Having a constitutional resistance to washing my car I tend to… well that’s not quite right. ‘Constitutional resistance’ suggests a thought-out principle, but it’s more that it rarely occurs to me to wash my car, which I see purely as a daily transportation machine and a place to listen to my CDs. Last year I had to interrupt a well-known blogger and some-time autophiliac, who was launching into a paean to some sporty motor, to tell him that I drove a Ford Focus with roofbars. “Ah then you wouldn’t know what I was talking about,” he admitted, correctly.
Not often thinking to wash my car I tend to allow months to pass between cleanings, but when the Focus becomes unpatriotically dirty outside and repugnantly fungal inside I take it, reluctant as a dog to its bath, to Church Road, opposite St George’s Park. Here an unlikely horde of Lithuanians, Turks and possibly Poles will clean it inside and out for a tenner. They do an incredible job – I always have to check the numberplate to make sure it’s the same car, and then drive it home carefully because the bit underneath the pedals is slippery with polish (Polish?) – but for those used to shopping at Tesco it’s a disconcertingly chaotic arrangement, especially the first time.
You turn up, manoeuvre your vehicle nervously into the general melee of motors, spraying hoses, eardrum-rattling dance music and Lithuanian/Turkish cusswords, get out and stand looking vaguely about yourself, waving your car keys. Eventually from the melee a particular Lithuanian or Turk will emerge and take the keys from you and bellow “inside and out?” You will nod and exit rapidly, praying for the safekeep of your vehicle. After a stroll around the park with your wife and offspring, perhaps a coffee at Grounded, you will return to the melee and once again stand looking vaguely about yourself, mouthing “Ford Focus?” until somebody emerges to take your tenner and return your keys. Then you cross the road to the Park carpark where they’ve left it, check the numberplate and drive carefully home.
At least that is how it’s been for the past few years. Last weekend however, I noticed a creeping service-industry legitimation of the melee. For a start, it has acquired a sign and thereby a name: Diamond Car Wash. Even more alarmingly, it has sprouted a professionally-printed menu, with different price bands according to the size of the vehicle. The next stage is, I suppose, a till. Then uniforms, then a website, then health and safety, then expansion. Then they’ll stop washing cars themselves and hire employees, then they’ll get fat and lazy and buy big houses in Kingswood and wash their own cars for fun on a Sunday while their uni-educated kids hang around in Clifton where nobody washes their cars because they’re too bohemian and good luck to all of them, why not, its really none of my business.