Yet More Memories and Music: Chiquitita

It was the spring of 1993. I was a student at college and lived at home with Mum and Dad. I’d just passed my driving test (after two attempts). I’ll always remember the date I passed – 25th April. It was Mum’s birthday. I hadn’t told her I was taking the test as I wanted it to be a special birthday present for her. Besides I wasn’t entirely sure I’d pass after my last efforts (the tester wasn’t too impressed by my hitting the kerb and coming to a standstill on the pavement). But I passed and Mum said it made her day.

Soon after, I bought my very first car. It was a second-hand Renault 5, with a black body and brilliant orange seats and, as I was to find out later, when it rained, its own in-board shower. Mum and Dad were so excited when I said I’d take them for a spin. Dad raced Mum to the car and bagged the front seat. It was when Mum sat in the back and found her feet immersed in a foot of water that we realised there was a problem. Strangely enough, Mum and Dad weren’t so keen to get in the car after that. I didn’t ever find out where the leak was coming from but for the bargain price of £75, I couldn’t complain.

And I loved my car – even if Mum and Dad didn’t. I wouldn’t have trusted her to take me further than about 20 miles but she was a perfect first car.

Reggie, as I affectionately called her, even had a working tape deck. Abba Gold was my favourite album of the time and the song, Chiquitta in particular. I don’t know what it was about that song. It’s the only song I’ve ever sung out loud to (I’m completely tone deaf) and I always sang it with all my heart. When the song was over, I’d rewind the tape to listen to it again and again.

Now, whenever I hear it, it reminds me of those wondrous carefree days when I had no responsibilities or anything in particular to worry about. I still sing along to Chiquitita (though in my head to spare my family’s suffering) and when the song has finished, I think fondly of Reggie, and of poor Mum’s wet feet. Dear Reggie was a steal at £75 – I even made a profit when I sold her, to a policeman, for £100!    



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33 Responses to Yet More Memories and Music: Chiquitita

  1. TanGental says:

    Ha! I mounted the pavement too! On the utterly nonsensical reverse round the corner. Who does that? Good to know there’s a fellow klutz out there.

  2. Simon says:

    That’s a nice little story, fond memories of simpler times eh? 🙂

  3. Murray Clarke says:

    Aaahh, yes! Our first car! We all remember them. Mine was a Mark One Ford Cortina with go-faster stripes. I added a second radio aerial to the front (not connected to anything) to make it look flash!!! The car cost me just £50. I sold it to a scrapyard, six months later, for a tenner.

  4. EDC Writing says:

    My first car a pale blue mini, a steal at £150, allegedly in 1972! I passed my test second time too – first time nearly hit a dog, apparently it was on the pavement – I blamed it on a low kerb. I know, I should have used a semi-colon somewhere … plenty commas though …just a comment can I be excused?

  5. Helen says:

    Loved this piece, Esther. I absolutely loved driving and passed my test within a few months of my 17th birthday – at the second attempt. I blamed my father for my failing the first test. He took me out for a warm-up and told me off for driving too fast and giving too much room to passing parked cars. I then failed on driving too slow and not giving enough room to parked cars. The second time I did without my father’s warm-up and passed. I didn’t get my own car for years as there wasn’t room in the courtyard and there were plenty of family cars available.

    I do, however, remember taking my test in my father’s Ford Grenada (sitting on a cushion as I’m so tiny). My friends used to joke they could hardly see me behind the wheel. My mum had one of those old Ford Cortinas Mark 1. I much preferred the Grenada even though it was far too big for me as it had fabulous leather seats, classy sun-roof etc. I got to drive it when collecting my parents from parties (the reason they were so keen for me to pass that test), collecting relatives from the station etc. The first vehicle I really remember was my Dawes bike as it was mine and mine alone – and I didn’t have to fetch anyone.

    I don’t see why you have to sing in your head, Esther. My daughter and her boyfriend are both completely tone deaf but I’m happy to let them sing because it makes them happy. Being tone deaf is just one of those things (I also have a daughter who won a choral scholarship). Singing releases tension, so it is far better to do so aloud. Happy singing!

