I met Pru early '90s - I can't remember exactly which year but it was the year that I went on holiday with my friend Annie and her husband. Two Annies and a Pru together in France! Gosh, our menfolk were brave to take us on, I can tell you.
I didn't know when I met her that she had a chequered history; a dodgy past; that she was, very probably, a split personality. I just know that when I first saw her, I fell in love immediately and that we had to be together.
I wouldn't normally have done something like this and my partner at the time was a bit shocked the first time I took her home - he told me when she wasn't listening, that I should really have consulted him first as he knew more about her type than I did; that I shouldn't have made such a decision on my own. I remember being quite cross - I knew Pru wouldn't let me down, wouldn't spoil anything, would be perfect to take on holiday with us. I'd invited her as much for him as for me too.
Indeed, it was the forthcoming holiday that had prompted my decision to get to know Pru.
Probably since she had a serious illness (for in her youth, she was really rather wild...) my friend Annie has been quite a nervous traveller and she was now - just a few weeks before we were due to leave - feeling a tad twitchy about the holiday we'd planned. We were to cross the channel on a ferry; the first daunting challenge for Annie. She and her husband in one car, me and my partner in another. And then we were going to drive through France, stopping off at various places along the way before reaching Aix-en-Provence, our destination. It was the driving that was making both us Annies feel concern, though for slightly different reasons. Annie's was the amount of driving; mine was the type of driving.
Nick is a sensitive soul and has always respected Annie's fears so their driving style was, at this time, sedate to say the least. My partner was a rubber-burning, hand-break turn maniac on the road - and that's putting it mildly. My fear was that we would lose our friends the minute we disembarked from the ferry in France, as they intended following us - Francophiles that we were - but would simply not be able to keep up. And my partner would be frustrated at having to wait or drive slowly... I could see disaster looming before we'd even packed.
This is where I knew having Pru along would help us perfectly.
Pru was a 1988 Citroen 2CV. I bought her from a nice young man in Horsforth without consulting my partner, who was a bit of a car expert. She was cream and maroon in colour and had all the 2CV extras - such as a flapdown/up roof, no heating, loose wing mirrors, bench seating, removable handbreak and erratic door handles. And I adored her. She was perfect for our France holiday because her top speed was about 68 mph but reaching that speed took a while and inside the car, it felt twice as fast.
Everyone happy! My plan worked a treat. Pru was such a novelty to drive that my partner never noticed our relative snail's pace as we poddled along with the wind in our hair. We did lose Annie and Nick in the end but not until we'd reached Aix-en-Provence and all was fine because we all eventually came back together.
Pru went on to play a major role in my life. She was like a celebrity and I drove every day to work, though some days, I'd arrive frozen as having no heater in the winter in Huddersfield was a bit of a negative. She had a friend - another 2CV - and the owner and I parked our two cars facing each other - so they could talk whilst we worked. Once, as I climbed the hill out of Brighouse, snow falling rapidly, I remember hoping the traffic lights halfway up would stay green so that I didn't have to stop and make a hill start - as I knew I'd have to double declutch between first and second gear, which was tricky. (I still have no idea what it means but it was a technique that my feet and hands seemed to master as long as I didn't think about it at the same time.) I wasn't lucky and to add to the problem, as I pulled on the handbrake, which was located in the dashboard and required a horizontal pull - it just came out in my hand! I've blanked out what happened next but I know we got home eventually. I don't blame Pru; I must have pulled quite hard through anxiety.
I was always cheerful driving Pru - although in the cold weather, singing helped me to keep warm. I remember a work colleague remarking to me that he'd followed me some way and was most amused to see me singing along to the radio as I drove. I didn't tell him I didn't have a radio, I just smiled and tried to look like an Information Manager.
Around this time, my partner and I were such Francophiles that we bought a little cottage about halfway between Tours and Poitiers, in a little village called Lurais - Les Basses Granges, it was called. Still is, and I still own half of it....but that's another story. I remember going out there many times in Pru. Once, on our way back to the ferry, we'd left ourselves a bit short of time but Pru wouldn't let us miss it - no, she positively galloped along, reaching speeds of almost 80 mph and shocking many a Gaul along the way - who couldn't believe their eyes!
And one time, whilst in the cottage, we drove to the Vendee coast to meet my family and some friends who were camping there. The beach is long and the tide was far away when we arrived but as it came closer, we had to move back up the beach several times. And on one of these moves, I managed to inadvertently lose the car keys. Not that we needed them to get into the car - Pru was very particular about who she would let in, allowing her little handle to swivel uselessly if she didn't fancy someone. So we didn't bother locking her. But she did need the key to start her. So we walked to a Citroen garage - me confident that there'd be an easy solution. There was and it didn't involve a new key. For the rest of her time with me, Pru happily set off after a quick tickle with a screwdriver. Seems that was the way most French 2CV owners did it.
Pru went everywhere with me. Eventually though, I traded her in - how could I? I've asked myself a million times how I could have been so fickle in the end. For a shiny little red Fiat too. Common as muck.
Well, the garage that was happy to trade and sent me away in my tarty little Fiat phoned me a couple of days later to say well done, I'd pulled a fast one - or hadn't I known that Pru was a ringer*?
You could have knocked me down with a feather. All that time - all the those miles - I'd trusted her completely. And on retrospect - I'd have her back, just as she was, and I'd never, ever part with her again.
Now this picture is as close as I can get to her - and it's not even her.
*A 'ringer' is a stolen car that has had its identification numbers replaced by a set from another - usually written-off - car, which effectively changes the car's identity.