of gin from my flask.
However, you will be pleased to hear nephew, that my third attempt to purchase a Citroen Dyane ‘Piebald’ has met with success. And I am now the proud owner of a vehicle with banana-yellow flanks, red doors, and a blue tailgate!
P.S. I will wing you over a photograph at my earliest convenience!