Our first car – an extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

He was very trusting. That’s not a bad thing to be, but it has a downside. You get taken for a ride, or not, as the case may be. If I had to choose I’d rather be trusting and taken for a ride than cynical and suspicious.

But that’s a point of view.

My father had been in a good job for a period of time now. It meant that we had security, we could pay the mortgage; we were not going to lose the house; we were not struggling to put food on the table; we could afford luxuries. We were the first house down the road to have a television. It was a little black and white job but it was a focal point for all the kids on the block. Saturday night was kids’ night. We had ‘The Buccaneers’ and ‘Planet X’. Planet X was so frightening that mum had to walk Ian and Jeff home, and sometimes even Clive. Clive was a big boy, he must have been about ten at the time and he had to be walked home. It was that scary. After all, you never knew what would rush at you out of the shadows! I had to go along with them because I was too frightened to stay in the house on my own.

My dad was now able to splash out a bit.

He decided to buy a car. This was quite an event. A car was a major purchase.

He bought a second hand Ford Oxford. I remember it as a sit up and beg black car. It had elegance. It looked refined.

The family joke was that he had bought it in the evening when it was dark. The guy had shown it to him with a torch. He had not even heard the engine running let alone been out for a drive in it. He made a snap decision.

Our first drive out was a bit of a disaster. The engine kept overheating and we had to keep stopping to let it cool down and top up the radiator. Dad kept stopping at horse troughs.

Fortunately, there were still a lot of stone water troughs scattered throughout the towns. I bet they are all kicking themselves that they got rid of them. They would have been a nice touch in ‘Heritage England’, to add to the quaint ‘olde worlde’ atmosphere of the place.

Finally, we stopped with steam pouring out from under the bonnet and the car wouldn’t go again. Something in the engine had broken and it was terminal.

The garage towed it away – the diagnosis was that the big-end had gone. There was all sort of talk about the guy putting sawdust in the oil to quieten the noise of the big-end knocking. Our new car had only lasted two weeks.

My dad never lived it down. I don’t know what happened to the car. I think he got rid of it by selling it for scrap. I do know that it was a regular in every row from there on in.

“Bought the stupid thing by torch-light! How stupid can you get!”



I guess I’ve bought a few things by the equivalent of torchlight in my lifetime!


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