14th January 2000 at 00:00
In the second part of our new series, Dr Peter Marsh, co-director of the social issues research centre in Oxford and author of Driving Passions - The Psychology of the Car, analyses the modes of transport found in school car parks "This is an interesting one because it's a convertible but it's also a very solid, almost tank-like Scandinavian car. It's a contradiction - there's the solidity of the car itself and the fragility of being exposed to the elements. It's giving off mixed messages. It's about reliability and responsibility, but that's tempered by the fact that it's a soft-top which evokes carefree images of the freedom of the road, wind in the hair.

"I would guess this is a woman's car - convertibles are more often chosen by women than by men. Having a convertible is to do with the business of people seeing you. It's almost a kind of physical expression or body adornment which women go in for more than men.

"I suppose it would be typical for a teacher to drive this kind of car. They like to be seen but they are also trying to express some individuality.

"The dark blue colour shows ambition. Perhaps this is someone who is a high achiever or has a need to achieve. There's a lot of research to show that in times of economic difficulty, colours of clothes and particularly cars go into more sombretones. When you have economic expansion people feel less need to achieve and they goin for brighter colours. Quite a lot of sports cars are actually white, which adds to the vanity thing of 'Don't look at my cr, look at me'. So the fact that it is dark is another contradiction.

"It's also turbo-charged. So it has got a racy image coupled with a rather toned-down sense of responsibility - it's a bit like wearing a formal suit but without a tie. Maybe this is someone who would like to express themselves more but is constrained by their image.

"I would say the woman who drives this is probably not married. Usually, people who drive convertibles are single. I would say she is in her late 30s or 40s. I would guess she is an English or humanities teacher of some kind."

The car belongs to Jane Iffla, headteacher of Redhillscombined school in Exeter "Some of it is quite true. I actually bought the car after my husband died to cheer myself up. I used to drive Ford Fiestas, and a friend said 'Why don't you buy yourself a decent car and have some fun?' "It changed my life. I used to go off in the car with the roof down and have a wonderful time. I used to get chatted up a lot when I was driving it. That's not how I met my second husband, but I turned up for our first date in it and I think he was very taken with it.

"I am regarded by my family as the reliable one, but I do like being carefree and a bit irresponsible - in my youth I was definitely on the irresponsible side. He's not far off with the subject either - I used to be a music teacher."

Harvey McGavin

Wonder what your chosen mode of transport says about you? E-mail your details - or a fellow staff member's - to harvey.mcgavin@tes.co.uk

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