  6. AJ.Dixon says:

    You sold it to a policeman! What a fantastic way to round it off!
    Loved to read about this, Esther. A lovely, heart-warming post which has left me with a big smile. Sing away, I say! Sing away and remember your Reggie!

  7. Steve says:

    Great memories. The first two driving tests were probably was conducted by an American living in your area, and he/she wanted you to drive on the correct side of the road…not the left! 🙂 😉

  8. Steve says:

    Great memories. The first two driving tests were probably conducted by an American living in your area, and he/she wanted you to drive on the correct side of the road…not the left! 🙂 😉

  9. I passed my test on the second attempt as well. And I love ABBA. Chiquitita isn’t my favourite but I do like it quite a bit.

  10. Helen says:

    More nostalgia about cars. Your wonderful piece and comments about the Renault having its own internal shower has brought back added memories of my parent’s leaky Riley. Not only did the roof leak, but there were holes in the floor of the front passenger seat. We had to put a mat over the holes to cover them. I think it was quite common for cars to leak/have holes back then. Before the Riley we had a Sunbeam. I loved the shapes of both these cars. Sadly after that we got a horrible Simca Estate. We were expected to sleep in the back (seats down) – seat-belts weren’t compulsory in those days – when we travelled at night. The Simca’s engine would frequently over-heat and we would have horrible waits for it to cool down (hence the need to travel at strange hours to avoid jams). The engine couldn’t cope partly because we had a ridiculously large wooden trailer (small horse box size) towing along behind. Why my parents had to take so much stuff I’ll never know.

  11. Paul says:

    I’m enjoying the weekly “Memories” – keep them coming! Maybe you have a personal memoir writing project in the pipeline?

  12. we really need to work on your taste in music, don’t we?
    As for driving tests, my dad taught me to drive his Morris Marina when I was 11. By the time I was 13, he was happy to let me go off in it on my own – I hasten to add, not on public roads. So I was quite adept as a driver well before the normal time. I was convinced I’d have passed my test within weeks of becoming 17. Not to be. I still didn’t pass my test till the second attempt and it was a couple of months after my 18th birthday. And I was 25 before I bought my first car. Still, I got to use my dad’s car every now and then, and occasionally hired one when I needed it. It was cheaper than owning one and because I walked so much I was a lot fitter then.

    • esthernewton says:

      Dad has never learned to drive and Mum didn’t learn until she was almost 40, so I grew up walking everywhere. Mum’s first car, when she passed her test, was a lurid green Austin Maestro, which perpetually broke down, so we’d often end up walking anyway.

      • To kids today, walking everywhere must seem pretty alien, but that was the way it was. Even though my dad had a car, he lived 30 odd miles away by the time I was 10, and my mum never learnt to drive (which was probably the safest thing for all concerned) so from a pretty young age I became quite used to using public transport if I wanted to get more than a couple of miles away.
        The Austin Maestro. Like the Morris Marina, a shining example of why we don’t really have a car industry any more. Austin, Morris – British Leyland as they became – churned out some of the worst looking cars you could find. At least your Renault 5 had some character. And no doubt you gave it a name because of the advertising campaign:

      • esthernewton says:

        That advert! Brilliant; yes, that must be the inspiration behind Reggie.

      • It wasn’t a one-off. There was a whole campaign around that theme. And thirty years later, as soon as I saw the words Renault 5 in your post, I thought: “What’s yours called?” So it obviously worked

      • esthernewton says:

        Blimey, the ad must certainly have struck a chord; perhaps it did with me and I just can’t remember!

  13. Sacha Black says:

    Pahahah love that you made a profit. My first car was a Mary Quant MINI white with black and white striped seats and bright red seat belts. IT WAS AWESOME, I used to be able to fix anything wrong with it, with tin foil! TRUE STORY too! I remember many a trip pulling over on the A1 and whipping out a role of tin foil, BOOM, off the car went again 😂

  14. Sacha Black says:

    Ps. Only the best people pass 3rd time around #justsaying

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