Bangers and smash

‘Look at this!’ ranted DH one morning.

‘What is it?’ I squinted.

‘Someone left this on my car again. That’s the second time this week. Yours has one too.’

I took the small white business card he was holding out and examined it closely. It was not, as I’d suspected, a calling card for a local rug merchant, or a garden well-drilling company.

It said ‘We buy your car for scrap’.

‘Oh.’

Now, both our cars are old – well into their second decade. And yes, after years of camping/beach expeditions, kids and dogs, the exteriors (and interiors) have seen better days. But scrap?

‘Well, you know what people in Dubai are like,’ I jollied, trying to laugh it off. ‘And it’s a buyer’s market for new cars right now. Don’t take it personally.’

But DH did. In fact, that very day he decided he was going to patch up the rust spots on the roof of my car – and he was going to do it all by himself.

Admittedly, my car roof was struggling to call itself waterproof. We’d left it because we knew it was going to cost at least Dhs3,000 to fix. With the school fees and the rent due within a week of each other that month, and the rains not due for another eight months, it seemed a logical decision.

‘Are you sure you should attempt it?’ I asked dubiously. There was no doubt it needed doing, but whether DH was the man for the job was another matter entirely.

‘Of course,’ he replied with a confident grin. ‘I mean how hard can it be?’ And that’s how it all began.

For the next few weeks, DH would nip off to this garage, or that garage and come back with a startling array of primers, de-rusters, fillers, sanding pads and disposable face masks.

Such episodes would start so optimistically. ‘I got the wrong stuff last time,’ he’d say for the umpteenth time. ‘The guy at this new garage says I should be using this.’ He’d hold up a few canisters and tins of toxic-looking substances. ‘Of course, I’ll have to scrape off all that bloody stuff I put on it a few days ago. It was a rust inhibitor – not a de-ruster, [is there a difference?] which is why it’s gone wrong.’ Then he’d don a disposable face mask and get to work.

Each attempt to fix the roof ended in a deeper sense of frustration (and an even steeper bill). DH would re-appear after a sweaty, afternoon session in the driveway, looking tense, sunburnt and muttering nonsensically about ‘rust oxide,’ and ‘fillers not setting properly.’

At one point, a couple of curious policemen drove past. They paused to see what he was up to.

I could only imagine their conversation. It probably went something like this;

Policeman 1: ‘Ere, look, Ahmed. There’s a white bloke over there trying to fix his own car.’

Policeman 2: ‘Give over!’

Policeman 1: ‘Seriously! Ave a look. Do you think we should nick im?’

Policeman 2: (once he’d recovered from a laughing fit) ‘Nah! But let me take a few snaps with my phone to send to the missus. She’ll never believe it otherwise!’

And so it continued, until what had begun as a money-saving exercise, turned into a veritable obsession. ‘I know! I can cut up a Coke can, and use a piece of it to patch the biggest hole!’ was just one of the surreal sentences uttered by DH at 3am.

Then there was the smell. A sickeningly powerful aroma of epoxy resin after another failed attempt, which rendered myself and the children almost comatose during a school run. ‘Well, I told you to keep all the windows open,’ was DH’s response as we all staggered drunkenly back into the house.

Me: ‘Please, just take the damn thing to the garage! The fumes are rotting our brains!’

DH: ‘Don’t be silly. I’ve got some new stuff now, and the smell will go in a few days.’

Me: ‘I don’t care! I just don’t want to go senile!’

But the smell was still an ugly presence a couple of weeks later, when, on another mission to economise (DH’s car repairs were continuing not to save us cash), we decided to sell a whole load of junk off at the Safa Park flea market. We set off, (both cars packed to bursting) with a raft of optimistic intentions to sell, sell, sell.

We got there (with the kids) at 6.50am. We saw the queues to get in. We promptly drove away again.

We trundled heavily out of the car park and I headed up the Al Wasl Road towards home. Only, the traffic lights weren’t working. And as I slowed to a confused stop at a junction, a lorry (putting the icing on an already bad day) drove into the back of us. The driver, clearly wanting to limit the damage to our car, kindly swerved onto the pavement and took out the entire traffic light. But the back end of my motor was still rather squashed.

I called DH, who’d sensibly opted to take a different route. ‘You’ve had an accident haven’t you,’ he sighed with that uncanny sixth sense he reserves only for me and traffic dings. ‘Alright. I’m on my way.’

The next 30 minutes was a haze of policemen, driving licenses and interested bystanders (all commenting on the flat state of the traffic light). DH sorted things out man-to-man while I dug out snacks to keep the children quiet. And by the time we finally got home, I was feeling thoroughly depressed about the state of things – and more specifically, my car..

DH on the other hand, was uncharacteristically chirpy (something that never happens after I’ve had a traffic altercation). ‘How come you’re not depressed?’ I asked.

‘Well, clearly, it wasn’t your fault,’ he said charitably, ‘which means all the repairs are paid for. And I thought, seeming as the old girl’s going to be in the chop-shop for a while, that I might just ask them, while they’re at it,  to take a look at that roof….’

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