Sunday 8 October 2006

it's not quite a jaguar...

One of the most important things I have learnt as a man is that if you are with a bunch of guys that you barely know and it looks like you might be about to reach an uncomfortable silence, you can always talk about football. Always. It doesn't matter how much the person you are with despises the stupid bloody game, you can always just talk about that. It's absolutely foolproof. I once went to a work function where I was forced to sit on top table with a member of the executive. Before the dinner started, I was given a little CV of his career and the things he was interested in - this guy listed "orchids" as one of his interests. This looked like it was going to be a long and tedious dinner until I found out that although this guy professed no interest in any sports at all, he had supported Liverpool as a child. That's all I needed, and the poor guy probably didn't know what hit him.

Sport has always worked well for me when I need an emergency pub conversation ice-breaker, but I've noticed that other people have different conversational defaults - the most popular being music and cars. Obviously I have no problem with music and can talk about that until the cows come home, even if I'm telling you that your ears must have been painted on. Cars I find a lot more difficult. The thing is that I've never really been all that interested in cars. If you ask me what my dream car is (and this is a popular opening gambit), I will always reply that I don't dream about cars.

I have owned a few cars in my life, but none of them have been remotely flash: a vomit-coloured Ford Fiesta with a broken fan, a white Fiat Panda 4x4, a Suzuki Swift, a Ford Focus. All very drab, practical and un-exciting. All perfectly good at carrying me from A to B with a minimum of fuss, and that's basically all I've ever required of them. I never had a poster of a Ferrari on my wall as a child and I don't aspire to an Audi TT, a Mercedes SLK or a McClaren F1.

I suppose that's a conversation in its own right, but it does rather cut the other guy down in his conversational prime as he prepared to tell me all about how many BHP his passion wagon has or how beautifully it glides from 0-60 in 12 parsecs.....

Having said that, if I ever get that promotion at work, I'm thinking about buying a new car. I've been more than happy with my Focus, and I was thinking about drifting down the path of least imagination and just getting another one, but I don't really like the new ones and I was thinking about getting something different. I'm not really sure what, but for some reason I've started thinking about getting a mini.

If I was to get one of these it would be in British Racing Green with 2 white stripes on the bonnet...., not Meg and Jack.

I've driven one before and I fit in it fine, but part of me thinks this is a completely ridiculous car for a man of six foot five inches to be driving.

What do you think?

And yes, I do realise this is starting that emergency pub conversation. If you'd prefer to talk about football instead, just let me know.


  1. The first thing I thought of when I saw the Mini was 'how would you fit in it?'

    If you've tried before and fit fine, then cool, but I'm sure you may get a few raised eyebrows when you tell people that's what you drive as I'm sure they jump on the old height poser too.

    Oh and it's also a girls car.... how about a Smart Car?!

  2. that's kind of what I was driving at actually Adem - it's the archetypal "small" car (although it's deceptively big), and it's also possibly a "girl's car", although I'm not really clear what that means, and I think I'm confident enough in my own masculinity not to give a shit about that.

    On the other hand, I don't want to look ridiculous in it (I looked huge in that Fiat Panda), and I don't especially want to spend my whole time dealing with people's pre-conceptions (although if I really like the car, then I can deal with that because that's not my problem)

    Why is the Megane a girl's car, but it's OK for a man to drive a stupid little car like the MX5? (which is apparently the most popular sports car in the UK)

    Maybe I should just get another Focus. I'm not sure I could cope with starting all these conversations about the car I drive. No one mentions it now because my car just isn't all that interesting.

    Oh God. We really have started a car conversation now, haven't we?


  3. I am completely useless at cars. And football for that matter. Thank god I can do music. Generally the most I can say is "It was red" or similar.

  4. Yes, there are three default convo's: sports, cars, or music.

    I'd be lost on talking football with you, as you with me, since we wouldn't even be speaking of the same sport.

    cars is an interest for me. Considering your size, my jaw dropped when I read a mini. In the same terms, the older focus I liked, while the newer ones I don't care for, although you have a different version than the US version. The UK version is based off of the same platform as the Mazda 3 and the Volvo S40, while the US version is still on the old platform... and no where near as attractive as it once was.

    speaking of the Mazda 3 (its what I currently drive) its a fun car... only I'm not sure if it's offered in the UK. So... that makes me halfway lost with cars on you.

    Stupid international borders...

  5. ..when we had a mini, I couldn't even sit comfortably in it, and I am least 7 inches shorter than you. There certainly wasn't enough room to drive in it : it was like a car from the 1400's, when everyone was a foot smaller.

