Honk if you pass a plastic replica

17th September 2004 at 01:00
I sold my Reliant Scimitar sports car to a guy who was into classic vehicles and exotic birds. Halfway through the road test, on a bend, his mobile phone rang. He answered it, then turned to announce: "Ma parrot's just laid an egg!" I think his consequent good mood clinched the sale.

I had toyed with the idea of not having anything silly in the garage for a while but soon began to hanker. In any case, my son was showing a real interest in helping me with things mechanical, and not enough was going wrong with the day to day car to keep him satisfied.

A week passed. The parrot man phoned almost daily to tell me my old Scimitar was fine. At first I couldn't work out why he was doing this, then I recalled him telling me how he often purchased birds from old ladies who could no longer cope with them. They expected regular reassurance as to their pets' continued well-being. I was obviously being placed in the same category.

An advert placed on the internet for a robust, fun car drew a couple of responses. One was from a teacher in Carlisle who was into fibreglass replica kit car Jeeps. I had not considered buying a fibreglass replica kit car Jeep, but the simplicity and ease of maintenance won me over.

On the Saturday following the first week of term, I could be seen making my way up the M74 in my roofless, doorless acquisition. Caravans passed me.

First generation Nissan Micras passed me. My wife passed me. The thing was about as aerodynamic as the General Assembly building.

Like the Scottish Parliament (help ma boab, this really is a clumsy radio announcer-type link), my plastic car will undoubtedly cost me more than I anticipated. I pay for the thing by putting aside a small sum per week, probably less than the cost of a modest night in the pub. It runs on the beer I don't drink, you might say.

Now imagine the following scenario: every year since 1707, if every Scot had donated the equivalent at the day's prices of pound;1 per annum into an interest-paying bank account, I reckon we would easily have covered the cost of the new Holyrood building. We might even have had enough left over for a fleet of replica Jeeps to ferry MSPs around the capital.

I haven't included actual figures here because (a) I cannae be ersed and (b) the cost of the thing has probably risen since the beginning of the piece. Now, repeat after me, parrot fashion: "That's a small price to pay for strengthening the hold on our unique education system."

Gregor Steele has taken to wearing a loud, checked shirt when at the wheel of his Jeep. He may soon take up the banjo.

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