Here’s a question that could easily find its way into the notorious Life in the UK Test:
What has it got in its garages?
The answer, of course, for an Englishman, is “Everything but the car”. The concept of having a car inside a garage is something foreign. I’m not sure exactly why this is, but I have a few inklings.
Firstly, garage door design hasn’t moved with the times. There is a standard door size which is almost universal. Apart from a few double garages which have a double size door, almost every door is exactly the same size. And that size would be perfect for the days when cars were Midgets and Minis. Since then, cars have grown up (even the Mini has a significant middle-age spread), and they struggle to fit through those doors. My car isn’t particularly large (a Vauxhall/Opel Zafira), but it squeezes through with little more than a centimetre on each side. There’s a little stripe on each side of the doorframe where my mirrors have scraped occasionally. Something like a VW Passat probably wouldn’t fit without folding the mirrors away.
Secondly, there’s a lot of things to store. Few and far between is the garage that isn’t stuffed floor to ceiling with old furniture, children’s toys, tools, bicycles, suitcases, and goodness knows what else. I don’t know whether there’s too much of stuff, or too little of space in the houses, or whether it’s just the old adage about the trappings of life filling all available space. But filled they generally are.
Then, there’s something, I think, in that garages are slightly more rare than they could be. Many older areas have terraced houses with no space for cars apart from on the street. It becomes customary for a car to live on the street, and so even when the opportunity arises to park it under cover, it doesn’t happen.
The reason that this is on my mind is that we spent much of yesterday cleaning out our garage. In putting all our stuff on one side, to enable the car to fit in, we ended up with a bit of a mess. With five bicycles, shelves, a lawnmower and trimmer, a base set for a bed that won’t fit up stairs, suitcases, and the like, it quickly gets out of hand. But with a nifty reorganisation of the shelves, and the purchase of a bike rack, it is as neatly organised as I could possibly imagine it being. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that for the first time in my life, I have a garage that my dad would not be ashamed of.