He wouldn't allow us in the cabin with him so we had to sit in the 2CV, Photo from Cars I have seen.
Christmas 1990 we were visiting Tere's sister who was completing her doctorate at the Complutense. She had a shared flat in Cuatro Caminos. We were out and about a lot in the bars sampling tapas and chatting. For me it was coming home. I had lived in Madrid for several years here in the '80s. for Tere it was all about catching up with her younger sister.
Next stop was Golfe Juan. We would drive Rocio's Green Deux Chevaux, Pancho, to see Granny Lisa.
We started out gaily, chatting about Rocio and discussing our plans. What should we do in the Cote D'Azure? What would Granny enjoy? Soon we were on the outskirts of Madrid and I just about had the measure of the car. The signs on the four lane highway pointed to Barajas and Barcelona and there was nothing that could go wrong. Except that Tere was back-seat driving and I was a little jumpy and, those are my excuses, that's why I took the wrong turn off and we ended up in a slip road separated from the superhighway by what must have been the only little patch of green for many kilometres.
"Don't do it." Said Tere.
But, I did. I pointed the Deax Chevaux at the highway and rushed at it hoping to cross the little wet patch. And we got stuck in grass and mud; wheels spinning and churning.
I got out. Tere restarted the car and I pushed. Nothing doing. A thousand cars went by, a thousand faces pressed up at their windows looking at us at us and wondering how, in a sea of tarmac, we had managed to find some mud to get stuck in.
I pushed, slid in the mud and fell repeatedly, wearing my new trousers, and Tere burst into tears when she saw them. But after 30 minutes a man in a 4X4 with a hitch drove past. Thought about it. Drove back again, and offered to help. We thanked him, but later agreed that the only reason why he stopped was to play with his 4X4.
Soon the little wet wheels of the 2CV were on the dry tarmac ready to go. And we set off again - in silence, nerves settling. Gradually we started to chat again and things between us went back to normal. But petrol was running low. We pulled into the petrol station next to the only pump that didn't have a queue next to it, how lucky, and filled up.
Two kilometres after the gas station the car came to a halt. And of course we realised that I had filled the up with diesel. What could we do? Well. In the middle of nowhere. After our second row. I walked to a telephone and called a garage. I did. And in my bad French I asked for help.
An hour later, and the recriminations were over. We were still not talking; sitting in the car in a bruised silence when a truck pulled up. He looked at both of us, at our crest-fallen faces and decided that he didn't want two such miserable people in his cab with him.
"You stay in the car," he said.
I thought, "The French are bastards, and I will never forgive them."
That anger should have been directed at myself. I drove the little 2CV onto of the trailer and we sat in it as it rocked and swayed as the truck rounded the curves of the motorway feeling ridiculous.
It took them two hours to clean out the diesel and they charged us what they felt like charging us, which meant that we had no money for a hotel that night. It was late by now. We weren't even in Barcelona and had to cross the border and drive all the way to Golfe Juan. It was getting dark and cold. Very cold indeed. And there was no heater and it started to rain hard.
Never mind, we carried on.
Until one of the windscreen wipers broke. We couldn't stop. We were outside Barcelona, and our budget didn't stretch to a night in the hotel so we would have to, somehow, carry on. She opened the window and in the freezing temperatures Tere stuck out her hand and the wind blew around violently in the car and the rain came through the window as Tere moved the wiper manually. The rain lasted for about another hour until finally, poor Tere was able to rest and we could close the window. But it was still very cold.
Late at night the roads of the Cote D'Azure were almost empty. They began to look more and more familiar and by 3am we were in Golfe. Granny woke up and took us in and we tried to block out the whole trauma, but how were we going to replace the essui glasse?
The next day, on the 24th of December, we went into Nice to look for a replacement windscreen wiper with almost no hope of finding one before all the shops closed down for Christmas. After four painful hours of searching we found a big centre where they broke up cars for spare parts - just about to close for the holidays. We found our essuie glasse and when it rained on the way back, after a wonderful holiday with granny, Tere didn't have to lean out of the window.
We pulled back into Madrid a week later and headed towards Cuatro Caminos and we were back. Fumbling behind the wheel to pull out the key I found a red button. What was it? It was the heater. But I didn't tell Tere. I think, had I told her, she would have ripped out the precious essuie glasse and clocked me with it.