Sunday, 16 December 2012

Christopher and me

We're zipping through the 21st century at a rapid rate of knots, aren't we? And although I'm very disappointed that the hover boots I assumed would be in shops by now haven't yet materialised, the human race reaches new heights of development with every passing year.

They've got bacon-flavoured mayonnaise in America, you know. Truly we're reaching a pinnacle as a species.

But at the same time as we've become very clever at lots of stuff, we've shed some of the old ways. We're not imbued by a sense of tradition. Sentimentality appears to be a thing of the past. And with that thought, I'd like you to study this picture.

This is one of the oldest things I own. It's a St Christopher medallion, designed to be stuck to the dashboard of a car. It has a magnet on the back, long since augmented by a blob of Blu-Tack, added when car manufacturers stopped making cars with metal dashboards.

My dad gave it to me in 1989 when I started driving. It had previously graced the dashboard of his cars, from the Morris Minor he got in the sixties when he passed his test, the bizarre Soviet-built Moskvitch he had in the following decade and the Datsuns he drove when helming something with the dynamic characteristics of a WW2 tank around the streets of Birmingham lost its charm.

I suppose the idea of having the patron saint of travellers hitching a ride with you was that you could be protected a little. For all I know, my grandfather may have passed it to Dad, which means it's been around for a while.

Dad was still driving when 19-year-old me came home with my first car, a 1974 Mini 1000. He took one look at this car, bought for £250 from the local auction. He regarded the bodywork, gently blistering away under the black paintwork. He noticed the lack of bumpers, the wheels on spacers, the odd noise it made going over bumps. He gave the St Christopher medallion to me, probably realising that my need was greater than his.

Of course, St Chris wasn't going to provide me with an impenetrable safety bubble. There was the time I lost a wheel from that Mini, becoming an impromptu tricyclist on the M6 motorway during an Easter bank holiday. Then there was the day I parked the newly-repaired Mini in the side of someone else's Ford Cortina. A retro road traffic accident, if you will.

But St Christopher came with me, from car to car. There was the Escort that was essentially a moving collection of Ford parts held together by rust. The Renault that financially ruined me. The MG BGT with exhaust pipes the width of howitzers, so I could be heard across several time zones. (When I sold that car, I could hear the clinking of champagne glasses coming from our neighbours' houses.)

There was The Incident We're Still Not Talking About. No-one said St Christopher was going to prevent accidents. But as before, I was still in one piece, able to get out of the car afterwards. Taking my lucky medallion with me, of course.

The other week I took delivery of a brand new car. It's so far removed from the crates I used to tool around in that someone visiting from another planet would be hard-pushed to recognise them as being broadly the same type of object. It's a lovely car, shiny, comfortable and (hover boots aside) crammed with an almost obscene amount of gadgets and doohickeys. The instruction manual makes War and Peace look like a pamphlet.

But there was one thing I added - the St Christopher medallion from Dad. After all, we might be all grown up and developed. But a little bit of tradition does no-one any harm, does it?


Patricia Lynne said...

One of my close friend's mom had a St. Christopher figurine in her car. The time it got taken out, she was in a minor accident. I don't know if they still have it, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Birmginham Recycling said...

I still wear my St Christopher, even though I've left Christianity behind. It's been with me for 25 years now and I'm still proud of it.

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