This week a story from my youth that still makes me chuckle after all these years. At the time I wasn't quite so jocular about it though....
One Friday night in the local pub, me and a few friends were having a couple of beers when in walk these two very attractive girls, Inge and Brigitta.
I knew Inge vaguely as she had been going out with one of my friends, Craig, the last time I saw her.
When she saw me she came across and said 'hi', introduced her friend and announced, very matter of factly, that she was no longer with Craig.
Seeing a window of opportunity open up there and then in front of my very eyes, I offered to buy them both a drink and invited them to join our table. How cool was that? My friends were well impressed I can tell you!
Anyway for some reason, maybe because we were at that age, the talk somehow got round to driving lessons.
I admitted to never having had any lessons and nonchalantly explained that as I lived in London during the week I really didn’t need a car. It was impossibly expensive to run a car up in London and frankly there was nowhere to park it. No, I assured them, driving wasn’t an issue for me.
The fact that a lot of my friends by that time had either passed their test or were well on the way to passing it, and accordingly were pulling the girls left, right and centre, never even entered my head - honestly!
After my rather poor attempt at justifying myself, Inge turned to me and said, again, very matter of factly, ‘I could give you a driving lesson if you like’ at which point my mates were egging me on and reading every possible innuendo into the situation.
‘Go on, let her give you a lesson’ and other very silly and suggestive comments were flying about.
Blushingly, I said ‘Look I’ve had a couple of pints. Maybe another time’. ‘No it will be fine’ said Inge. I just need to drop my friend off at the hospital (her friend, incidentally, was a not only Scandinavian, but a nurse as well would you believe?) ‘And then I will give you the lesson’.
Under so much pressure from my friends and not wanting to appear like a complete and utter wimp, I agreed and left the pub with the Swedish au pair and Danish nurse, the cheers of my friends ringing in my ears. How I wished I’d had a camera, just for posterity.
They must have envied me that night - hell of course they did. After all, how many of them were going to score with a Swedish au pair?
We headed back to Inge’s car.
As Inge opened the car door and pulled the seat back to let me in the back, I was greeted by a huge English sheep dog which proceeded to leap up and start licking my face and barking furiously.
Rather than say ‘What on earth is that dog doing there’ and in the process blowing my chances with Inge completely, I politely asked, as this giant dog now began to cover me with fur, how it came to be there.
It turned out the dog belonged to the family she was working for and, because they were out, she thought it would be a good idea to bring him along! Personally I wasn’t so sure.
Yes, it made sense that her friend should sit in the front as she was getting out first, but if this carried on much longer I was in serious danger of looking like a giant fur ball and smelling strongly of dog by the time I got Inge back to my place.
In between dog licks and barks, my mind was beginning to work overtime.
I was starting to think to myself, as all young men in my position would, ‘hang on a minute, you are on to a real winner here. If you can get her to drop her friend off at the hospital, convince her that you don’t want the driving lesson and get her to take you back to your place, you are home and dry. Well, mildly wet from dog spittle. The dog was happy enough sat in the car whilst she was in the pub so it can stay in there whilst she comes into your house, which very conveniently just happens to be empty apart from you because everyone is away on holiday, remember? You can quickly nip to the bathroom, wash your face, splash on a bit of ‘Shag for men’ and you’re away’.
‘Oh joy! Unbridled lust continental style, and with a Swedish au pair to boot. Just wait until your mates here about this one!
I concluded to myself that the 'lady CV' was not only going to get qualifications on it, it was getting an honours degree from the University of Stockholm!
Phase one accomplished, we waved our fond farewells to her friend, dropping her off in the hospital car park ‘Take care. Lovely to meet you. Goodnight. See you soon. Yup, you too’. Look, just go will you’ is running through my head as the anticipation of what is to come gets nearer to being a full blown reality.
On any other occasion I would have happily have spent an eternity saying goodbye to her friend who was, in all honesty, a very attractive young lady. But this particular night I was on a mission. It was my destiny - and you really shouldn’t get in the way of destiny, even if you are an extremely attractive Danish nurse.
Phase two didn’t go so well.
Despite my protestations that I really shouldn't drive, Inge insisted that it would be OK. ‘We will just drive round this car park first and then, if you are doing good, you can drive back to your house, OK’?
