Nikos watched me back up away from the rocky cliff edge I’d parked beside. His woodworking studio is up in the hills, overlooking the village with an airplane’s view of the sea shimmering into the horizon.
”Is car for sale?” he wondered, his eyebrows raised, head cocked.
I didn’t want to say no, not after he’d given me some oak trim as an apology for overpricing the strips of wood, so I joked: ”You have a good donkey to trade?” We agreed it is a nice car, although, it is, in fact, a shed that happens to be as old as my son. He’s 31 today.
My son’s trusty chariot is a new red Ford Mustang whose doors don’t creak like they need another lashing of WD-40 every time you get out. The Mustang has some cool options my Diahatsu ( say it like you are aggressively sneezing in a marital arts film-Diaaahatsuuu!) never considered adding, including suspension. Smooth roads are the worst, passengers tend to close their eyes tight, at some point, and then they have to peek because they’ve come to beieve you’re trekking into lunar craters when you slowly ease around potholes. Drive over a speed bump and you’d swear on the Blue Book the front axle just snapped.
But– get this baby off the road and into the wilds of western Cyprus and she kicks Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s back bumper! Embarrassed to be seen in my car as we make our way through the village, my friends are suddenly waving like comrades at other cars we meet off-road. We glide over rocky tracks left by tourists on rented quads, taking ravines in stride, we get right up the edge of the Akamas park. The dirt roads leading to Laura Bay are buttery compared with the paved ones beside Coral Bay, where the sands are packed with tourists, expats and Cypriots. The pristine beaches of Laura Bay are dotted with more metal baskets protecting sea turtle nests than visitors, even at the height of summer. It’s a piece of cake to pop over, in my white rusty, trusty shed.
In the village, I’ve just seen the baaad boys, at it again. One kid was posed on top of the battered compact sitting beside the field he was recently born in. Good luck jumping all the way up to the top of my shed, buddy, I thought. The older goats beside him are the legendary baaad boys–the posse of kids that stripped that Russian’s Mercedes of every trace of it’s exterior rubber not once–but thrice! They came down the lane strutting purposefully, only one car on their collective, crazy-eyed radar: His gleaming new black Merc. The windshield wipers and door trim were mere appetizers. Their movable feast was the tires which they gnawed at with a fury that intensified in tandem with his shouted epitaphs and threats. The guy, who was said to be mafia, spent time in his kitchen; for two years he was seen at the window, drinking, growing out a shapeless beard, his eyes fixed on his car. Suddenly, he sold up and disappeared. They never nibbled on anyone else’s autos previously or since. It’s difficult to determine what drives young goat’s tastes in cars.
I could happily be a Land Rover owner, I love their Hibernot campaign. The notion of being able to trek boldly into desolate landscapes where a Mini can’t take you-this is why I own my shed, at a fraction of a Land Rover’s price tag. Obviously, I will be trading old Abbie in for a slightly newer ride at some point up the road; ideally, that would be a Land Rover. I’ve gotten the one thousand euro I paid for her back in the two years she’s been mine. Whatever I do, I will avoid driving a Civilian Retirement Vehicle (CRV), the soul-sapping middle-class British expat’s most common choice of vehicle. Why should anyone want to blend in with the “respectable expats”? No Cypriot asks them if they’d sell their car.
Some people don’t get why I drive a beat up, rusty white, three door shed that pitches and rolls when I go around a corner. I’ve met a couple of English mechanics who told me my car was just a time-bomb, ticking away toward an inevitable moment of roadside failure. Another shook his head, said I’d be ‘reaching into my pocket nonstop to repair it’. That was a year and a half ago, and she’s hummed along fine, ever since. Much to my surprise, Abbi passed a Cypriot MOT, a few months ago. The only other serious criticism I’ve had was from another Nikos who loves his bike. But, he’s a city guy. His complaint was that you only need a seat or two that gets you from one person to the next. He loves his motor scooter with more passion than I have for my shed.
I fully appreciate the attributes of his scooter for jaunts around the city, but my ride was born to be wild. Unlike his scooter, or a donkey, I get to bring people and dogs to the places we can share together.