"I've always liked Beetles," recalls Charlotte Cox. "They're completely girly, different, silly cars and no one that takes themselves seriously would drive one." Charlotte is the proud owner of a new generation Volkswagen Beetle, a bug she has named Edward and for which she holds much affection. Which is surprising, considering the bother it's caused her.
Upon moving to Dubai just over a year ago to work in publishing, Charlotte decided to buy a car almost as soon as she arrived. Fate lent a hand in the form of a friend selling a Beetle. Charlotte was instantly smitten, despite warnings from car-knowledgeable friends. "They advised me against it, but I saw Edward and it was love at first sight," she says. "Even with all the bumps, scratches and bruises on him. I like a car with a bit of character."
At the time, Edward was named Ringo by his previous owner. But Charlotte soon put a stop to that. "I thought that was ridiculous," she scoffs. "Edward is a far better name. He's Edward when he's behaving, Teddy when I'm pleading with him and Eduardo when attempting to overtake." And so Charlotte and Edward/Teddy/Eduardo fell for each other. But for a while, it seemed the romance could never be, for the two met just as the financial crisis kicked in and banks stopped issuing car loans.
"I had to change bank accounts and got my loan on the day that particular bank stopped doing loans," Charlotte said. "I was at the bank at 6pm sorting it. I think I got the last car loan in the UAE." Finances arranged, the love affair began in earnest and the adventures got under way. "We've had a lot of interesting times," says Charlotte, carefully. "The first major problem came when I was driving to Musandam, not long after I bought the car. We were going for a girls' weekend away and I was in the process of having my visa approved, so my employer had my passport.
"I'd rung the hotel and they said to bring my driving licence and I should be fine, but to be extra sure I drove on my own in case I got turned away. "So, I was bombing along towards Musandam when all of a sudden a tyre blew." Not being mechanically minded, Charlotte called the police for help and waited for their arrival. And waited. "I was sitting by the side of the road, in the desert, for about an hour when these local guys pulled over and said they would change the wheel for me," Charlotte says.
"They jacked the car up and went into Edward's tool kit and there wasn't a single tool that fitted the wheels. They were trying to get the nuts off with a tool that didn't fit and there was muck getting all over their dish-dashes. They were very nice, but in the end they gave up and off they went." Two hours later, still with no police assistance, a second car full of resourceful Syrian men stopped.
"I still don't know how they did it, but they had all these tools and fashioned their own custom tool. It took them half an hour but they got the wheel off and put the new one on." After almost four hours in the desert, with Edward up and running again, Charlotte finally made it to the border crossing to Musandam. And was promptly turned away for not having her passport. Since then, Charlotte and Edward have had a fraught relationship. The driver's side door handle fell off and the glove box no longer opens. The volume control on the stereo is stuck. And in June, the air conditioning broke down. It has stayed broken, as Charlotte decided not to spend Dh4,000 - her holiday fund - on fixing it.
"Everywhere I went in the summer, I was sweating," she recalls. "Traffic jams were the worst. But I got through it, and I think it's made me a stronger person. Sweating so much is probably good for the skin." Despite all this, the couple remain in love. "I get in the car every morning and part of me doesn't expect to arrive where I'm going. I drive very gently and don't do high speeds," Charlotte says."I love Edward. We have a special relationship and as much as I bash him against walls and bollards, he hearts me too. It's a love-hate thing."