By Terence McCarthy, Lotus Drivers Club
It started when I first bought my Seven. The Internet led me to groups and clubs that fed my enthusiasm. I learned a great deal, but one word rather confused me. “Blat” seemed an very common though unusual word used around the Seven world I had entered, and from the context in which it was used I decided that it was an “in word” used by Seveners both to communicate something to other initiates, and to enable them to be recognised in turn - a kind of verbal handshake. Then I found the definition “Blat. To go for a drive” and it’s beautiful simplicity. A five word, five syllable definition that is all inclusive, a model, I considered, of brevity and clarity, and having had the meaning explained to me got on with my life.
Gradually, I began to wonder. Why did spelling checkers keep telling me I had spelled it incorrectly? It’s only four letters, and although I will admit to the occasional lapse that needs attention drawn to it, and correcting, it is not, definitely not, my ability to spell that is at fault, but my keybrad. There, you see, it’s done it again!
Perhaps, I thought, it is because I am using the word as a noun, when the definition clearly states that it is a verb. “I blat”, “They blat”, “He blats”, “She blats” and so on. But no sooner than I settled on this as the reason than I found that it was being used as a noun by fellow Seveners! Surely, thought I, they would not do so knowing it to be incorrect, so it must be my understanding that is at fault. This I do not find difficult to believe. I sometimes think that the only thing I do, sort of, understand is how much I don’t. This feeling was heightened by discovering it was used by owners of all sorts of Seven derivatives, speaking a variety of languages.
I did not feel that I could ask more experienced members why and what it meant when they used it, for I feared that not only would I display my ignorance, but the reply might be along the lines of “If you have to ask the question then you would not understand the answer”.
I resolved to look at this further. Perhaps the answer was more easily available and simpler than I imagined. I turned to my dictionaries for help. It is hard when the trusted props of one’s ignorance fail one. The Shorter Oxford had nothing between “Blasted” and “Blasphemy”, which came close to echoing my feelings. Neither did the full Oxford English Dictionary, so I turned to other reference books on my shelf.
“The Oxford Dictionary of New Words” had nothing between “Blairism” and “Blot”, and the “Dictionary of Slang” only gave the Runyonesque “Blat” from the German for newspaper.
“Hobson-Jobson” gave me “blatty” which sounds like it should be an adjective, (possibly from Yorkshire) but which, perhaps appropriately, means “the land-wind in Arabia”. Ashe’s Dictionary (1775) showed “blate” defined as “bashful”, which I couldn’t see applied to a Seven, but Doctor Johnson himself was of more help with
“To Blatter” v. n. [from blatero, Lat.] To roar.
This, I felt, was getting closer, for could not “blat” be a shortened description of the “To go for a drive” noise of the average Seven? The Oxford Dictionary of Etymology” gives “Blatant” as “Offensively noisy or clamorous”, which seems to support the idea, although probably a description from the undoubtedly biased view of those who do not drive a Seven.
I had followed my paper trail to the end, and with only the vaguest of hints to encourage me I went on-line. I am a great fan of the inter-webs, but after ten minutes I gave up! You can find a dozen, nay, dozens of meanings of the “blat”, mostly unsavoury, and nothing at all to do with members of the Seven community and their cars. Or, at least, I hope not.
It was then, whilst enjoying a consolatory gin and tonic, I had a sudden thought! What if the real meaning of the word was only to be discovered within oneself? That the meaning could not be disclosed, explained or understood until one had found The Way?
Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and the ideas about value it expresses, has always been a favourite of mine, and the G&T triggered a “Zen and the Art of Seven Maintenance” moment!
What is it that makes people want a Seven? What was it about the Seven that made it so desirable? The more I thought about it, the more difficult it became to identify even the two or three most important reasons I could give. I could only echo George Mallory on being asked why he wanted to climb Everest “Because it’s there”!
(I know the reasons why I never had one until recently. They are easy to list are, more or less in order,: poor undergraduate, poor subaltern, poor married man, mortgage, children, school fees blah, blah blah…
The two reasons I did eventually buy one are also simple; a personal, not simply an intellectual, reminder that one is mortal, and that grabbing today is important!)
So, what was it about the Seven that was different? Ah, I felt I was getting closer, although like wanting one, a question hard to answer. It is a lot of things: the sheer beauty and simplicity of design, the clear focus on handling and performance, the seeking for the ideal form following the ideal of the function of driving…
But this is just the physical manifestation of the Seven. This could not be the answer, for many vehicles share some of these, with arguably better looks, and unarguably better performance. So perhaps I should consider the metaphysical aspect of Seven desire and ownership. This seemed to offer a way forward. Pirsig used “the Road” as a metaphor for his journey to self-enlightenment, so maybe that’s what I, along with the other Seveners, and perhaps also sub-consciously, were trying to achieve.
So how should I proceed? This was not so easy to decide, for it appears that like Buddhism there are many ways (or roads?) to Nirvana. Buddhism has it’s Eighthfold Way, so perhaps there was a Seventhfold Way. Which I had to discover.
It began to seem obvious: some choose the path of the simple “blat”, close to home, to seek and achieve the mystical state of “The Seven”, and drive the roads of memory. Others range far and wide across their own country, even some, adventurous souls, overseas. They go on long distance pilgrimages or “tours” to holy sites, such as Le Mans and Spa, or even further afield. Some seek it in other similar holy places closer to home, where driving in circles, rather like mechanised whirling Dervishes, they seek to shorten their “lap times”. I believe that when a group of them do it together they call it “lap dancing”, and great credit accrues to the one who leads the dance at the end.
(I confess to being somewhat confused here: I gather the one who is fastest in practice has “pole position” so those behind are lower down the pole. If this is so, perhaps I should refer to it as “Pole Dancing” instead?)
I felt I was on the right path – I hesitate to use the word “track” - but there seemed to be to be more than one Way. So, which should I choose? I pondered this over another G&T, and then enlightenment came!
I did not have to choose! It had already chosen me! I already enjoyed learning about, looking at and maintaining my Seven. I was already thrilled and delighted by driving it alone, or, better still, in company with other Sevens. I have organised a local area “mini-tour” and I was looking forward to my track day initiation! I was on my Way!
The roads of the future appeared before me, and they appear to be boundless, each appealing, each with its promise of blats to come!
Now, finally, I understood “Blat”, if only, so far, in the limited way of the acolyte. I no longer needed to define it, it is something to accept and enjoy, not explain! But if I had the temerity to a definition of “Blat” it would be:
1. A drive or a journey in a Lotus or other Seven motor car in which driving becomes more than driving, the act more than the destination, becoming, not going.
2. The higher state of mind and awareness in which blatness has been achieved.
2. To go for a drive in a Lotus or other Seven motor car for the sheer delight of going for a drive in a Seven.
A state of mind in which the Seventh heaven has been achieved, usually when enjoying a blat (qv).
1. Used to describe someone who blats excessively or obsessionally as judged by other Seven owners.
a. As in “It’s a blatty good road”.
b. As in e.g. “blatty liar”, used of one who consistently overstates his/her prowess in blatting.
Or perhaps it’s best left as it is. After all, maybe it is better to find one’s own way, and always to enjoy the journey in one’s Seven.
Terence McCarthy is the co editor of Chicane the Lotus Drivers Club Magazine and a founding member of South West Sevens. He is the proud owner of a Caterham Superlight and a Lotus Excel.