It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a single family, in possession of 3 children with car seats, cannot fit them across the backseat of an estate car. We have tried, dear Lord have we tried. Our Christmas journeys, the first with Sam, saw my Adam resplendent in the front seat as I had to squeeze in between the other two. It's bad enough having the biggest bottom in the family as it is, but to have a 5 year old's bottom travel in such luxury whilst my own was being so squeezed was the final straw. The mighty Ford Mondeo that has been with us through so many adventures had to go.
I'm genuinely sad. I loved our car. We bought it when we realised the Renault Clio was never going to fit a buggy, a baby and a dog and it not once has it broken down on us. It has withstood the best efforts of 2 small boys (the blue felt tip pen on the ceiling was easy to get off, the suncream hand marks on the bonnet less so).
In August 2008 we loaded our life into the back of that car (and a roof box) and drove it across Europe to Bosnia. Few cars can have driven across 5 countries in one day (Switzerland, France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia if you are interested). For the next 2 years it dutifully drove the roads of Bosnia. For this it deserves a knighthood.
Bosnian summers are hot and the winters are harsh. We had to leave our winter tyres behind in Bosnia when we left but we've used snow chains many a time, often just to get out of the drive. Below is one night of snow when we'd forgotten to put the car in the garage.
In our two years we went all over Bosnia, but I used it most to get to the Eastern part of Bosnia, which borders with Serbia along the Drina River. This beautiful part of the world is also one of the bloodiest, with the victims of Srebrenica buried in mass graves all along the roads from Zvornik to Bijeljina (the area most of my research was centred upon).
The car has also taken on the traffic of Sarajevo (and won). We've managed to park it in a Sarajevo car park which requires inch perfect precision. It has driven the streets of still damaged streets of Mostar and the coastal roads by Croatian jewel of a city, Dubrovnik.
The roads of Bosnia are mountainous, treacherous and 2 lane at best. It is seldom possible to get over 50mph*. It pulled off some spectacular overtaking manoeuvres, required in order to pass the 5 beer lorries struggling up the mountainside in front of us and has driven through more minefields and flash storms than it can remember.
The Bosnian police have not always been so impressed. We've been stopped many times, mainly because they just couldn't get their head around the concept of right hand drive cars. Bosnian passengers have also been similarly bemused, particularly when they were called upon to decide whether it was safe or not to overtake. There's no such thing as a free lift with us, it's bloody hard to see if you can overtake when you are driving on the wrong side of the car. This being Bosnia we've crammed in the people, with adults sharing the boot with the dog as we negotiated various dirt track roads to get to old castles (in Srebrenik and Zvornik more than once) and more scarily past the army shooting range to find the dog pound in Tuzla.
We've taken the car apart (dropped a 1KM coin down by the drivers seat which unhinged the seats mechanism. We fixed it but the coin is still in the car somewhere). The car saw off some Bosnian vandals keen to try and see what an English car was like, damage to the little rear window was spectacular, but the nice garage who lived behind us sorted it no problems. They were good when I reversed the car into a van as well. We feel we know the car well.
But we just couldn't fit three children into the backseat, so it had to be sold. Gone in part-exchange for a people carrier thing and I have to admit to having a little cry as I thanked it for being so good to us. If anyone is thinking of buying it and googles the registration, then know that this is a car that has a history of travel and adventure. It has never let us down, so please treat it well.
New car. You've got some big boots (tyres?) to fill.
*whilst we may have found it impossible to get to speeds of over 50mph, the Bosnians don't appear to be hampered by the traditional driving aspects of safety, fear for one's own life and general sensibleness and regularly speed along at a much higher rate. Don't know how.