BOB EDWARDS' BLACK COUNTRY MEMORIES
Yesterday I spent four hours washing, polishing and vacuuming the car in preparation for yet another summer holiday. As a result, today I ache in every limb and the only part of my body I can seem to use at the moment without it causing me pain or discomfort is my brain! Now although I attribute this to the Ford Galaxy getting bigger, I know that the true reason is all down to my autumn years and retirement, which has resulted in my nowadays sloth-like inactivity. And so, in my greatly reduced mobile state and whilst I was summoning the energy and courage to reach for a cup of tea Julie had placed on the coffee table beside me, my thoughts once again regressed back to the early 1960ís.
During the last week in July and the first week of August, the industrial holiday period when most, if not all the Black Country heavy industry companies shut down for the summer break, the Edwards clan; Mom, Dad, my two Granddads, my Nan and younger brother would set south in search of sun, sea and fourteen days of rest and recuperation. We always seemed to realise the latter three ingredients although the sun was not always as accommodating as it might have been. The destination? Weymouth. Yes, apart from once when we went to Torquay and once when we journeyed to The West Country Mom and Dad's favourite coastal resort was good old Weymouth.
As in previous years, Dad had meticulously serviced the Morris Oxford and polished it so that the paint work possessed the same reflective qualities of a pair of Grenadier Guard boots at The Trooping of the Colour, except of course the Morris was British racing green. Whilst Mom packed the suitcases the only other yearly ritual that remained was for Dad to drive the dog, Bruce the Alsatian, to a friend of his near Worcester where he was kennelled for two weeks. The dog that is, not Dad, as after all he was required to drive the car. So Dad set off whilst my brother Stephen and me were despatched to bed in preparation for the 6.00am start the following day.
When I awoke on that Saturday morning it was clear to me that all was not well. Mom was clearly upset and explained to me that Dad had been involved in a road accident whilst driving with the dog to Worcester. It turned out that no one had been injured but that the Morrisís front nearside wing, steering and suspension had been reduced to scrap metal. Now every cloud has a silver lining and I learned that Dadís friend in Worcester also owned a garage. Father had, as a result, been loaned a Ford Escort Estate for the two week period. The drawback was that whilst the Morris was a six seater with luggage-carrying capability of a Post Office van, the Ford was somewhat smaller. To be blunt even then, as a small boy, when I contemplated that seven people were about to embark and the amount of luggage Mom and Nan insisted were essential for the trip, the Ford took on the appearance of an upholstered roller skate. To this day I have no idea how Dad managed to load that car with seven people and every piece of essential equipment. Yes, my Dad had a TARDIS long before the good Doctor.
I have to say it was a little cramped and it didnít help matters that whenever Dad braked the football which was in the rear of the estate became dislodged and bounced off Granddad's head. I am also convinced that if you undertook a journey today under the same conditions you would be descended upon by a twelve year old wearing a yellow jacket and white hat who would then exhaust at least one ball point pen listing the infringements committed against The Road Traffic Act and Construction and Use Regulations but hey, this was the early 1960ís.
Well, we had been on the road for a little over three hours when the car suddenly decided it wanted to sound like a formula one racing car. The sudden change in engine noise was accompanied by a metallic tinkle, tinkle, tinkle noise from the underside of the vehicle. To err on the side of caution Dad pulled into the nearest lay-by to make a rapid inspection. I have to say it was somewhat a relief to get out of the cramped conditions and we found it easier to exit as the pressure inside the car vastly outweighed that outside.
The exhaust had sheered and was hanging in two parts. Now Dad had been a member of The RAC for a number of years but back then the cover only applied to the stricken Morris which was undergoing major surgery back in Worcester. Dad said he needed to stretch his legs and set off along the grass verge muttering what I am sure were obscenities to himself as he went. He arrived back a short time later clutching a discarded tin can. After removing everything from the back to get at his tools lodged at the bottom of the luggage compartment, Dad went to work to fashion a repair for the exhaust system. And so, after an hour and a half the repair was complete, the car reloaded and we were on our way.
Eventually we all arrived in Weymouth safe and sound, if not somewhat crumpled and cramped. The seaside town was just the same as every other year. The part of the beach where we used to encamp still had the blue and white striped beach huts and rowing boats owned by the Kelly family. The clock tower was still there on the promenade. At night time the lights along the front shone as we walked to the fair next to the Swanery where Stephen and I rode the bumper cars and the miniature railway with the engines named Black Prince and Robin Hood. We still as always would head back to the digs eating cod and chips out of newspaper and watch the night train to the harbour trundle along the streets to the harbour for the night ferry to Jersey sending smoke, steam and sparks into the night sky. We would pass sailors dressed in blue uniforms and round white hats from the naval base at Portland. Us kids would get into bed and look forward to the next day playing on the beach and in the sea. Eating picnics near the shore and Walls ice cream out of square shaped cones with the six people I loved the most in the whole world. Those were wonderful holidays down there in Weymouth.
The seaside town has changed now and although the old clock tower is still there, the rest have all long gone and with them a lot of the magic. We still go back to Weymouth though from time to time and twenty nine years ago Julie and I walked along the promenade on our honeymoon holding hands just like the sailors I used to watch with young girls wearing bright summer dresses. But back to the now. I donít seem to be able to attract Julieís attention from doing the gardening so it looks like if I want another cup of tea Iím going to have to push myself through the pain barrier and go and make it myself.
Sunday's at Nan and Grandad's
Copyright © Bob Edwards.
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