Read the text carefully and answer the questions that follow it. Use your own words throughout as far as possible.

Seduced by the prospect of carefree, soft-topped motoring, I bought an MGB Roadster last year. A piece of our heritage for only three thousand quid. I pictured myself swishing through the countryside in flat-cap and Aran sweater, joking with my girlfriends as our scarves played merrily in the wind.

Eagerly I joined a local MG owners’ club. This is affiliated to the national MGOC, with its network of 50,000 members. The monthly club newsletter carries captioned photographs2 of some of them, standing proudly by their Midgets: ‘Swedish member Conny Sjoquist and girlfriend Caroline would like to thank Michael and Carol Bacon for their wonderful hospitality during their stay in England.’ It even has its own Lonely Hearts column3. Anyone fancy a ‘Professionally cheesed-off commuter4 seeking ‘female to plan escapes from the rat-race’?

Fellow MG owners are preternaturally friendly. They exchange waves, flash their lights and swap dealers’ telephone numbers. I was happy to be among them. I shelled out on a lapel badge, subscribed to a vintage car magazine and bought a pair of MG boxer shorts. No one could have been more enthusiastic5.

On the dub’s first outing (‘… the merry band of adventurers ventured farther and finally halted at the Fox and Hounds6, where all were fed and watered’), my car broke down. The week after, the battery was flat. This is helpfully7 situated under the passenger shelf. Removing it involves a balancing act with a piece of wire, while battery acid pours all over your feet. You get better at this7. A month later one side of the car had to be rebuilt. The engine was next, seizing after a few hundred miles of summer motoring. Repairs had already cost more than the bloody car. When the autumn rains started, my MG wouldn’t9. Friends got fed up pushing the thing. The interior always smelled of mould. There was so much water in the bottom at one point that I had a bath plug10 installed. My girlfriend had finally seen enough. She ran off with a Ford Fiesta owner from Cornwall.

One day I came to my senses. MGs are not meant to be driven. They are fetishes, not cars. Motors for train spotters, obsessed with the minutiae of trim. The sort of people who spend years restoring a vintage rust-bucket, polishing the suspension with a toothbrush. Their cars even have names, for God’s sake12.

If you’re feeling tempted by the sunshine and a bit of wanderlust, don’t be. MGs are dismally slow, cramped, irritating, expensive to run and make a Trabant13 look environmentally sound. Still hankering?14 Then perhaps you’d like to buy mine. I am prepared to accept considerably less than I paid for it.

(adapted from an article by Tim Atkin, The Guardian)

Questions

1 Why did the writer buy an MG?

2 What do the ‘captioned photographs’ consist of?

3 What is a ‘Lonely Hearts column’?

4 What does the writer mean by a ‘Professionally cheesed-off commuter’?

5 In what ways did the writer show how ‘enthusiastic’ he was?

6 What did they do at the ‘Fox and Hounds’?

7 Why does the writer use the word ‘helpfully’, and what is implied by the sentence ‘You get better at this.’?

8 What did the writer have to do to the engine during the summer? Which word expresses his feelings about this?

9 What does ‘wouldn’t’ mean in this context?

10 How was the ‘plug’ supposed to work? What did its installation lead to?

11 What, according to the writer, should be done with MGs?

12 Why does the writer use the expression ‘for God’s sake’?

13 What is the purpose of the reference to a ‘Trabant’?

14 Explain the meaning of ‘Still hankering?’.

15 In a paragraph of 70–90 words, describe the difficulties the writer had with his MG.

Sample Answers

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