I was driving home from my writers’ workshop one day, drunk on words as usual, but discouraged because (according to the workshop) my current action-thriller was lacking in both action and thrills. As I cast about for a new subject, I saw myself in another car, a very small one, driving down a green English lane in the spring of 1973. It wasn’t the first time I’d pictured this, but it struck me now that every time I did, my 25-year-old self looked younger.
And a sentence wrote itself in my mind: “She’s far away from me and getting farther, the brown-haired girl in the Mini, seen through the wrong end of a telescope made from rolled-up time.”
Other sentences followed, and became a book, not yet published, called The Girl in the Mini.
And why was I was in that Mini – a car that was 10 years old, held together by rust, with a head gasket that was biding its time before blowing on the A35 between Bridport and Axminster? Because I wanted to travel.
The urge first seized me on my grandfather’s “ranch,” the land he bought in southern California after emigrating from Wales. “Ranch” was a rather grand name for it, consisting as it did mostly of scrub-covered foothills, but what lay on the other side? One day I’ll find out, I vowed, as I lifted mine eyes to the hills with the squint that appears in almost every childhood photo. (No one had figured out yet that I needed glasses.)
“The Central Valley” was the slightly disappointing answer to the foothills question. Eventually I got farther afield, but before I could become the girl in the Mini, I had to put in two years as the rather less glamorous girl who worked for a school textbook publisher and saved money to get to Britain. Not that I was all that glamorous in the Mini either, dressed as I was in bell-bottoms and love-beads, but at least I’d got rid of the squint.
Since then I’ve visited 20-plus other countries and have lived in Japan as well as England. I’ll be writing about that here, and about the even more exotic journeys of far more famous travelers.
So, if you feel like hitching a ride, please do! Despite her small size – and I have a feeling that her muffler’s about to drop off, but never mind – there’s plenty of room in the Mini.