To the manner born?
I recently had a visit from someone I knew when I was a teenager who also ended up in the trade; Local classic car dealer Piers Bonnet. Of course, I know what you are thinking; “His name is Bonnet? Of course he was destined for this business.” Well, you’d think that, except it is pronounced ‘Bon-nay’ as in ‘Bon-nay Prince Char-lay’. Yes, it’s all a bit Keeping Up Appearances, but who am I to tell him (well, more specifically his parents years ago) how to pronounce their own name. It could have been worse; I seem to remember being told they nearly went double-barrelled as the Morgan-Bonnets. He really would have been doomed to be a classic car dealer then.
Piers had a rush on over at his dealership, and he wondered if I could take up some of the slack on pre-sales MOTs. Despite the whole post-MOT exemption piling up of testing that is happening in the Autumn these days, I said we could help. Unlike my cosy little back-street garage, Piers works out of this rather nice out-of-town site. He looks the part too. While I spend my days in padded-knee trousers bending over engine bays, he is wafting about in a blazer – and sometimes even wears a cravat without a hint of self-awareness. It’s all very Peter Bowles in To the Manor Born.
Was he to the manner born though? Actually, no. When we first knew each other, he was, I was led to believe by the girls we knew at the time, quite the teen heart-throb. They thought he was mean, moody and magnificent in his leather jacket with his slightly floppy, slightly quiffy hair. Think a young Hugh Grant starring in Grease. I remember one particular evening out on the town, it was the Saturday before I started my first day at the local college. A group of us were wandering around doing not a lot, as we were too young for the pub, and we ran into him. The girls ended up swooning over Piers, which is what often happened.
Unfortunately, a boy in our little gang ended up boiling over with jealousy due to the female attention he was getting. “Piers is not that good-looking” he sneered. “Look at him in that stupid jacket – who does he think he is? The Terminator? Oooh Piers! So pathetic!” It was at about this point that seemingly out of nowhere Piers uncharacteristically grabbed our friend by his lapels and slammed him up against a nearby van. “Listen – I’ve had enough of your stupid comments! Apologise!” To which came the babbling reply “Yeah, Piers, I’m sorry Piers! Please put me down Piers!”
He let him drop and stomped off into the night, with the girls chasing him to see if he was okay. I had trouble keeping a straight face to be honest, as my friend really had it coming. As for the van, it turned up in the garage I worked in, and I remember the builder who owned it commenting on the teen boy-shaped dent that had mysteriously appeared…