FALLING IN LOVE WITH THE AA MAN (AND HOW HE TAUGHT ME TO LOVE MY CAR)
Treat her like a friend, said one of the Sons of Morning
leaping from his useful crammed van
in a landscape flat as soup in a grey dish
twilight the A15 North Lincolnshire,
found nothing wrong with my stalled and silent car
and said that she – not it but she – knew I had plans
to change the car and was upset, understandably.
I should be more careful of the car's feelings
and has she got a name? I didn't like to mention
my plan to call it “Catsmeat Potter Pirbright”
Oh yes, I lied, her name is Daffodil
my first and only yellow car – it matched his coat.
So many of them, so many different places:
the back-end of Wembley when I followed a bus
after a Pet Shop Boys gig and got a flat tyre
which a gentle AA giant changed in twelve minutes;
the M62 at midnight one cold November
with passing headlights flashing and drivers hooting
and that heart-melting yellow, hyperreal in the dark -
how he hoisted my third car Pomegranate
onto the back of his lorry, gave me a Twix bar and coffee
and drove us both east over the mountains to Hull,
the old textile towns glinting below and a sour thin moon.
You must love your car he said and so I always have.
Stolid like Barney McGrew and radiant as Blake's Urizen
the sun should always rise behind them pink as fingers -
those men who showed me how to love my cars,
Daffodil, Terracotta, Pomegranate, Russet and good old Red.
But oh my Rosebud, my Sancho Panza, my little Renault 5
comrade, companion, friend for when the going was good -
leaving the Oxford Road at dawn to breakfast among fountains
dodging the lorries overturned like children's toys on Shap,
together we saw that UFO on a May evening over Rydal
together we crawled round Snake Pass, over Snowdonia.
Dear Rosebud you broke down only outside country pubs
until the day your engine fell out and we coasted down
to what was the end of the road for you, and the AA man
broke it to me in a kindly way. They are all kindly men
especially the one who found my old cat Roger
but that is another story