Saturday, 23 July 2011


The poor old chariot has given up the ghost. She has died and is beyond redemption. Her starting motor has stopped. The cost of repair is beyond the value of her body. But not her indomitable spirit - that remained as we zoomed into and out of the bus lane overtaking far younger and infinitely more glamorous vehicles who were appalled at her impertinence.  Who gave us the finger (returned with interest) as we shot past.

I reckon she should be given an appropriate send-off, a sign of our gratitude at her bravery in the face of diminishing power. She always started even after weeks of neglect one turn of the key and she was away – reversing up the hill with vigour, getting me to Waterloo pronto, shooting to supermarkets for food. Brave chariot never let us down. South London was her playpen and she cavorted like a teenager. Having bits missing on the bodywork is no bad thing – other cars tend not to mess with the likes of the chariot. Especially with a couple of irate females on board. One impertinent neighbour asked if she was abandoned some months ago, the cheek! I think she felt that the chariot was bringing down the status of the area.  

Now I am resigned to her ultimate demise I suggested we set her alight and push her down a hill into the river – blazing like a Viking proud as ever! I even thought of pushing her down Point Hill in Greenwich alight and alarming – destroying as she went. My friend was not impressed. Think of the repercussions! She will go and buy a new vehicle much as I would buy a loaf, I am sad and realise how sentimental I am, a bloody romantic but I am grateful to the chariot for her brave Fiat heart (engine?)

By coincidence my own less glamorous but solid Polo has, for the first time failed to start. Is this a case of car solidarity? Afraid not, I left the side lights on overnight and by morning rigor mortis had set into the battery. I do this sometimes and one of the guys from the mosque opposite knocks on my door to tell me but I parked round the corner this night. The AA sorted it but by next day she was flat again. Yesterday the AA returned and told me there is a leak of power from some unidentified source. So it may be cosmic retribution from the goddess of the motor for our failure to give the chariot a decent send off but probably not and Ms Polo is off for a service today.

A  penance?  Transference of guilt? Keeping her sweet? I shall grin and bear the price. I realise just how long everything takes without a car & will cherish Ms Polo she is not the Chariot (and I am not the driver that my love is!) but she improves my life immeasurably.       

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Summer Time

When I was a young girl my main ambition was to be brown - all over within the limits of our fairly modest elasticated swim suits. To this end my best friend Joan and myself spent every moment we could covered in Olive oil and vinegar ( nobody did salad dressing then it was always Heinz salad cream so we bought the olive oil at the chemist and nicked the vinegar from our mums) Danson Park Lido was our chosen venue and turning ritually from back to front over and over ten minutes at a time was our method. We never got bored we always had plenty to talk about and there was a group of body builders flexing parts of themselves to giggle at. I was not especially  interested in boys though in the evening I would stand in the 'rec' talking to boys, flirting and watching it get dark. Knowing there would be trouble when I got home  I succumbed to the irresistible pull of flirting. All the others had bikes and would lean on them. I was a lot more interested in my friend Joan but since she had left school at fourteen ( sounds incredible now!) from the Modern while I was trapped at the Grammar she had begun to dress up and flirting seemed to have become a part of her repertoire.

I wanted a bicycle  enough to forsake the bronzing so that summer we got a job at a nursery de-budding chrysanthemum and worked in glasshouses with the lovely smell of ripening tomatoes and though the work was back breaking I liked it. I worked alone and went into a sort of trance dreaming of the bike that I was working for. I gave my mum the money religiously every week towards my bike and necessarily cut down on my mission to bronzing.  Joan would get us home on her bike -me on the saddle her pedalling, we wavered a bit but in the fifties there was such a lack of traffic that it was safe enough.

I was supposed to be doing a massive amount of homework during the holiday but I always left that to the very last days - by which time I had forgotten any ideas and all impetus was gone. The family went off to Camber Sands for a week and we took Joan which pleased us both -at fourteen nothing is more boring that adult talk. We stayed in a primitive cottage with a lavatory at the bottom of a garden that was overgrown which was fun in the day but spooky at night. we also had a water pump that delighted us, In fact Camber Sands had very little to offer in the way of entertainment and only a very few bungalows. we would go into Rye for cream teas but really we were happy enough to swim and work at our tan. We also discussed the world and its mysteries a lot.

I went straight back to work at the nursery and realised that I wouldn't be able to buy a sports bike with drop handles and would have to settle for a rather ordinary roadster  or even a second hand bike. By this time Joan had got a job in a drawing office so I walked home alone with nobody to giggle with but I didn't care, I had the dream of cycling everywhere no more foot-slogging for me!At the end of the holiday I got a bonus from the governor and knew I had enough for a reasonable roadster.I give the money to mum and she informed me that I needed a new school uniform more than a bike and she went ahead and spent my money.
she told me that promises are like pie-crust - made to be broken.  Ghastly bottle green gym slip cream flannelette blouses and horrid velour hat replaced my dream bike
Just writing this outrages nearly sixty years later me!