15 October 2010

Oh The Young

My beloved Talksport radio programme has disappeared from my iPhone and so I’ve had to do with Radio 5 Live and Radio 4, as well as the feed from the San Diego police department which is a bit of a hoot when you hear what the police have to deal with over there – guys running about the streets naked, mad dogs biting everybody in sight including the police, errant husbands, and the usual drunks.

But generally, until I get Talksport fixed, I’ve been listening to the BBC radio and quite instructive it has been too. On Sunday when I was mowing the high terraces I was listening to an interview with the Secretary General of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, an Indian who has spent his life working in aid organisations. 

He’s only been in the post since July but the interviewer, Kate Silverton, more usually seen on BBC TV news programmes asked him some searching questions, one of which was, ‘if you have someone in custody who had details of a plane bombing and your children were on that plane, would you resort to torture (one of Amnesty International’s big campaigning issues) to get the information needed to keep the plane, and hence your family safe?’  The answer was a bit vague but I think he said he wouldn’t advocate torture, even in those circumstances. Fascinating.

And then there was an item on car insurance for young drivers and how the premiums faced by kids who have just passed their driving test is becoming prohibitive. One young driver on the programme who was complaining about his £2,800 annual premium for his 2 litre car, shot himself firmly in the foot when he was asked if he would ‘downsize’ his car to get cheaper insurance. ‘No’, he said. ‘I like my fast car and even if I did downsize, I wouldn’t drive any slower.’ Talk about being an idiot!

This led me to think about when I used my dad’s car. It was a gleaming white Hillman Super Minx Estate with all the bells and whistles on (not the one in the picture). It was his pride and joy. I would spend hours every weekend with him, cleaning, polishing and servicing it.

He even let me drive it unaccompanied before I passed my test, albeit ‘only’ up to the shops to get him some cigarettes but very occasionally he’d let me use it to go to school where the parking was inside the school gates beside the teachers’ cars. Maybe this is why I felt persecuted by them – ‘my car’ was gleaming – theirs were battered old wrecks!

But not long after I passed my test I started driving like the usual 18 year old lunatics mentioned in the radio programme. I crashed the Hillman a couple of times and we had to scrape the money together to get it fixed.
And then one night I’ll never forget – I had a date. I wanted to use the car but there was a problem with the clutch and the weather was foul. My dad did everything to dissuade me from using the car but I was young, foolish and wouldn’t listen. Inevitably, the evening did not go well.

Driving down a steep hill heading into Largs I couldn’t see because of the fog, got too close to the side of the road and the car flipped over and rolled down the hill, turning over several times. Neither me nor my date (that was the first and last time I saw her !) were hurt, the police came, the car was totalled and I had to get home at 2am with my tail between my legs.

To say my father was upset was an understatement. His pride and joy was later dragged into a scrap yard, the insurance which was only 3rd party didn’t help and that was that. I wasn’t able to help him buy another car and he struggled he get another set of wheels which he eventually did.

So when the young drivers came onto the radio all saying they were paying  high insurance premiums because of the ‘wild few’, I felt pangs of conscience. My recklessness with my father’s car didn’t cost the insurance companies anything but it could have done and all because I was young, stupid and wouldn’t listen.

Guy – take heed.  

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