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Grrrrr - The Growler
Reading these columns, I wonder why on earth people seem to get exercised about Volvos.In July while on a 2 week UK visit I rented one, an S40 I think (shows how forgettable it was). I had specifically requested a VW, a brand I have always liked and found reliable, but owing to the Air Chance crew, as is its wont, deciding to prolong its breakfast in that equally forgettable airport at CDG, I arrived an hour late after 23 hours of travel from Asia and in dyspeptic mood. So it was that a pimply person with a football haircut and what appeared to be a nasal disability, clearly unused or unable to interpret the airline arrival times appearing on the terminal screen in his office, or to relate them to my booking, on another computer screen, announced my VW had been given to someone else because I was late. No, I explained carefully but to no purpose, I was not late, the airline was, as he would have discerned from applying what was on his screen to what was on my reservation as to ETA. This transaction was managed with such a total disregard for anything resembling customer service or personal consideration that I wondered, as I always do within minutes of arriving in Britain, whether people actually go to classes to learn how to alienate customers, and that these behaviors are in fact a job requirement in UK following some sort of Euro-ruling by the Ministry of Grey.

Anyway to the dog. The Volvo, I mean. The car was extremely cramped, possessed of a cheap and tacky interior from which a number of things, including the rear seat catch, had already dropped off, had a gearbox with 1st and 3rd so close together it was hard to know which was which, discovered embarrassingly several times, a reverse the attempts to locate which could have been construed as an unwelcome importunate advance by a female front-seat passenger with a good lawyer, a performance that would fail to worry even the most nervous rice pudding, an aircon that wouldn't threaten the tepidest of capuccinos with further temperature loss, and blasted headlamps which were on all the time, obviously annoying everyone coming at me as much as they did me. We were not after all in Sweden or Canada, but in UK summertime, where we have the benefit of daylight. One of these lamps blew half-way through the trip, giving the car a ludicrous one-eyed appearance and inviting all sorts of amused pointing from children in the back seats of cars in front. Nowhere could I find any way of switching it off, bar a tire iron. My daughter (5' 1") continuously complained about the lack of legroom in the back and the bumpy ride. The car was also very low, adding to the feeling of inferiority one suffered just being in the thing. The car had only managed 4,000 miles when I got it, heaven knows what it would have been like with more on it, assuming it managed any. I supposed I should have changed it, but had a very hectic schedule. The Growlette said it was such a tacky car she refused point blank to drive it and anyway she hates driving on the wrong side and why do we have to come to UK etc etc.... But that's another story.

Luckily there was little danger of being blitzed by the Citizen Surveillance Cameras, anyway I always drive on a foreign license in UK.

After 900 miles around UK in this lump it was a great relief to get back to Manila, board the Better Half (by now the Bitter Half)'s Ford Lynx 1.6, zip away from the car park with a tropical spec aircon blasting ice-cold air, room to move one's corpus, plenty of space for the luggage, and to be thankful for being reminded of the American interpretation of what automobile travel should be about. Only a little cheap car but a well-made delight with everything in the right place.

One more thing. I have learned from these columns that the term 'doom blue' has a mystic, almost preternatural connotation with the destiny of the car painted in it, and, presumably by association, that of the driver/owner. (I can never embrace the UK term "keeper": sounds like someone who works at the zoo). This Volvo was what I imagine doom blue to be, undoubtedly the reason, and I know you posters out there will now shout "I told you so!".

When I lived in the Gulf, all my accountancy team used to drive Volvos. In white.

One can but hope Ford will now do something to the Volvo now they have the brand in their collection. Preferably crush it. Or at least put some metal on it and chuck a V-8 in it. My Chinese motor-mower is more fun to drive and looks better. Before someone says "you should have rented a Lada", let me say I was overtaken by at least one.

I find it hard to believe that anyone will now emerge to defend this ghastly car, but I suppose, like Rovers, someone must like them. After all, Rover was always a popular name for a dog.

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