First, a clarification. I am not a hairdresser. If only I were, I would have a skill which is actually useful. For as long as anyone has hair, hairdressers will be in demand. Alas, that is not me. But I own what is allegedly a hairdresser’s car, and in this regard I am part of a momentous trend. A survey says so, therefore it must be true.
According to the insurance group Diamond, sales of soft-top cars in Britain are soaring and it’s all thanks to the High50 demographic.
Three times as many men over 50 now own a convertible compared with 15 years ago, and the sales figures for women in the same age bracket are even more impressive – seven per cent of us now own a convertible, which is four times as many as at the turn of the Millennium. And I’m one of them.
For decades, I owned dreary cars. You know the sort of thing. Economical. Reliable. Zzzzzzzzz. My mistake was thinking that a convertible by definition could not be either of these things. I’m single, not absolutely up to my eyes in money.
So for several years I fantasised vaguely about a soft-top, and even test drove an Mazda MX-5, the 25-year global motoring phenomenon built on: a) affordability, b) reliability, c) fun. Friends were puzzled by my prevarication, pointing out that – even allowing for transporting my dog Tam – there was no earthly reason why I should not acquire a two-seater.
But for reasons I cannot now quite recall, I told myself: “No. It is absurdly small. It is not practical. You must stick with what you have.” That was a Yaris, in a particularly horrid shade of silvery blue. Yes, I know.
Then came the glorious day two years ago when I was freed from dreary car hell by a lightbulb moment. I don’t have many of those, but this one made unarguable sense.
It went like this. I thought: “You wouldn’t be seen dead wearing the equivalent of a Yaris – shapeless, featureless garb from Dull Clothes R Us. So… why are you driving one?”
And just like that, I bought a 55-reg MX-5 1.8 in True Red, for all of £5,500 (or rather £2,500 allowing for the trade-in on the Drearymobile), and entered car nirvana. Reader, it is the Better Way.
One of the many pleasures of the MX-5 is that it has no hidden nasties. If you can’t spot the huge drawback the moment you lay eyes on it – ie, its fantastically impractical size – then you’re jolly dense. But once you’ve decided that you have no need to transport anything larger than a piece of paper ever again, you’re all set.
All right, it’s not that bad. A weekly shop (for one) is no problem, and there’s a custom-designed luggage set to maximise the minuscule boot space (£123 retail, £51 for mine on eBay) so you can set off on the touring lifestyle the ad people sell you – wind in your hair, etc.
Actually that wasn’t a selling point to me, as my hair is a living nightmare which achieves hitherto unprecedented levels of hideousness with the added ingredient of wind. But all things are manageable, in this case solved by the revolutionary ingredient of a hairclip in summer or a hat in winter.
Wait… winter? Yes, indeed. For my money, the very best roof-down opportunities are not the Kodak moment midsummer days of balmy sun. They’re the cloudy (yes, all right, dry) afternoons of autumn, or the crisp frosty mornings around the turn of the year.
Roof down: check. Heated seats on: check. Heaters blasting: check. Tam the dog loves it. He sits up on the passenger seat with his ears flapping.
I seriously thought about getting him some doggles (goggles for dogs), and a sort of flying jacket arrangement. I feel so certain he yearns for them that I still seem to have the webpage bookmarked.
And what about all the old fears to do with economy and reliability? I don’t seem to be destitute just yet. The insurance and road tax are negligibly more than the Drearymobile, and servicing is a little more than that.
But the return in fun is inexpressible. And of course people do look at you, and it isn’t because you have the motoring equivalent of spinach in your teeth.
And even if they are thinking crushing thoughts about hairdressers’ cars, I have the perfect weapon – indifference.
I really don’t care. I’m having a ball. Eat my dust.