  6. seriously - there's more room in this car for a driver of my size than there is in much bigger cars like the new VW Beetle (which I think is appallingly designed inside). I wouldn't be able to have anyone sitting behind me, it's true, but there's plenty of legroom and plenty of headroom - more headroom, in fact, than I currently have on my Focus.

    I think the new mini is something like 50% bigger than the old one in terms of volume.

    If I test drive one again, I'll ask C. to take a photo so you can see what I look like sat in one (I've got one on my phone, but it's terrible quality).


  7. That's a good idea - I was just thinking as I was reading the comments that I'd have to know what you looked like in one to see if it was ridiculous or not.

    I'm not sure if it's the same specifications, but the Minis over here are actually one of the larger small cars, and are also considered to be a bit of a luxury vehicle because of the price and the extras (compared with your tiny wee japanese models).

    I don't know much about cars, but I can happily participate in a car conversation as I not only know the phrase "limited slip diff" but I actually know what it does. :)

    Ahh, the benefits of a car mad family.

  8. Umm...

    I don't drive. I don't listen to music (much). I don't follow football.



  9. You missed several default convo's off your list.

    *holidays / christmas
    *men! or women! depending on company and context.

    Re. cars - I love minis, and if it suits you, fine. I am learning to drive in a Corsa, which is actually an ace little car and I wouldn't mind one myself. W/P has a VW and that's pretty reliable.

    There, now we have exhausted everything I know about cars other than the phrase 'sounds like the big end's gone' which is useful to wheel out in the event of the car making a funny noise.

  10. CLearly I'm biased - but get a flippin' MINI!
    If you can wait long enough, you're welcome to drive mine around for a day or so to see how it works for you - when I get back.

    ps - stick with talking about music - it's far and away the more interesting of your choice of topics

  11. How about a VW Beetle? They've got tonnes of character, but a bit more suitable for tall chaps than minis.

    I'm crap at cars, too. I feel exactly the same way about the subject as you do ST. Just zero interest and zero knowledge. I can't even drive.

    Music - yeah, that's cool. But sport - nope. I don't hate football; I'm indifferent to it - completely. If you tried to break the ice with me by mentioning it, you'd just get a shrug and a 'dunno, don't care' type thing.

    Films is often a good one. Everyone watches films from time to time, and you can always find out one that both of you have watched and liked.

  12. AMDG beat me to it.

    The VW New Beetle has tons of headroom. For that matter, it's got tons of room in general. Depending on which engine you get, they get very decent mileage (or is it kilometerage over there?).

  13. C. had a beetle a few years ago and I hated it. I thought it was appallingly designed inside and a nightmare for someone my size - just really, really uncomfortable. She's now got a golf, which is great, and made me realise how VW should have designed the interior of the beetle.

    The mini is bigger on the inside for a driver my size than the Beetle.


  14. I worked at a car dealership for 2 years...I was the receptionist and sat in a raised tower on the sales floor. It seems only natural, then, that a customer might assume that I could pick out a particular model of the line we sold....but no! No idea, and really no great interest. But I was a great receptionist.

    I've owned 2 cars - a 1989 Honda Civic and a 1999 Honda. Good cars, but not flashy and no extras on either of them.

    As for standard, history (which usually bores the socks off of the listener), food, movies, television shows.

  15. I'd be more than happy to have Meg White over the bonnet, but that's a whole different story...

  16. Oh for god's sake don't get a Beetle, they have a flower holder on the dash!

    Since when were men who weren't hairdressers or having a mid-life crisis OK to drive an MX-5 (Miata for American readers)?

    Minis are OK but people will think you work for an estate agent or something, especially in green.

    What about an Audi A3?

    You're right about football, I'm not even that into it but I keep my knowledge vaguely up to date because periodically I get plunged into footie conversations and feel I have to be able to hold me own.

  17. I've been looking at minis more closely over the last couple of days, and although you certainly see a lot being driven by girls, I think you can generally spot the ones that are driven by guys as they are kitted out slightly differently, and tend to have things like tinted windows and stripes / roof paining and aren't in brighter colours like red, light blue or cream.

    I'm reassured that it's a reasonable car for me to drive - as long as I don't look a twat in it. I'll get some photos.

    That's shit about the foxtons cars though. I still want racing green with the stripes, but I'll never be able to drive in London (which, come to think of it, is probably true now)


  18. You want tinted windows and lights and racing stripes...? How old are you mate? ;-)

  19. I didn't say I wanted tinted windows did I?

  20. You should. And some of those nice spinning wheels. ;-)