It wasn’t a Ford Cortina Estate; it was odd to imagine that it would be. It was Japanese model from the late-90s, altogether different from the distinctive Cortina, more prosaic, less stylish. Ford Cortinas were the embodiment of the spirit of a generation, never ageing, never going slower, never out of place. It was odd that Ford would replace a national icon with the unloved Sierra, but such were the 1980s.
Why did it even matter? Why accelerate to catch up with a car in the expectation it might be something thirty years old? How many Ford Cortina Estates were even still on the road?
It was one of those impulses inspired by a reason just out of sight; a hope for something without knowing why; no more rational than childhood wishes that a grey horse spied in a field might be a unicorn. What sense was there in wishing to see a unicorn, had such a thing even existed, what significance would there be in seeing it? What significance would there have been in seeing a Ford Cortina on an Irish road on a March Saturday morning?
Hope of a unicorn came from times of fairy tales and stories of magic, of grey lit Somerset landscapes with Avalon rising from the mists, of being at an age when anything was possible. The fact of the unicorn would not have been important, its possibility would have been enough to instil a mood of optimism. The Ford Cortina, symbolic of teenage years when nothing was impossible, when nothing in the world could quench hopes.
The expectations, the anticipations, never materialised; at the age of 51 the inclination is to assume that the plot has no further actions, that the story has gone as far as it will go.
The spring sunshine is bright over woodland to the south and there is the realisation that there could be another twenty-three springs through which to work. Having a maximum retirement age of 75, it would be possible to continue in post until the last day of 2035, by which time, twenty-five years would have been spent in the present parish, eleven years less than the incumbent who served there from 1960 until 1996.
Chasing Ford Cortinas, a sub-conscious wish for optimism, for times unclouded by experience: a pointing to an unextinguished hope that unlikely things might still happen, that despite every evidence to the contrary, the story is yet to unfold. Perhaps one day, the grey horse on the horizon will be a unicorn