As Peter Kay’s award-winning comedy returns for an unscripted version and a glorious finale, Sam Lambeth takes a look at how the show’s setting sparked a renewed love of the car stereo.
In 2014, I had a care share situation of my own. And, just like the two disparate characters in Peter Kay’s Car Share, it involved a curmudgeonly colleague. I had broken my leg and dislocated my ankle a few weeks prior, rendering me unable to operate anything heavier than a foot pump. After initially being allowed to work from home, the wonderful company I worked for told me I simply had to get to work. Somehow. After offering to ferry me down the M5 and back in a taxi each day (which would approximately add up to £492 a week), they eventually cajoled a colleague who lived a short distance away to run me to work and back for three days a week.
The situation became strikingly similar to Peter Kay’s highly successful comedy. In the show, which has enjoyed two acclaimed series, Kay’s uptight assistant manager John is tasked with driving bubbly promotions girl Kayleigh to work and back. The tight but airy scripts are slow-burning but sublime, allowing the pair’s natural uneasiness to slowly thaw as they bond over the bygone brilliance of Forever FM. As the show progressed, so did the twosome’s rapport – they became involved and concerned in each other’s lives, crooned along to the radio’s cheesy pop and embarked on a series of engaging scrapes.
Now, I’m not saying anything romantic developed between myself and the chubby guy from IT. And I’m certainly not saying I was the bubbly girl who liked Beyonce and spent evenings scouring through dating sites. But at the start, we had the same silences and reluctant conversations John and Kayleigh shared. We rarely communicated at work unless my useless monitor had decided to start displaying everything in Dutch. However, over the course of three weeks, we began to slowly form a simpatico that was both strange and satisfying. And, like Car Share, the radio certainly helped.
As we rollicked down the motorway with Radio One blasting out, I slowly became engaged. As time went on, I would get excited at the prospect of wrapping up work at 4.30pm so we could catch Greg James’ show. I’d eagerly await what World Cup news was coming out from whatever roving reporter they’d hired. I’d secretly hum along to Kash Kash, nod gracefully to Coldplay’s ‘Magic’ and actually embark on conversation with my driver when comparing Twin Atlantic’s ‘Heart and Soul’ to ‘Here I Go Again’.
On a morning, I’d be happy to hobble down the drive and await the black glint of his Ford Focus. When I was finally off the crutches and was deemed able to drive again (although with my automobile skills, it is always strongly advised I stay away), I felt a pang of sadness. Like John and Kayleigh must have felt – or Skinner and Bart when the former once again became Principal – we would become strangers once more. I bought him some Miniature Heroes as a thank you for his driving services and we moved on.
When Car Share came out, it got me thinking about this time. A period in my life of complete despair – the complete dissatisfaction with my job, the inability to go for a run, a drive or even a brisk walk, the feeling that my life was going nowhere. Yet those half-hour journeys in the warm June sun sustained me, a small glimmer of something fun in a difficult time.
As Peter Kay’s show wrapped up its second series, those feelings came back, as did a renewed love of the radio. At this point, my Fiat 500 was shot to pieces, a dented, bashed-up brick on walls which could combust at any moment. Unsurprisingly, the car stereo had long broken, but as Car Share continued so did my desire to have a radio again. I wanted the unbridled joy Kayleigh and John felt when an old-school classic came on, the anger when a DJ cuts it off before it’s over, and the nostalgic feelings linked to a hit from yesteryear. Those priceless moments of rediscovery, the placement of it within a specific timeframe of your life and the fizzy glee of singing back a knockout chorus are some of the best joys you can have in a car. With your clothes on, that is.
When I finally got a new car, I’d just re-watched the series on DVD. I was making the long jaunt from Wolverhampton to London. I got stuck in traffic in Milton Keynes – which I found odd considering I was fairly sure no one actually lived there – and decided it was time. For the next few hours as I crawled along, MK FM (magic in Milton) blasted out modern pop bangers alongside stone-cold classics, as people on the commute home regaled us with their weekend plans. One person had recently split up from their partner and, triumphantly, requested ‘Back in Black’ as he was now ready to mingle. Another celebrated Damon Albarn’s 50th by demanding ‘Parklife’. Spliced in between adverts for random colleges, a Milton Keynes dentistry jingle sang by Suggs and the usual inane DJ chatter, I felt the magic of Car Share all over me once again.
As the show makes its final bow with an unscripted episode and its official swansong, no doubt I will be excited to get straight into the Fiat the next morning for the anachronistic magic of local radio to bathe me in all its glory.
Words by Sam Lambeth