Has anyone seen Arrested Development? It features the Bluths, a family whose fortune is based on fraudulent property development and who end up losing their vast amounts of wealth and living in disgrace, holding on to a few precious vestiges of their wealth. Now my family, to the best of my knowledge, were never involved in fraud, nor were we stupendously wealthy, but we do share one thing in common. The patriarch figures of both our families used to drive a big, 1980s, gold Mercedes S-Class.
I can’t remember how Dad came to acquire this car. All I remember were the big, beige leather seats, the acres and acres of room and the fact that it was the first car we ever had with an electric sunroof. See, children are stupid. I have always maintained that, once the mood for fatherhood strikes me, I will furnish my children, for birthdays and Christmas, with cardboard boxes as presents. Parents spend huge amounts of money on buying little Jimmy or Waynetta expensive dolls, £2000 replicas of 1950s sports cars etc. etc. And ultimately, if the box that these presents arrive in is big enough, the kid will just end up sitting in it. This is also true of days out. Angry parents driving into Brighton in their Vauxhall Merivas and then beating their children along the seafront to the sound of the Merry-Go-Round. If, however, the parents hadn’t been fools, they could have let the kids into the Vauxhall Meriva whilst it was sat in the family driveway and, if fitted with an electric sunroof, have let them spend the day happily wearing down the car’s battery opening and shutting it, climbing over the seats or whatever the little darlings saw fit to do.
I loved the electric sun roof and I loved the car. Perhaps because I grew up in them, 1980s Mercedes always seem very comforting to me. I love their notchy rear headlamps and the orange-handed clock in the dashboard, and the slightly cheesy wood and the metallic twirl of the engine, driven by the ubiquitous automatic gearbox. My Dad may have blocked this out, and with good reason, but one of my outstanding childhood memories was of driving down the motorway in the big Merc, with the sunroof open and Simply Red being played very loudly through the Blaupunkt stereo (which took CDs don’t you know!). Golden days indeed!