In which Madness really underplayed the whole situation



Many people seemed concerned, during the past few weeks, about the logistics of my flat move.

“Are you hiring a van?” they’d ask. “We would, except neither of us can actually drive,” I’d cheerily respond. This is one of our special joint failings, one of which we’re weirdly proud, although  less so whenever we go on holiday and have to spend three hours on a bus with a cohort of elderly Spanish women in pastel shellsuits.

He didn’t learn because he grew up in a city and had no need for it, I didn’t  because at 17 I’d rather have spent all the money in the world buying ratty things off eBay than on letting a stern adult confirm for me at weekly intervals what I have known all along – that I would be a terrible, terrible driver. I watched friends pass their tests in quick succession, marvelled at the skill of it all, then generously let them drive me about. Even now we’re all 25, I still have a moment of going, “This is so ruddy grown-up. Look! You’re doing the levers and everything!” each time I’m in a passenger seat.

“So you’re hiring a man with a van?” they’d say, twitching a bit. “Men with ven?” “Mmm yah, we thought of that,” I lie. “But in the end it seemed easier if my parents just came up to help.” Then they would look at me with that special look, the one usually reserved for people who send Christmas cards signed from their cat. By ‘easier’, they realise I mean cheaper, and nicer, and

And easier it was, for us. Not so much for the Bravo family car, which started getting a bit weebly after the second load of absolutely crucial objet d’arts (“What’s that?” “It’s a reproduction Roman battle helmet.” “Why do you have one?” “Why WOULDN’T I have one?”).

Then a little more weebly, then at the point where a human might be summoning old lovers to their bedside and divvying up the family heirlooms, and then after one final, valiant crawl from Old Flat to New Flat with a bootload of stuff, it died. I’d like to think it arrived in Ford Mondeo heaven to a hero’s welcome, having its bumpers massaged while the vehicular St Peter tells it “You did good, girl. You did good.”

But all praise must really go to my parents, grand masters in the stoical handling of truly rubbish situations. As I watched them being winched on the back of a flat bed truck at 11pm to be relayed back from London to Worthing, I realised two things: 1) driving really is a whole lot of hassle. And 2) next time, we might just get a man with a van. Or a woman with a van. Anybody unrelated to me.