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It's about this time that cars containing families arrive. They drive in with much more propriety than the first flush. The cars are parked so that the families have a view of the meadows and distant hills. Tractors still plough the occasional furrow with flocks of birds following in their wake. The unmistakable fragrance of haymaking assails their nostrils. The whiff of hot oil and burnt rubber is not for this category. Not for them a brick wall and only the paltry study of what grows out of them.

 

The father leaves the car and ambles across the car park, leaving his wife and children to their vista and returns in quick time with the requisite bottles of Vimto, bags of crisps and a medium dry sherry for mother. Occasionally he will bring his own half pint of bitter with him and actually stay with the family. This scenario however is unusual as the call for the Gent's only bar is compelling even for the most downtrodden husband.

 

At this point in the evening's production the next round of Vimto is normally brought out by the early starters. This is characterised by a weaving passage towards their perceived cars. It is often a circuitous route which necessitates a call at other cars in order to find their own. Quite often their own cars are never found and consequently boys find bottles of Vimto thrust through the car's window by complete strangers. It is not uncommon for some boys to end up with three or four bottles and of course some with none. It is, as ever accompanied by the 'Won't be long' gibberish.

 

Eventually, of course the father has had his fill. The realisation that home beckons is often brought on by the sight of his offspring peering in through the window in a forlorn, waif like manner. The fact that he is well into spending next week's house keeping/gas/electricity and even mortgage money is immaterial. He bids the ensemble a fond farewell and after a lurch to the Gent's lavatory or sometimes the Ladies, proceeds with varying degrees of animation into the fast gathering dusk. He stands swaying gently outside the door and surveys the cars, then eventually make a concentrated effort to walk steadily and with purpose to the one he perceives to be his. More often than not his son, being used to this performance, has to go and rescue his father from the far reaches of the car park and guide him back before a felony is committed involving the taking and driving away of a stranger's car and the kidnapping of the chap's petrified wife and mother in law.

 

Eventually the right car comes into focus and father girds his loins for the drive home. The car has, if you remember just completed a full Grand Prix at Silverstone and apart from the driver's seat being covered in spilt Vimto and crisps, is now pushed as far up towards the sticky steering wheel as possible and has been turned onto full right lock. All this, plus the fact that the windscreen is covered in spittle and the gear lever is in first gear goes completely unnoticed as father engages the starter and the car performs a stunning bound forward into the aforementioned brick wall, denting the already dented front wing.

 

The offspring learns lots of new words and perhaps earns a cuff around the ear at this stage of the proceedings and scrunches himself into a ball, ready to dive into the footwell if the need arises.

 

It is however, a well known consequence that six pints of best 'Bitter' bestow an automatic driving mode in this phase. This was a natural phenomenon which due to new laws and a changing perception seems to have been lost on today's generation.

 

Never mind that, in those halcyon days the drive home was always incredibly exciting for sons of a certain age and it was the whole reason for accompanying father in the first place. A time to unite with a parent when the rest of the week was a 'seen and not heard' existence.

 

The Austin Sevens, Morris Cowleys and suchlike that my father owned in the middle fifties were not known for their sportish demeanour. They were at least twenty years old when he acquired them and none of them cost more than a tenner as far as I remember. His father drove Armstrong Siddleys and Lanchesters, which is as sedate as it's possible to get. I also drove Austin Sevens and Ford Prefects which speak for themselves. None of these motor cars could, by any stretch of the imagination, be thought of as fast but in the hands of a chap with a few pints of best bitter under his belt could certainly be made to perform in various ways not intended by the manufacturer. Especially when impressing the young sprog on the way home.

 

Instead of the son zooming around Silverstone at astronomical speeds we now have father zooming through the countryside at speeds sometimes approaching forty five miles an hour. My father showed me marks on such things as stone bridges and iron railings that his father had caused by inducing over zealous four wheel drifts. I showed my children where chunks have been taken out of telegraph poles and kerb stones where my father had under estimated braking distances and no doubt my children will show their children particularly large gaps in various hedges which I was forced to make when taking avoiding action, from what?… memory escapes me.

 

Being flung around the countryside by a father showing off his driving skills on these memorable drives home, adds another facet of the offsprings education, other than controlling out of control cars. Earlier he had learned a little more about the types of vegetation that grows out of brick walls and now he learns balance, more words not in common usage, two finger saluting and last but not least, bowel control.

 

Upon arriving home the motor car is parked, scratched, dented, bits of flora and fauna hanging off the door handles and bumpers and steaming like a burst boiler. Father and son eventually get out and stagger to the front door. This is when the last and probably most important piece of advice is passed from father to son.
'Needn't bother to tell your mother…she wouldn't understand.'

 

 

 

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