When I learned to drive I bought my very first car; a white Fiat 126, lovingly referred to as ‘the hairdryer’ because of its tiny proportions. As I may have mentioned previously, all my family were vertically challenged so to us it seemed, just about right. I’m guessing that’s when my affinity with Fiats began.

I happily drove it until it gave up the ghost – after many adventures – and when I pushed it into the garage to guarantee a sale and a part exchange I shed a tear as it had served me well. For a few years I was ‘Fiatless’ but I had my eye on another white one; this time a 4×4 as Stewart and I had moved to Fairways in Consett in 1987.

The thing we noticed the most was in the harsh Consett winters we were often the only ones on the road, as not only could this little car ride over the top of snow, it gave us the impression it really enjoyed doing it!

When it was getting old we replaced it with a Volvo which accommodated our growing family. However, being 5 feet 4inches on my tiptoes, when I sat in the drivers seat I could hardly see over the steering wheel. So we had to think again. I have always been a reluctant motorist, so driving a big car has never been an option for me. However I wasn’t a fan of the small red vehicle Stewart bought to transport goods. Hilariously referred to as ‘The Sooty Van’ it became part of the family, but it was less than comfortable. Yet, when the new version of the Fiat Panda 4×4 arrived on the scene I was very happy and we acquired a new one in May 2006. Unfortunately, my husband lost his battle with cancer in September of the same year.

So, for 17 years, not only does that little car remind me of him but I’m eternally grateful for it, as I was able, while living alone in Tantobie to feel safe on the wintry north east roads. It has watched my kids grow up, spent many hours transporting tombola and raffle prizes to various charity functions; and been a welcome storage unit for all my paraphernalia.

In the middle of last month it arrived one bright October morning for its final MOT. Glinting in the sunlight, with the marks on its headlights where it’s false eyelashes used to be, it had no idea, as I didn’t, what lay ahead.

Failing on numerous counts and with a report that read like War and Peace, I had to make a decision, spend all my savings on its repair, or let it go to Fiat heaven?

It was with a heavy heart that my decision was formed, which made it all the more difficult, when I found out the Latin meaning of Fiat translates as ‘ Let it be done’.

I opted for one last photo with my good friend and left it in the safe hands of KB Autospares!
And would you believe it, just about the time I was saying my fond farewell, I found out there were no buses running.

So for now, and most likely for the foreseeable future, I’ll be relying on Shanks’s pony!

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Lorraine Weightman
Lorraine Weightman who regularly writes a monthly memoir telling of her days growing up in Consett has just published 2 books in conjunction with Firefly New Media Uk, which share 24 stories that were originally seen in Consett Magazine over the past few years. https://www.facebook.com/consettstories/


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