Sunday, October 30, 2005

#4 A few words on... (Part 1)

Coventry.

Coventry seems like a nice place. It's treated me well so far. But there's something else out there, lurking, just beneath the surface.

You can see it in the broken glass – the spiderwebs of shop-window safety-panes, fragmented by impact – the tough metal shutters, and the furtiveness – the way everyone looks at you as if they're expecting you to start a fight. Which might also explain why everyone is so terribly polite. With the exception of the time I've spent State-side, and with the tiny qualifying annotation about the way people drive here, I've never lived anywhere where the ordinary folk seem to give such a genuine damn about whether your day's going alright. The heaviness of the police presence works both ways, too – you feel safer, but you wonder why they’re so obvious. And the edginess is there in the car scene: the modified hatches, the imports with the exhausts, the euro saloons with the sound systems and the slammed suspension settings... The question is where are they meeting, and what are they doing when they get there – coz it sure as hell isn't obvious from the pavement where I'm standing.

It's not like Bournemouth, my previous geographical location of domicile, where the Westover Circuit is well established – even documented – as the cars subtly (yes, if you can believe such a thing of a cruise scene) signify with little “Burnin Bmth” stickers in their blackedout rear windows. I'd say it was because much of Coventry's city centre is pedestranised or shopping precinct now, but the same can be said of the so-called English Riviera and it doesn't stop them there. You see the cars in Coventry, but you don't see the uniformity – there's nothing obvious in their behaviour, despite the clarity of their existence. Where's the circuit, where – to take another example, from Herne Bay in Kent, where the apparent aim of the game is to have your car dump its turbo between speedbumps along the front – is the strip? Where are they all going?

One of my housemates suggested that they were on their way to benefits office, to pick up their cheque. I thought this was a little uncharitable (lol), but then I remembered a column Russell Bulgin had written once, and suggested instead that they were on the way to pay off the lifeblood-choking finance that’s essential in keeping up the alloy-inches quotient. This gave us a chuckle, but didn’t get me any closer to figuring out what the blasters are up to.

I should explain. These cars fascinate me. I’ve always been far too sensible (or is it, far too insufficient with the funds?) to do it myself, but I can see the appeal. For me – though I guess I might not be representative, hoho – it’s in taking something that is standard and everyday and ordinary, and making it just a little bit different; my desktop pc is home built – which makes absolutely no sense economically as you simply can’t source the parts as cheaply as mass manufacturers, but it interests me more because I did it myself, and because it means I don’t have a dull plastic box under the desk, and because I know what went into it, the specifications of the parts and the quality of the construction (patchy at best, but at least I’m certain of that). I like the lights, and the sounds (back to the cars now), and the dubious looks – though I’m less keen on the idiot driving and the unrealistic parts stickers (like Blitz decals on a Ford Fiesta 1.1, for example. Blitz make Japanese performance parts).

I like to think it’s about individuality and independence. But I could be wrong; an ex-girlfriend of mine claims it’s all about The Bass – a superior knowledge garnered from the experience of having dated a boy racer once when she was about 14. And I suppose it doesn’t have to be everyday and ordinary, either. I have an acquaintance who once had a summer job at Superchips – I remember his incredulity when someone turned up in a Ferrari F40 and wanted it to be made to go faster.

But now I’m lumping the tuner scene in with the blasters, which I’ll probably be told is not entirely appropriate. And there’re questions of designation at issue here, too. None of which get me any closer to the scene in this city, either. So a plan was hatched to go out and find them, but you’ll have to wait till next time to discover how that went.

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