28 October 2002
Alternatively, provide yourself with a partner who is prepared to replace your old car before it explodes in Sainsbury's car park, sending oily smoke all over the smug four wheel drives next door. But if you can at least avoid half term, you will have lots of time to choose your new vehicle, and you won't have to bring along any combination of up to three children who will behave dreadfully in the back seat.
Liability was the worst. Apart from tunnelling under the seats and reaching round to tickle me from the side, she lay on her back and sang "The Long and Winding Road" 10 times in a row. Then she got my lipstick out, but I was watching her in the rearview mirror and did a nifty emergency stop just as she was about to write "I love Gareth" on the back window. The car salesman hit his nose on his knees and the lipstick shot out of Liability's hand, missing his right ear by a millimetre and coming to rest just below the brake pedal.
The salesman had stopped making cooing noises about how lovely children were by then and got down to the business of selling me a car. Unfortunately, because I had turned up on a weekday with a child in tow he knew I was a non-working mum (goodness me, they are surprisingly observant) and had dusted off his "what the little lady wants" patter.
"So, your husband thinks it's time you bought a new car, then?" was his opening gambit.
"No, it's a car for me."
"Oh, so you'll do a bit of testing and he'll be doing the financial bit, then?" he said.
Unfortunately, it's difficult to argue with this one when you're not actually bringing in any money, so I settled for an unnecessarily fast right-hand turn, which bashed his head against the window. At this point I noticed that Liability was standing up in the back and flashing her knickers at the cars behind us.
I saw the showroom sign looming up ahead of us again and pointed out that we hadn't got beyond 40mph - car salesmen obviously think women with children in the back don't actually need fourth or fifth gear, because we're so busy holding up the traffic, shouting at the kids and reaching for our lipsticks. I must admit I was doing all three at this point, but nevertheless I like a nippy car, partly because I have found that if you drive fast enough it drowns out what they're saying. Of course, I'll never get the sort of executive car the Lawyer drives, where the engine whispers even at 90mph. Certainly, the kids, with their little chocolatey hands, have never been allowed to caress the leather seats on that.
So, off we went to the dual carriageway, where I was able to get up to a satisfyingly illegal speed, and wondered whether I really need to settle for a boring old Japanese MPV when in my heart I'm a convertible girl.
"My daddy's a lawyer," said Liability from the back, chattily.
"That's nice," said the salesman.
"So he earns more than you, I expect," Liability continued.
"You don't know much about commission, little girl, do you?" he asked, which silenced both of us.
Then Liability was sick on the back seats. Luckily, unlike in Marks & Spencer, this doesn't mean you have to buy the item even though velour is a blighter to scrub - perhaps we might get leather seats after all.