You may recall that back in July last year I was totally, but delightedly, gobsmacked when my 10 year old, long suffering Fiat Stilo with its part-time electronic dashboard passed its Contrôle Technique. I think I may know why.

Now, you know how those 5 minute jobs never turn out to be 5 minute jobs? Today Chris wanted to charge up the Fiat’s battery. He’s heading off on a pig-keeping course tomorrow and will be away overnight and wanted to make sure my slightly unreliable car would be reliable enough to do the running around for a couple of days.

There used to be a handle there!

We went out to do the deed.

“Pop the hood,” says Chris.

So I felt for where I thought the handle was, but it wasn’t. Clearly I was having a premature senior moment, as they say. I got down on my knees outside on the gravel and hunted round the appropriate area of the car for the dratted thing.

By now, Chris was there, rolling his eyes and no doubt thinking unflattering thoughts about women in general and wives in particular.

But he couldn’t find it either. Anywhere. We looked at each other blankly. This was plain weird.

Since all else had failed, it was time to read the instructions. I got out the car manual. A very vague picture showed where the handle was meant to be. We finally hunted down the spot – and it was exactly where I’d first groped for the handle. There was now just a hole.

More trim removed - poor old car

The last time the bonnet had been seen open was when I’d collected the Fiat from the auto-contrôle centre. My car gets light usage so I hadn’t needed to go under the hood to top anything up since then. Now, the handle was there when the car went in for its test since we’d used it the day before. I’m guessing it wasn’t there when it came out. We suspect Monsieur was a bit heavy handed with my ageing car and pulled it off. I occasionally knock or pull things off the cars but I always own up, and I didn’t do it in this case. After 25 years of marriage I know how to get round Chris so he doesn’t stay mad for long! So I didn’t do it and neither of my two shiftless eldest kids have yet learnt to drive (short pause while I tear my hair out) so it wasn’t them. And I don’t think animals were involved.

It had to be Monsieur so it was presumably guilt that made him pass my car! I just wish he’d told us he’d had the mishap. We’d have understood that it was an accident. It would have meant that we could have got it fixed in a relaxed fashion and not in the rain. Gallic sigh.

Recharging at last

Anyway, we were stuck. We needed to open the bonnet but it looked like an impossible task. So we resorted to the Internet. Thanks to ShadyDude and a few other similarly named folks on some dodgy car-breaking-into websites, we got hints on what to do and finally got the bonnet open by alternative means. It involved Chris having to peel away yet more of the plastic trim inside my car (there’s not all that much left any more) and using pliers to move the mechanism that Heavy Handed CT guy had broken the handle off. But we did it, the battery is charged and my beloved little Stilo is back on the road.

I do like that car – it’s small, sleek, slightly scuffed and shabby since it’s seen better days and only prone to the occasional breakdown. It’s me in car form!