It was a tough call I have to admit. I could have flatly refused. I could have feigned a heart attack or shrapnel wound in a sort of Basil Fawlty style, but no, Inge was quite insistent that I should drive. A quick glance round the deserted car park made up my mind for me. What could possibly go wrong?
I finally managed to wrestle the dog away from my face and climbed out of the fur-infested back seat and straight into the drivers. Inge then ran through the basic gist of what I was to do. Start the ignition, depress the clutch, put it into first gear, release the handbrake, slight revs, off you go.
It all sounded so easy.
By now my mind was working overtime thinking ‘Look, you’re not drunk, you’ve had a couple of pints, that’s all. Do the driving bit, get her back to yours and you are going to be the happiest bunny in the whole of bunnyland’.
There was one slight problem though.
As I started the ignition, depressed the clutch, engaged first gear, released the handbrake and gave it ‘slight revs’, I put my foot on the accelerator a bit too hard and the car shot straight into a wall whilst Inge screaming the words ‘brakes, brakes’ echoed in my ears.
Thankfully I had driven into the ward where they treat burns victims.
I say thankfully because if it had been a cardiac unit I daresay the bang that echoed around the car park and into the surrounding countryside would have wiped out most of the patients.
Let’s keep things in perspective here. At least I didn’t have mass murder on my hands – but I guessed that my chances of a shag had just diminished rapidly in those fateful few seconds.
Not for the first time in my life, panic and despair set in. We quickly swopped places. Add one barking sheepdog into the equation and you can imagine how I felt when the bursar came out to find out what was going on.
I didn’t actually look at his face. I was too ashamed to look anywhere, so I just listened to their conversation.
‘Is everything OK? What happened’? he enquired. ‘Oh I am so sorry. I just skidded on a patch of ice and lost control of the car for a second’ said Inge in her friendliest Swedish accent. ‘Oh that’s quite alright’ he replied, adding ‘You need to be careful in this cold weather you know’. A laugh and a wave later and he was gone!
Isn’t it amazing what a bit of feminine charm can do?
I mean, imagine if the roles had been reversed and I had been at the wheel. The police would have been called and I would have spent a night in the cells, no doubt accidentally banging my head on the wall on the way down. ‘Mind those steps, they are very slippery sir’.
I suppose I should have been thankful that I wasn’t caught sitting in the drivers seat, but instead I was cursing my bad luck and desperately wishing that the dog would shut up when it dawned on me that I had better do the gentlemanly thing and get out and assess the damage I had caused. Maybe I could retrieve the situation yet!
Not a chance.
In my very short career at the wheel, I had managed to crush the drivers side wheel arch down onto the tyre so that when Inge tried to pull away it made a high pitched howling noise that could be heard for miles around. The dog sounded positively like a diva by comparison.
Quite how it was possible to inflict so much damage on a vehicle in what could have been, at most, a ten yard run up, I have no idea. The body of the car must have been made of recycled drinks cans or something!
I soon found out that it wasn’t though when I tried a bit of the ‘he man’ thing (I never was much good at being one to be honest). I managed to move the arch ever so slightly so that, as we drove off, the noise was now only marginally worse than the sound of chalk scraping down a blackboard being amplified through a set of speakers and played back in an empty Albert Hall.
Suffice to say, the journey back to my house was spent mostly in embarrassed silence - only broken by me apologising profusely and wishing I could just die or simply disappear.
Inge was very good about it I must admit, but I didn’t have the guts to pipe up with that classic line ‘I suppose a shag is out of the question’.
I saw Inge a couple of weeks later. Apparently for all my worrying, and visions of her ‘boss’ coming round to my house and shoving a car jack up my arse or hospitalising me with a wheel brace, they were fine, only being concerned about her and the dog’s welfare.
The car was sent down to the local garage, had the panel beaten out and that was the end of the matter as far as they were concerned.
The damage to my ego took slightly longer to repair.
The last time I met Inge was in a night club in East Grinstead, shortly before she went home to Sweden.
As I sat at the end of the night as usual watching couples slow dancing together and wishing it was me someone was clinging to, Inge put her head on my shoulder and told me that if she hadn’t been going home maybe things could have developed between us.
The story of my life.
We laughed about the car incident, I gave her a quick peck on the cheek and we said our goodbyes - forever.