Bienvenu à Sapphy

For me the decision to buy the barns at Mireval d'en bas involved more than the undertaking of a large restoration project. It was immediately obvious that the location meant that I would have to drive again. I should explain to any of you reading this who do not know me well, that I have not driven a car for over 25 years. In fact I have only ever owned and driven one car: an automatic mini (a 900 if I remember correctly, and a rather disgusting mustard colour). My reasons for not driving are many and varied and over the course of years I have quite convinced myself that it is for the greater good of other road users that I never get behind the wheel of a car again. In many ways taking the decision to drive again was harder than the one to buy a dilapadated hotch-potch of agricultural buildings. In truth, I am quite terrified by the very idea.

I informed Jeff that I intend to drive again and want a car of my own. Driving the 300ft long Saab is not an option for me. My requirements are quite specific:

  1. it should have a wheel at each corner so there are no protruding bits for me to hit other cars / people / stationary objects / buildings / animals etc.

  2. it should be cheap so that if I can't drive safely or am just too petrified we can just sell it

  3. it should be old, scruffy and preferably pre-dented to save me the trouble of denting it myself

  4. it should be a hatch back

  5. it should be a nice colour

Jeff immediately started trawling the internet for a suitable car and much huffing and puffing later announced that he could not find anything that matched my requirements. Used cars are expensive in France and it wasn't practical to bring one from the UK. Every car that he suggested to me was unsuitable for one reason or another. I did consider the convertible Renault Megane he liked, but I must confess this was purely because the bodywork was a lovely red colour and it had a red hood. It was not right for me because it was over 300km away, too expensive, and, oh yes... far to large. So we decided on the double pronged strategy of asking around and looking in local garages.

We didn't actually go into many garages because we found almost immediately that the voitures d'occasion on sale were over-priced and usually had a terrifyingly high mileage. Although to be fair they did almost invariably meet requirement number 3 on my list – they usually sported an impressive range of scratches and dents. So the only remaining strategy was to ask the few people we know. This did yield the offer to purchase a very dented old Astra whose bonnet was so miss-shaped it was a wonder it stayed closed. As the asking price was 1,500 Euros Jeff was scandalised and forbade me to even consider this car telling me it wouldn't even be worth £500 in the UK.

We must be able to do better than this” he told me.

That suited me fine because an Astra does not meet requirement number 1, does it???

Then we got lucky. A kind friend took us to meet a garage owner who should be able to find something for me. The garage owner listened to my requirements, pursed his lips and told me that I wanted the same car that everybody else wants. Only he phrased this as “small, economical and costs about 3000 Euros”. Happily, he was expecting a part-exchange car in a few days and, although there were 2 others interested already, if I came along on Saturday I could take a look and have first refusal. Jeff was characteristically cautious, telling me that we don't know enough about the car. This was not true. I knew it was a 3 door Citroen C2 with 176,000 km on the clock and that it was blue. What more is there to know?

We drove to the garage on Saturday and … no car. It will be arriving on Wednesday afternoon, the garage owner told me (or my breasts to be exact). We duly returned on Wednesday afternoon and … no car. It's on the way, the garage owner told my breasts. So we waited. And waited. I asked him if we should come back. He told me it would be here in 10 minutes. 30 minutes later a beautiful sapphire blue car bounced down the unmade road to the garage and the previous owner handed the keys to Jeff so that he could have a test drive. I couldn't get in the car with him because the passenger seat was littered with soft toys and the rather compact back seats were stuffed with handbags, ladies clothing and outdoor paraphernalia. Jeff returned to deliver his assessment. Drives nicely, mileage is a bit high and its far too expensive was his verdict.

I'll take her”, I told the garage owner.

It was a “coup de foudre” (love at first sight) for me. Sapphire blue “Sapphy” the C2. Yes, I did park her and no she is not touching that lamppost, it just looks that way in the picture.