Requiem for an Astra – our attachment to objects

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Even though I spend all this time writing stories, trying to tug on readers’ emotions, I can sometimes get pretty cold where belongings are concerned. It shows in my attitude to books, wanting to get onto the e-reader rather than have full shelves. It used to show in my attitude to cars as well – they were just ways of getting from place to place.

But as my crash this weekend showed, that’s changed.

The Hell of Automobiles
The Hell of Automobiles

The eternal passenger

I never wanted to drive. A mixture of environmental concern and lack of faith in my own coordination kept me from getting behind the wheel. I took the train, got lifts with friends, walked further than most people would.

Then along came my lovely wife. She has shoulder problems that are exacerbated by driving. She gets disturbingly angry at other road users. She was generally someone who should be driving less, yet insisted on going places by car. So, for the sake of her health and my sanity, I learned to drive. I felt a bit crappy about it, and it took me a whole year of lessons to get any good, but a few years ago I finally got my licence.

Now I had a whole new relationship with out car.

What’s in a name?

Once I started driving I started feeling more attached to the car. Laura had never name her, and as a passenger I’d just treated her as a way to get from A to B. But now that I was in control, now we were working together to get around, now I was learning the little quirks of her clutch and the best way to position the seat, I felt that attachment you have to an old childhood teddy bear. That feeling where you know it’s not a person, but it’s not just a thing any more. That meant she needed a name.

I named her Olivia, Oli for short. She was green and she moved quickly, which begged a Green Arrow reference, but Oliver wasn’t right for what I felt in my gut was a girl. So Olivia she was.

We travelled the country together. A long trip to Bristol with the Northerner for a meeting. Repeat journeys over the Pennines to babysit the Princess and Everready. Driving to the supermarket when the weather was too lousy for a long walk.

Oli and I really bonded.

Goodbye faithful steed

Then came last Friday. Driving at seventy in the rain when the car in front braked abruptly. A swerve. A spin. Several seconds of sheer terror as we spiralled across three lanes of motorway and slammed into the barrier.

I was fine, but poor Oli was battered and broken. Even as I coped with the shock I couldn’t help looking sadly at her shattered lights, ruptured wheel and crumpled body. It was no surprise when the call later came to say that she was a right-off, but what was surprising was how sad that made me, all over a car.

It’s the hardest thing to do

So now I’m saying goodbye to my car. To my own shock and amazement, I’m going to miss the metal monster I so long resisted driving. I can’t give her a ship burial Viking-style, or keep her remains in an urn on the mantelpiece, so instead I’m marking the occasion the way I know best – by writing about it.

Who knew I could end up so attached to an object? I guess we all do it. Maybe the characters in our stories should get more attached to things than they do. If you were a heroic warrior who lived and died by the sword wouldn’t you get attached to that blade? If you were a space cowboy wouldn’t you name your guns, like Jane in Firefly?

So long Oli. Thanks for all the journeys, and for saving my life by being so sturdy. I’ll miss you.

And in the usual spirit of ending my blogs, what objects have you got particularly attached to? Or what objects do you think characters in stories should name? Leave a comment, share your thoughts.


Picture by webhamster via Flickr creative commons.