Shropshire Star

Mark Andrews: A strange smell, a classic car, and a mysterious man

“You smell good,” observed the other half, as I sat down to the dinner half an hour later than promised. Now the pragmatic response would have been to accept the compliment, enjoy the meal, and blame the traffic for my tardiness.

Free gift from the mysterious man

But having been brought up to believe that honesty is always the best policy, I found myself explaining one of those bizarre stories which only ever happen to me.

There have been times when my faith in this mantra has been tested. Honesty didn’t seem to be the best policy, for example, when my Labrador ate my German homework – I’m pretty sure I would have got a more sympathetic hearing had I said I had lost it, or even that I had never done it in the first place. OK, the grown-up me would point out that the easiest thing would have been just to have done it again, but when you’re 15 you don’t tend to see it that way. My dog really had eaten my homework, so why should I pretend otherwise?

Indeed, one of the first things I ever learned at school was never, ever protest your innocence. I remember when I was six years old, and chanced across a book trolley with a wheel that had come off. “I suppose it was the bad fairies that did it,” was my teacher’s reply. The lesson that came out from 12 years of schooling was that you should always plead guilty, even when you’re innocent, and instead focus on coming up with some plausible mitigation.

Which comes down to why I smelled so good after turning up half an hour late for my dinner, a tale that involved a classic car, a mysterious man and a group of demonstrators.

Now, to those who are close to me, the fact that the mishap involved a classic car is at least not too hard to believe. Every man has his vice, and mine is hopelessly impractical cars. I rarely actually drive them anywhere, something which my other half regularly points out to me. The 6.8-litre Rolls-Royce, with its sumptuous leather seats, lambswool rugs and exquisite woodwork looks great in the drive, but when it comes to visiting Asda, I invariably end up taking the rather nondescript works car which only takes up one space in the car park and can usually achieve more than 9mpg.