I like to think that this blog has, over the past five years, canoed its merry way across a vast ocean of curious subjects, from the psychedelic properties of pineapple juice to the presence of economic facts in fiction. There is one topic, however, which I cannot claim to have covered in any shape or form. This is motoring.
Why have I never steered my worthy vessel in this particular direction? The reason is, as all good reasons are, rather simple. I know absolutely nothing about it. Show me a car, a lorry or a tram, and all I see is an assemblage of painted metal and plastic: a cramped, angular sculpture in which humans willingly trap themselves for hours on end in bare-faced denial of the existence of legs.
It is probably fair to say that I have more interest in the molecular structure of sparrow faeces, or the mass production of plastic figurines in Southern China, than I do in motoring. To me, this is no bad thing. It does, however, it put me at a grave disadvantage when it comes to conversing with other human beings. Having nothing to say on the subject of motoring is, in many circles, tantamount to lacking the basic language skills. People simply don’t know how to deal with you.
Granted, in literary circles (or any literary shape, for that matter) motoring is not brought up with as much frequency as it is in other walks, or motorways, of life. To say that it is absent as a topic would nevertheless be a lie. Many are the soirees I have attended that have been dominated by talk of turbo engines, fuel consumptions and the relative merits of various global positioning systems. Sometimes I wish I knew what all of these things are; most often I’m glad that I don’t. It is enough to shuffle my feet nervously and request directions to the nearest bathroom, wherein I can whip out a copy of Don Quixote and imagine a world in which gear sticks did not exist.
What is it about motoring that excites people so? Roads have never done much for me. I care not if the A76 meets the M42 just outside Doncaster, or if the driving style of most Americans suggests a repressed suicide drive. Cars, to me, as are stimulating as car-park architecture. We could be chatting about Tosca Calbirro, the Bulgarian Farm Poets, or the latest issue of Gdansk Haunting. So why are we discussing the quickest route from Exeter to Stockport? From exhaust pipes to windscreen wipers, hub-caps to road maps, motoring must be one of the most tedious subjects I have ever encountered. It drives me mad.