BY MATTHEW CORRIGAN
Yesterday, after far too long a wait, the fading embers of a long-forgotten love affair burst explosively back into flames. I’ve owned my Peugeot 205 GTI since the nineties. When, on that cold winter’s night back in 2007, I left it parked on the drive, I never meant for it to stay there. But stay there it did. For a variety of reasons too long to list, it sat for seven long years. Forlorn, decaying; dying a little more with every day that passed.
Last year a decision was needed: Do I get rid of it, or put it back on the road? The 205 has a great deal of sentimental value to me; there are memories locked up in it. Memories of youth, a fleeting youth that was in as much of a hurry to pass as the little GTI itself. But what value is sentiment? One of the most useless aspects of the human condition, what is it for if not to sear us with an exquisite longing for what once was? And yet… And yet. Are any of us truly alive without some tiny flame of latent nostalgia, a flickering internal pilot light that forever yearns to surge?
It wasn’t too difficult a choice.
I don’t know very much about fixing cars. The mysterious world that lies just south of the bonnet has never been a place for me. So I turned to the forums, asking questions, reading, trying to learn. I found (as if I didn’t know) that the internet is filled with dreamers. There are people with rattly old heaps that can apparently out-accelerate a McLaren F1. Me – I think it’s better to keep quiet if you know nothing. Shut up and listen; BS always gets found out in the end.
Fortunately, however, there are people who do know what they’re talking about. One of them took pity on me. Over the last few months a friendly Facebook forum member has patiently and painstakingly put my car back on the road. It’s no exaggeration to say that he’s saved it from the scrapyard. He has worked miracles, tackled numerous problems with great good humour and been an absolute gentleman throughout. I am immensely grateful.
Time marches on. Today’s hot hatches can post performance figures that would have been junior supercar territory when my Pug rolled off the production line. When I picked it up yesterday I had this in mind and cautioned myself not to expect a sports car.
I’d forgotten. It’s difficult to explain what a 205 GTI can do to someone who has never driven one. The road between Machynlleth and Oswestry is a fifty mile long series of twisting curves. It might as well have been a straight line. Several times I had to pause to let my lift catch up – and I was driving the car gently. It has been years and years and years since I have enjoyed the simple act of driving between points A and B. Yesterday brought it all back home.
Vauxhall, back in the days when they were making Cavaliers, used to run an advertising campaign with the slogan: “Once Driven, Forever Smitten.” Peugeot should have bought every adjacent billboard, stuck up a picture of a 205 GTI and captioned it with two simple syllables: “Yeah. Right.”
*The above was written in April 2015. As I write this, my 205 GTI is in a body shop where the paintwork is being refurbished. By coincidence it will be ready in April, just in time for the summer. I can barely wait.
Matthew Corrigan is a Country Squire Guest Writer and a superb author whose excellent novel OSPREY shines a satirical light on a dodgy politician with a flying wind turbine scam. His books can be found here