Car Wash

By Steve Garside

Location: Drive-through car wash, Molesworth Street, Rochdale, OL16 1TS

I’m waiting in the queue for the car wash again. I come here almost every week. There are four car wash options on offer. There’s the one-seventy, which amounts to a sharp blast of jet water on your wheels and a fat manky brush across your windscreens before the main wash, the two-sixty, which is roughly the same as the one-seventy, and the other two, which I never use, because at four quid and five twenty they are a bit pricey for me. Besides, all they seem to include above the other two cheaper options are more suds and more pre-wash elbow from the young lads who work the car wash. And they are almost always supervised by the sharp lingering hint of cheap spliff smoke.

As far as I know, this drive-through has been here for about ten years and owned by the world’s biggest car wash company. When it was new, the shiny glint off the eye-catching fascia boards and the assorted border planting delivered me to another time.

On the road side of the car wash, about midway down its length is an obelisk-shaped stone that juts up from the ground about three and a half feet. The mounted legend records this as the site where the wartime singer and actress Gracie Fields once lived.

The first time I ever went through a car wash was with my stepdad in his gold-coloured Vauxhall Viva. I remember the soft nudge of the thick chain loop as it lugged in behind the front tyre. With the handbrake off, gear in neutral – and the engine killed at the key – the deliberate ride began; filling me with all the anticipation of the fairground (with the windows wound all the way up of course). Waiting, watching, as the soft brushes surrounded the car, scuffing and buffing the enclosed Viva back to cleanliness, back to shininess, back as far as when it was almost new.

He loved that cigarette-smelling car. As a family, we drove everywhere in it, conquered steep hills in Devon and figured through mist in Scotland. But the car, the age, the man are all gone now, and I am left here in my own car, with the CD player on, at the mercy of the tug of the chain as it draws me inexorably on, through the first smudge of suds as the brushes whip up into their preset positions, and I pass through the parlour of Dame Gracie Fields, again.

Steve Garside is a self-taught visual artist, poet and writer, who has performed his poetry many times and has recently read his work on BBC Radio Manchester.



5 Responses to “Car Wash”

  1. June 23, 2009 at 11:06 am, Ian D Smith said:

    Excellent story. I like this.

  2. June 23, 2009 at 12:37 pm, Mick Rush said:

    1st class story….evocative, real…..more please.

  3. June 27, 2009 at 5:13 pm, Cathy Bryant said:

    Strong, evocative prose. Thanks for this, I enjoyed it enormously.

  4. August 14, 2009 at 8:31 pm, Melanie Rees said:

    Excellent. the last paragraph in particular is hauntingly beautiful. Sensitive, but still retaining it’s gritty Northern stubble.

  5. September 06, 2009 at 10:35 am, michael shepherd said:

    Steve, thanks for pointing me to this one.. I enjoy the detail of your writing.

    And as a distant relative of Gracie through the Stansfields of Molesworth Street — nice to know she’s remembered. She’d know the sound of suds on the washboard from her early days..


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