AFTER driving a company car for well over 30 years, the trials and tribulations of car ownership are not something which have troubled me over much – until last weekend.

When I retired three years ago, I bought my first car in three decades, and it had served me reasonably well throughout that period.

It was a Peugeot 308, a little French filly with bags of panache which only let me down once when it was caught up in the swirling snows conjured up by the Beast from the East a year ago.

I would have thought that a vehicle created in the shadow of the Alps would have treated icy roads on this side of the Channel with Gallic disdain, and skated up them like a dainty chamois, with a blast of garlic from the exhaust.

Its progress up a modest hill out of Bellingham was slower than a dozen escargots doing a conga, and as I neared the top of the bank, just about every warning light, bell and whistle was shrieking flashing or tooting in protest.

I seem to remember even the Sat Nav Lady chiming in that I would have to stop as she needed the toilet tout suite.

After several days entombed in its own igloo, the Peugeot reluctantly came back to life, and has given me few problems since.

Last week though, Mrs Hextol and I were coming back from the car boot sale at Hexham, and on rounding a sweeping left hand bend near Simonburn, were confronted by a car on the wrong side of the road as it attempted to overtake a solid phalanx of cyclists.

I tried to take to the grass verge, but was not quick enough to prevent a coming together which resulted in my door mirror being ripped off, and much of the front end of the car being stoved in.

Both vehicles came to a halt in a tinkling of glass and grinding of metal, but the cyclists pedalled blithely on, leaving me and the other driver to exchange addresses and insurance details.

Thankfully no-one was hurt, and both cars were able to limp away from the scene, having picked up the debris from the carriageway.

The other driver said mournfully: “I was only going to Hexham to pick up some cat litter – I should have let it make do with shredded newspaper instead.”

He graciously accepted responsibility for the crash, and he had emailed me within a couple of hours of it happening with a reference number for his insurers.

I thought sorting out repairs etc would take forever and a day, but the extremely pleasant lady on the end of the telephone was efficiency personified.

I had all my insurance details to hand expecting things to be resolved on a knock for knock basis, but she waved away my reference numbers, and said it was all being sorted out on the other driver’s insurance.

I had taken pictures of the damage to my car, which involved the front wing, door and door mirror, which I offered to pink through to her, but she insisted: “No need for that sir; our client has already told us the impact was fairly severe, and based on that, we have calculated your vehicle is beyond economic repair.”

I was stunned, as the car was only five years old and in reasonable nick, but then I recalled a previous car which had been involved in a head on collision with an American policeman, who was diving on the wrong side of the road in Edinburgh.

That was repaired, but I never felt comfortable in it after the crash, and was pleased when I got rid of it.

The clincher was when she gave me a price for the vehicle which was £2,000 more than it was valued on a leading internet car valuation site.

She said the cash would be in my bank within a week, and the scrap man would be calling to haul away the deceased Peugeot within the next couple of days.

“And you will also require a courtesy car to keep you mobile so you can go and look for a replacement vehicle,” she said and delivery of the vehicle was arranged for a couple of days hence.

She assured me my own no claims bonus would be unaffected and the whole episode would not cost me a bean.

Bear in mind all this happened on a Sunday, when the commercial world used to stop turning.