WHEN I was seven, my father put me in the boot of his beige Datsun 1 600 sedan with a three-day-old Jersey bull calf. My job was to keep the animal calm and hold the trunk slightly open so we wouldn’t suffocate during the hour-long trip to the farm.
The calf folded his legs, laid his head on his stomach and slept peacefully the whole way. I nodded off once or twice too, but was rudely awoken when, on the pot-holey sections of the gravel road, the lid crashed down on my head. The calf eventually grew into a stocky, overly confident bull that spent many years either mounting cows or chasing two-legged intruders from his paddock.
When I was 19, my big brother had an off-white Datsun 1 400 bakkie. I had a bicycle. We lived in the same town, where I was studying full-time and he was working and studying part-time. He’s the kindest person I know and once lent me the bakkie. I’m the most despicable sister I know and never returned it to him.
One day, having completed my studies, I threw everything I owned into the back of the bakkie and, powered by Lert Stay Awake tablets left over from exams and the music of Dionne Warwick and Billy Ocean, drove 1 560 kms through the night to Cape Town, which is where I’ve been ever since.
Two years after I’d absconded in the bakkie, my parents decided they’d drive 1 560 kms to Cape Town in my mother’s old sky-blue Datsun 120Y. Their plan was to persuade me to hand over the 1 400 in exchange for the 120Y. But they hadn’t even left the misty valleys of KwaZulu-Natal when, in a particularly foggy area, they hit a cow who’d bunked road sense classes to rest in the middle of the road.
The 120Y crumpled like a used tissue, which gave my father reason to buy my mother a new car. This time, he chose a Toyota Corolla. They immediately resumed their trip to Cape Town but abandoned the idea of returning in the bakkie, which was, by then, slightly misshapen due to a few encounters I’d had over the years.
So I kept the bakkie to ferry myself around Cape Town. On weekends, I’d take my one-eyed Boxer x Ridgeback called Stash (that’s another story) to the beach. It was useful too, for collecting drunken housemates from the Pig ’n Whistle. On particularly riotous nights, it held eight in the back and three up front.
My boyfriend and I installed a mattress and took a week or so to drive to KwaZulu-Natal via the Wild Coast so I could introduce him to my parents. We’d hardly arrived when he and my father had a rip-roaring freedom fighter versus terrorist argument. We drove back to Cape Town and eventually got married.
After a 27-year hiatus, Datsun launches its first new generation car in New Delhi next week. It’ll be available here in 2014. Technologically, the new Datsun will be very different from the 1 400 bakkie. Even so, if I win the lottery, I’ll buy one and drive 1 560 kms back to KwaZulu-Natal and give it to my brother. Or perhaps it’s time to let go.
(This article was first published as one of my Technology etc. columns in Business Day in July 2013.)