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August 2008

A few weeks ago, I borrowed a fantastically powerful beast of a motorcar called the Range Rover Sport XS. It had a 4197cc supercharged V8 engine, TV screens in the back, seats that you could programme to warm both your back and your buttocks; and despite being almost as big as a Tiger tank, it could do 0 to 60 in 7.2 seconds. Driving that monster at full pelt over the Welsh hills made me gladder to be alive than almost anything I’ve done since I last rode to hounds. It’s what 21st-century boys (and girls) were born to do.

The big problem was trying to harbour the behemoth. The holiday cottage I was borrowing had a very narrow driveway, reached by an equally narrow lane, and the only way I could manage my reverse procedure properly was by first trespassing into the driveway of the old lady who lived opposite.

As soon as I tried this on the first day, the old lady came out of her house with the nimbleness of a spider that has detected prey. I reversed quickly, pretending I hadn’t seen her. But doggedly she came chasing after me, at one point actually raising her stick. You can well guess what she said when she caught up with me. Everyone to whom I tell the story thinks they can.

You’re all wrong, though. What she actually said, this dear old thing, was: “What a splendid motorcar!” And then: “If it’s too much trouble for you to park in your drive, I don’t mind at all if you park it in mine.”

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