BBC Onepolitics show


Last Updated: Sunday, 28 October 2007, 10:44 GMT
Tackling her fear of cars
Paola Buonadonna
Paola Buonadonna
The Politics Show

Car on the move
Paola, Simon and the Westfield
My love affair with the car was intense but brief, beginning and ending as it did within 15 minutes on a rainy February night 18 years ago, when I foolishly accepted a driving lesson from my then boyfriend.

We had borrowed his dad's expensive car and all was well until we hit the first roundabout.

The Italian town I came from didn't have many of them, and in the existing few, access was regulated by traffic lights.

My brain froze, refusing to deal with the notion that I simply had to trust my judgement, go, and that other drivers would respect my right of precedence. I'd have sooner agreed to bungee jump - without a rope.

What I did instead was only marginally less dangerous... I hit the brakes and stopped the car in the middle of said roundabout.

When the boyfriend was finished swearing and shouting, we eventually got out of the car... yes, still in the middle of the b****y roundabout - and swapped sides.

Increasingly nervous

Paola strapped in
Paola as the straps go on
Over the years I have not only failed to get a licence but I've become an increasingly nervous passenger too.

The speed of the average urban bus is as much as I can take... anything else above it is just courting death if you ask me.

Making this week's film therefore has been somewhat of an ordeal...

When we decided to look at the plight of sports car manufacturers and arranged to film at the Westfield plant, near Birmingham, some of my male colleagues could barely contain their excitement.

The cars, built by hand at the plant, look like luxury toys and can go very fast.

Perhaps they'd take us for a spin, they enthused, maybe we could even test drive some of the cars ourselves...

Along for the ride

Being the reporter, I knew that there was almost certainly going to be a shot of me "enjoying" a ride at high speed, and my lack of enthusiasm at the prospect caused great mirth in the office.

A plan was quickly hatched to bring a digital camera along for the express purpose of recording my terrified expression when: A) seeing the car I was to "test", B) getting in and... even more amusingly... out of it after going for a spin.

For added value, a small pencil camera was to be fixed to the car mirror to record my every twitch and moan during the ride.

Ready to go
The joy of the open road

The people at Westfield were somewhat kinder.

They weren't amused, but rather genuinely mystified that I would view their cars with terror rather than desire.

While the cameraman and the producer asked urgent questions about horse power and nought-to-60 speed, I expressed a feeble preference for trying "the white one".

Strapped in

Soon I was getting strapped into it next to Simon, a Westfield employee with matinee idol looks and driving skills to match.

We started gently and for the first few minutes the traffic forced us to go quite slowly, so despite the weird sensation of being strapped inside a sardine can on wheels, I was actually quite enjoying myself in a Jeeves and Wooster-ish kind of way, trying to strike an elegant pose despite the wind in my hair and the roar of the engine in my ears.

In a couple of minutes though, the road had cleared and Simon revved the engine, producing the noise of a small explosion and we were off, shaking and vibrating like a couple of astronauts on the first space rocket.

Whenever I was able to prize my hands off my eyes I darted nervous glances at the speedometer... I must confess that we never went particularly fast (clearly he was taking pity on me) but it felt much faster and the only thought I was able to formulate, over and over again was: "I'm going to die!"

Paola on train
Back on public transport at last!
Roundabouts without the fear

As if to underline how different two people can be and still belong to the same human race, Simon loved nothing better than tackling - with gusto and at speed - the several roundabouts that peppered our drive, never once hesitating or, needless to say, having major confidence in breakdowns resulting in our need to stop in the middle of one.

My smile, for the benefit of the small on-board camera, was a rictus grin, and my hair resembled a bush of nettles by the time we purred to a nonchalant stop in the company's forecourt again.

I hauled myself out of the sardine can with the agility and grace of a stunned elephant and crossed sports car out of my fantasy list of purchase for when I win the lottery.

It's public transport for me all the way.

The Politics Show Sunday 28 October 2007 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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