Ah, memories…


On a trip into the country with Jean’s dad, Jean and Jean’s car started making some expensive noises and broke down.

Perhaps I should explain at the outset that English rose Jean Hartley met, fell in love with and married struggling French writer Jean Dubois. Jean is spelt the same as Jean, but it is pronounced differently which, admittedly, doesn’t come across in the written word. I have no doubt though, dear reader (yes, you know who you are), that you’ll be able to sort it out and will have no difficulty following the flow of the narrative. Anyway, together with her father, John, the couple were undertaking a motoring tour of the part of France from where Jean hailed (and occasionally rained, snowed and probably any other form of atmospheric precipitation you may deem appropriate).

“Don’t say I didn’t tell you two, Jean,” Jean’s dad said.

“Anything in particular, Dad?”

“I told you not to buy an Astra. Nothing but trouble. And you’ll not get it fixed in France, that’s for sure.”

“Why not?” Jean asked, walking away from the car.

“English, isn’t it? Stands to reason, French mechanics only repair French cars: Citroëns, Peugeots, Renaults—”


“Maybe. They’re German, but the Frenchies might know how to fix them, living next door and all.”

“Opel and Vauxhall are the same, John,” Jean said, his voice tinged with exasperation.

“Only on the outside, young man. Only on the outside. See – the Germans don’t make cars like the English.”

“What’s the difference?”

“They build ’em to last.”

“Dad, we’ve had this car for nearly twenty years and it’s the first time it’s broken down,” Jean said.

“I told you it would happen eventually, though, didn’t I? What do you think the Air Force motto means?”

“What? Per ardua ad astra?”

“That’s it. Life’s hard with an Astra. And if it’s good enough for the Air Force, it’s good enough for me.”

“But you were in the army, Dad,” Jean reminded him for what felt like the three thousandth time.

“Looked up to the fly-boys though, we did. Clever bunch. Got all the prettiest girls, too – it’s the stories about flying and shooting down the enemy planes that did it. Much more glamorous than crawling around in the trenches,” Jean rolled her eyes at the repetition of made-up ‘facts’ that were about as credible as this story, “And before you say anything, yes – your mother was pretty, very pretty as it happens. How d’you think we made a stunner like you?”

Jean blushed.

“I think you’ll find per ardua ad astra means something completely different,” Jean said.

“Not to me, it doesn’t. Anyway, you’re supposed to be clever, why can’t you get the bloody thing going again?”

“I’ve reached the end of what I can do. It’s beyond me now. How’s your automotive knowledge?”

“I’ve probably forgotten more about fixing motor cars than you’ll ever learn!”

“Okay, old man. Instead of just standing there with your arms folded and a face like thunder, why not roll your sleeves up, get your hands a bit dirty for once and help?”

“Were you listening to what I said?”

“Of course, oh wise one. I always listen attentively to every word of wisdom that you grace us with. What in particular should I have taken on board this time?”

“That I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever learn.”

“Yeah? That’s just an expression.”

“Not in my case, Son. Not in my case.”

“You mean you won’t help because…”

“That’s right. I can’t remember how to do it.”

This was written in response to Kreative Kue 251 published on this site.

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