A tearful farewell to the Matchmobile

I have a rival for Matchgirl’s affections – powerful, sporty, fun and only ten years old.

This is all the fault of the dozy driver who last month blundered on to the Raigmore Interchange without due care and attention and collided with Matchgirl’s prized blue Mini. She was unhurt apart from a few bruises and shock but her beloved car suffered terminal front-end damage. The crash barrier she hit didn’t look too good either.

Next day she recovered her belongings and bid a tearful farewell to the remains of her ruined roadster, now just another wreck in the frost-covered yard of Chisholm’s Recovery in Inverness. A few days later the Mini was declared beyond economic repair and we officially became a one-car family.

More tears were shed before Matchgirl saw the silver lining: “I can get a red car now,” she exclaimed, full of excitement, and casually tossed the Mini years into the dustbin of history.

Her next couple of evenings were spent browsing the websites of second-hand car dealers in Ross-shire and Inverness, for her budget didn’t quite stretch to a brand-new Ferrari. So many cars; so little choice.

She’d almost resigned herself to something boring and sensible when the click of a mouse revealed the photo of a Ford Puma. Long-forgotten desires erupted. This was the car. This was what she’s always wanted. She could even live with it being silver, not red.

The reality was not so exciting. A trip to Honest Arthur Daley’s Used Car Emporium revealed that the silver machine had a near six-figure mileage, a severe condensation problem and a mysterious odour that couldn’t be masked by the scented tree hung from the rear-view mirror. Wisely, Matchgirl didn’t make an offer.

Undeterred, her search for automotive excellence was spread wider, which was how we came to be in Aberdeen one rain-lashed Sunday, all set to track down a bright red Rav4, Matchgirl’s latest must-have motor. However, first there was another Puma to examine.

The Rav didn’t stand a chance – love at first sight; the search was over. Even though it was blue.

Two days later Matchgirl returned to Aberdeen, pockets stuffed full of cash, and drove home to The Rural Retreat in her new best friend. Behind her she left a broken-hearted ex-owner who’d found that a sports car and a baby are incompatible.

I’d thought that Matchgirl’s internet usage would return to normal now she had the owner’s manual to memorise. I was wrong, for her purchase had made her one of The Puma People.

This, despite how it sounds, isn’t a low-budget Seventies sci-fi television series. Puma People is the website run by enthusiasts of Mr Ford’s small but shapely sportster and features a cornucopia of tips and tricks for owners of a car that, she learned quickly, was noted for its idiosyncrasies.

A reluctance to start unless everything is done in the right order was one; headlights with a squint was another. “It’s a Puma thing” she was told several times by other love-struck owners, unfazed by their car’s foibles. Matchgirl will fit right in with them.

Surprisingly, I fit in too. Into the passenger seat, that is, where there’s plenty of room for my six-foot-six frame, although a limbo dance is required to get through the door. Getting behind the wheel is something I’ve not tried yet, although Matchgirl has added me to her insurance.

If I was to get stuck, and the choice was to cut off the steering wheel or my legs, I’m not certain what she’d decide. Perhaps I’ll stick to my own car.

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