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By five to six we had got as far as the outskirts of Coventry and father stopped for replenishment at a pub. He said he needed the Gents, which he probably did and he disappeared with alacrity together with our hot water bottles and flasks, into the warm, welcoming bar, leaving us to shiver by the light of a solitary street lamp. The customary Vimto and sweet sherry was brought out to us, together with the newly replenished hot water bottles and flasks.

 

By seven thirty we were on our way again, by nine we got as far as a nice little pub near Fenny Stratford we had to stop because the engine was over heating! The fact that it is minus five degrees outside, where we are, and the engine water temperature gauge registered little more than slightly warm had nothing to do with it. The same pattern follows… sweet sherry for mum and a bottle of Vimto for me, plus the necessary filling up of hot water bottles and flasks. The dog poked his nose out of the door, shivered and declined the invitation to perform against the pub wall By nine o' clock father in all his wisdom and swaying gently managed to sprain his wrist whilst cranking the starting handle, a not uncommon occurrence and sometimes used as a ploy to go back into the pub for medicinal purposes. This time however he managed to kick the engine into some sort of life by jumping up and down on the handle. Mum and I made the right noises praising his heroic endeavours and huddled together.

 

We made about another thirty miles before father heard a distinct knocking in the engine and decided we had to stop to investigate. Luckily a pub car park was on hand and father decided he had better go inside to phone grandfather and tell him we may be a little late as the car had developed a distinct big end rattle. The phone call took a good thirty minutes which uncannily coincided with kicking out time. The sprained wrist somehow managed to coax the engine into action and we were off again. Try as we could mother and I, who were very tuned in to engine sounds, could hear no discernable rattle, but there again we didn't expect to.

 

By the time we reached the outskirts of London, the car had developed a nasty habit of jumping out of gear. Mother was elected to hold it in. Along the Victoria Embankment we heard Big Ben strike twelve and the clutch started to slip. As we edged past the Oval at a sedate fifteen miles per hour the exhaust fell off and took the brake wires with it, rendering us unstoppable. This state of affairs was not uncommon and we took it in our stride; our stride being stopped when necessary by double de clutching into first and allowing the engine to stop us…after a while.

 

In those days, there was not the traffic that there is today, the police seemed to want to help rather than hinder and when the lights went out as the battery gave a last gasp, we carried on regardless, unworried about prosecutions and all that stuff until at last we reached my Grandparents. They, as always, stayed up in case we required a tow but rarely was this necessary, and especially not by Grandfather who had an old Austin seven which was more un roadworthy than our car, to say nothing of grandfather who was himself about as un roadworthy as a headless chicken trying to cross the road.

 

Whilst father usually spent the next few days, when pub opening times allowed, repairing the car ready for the journey home, mother and I recuperated from severe frostbite The journey home was just as exhilarating but we usually went the Oxford route on the way home. At least it meant a different view of pub car park walls for mother and me.

 

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