I have received a request for more stories of my childhood, and I’m minded to oblige so the rest of you will have to put up with them.
My childhood began in 1968 when I was eight. This is because my most iconic memories date from that time, when we moved half way across the known world around the equator, aka the terrible North Circular Road, from Edmonton N9 to Hounslow West. We didn’t have a car in those days so my father was to be taken by a parishioner in his old black Ford. I was fascinated by cars and could tell them apart (easier in those days when they were all different) but few people we knew owned one. I begged and begged my parents to be allowed to go with my Dad and see the new house. They said I’d be sick: I said I wouldn’t. They said I’d be tired; I said (huge concession) I’d go to bed early. Eventually I was allowed to go. The car was a severe old black Ford Prefect with indicators that flipped out the side like ears, except that one of them didn’t so my Dad had to keep giving it a thump whenever we were turning left. The journey was long and halting – even in those days the North Circular was a pain – and the traffic fumes lay heavy on my stomach, but I knew I’d never live it down if I was sick so I told myself I wouldn’t. When we arrived I ran happily about the echoing house and overgrown garden and went home proud of myself for being part of the advance party and taking possession of it ahead of my mother and sister.
Shortly after we moved we acquired a car of our own, the parish being too large for my Dad to cycle round. It was a brand new Hillman Imp. I don’t know why my parents settled on this but it looked like a sewing machine on wheels and didn’t perform much better – in fact my mother’s trusty old Singer would probably have got us from A to B more efficiently. The Imp was temperamental and we never really got on with it, but the worst thing for us children is that on long trips we were made to sit on the back seat folded down, which meant sitting upright for hours with no backrest and the edge of the seat digging into our legs. Imagine! You’d be arrested nowadays.
Last night before watching the Crown I listened to Victoria Coren Mitchell’s Women Talking About Cars. This week it was the excellent Sarah Millican and last week it featured Olivia Coleman whose cars were frankly more interesting than her life (how can such a great actress have done so little?) It’d be no good me going on it though, since I’ve owned only three cars in my life, a Vauxhall Cavalier, a Ford Escort estate and my current model, a Ford Focus. Nor did my parents do much better, owning only the Hillman Imp, a Morris Traveller and the Vauxhall Cavalier which they eventually passed on to us. The Morris had an interesting demise; whilst built like tanks to go on and on, they had one weak point which was the front axle. One day my sister and family were driving on the motorway when the axle went; like a lame horse the wheel folded underneath and the car crashed. The dog was cannoned out of the back, shot across six lanes of motorway and landed on the hard shoulder on the other side. He survived with only a broken toenail.
There. That’s enough memories for now. I’m off now, in that horrid phrase, to ‘make some more.’ Ugh.