Some wealthy American business types stare from their office windows at a view of Central Park. Others, at the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, can see the whole of the UAE. I know a man whose office is a wooden gazeebo in his garden, and as he works he looks upon the merrie greenwood of olde England.
I look out of the window of my office onto the storage compound of a Volvo dealership.
One day, I’m going to have a Volvo estate. I’ve said this before, and I know it will happen. Not yet, because I’m not ready, and not tomorrow. Probably not for years, to be honest, but it will happen one day. As Saint Augustine of Hippo said, 'Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.' Sometimes I think the inevitability of eventual Volvo ownership means it’s something I should just get out of the way. Otherwise, it’s a bit like pretending I don’t need to go to the dentist.
But all that is for another time. It’s not, in any case, why Volvo ruined my life. To understand that, we need to step back to c.1977.
Just out of shot is a teenage boy being mercilessly drowned at the end of a nylon line.
I liked a girl called Susan (I’ve changed her name in case she’s reading this. Her real name is Sally). Sue lived in a modern house, with a driveway along one side and a garage at the back. It was up this drive I would have to walk as a downy faced new suitor to visit her than whom no fairer was.
Unfortunately, in walking up the drive I had to pass her dad’s parked car, and it was a Volvo 244DL.
Younger readers should know that this car harked from an era when Volvos really weren’t funky in any way whatsoever. The 244 had evolved from the earlier 140-series saloons, which had been designed by one of the directors’ children using a ruler, a pencil and a coin to draw around for the wheels. It was a brutally functional car, from a time when the pragmatism and dourness of the Swedes made the Scots look like the Banana Splits.
The 240-series – available as a saloon, estate or two-door coupe (God knows how that happened) – developed the shape-of-a-Volvo philosophy quite radically, with a slightly sloping radiator grille. There must have been massive and heated meetings about this at Volvo board level, because it’s difficult to see how it was necessary to introduce a rakish and unexpected angle other than 90 degrees to a modern Volvo. They had ruthlessly expunged the wanton curvaceousness of the P1800 and Amazon, and now this. Where would it end? With the V40. Bloody thing hasn’t got a straight line on it anywhere.
Look at the slight body roll. The car is flat out and so will the ducks be, any second.
Anyway. The sort of man who chose to drive a car as square as the 244 was not going to let me anywhere near his daughter. I knew that as soon as I rounded the corner and came face-to-face with its bluff front. It screamed ‘stop!’ And I did.
I mean, he could have chosen a Rover SD1, Peugeot 504, Citroen GS, Ford Granada… any number of cars that were less boxy than the 244. Removal vans were less boxy than the 244, and they were designed to hold boxes. But no. He made a conscious choice to drive a car that said he didn’t care for the frivolous or the unnecessary or even the faintly rounded off. The 244 was the least styled a car could be whilst still allowing the occupants to look out of windows.
So; Susan remained elusive, and I believe I was slightly retarded, sexually, by the Volvo 244. Who knows how differently my life might have turned out if there’d been an Austin Princess on the drive. Even now, if I think about the Volvo 244, I feel the cold clutch of the unrequited on the trembling vestige of my teenage heart. Or something.
But do you know what really bothers me? Years later, when we had gone our separate ways, I learned that Susan’s father had suddenly and unexpectedly run off with a much younger woman. In his Volvo.
Where’s the justice in that?