Lady Writers: The flight of the (8 year old) Navigator.



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Jacky Lawler:

All my life I have been surrounded by men and motors. My Grandad was a mechanic, my Dad an enthusiastic car buyer, my ex was obsessed with Lotus and my current beau is the total package of mechanic and engine obsessive (car, truck, bus, train or plane) who specialises in “fernerkling” as both he and my Dad call it, with anything covered in oil!

Only last week my lovely dishwasher had recently finished a full cycle with some Rover lamp units in it along with the Cats food dishes. I won’t mention my old washing up bowl awaiting one of his “Tip runs” in the corner of the back garden full of oil with the obligatory oil filter breaking the surface like Titanic on its way down to Davy Jones Locker – oops! I just have.

Anyway, more to the point, this is my first blog… so please bear with me. I have taken this opportunity to come out of the shadows into the sunshine and tell you all what it is like being ‘er indoors. I am sure this will no doubt resonate with your other halves so maybe it will also encourage them to pen a few lines to add to the lady-writers on this site?

My Grandad was a no nonsense North Wales guy, a motor mechanic by trade who in the war was a motorcycle despatch rider. As a small child,  he used to visit us in his duck egg blue MG Midget wearing a black leather bomber jacket looking like the coolest Grandad in the world wearing “eu du three in one” oil and even now and he’s been gone years, the smell of oil reminds me of him.

When we visited him in Crewe, his kitchen was a really a workshop with automotive parts “you can’t get any more” mixed up with some new parts and half done engine re-builds in the shed and garden. It was an Aladdin’s cave of auto jumble and my Dad always left with a piece that “will come in for something someday”  be it some air horns or a new thermostat . My Dad was obsessed with having a good heater in those days and constantly changed thermostats in any car he had as at the time there were winter and summer types, nothing like the new cars now.

No its not me by the way - One of my Dads favorite owned cars was the Datsun 240 KGT.
No its not me by the way – One of my Dads favourite owned cars was a silver Datsun 240 KGT.

Dad delights in telling the tale when he and Mum were first courting and Grandad offered to take them for day trip to Wales. However just past Chester he heard a knocking noise so he parked up in a lay-by and for the next few hours took the car apart at the side of the road. Daylight  faded and the excitement of the day trip was forgotten whilst Grandad put it all back together again.  Having fixed said issue, he drove all the way back to Crewe without a word said by anyone. My Mum was mortified, not exactly the day she had planned with her new boyfriend but my Dad and Grandad got on famously from then on with cars being their common ground.

My Dad used to change cars every 3-6 months. He was a regular customer of Bristol Street Motors in Hanley (Stoke) and all the salesmen knew him by name. “You here again Barry?” they’d shout when they saw him, “just looking” he’d always say in a cool confident reply. Even at a young age, I could see that the salesman were circling like the sharks smelling fresh blood and Dad, bless him, was always up for a good deal.

One occasion stands out where Dad, whose eyesight was never brilliant, had to take ourHillman Imp (which he’d never liked as he prefers big cars) back to Bristol Street Motors as a “trade in” for our new car, a shiny silver  Datsun 240 KGT. However, the Imp clutch had a release problem and from Alsager to Hanley, around 20 miles or so, I had to shout out the colours of the traffic lights up in the distance so he knew whether to slow down or speed up. I was told if the car stalled at any point we would never get going again and our mission would end there and then – even as a small girl, failure was NOT an option.

At a mere 8yrs old I steadfastly took my role as key navigator very seriously and when we reached the dealership, Dad swiftly parked it at the side of the building and we both breathed a sigh of relief. Dad regained his cool and strolled confidently into the showroom like his hero John Wayne threw the Imp’s keys at the showroom shark and said “There you go mate, she runs lovely”. All the way home in our new shiny silver car Dad chuckled away and praised me for helping him. What a team eh! Needless to say he stopped going to Bristol Street Motors, just in case.

At 19yrs I left home and moved to Birmingham with a boyfriend who was obsessed with Lotus. In the 13yrs I was with him he owned a Lotus Elan Series 2 (G reg) and also bought brand new a Lotus Excel SE in “dog knob red”. Endless days were spent attending Lotus owners meetings, Castle Coombe track days interspersed with Silverstone and Donnington. I thoroughly enjoyed driving the Elan although I did once lean on the passenger door and it fell off but that is another story.

Not only can I cook, but I can drive as well - That's me at a Lotus owners club day Mallory Park.
Not only can I cook, but I can drive as well – That’s me at a Lotus owners club day Mallory Park.

Anyway, fast forward to today and I am now 10yrs into a relationship with another petrol head but this time it’s serious. A seasoned mechanic who can seemingly fix anything with an engine with a bit of fernerkling, a mug of tea and a fag. Something I am constantly amazed at and proud of him for.

I am used to all my tea towels being covered in oil, mucky handprints on the walls and the faint smell of Swarfega in the kitchen (or his tried and tested fairly liquid and sugar if that runs out!). I recall one day when he was a mobile mechanic in Darlington he needed some minor welding doing on his own Corsa Van for it to pass it’s MOT. The next thing I knew the garage stank of argon gas and my old microwave had been cut up and the metal sides trimmed off and welded into place. That afternoon a pristine brand new MOT certificate was displayed on the kitchen table for all to see.

Well that’s enough from me, back into the shadows I go. I just wanted all you petrol heads to realise that your partner is inevitably carried along with your enthusiasm for all things automotive and I for one would not want this to change. For me, it’s just nice to be heard not just to be referred to as ‘er indoors like Arthur Daley’s never seen wife.

Right, I’m off to B&Q to buy a new washing up bowl!


  1. Mike, you are a lucky man, the good Mrs W is also very supportive and is known to both enjoy a spirited drive herself in her Mini Cooper and some wind in the hair topless action with me in my beloved MG but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t get quite as much of a kick out of it all as you and I know just what she’d say at the mere thought of oily deposits from a car entering the kitchen.

  2. nice to see a Hillman Limp again., more engine re- builds than you could shake a stick at – poss that would have been the best thing, pretend it was a magic wand.

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