Good Grief, More Cars, In Iran

Woke up this morning and realised I had missed out a whole chunk of yesterday’s (riveting) life with cars.

I said we sold the Spitfire because we were moving. We moved to Iran. We’d not been there long when my uncle (the one who later organised an R5 for me) drove a great big white Mercedes from Germany to Iran for us. I’d forgotten that.

Driving conditions in Iran were bewilderingly erratic, with cars and camels and mopeds zipping around and honking all the time. Either side of the road was a ‘jube’ or large, deep gutter, where cars would frequently end up, stuck. My mother was afraid to drive. My dad’s working hours included a break in the middle, when he’d come home for lunch and a siesta. So they employed a driver who would take my dad to and from work twice a day and otherwise be available for my mother. That didn’t last long, as he used to disappear and take all his pals for rides or something. So my nervous mother took to the road.

It became impractical not to have two cars, and my parents bought a Camaro. I think they believed it would be easy to sell when we went back to the UK. So the car was shipped from the US to London, and we drove it to Iran. Low to the ground and with bucket seats, it was not an ideal vehicle for such a long journey with two teenagers who fought for territory in the back. Especially when we had to sleep in it, as happened when we arrived at a hotel to find they had lost or ignored our booking. And especially when we had to take it off road to bypass the miles and miles of trucks at the Turkish/Persian border, which had been there for days because of some dispute.

There were cars you could buy in Iran of course. There was the Peykan.  I remember a guidebook we used a lot: Travels with a Paykan.

We’d only ever intended to live in Iran for a year, but ended up staying until the revolution 5 years later. Because we were always about to leave (and because he was a Macher) my dad never paid the import duty, so every six months we had to take it over the border. I remember vividly a trip to Afghanistan. We watched the car in front of us at the border being dismantled into dozens of parts in a search for drugs. The guards were fascinated by our ability to spray water onto the windscreen without getting out of the vehicle, which was pretty novel. There were few cars on the wide dusty roads in Herat, and few tourists. Wherever we went, visiting mosques and things, we bumped into my headmistress, which I found mortifying. We were with some friends who had also imported a car; their son was about my age. I remember he climbed up to peer at me over the partition when I was on the loo. Mortifying again, and all the more because it was on that holiday that I got my first period. I was 13 and had no idea what was going on. I went to my mother and asked her why there was black in my pants, which were bright red and had a bumble bee on the front (rather suggestive, as I only realise now). Regrettably, I don’t remember the names or any details of the things we saw. I remember that the whole place stank of leather tanning and that I bought a travel bag, which I loved although it kept its stench for years. And I remember that in an attempt to avoid illness we brushed our teeth in 7up.

After the departure of the Shah in the revolution, we left in a bit of a hurry and I think that the cars, like so much else, were left behind.

Back in London my mother got a Talbot Horizon, which was a bit of a comedown.

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Florence Feynman

I am a middle aged, middle class woman, thinking.

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