It was at the tender age of three-ish that I enchanted an aunt with a new word.
I believe she found me absorbed in a game of cars. One or two: not many. They may have been talking: I don’t remember, I was three, and I have problems remembering last year.
She came up to me, crouched down and said:”Hello, Katie. What are you doing?”
I assumed, I am told, an insufferably officious air. And then I enquired, in Freemansonly tones: :”You don’t know what a bunclactor is, do you?”
She didn’t. And she never found out from her pompous little neice, either. There are some secrets too important to divulge to a grown up.
What a shame I had to forget what one was myself. The mystery will never be solved now.
At a rough guess, though, a bunclactor is a slightly battered old car. Not yet vintage, but no spring chicken either.
I am no stranger to bunclactors. Most of us go through a bunclactor stage in our late teens and early twenties, when we have just enough to buy a car which is an oldie and hopefully a goodie.
My first car was a strange French number with a huge bottom which was hitched high (what is it with French cars and their bottoms?).
It behaved beautifully until it didn’t and then it stopped. It cost the earth to be opened up by a mechanic. I thought my car surgeon was a genius until my car arrived back with the gearstick attached backwards.
From then on, the car appeared to start in fifth gear. One became oddly used to thinking upside down.
As our incomes grew and children had not yet appeared, oh, how our cars progressed. We drove BMWs, naughty fast Fords and up-to-the minute Citroens, with all mod cons.
We forgot the charm of aged cars, and their little foibles.
Since family arrived we have operated a bi-bunclactoral policy. Namely: we run a safe, newish family car, while Phil amuses himself with a procession of seductive bunclactors on the side.
There was the gorgeous white almost-vintage Mercedes, the ground-hugging white Porsche; and latterly the Princess-Di-green softtop Audi.
But what goes around comes around, especially where pennilessness is concerned. One cannot run a gas-guzzler and pay school fees, and so our great grey faceless bus with electric doors has been despatched, and in its place Phil has procured the most glorious bunclactor.
It is a huge old wine-coloured Mercedes estate. The inside is upholstered for film stars, with great cream covered armchairs and enough space to brandish a glass of champagne. It turns surprisingly nimbly; It does not drive, it glides. It purrs along and asks no questions for 95 per cent of the time.
The other five per cent takes a little getting used to.
You see, my claret princess does not enjoy the cold. She acts like any member of royalty would, when faced with early morning or late evening unreasonable demands. She digs her pretty little stiletto heels in. She will not be hurried.
Have you ever sat there, physically willing a car forward when it simply will not go?
It can be excruciating. It is an over active choke, apparently: while it is very cold, the Mercedes engine happily throttles the great longmobile so it creeps forward at about 20 miles per hour.
This becomes a problem when one is negotioating rush hour traffic on the way home.
The princess sat in the car park at school all day today, getting chillier and chillier. And when I shot out, with just minutes to spare to collect my daughter from her coach, the new addition would not be rushed.
Twenty miles an hour, she crept up the main road out of town. Behind I built up quite a following, red-faced, infuriated drivers one and all. It did not matter how much, or how little I put my foot down; how I finessed that over privileged engine; not one mile an hour more would she do.
The bunclactor and I hotched up the road like a sort of crazed funeral procession, with me maintaining a constant monologue, imploring the car to go faster at any cost, acknowledging the certain fury of those drivers behind me, and bewailing the excruciating embarrassment of the moment.
The entrails of the situation did not augur well for the car.
But I am in love: my claret princess has me besotted, and I would forgive her anything.
From now on we will be taking measures to warm her for journeys when her tootsies are cold. I shall dash out of school five minutes before the off, turn her ignition, and give her a little wake-up time.
After all, even 4pm can be an unholy hour at this time of year.
Picture source here