Two Horses

As cars go, the Citroën 2CV is one that is quite close to my heart.

In general I’m not that interested in cars but I’ve always quite liked the 2CV mainly, I think, for reasons of nostalgia since one of these (in a lovely pea green colour) was our family car throughout the early years of my life.   I think my parents got it fairly shortly before I was born and we had it until I was about 6 or 7, as I recall.

Apart from the colour of our 2CV, things I remember with particular fondness include the canvas top that could be rolled back in fine weather, the hand-crank that could be used to start it as an alternative to the ignition key (which, as I recall, we never actually needed to use though I did enjoy the rare occasions when my dad would demonstrate this capability) and the fake-leather seat upholstery that got painfully hot (especially if you were wearing shorts) when the sun shone.  OK, so fondness is probably not the appropriate word for that last recollection but it certainly burned itself well into my mind, not to mention my legs.

As far as I’m aware, the name 2CV came from the French phrase deux chevaux, meaning two horses or, in this context, two horsepower – a description of the power of the car’s engine.  I’m fairly sure that deux chevaux was the first phrase of French I ever learned, although it would probably be exaggerating to say that this did very much to fuel my lifelong interest in languages.  (Speaking of fuel, I seem to recall that our Citroën used 3-star petrol, which I haven’t seen on sale for several decades now.)

I had a friend at university 12 or so years ago who used to drive a 2CV.  While helping him to bump start it one time, I discovered that the car’s body is made from incredibly soft metal that would visibly distort when you pushed against it.  I suspect it probably wouldn’t offer too much protection in the event of a crash, but I tried not to think too much about that while my friend was subsequently giving me a lift down the A55.

The reason I mention all this, or rather the reason I’ve been thinking about the 2CV today is that, after not having seen one for quite some time (several years, at least, I think) I saw two yesterday.  Both were the same colour (off-white / cream) but I’m fairly sure they were different vehicles as one was definitely a left-hand drive vehicle with French plates, being driven by a young-looking (and also rather nice looking, I might add) woman while the other was, I’m fairly sure right-hand drive and being driven by a bloke with a fairly impressive beard, who appeared to be enjoying the afternoon sunshine with the top of the car rolled down and a big smile on his face. I say that I’m fairly sure because I saw this one first (by several hours) and didn’t take particular note of what side the steering wheel was on; I would think that the very fact I didn’t notice it suggests that it was probably on the usual side for cars on British roads.

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