He introduces himself as Khan. Limp handshake. Much shorter than me. I immediately suss him out and reckon I could take him. He’s driven down from somewhere else and he’s late “because of the M25”. He is meeting me in a parade of shops near Purley. “I own some of the shops,” he tells me. “Did you drive down in the Jaguar?” I ask him. “No. A different car.”
The Gumtree advert was selling a 2003 X-Type for £495. “Bargain. First to see will buy.” A big claim, but true enough. It had just been posted, last night at about 6. It has an MOT for a whole year. I called him immediately. “If it runs, I’ll buy it. I’ll come tomorrow morning at 11. I’m paying full asking price. Don’t offer it to anyone else.” 5 minutes later I noticed he’d taken the ad off gumtree. He texted me the postcode for this anonymous parade of shops in Purley. I went to bed nervous.
Now I’m sitting in the car. “Do you own the balloon shop?” I ask him. “Yeah.” “How much do they pay in rent?” “You know what, they only pay £600 a month. If that shop was, I dunno, in Battersea, it’d be like, I dunno, £1200 or more.” “With staff costs, they’d still need to sell a ton of balloons though.” I’m provoking him. Looking for his truth. Deciding whether to trust him. “Yeah but it’s all those parties and stuff, you know.” “She was shit at her job.” I tell him. “I went in, said I’m off to a festival tomorrow. She told me it’s just a balloon shop. It was me that told her people like to buy balloons at festivals. She’ll never sell any like that. Acted like I was in the wrong place.” “So long as she pays the rent,” he says, and falls into pensive silence.
We drive to a house. The driveway is full of cars in various states of disrepair. “It’s a hobby,” he says. “Check out this one!” He shows me another jag. It’s automatic. It’s not well. “My next project.” But he can’t get in the door of the house. He has no keys. Neither of us have a pen, you see. He’s lost the logbook, or he never had it. Am I buying a stolen car off this diffident guy? It’s not registered as stolen yet – I checked. Time will tell. He can’t get into the house. It’s his mate’s house. “But your cars?” “We share them.” This is well dodgy. I send Brian a photo of him outside the door in case he shanks me when I’m not looking.
We end up in a Co-op. I buy some pens. We fill in a form. He takes a photo of the form. Hmmm. Now he knows where it’s parked at night. Still, I pay him. And I go to the post office. It’s not taxed. I tax it. £340 for a year. Need insurance though. Direct Line, my previous insurer, try to shove a pineapple up my arsehole. I go compare, and end up with a quote from some place called something dodgy like “insure u face”. It’s still £270 up front and £150 a month. Because I’m an actor and my no claims discount of 3 years in no way reflects the amount of road time I’ve accumulated.
Not done yet though. I can’t park it. Off to High Street Kensington, where I realise I have no receipt. I’m way too trusting. I message Khan. He texts me a receipt. They accept it. £66 for 3 months parking in my borough. So far, with £70 for a full tank of petrol and £1 for the biros I’ve spent £1272. Now it’s parked outside. I’m driving to Shambala tomorrow with it so he’d better not steal it back tonight.
When I filled it with petrol, I jagged my finger on something and it took a chunk out. Loads of blood. It bit me. Now there’s a bit of my blood in the fuel. I’m going to smudge the car thoroughly tomorrow morning with Palo Santo in case those dents in the front carry a dark story and it’s hungry.
But I can beat bad energy every day of the week. I think I’ll be happy with this dark animal once I’ve recovered from the big spend to acquire it. I need to make sure I turn over little bits of money here and there with it, so guys – if you need a driver…