Soon the new, Cherish the Old.

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Soon the new, Cherish the Old.

Postby peter rafter » Thu Nov 01, 2018 10:37 pm

Spurn the new, Cherish the Old
I had occasion to visit the epicentre of infectious and contagious diseases, poxes and pestilence i.e. the local surgery, to receive the latest Influenza vaccination. During a lull in proceedings I chatted to the Doctor who i knew had a keen interest in elderly and decrepit things, Cars mainly, Homo Sapiens being somewhat lower down the list. I hadn’t seen him for a while but apparently he had been ill.
With a former Medical Practitioner, it wasn’t at all productive to engage him in the frailties and infirmities of age. But mention old cars and he would immediately light his pipe and reminisce for ages, much to the detriment and discomfort of a crowded waiting room. As I exited, the expectant patients clearly thought I must be suffering from a serious debilitating and possible life threatening condition to have taxed the Doctor for so long.
Which brings me to the topic “Spurn the new, Cherish the old”. Cars naturally, but not excluding relatives. To the delight of many but not necessarily to regular shoppers, a section of the car park of a supermarket (Why Pay Less?) was filled with a very fine collection of old timers, both cars and drivers. They were predominantly pre war, on a stopover stage of an organised tour or rally. I find it most extraordinary why anybody would wish to choose Sheffield as a stage destination. There are parts of Sheffield where it is neither desirable nor safe to stop at any time of the day or night. Given the age of drivers and passengers , with charity I presumed that perhaps it was a toilet break.
A good range of marques was on display, mostly British (in a cursory inspection I noted the familiar Humber, Riley, Sunbeam, Standard, Jaguar (the english not the Indian variety) Daimler, Lagonda, Invicta, Vauxhall etc, but with a smattering of foreign interlopers ( Lancia, a single Hispano-suiza on Swiss plates, a Delage, and one or two strange shapes I couldn’t discern). All were magnificently presented and maintained. Immaculate, as if direct from the showroom. Polished and burnished to the extreme. Pristine would be an understatement. Many embellished with totally unnecessary accoutrements, plush velour furnishings, tasselled shades, embroidered cushions, antimacassars, doilies, rudimentary thermos flasks, thermidors, a tantalus replete with Waterford crystal glasses (although I would make an exception for the latter). All redolent of the Edwardian era of opulence, art deco, in stark contrast to the austerity of the early post war years.
A Golden age? particularly for young men of independent financial means, endless weekend country house parties (calm down), Ivor Novello, Noel Coward, iconic Luxurious limousines. i was tempted to search for Gussie Finknottle, Bertie, Algy, Pongo Stinker, Beefy, Tubby and the rest of the Drones Club. I was almost convinced I espied Madeline Basset.
Ah, the cars! I can remember with considerable pleasure and contentment the charm and allure of these wonderful objets d’art. The intense satisfaction and feeling of well being in just sitting, the aroma of beeswax from the patterned leather seats, varnished walnut, sandalwood and other exotic materials, intricate veneers and marquetry, the warm soft glow of cream dials, bakelite switches and steering wheels, Jaeger instruments and clocks, the humming of the valves in the wireless.
One can only wonder at the skill and craftsmanship in designing and building these cars but also that they exist today (while every modern appliance or car has a seemingly inbuilt obsolescence).
A full and delicious panoply of detail from exquisite mascots (Lalique versions now sell for exorbitant sums), illuminated and reflective Trafficators (semaphore signals) some locked permanently in a semi protruding state, pristine spotless engine compartments, suicide doors, folding windscreens, mechanical wipers, open roofs, Rattan cane woven door panels, leather retaining window straps, white wall Dunlops, illuminated side lights on the front wings, front and rear quarter windows lights, spare wheels on running boards, simple windup windows.leather grab handles, early sealed beam headlamps, exotic hub caps, varnished teak luggage racks, Dickey seats, steering column gear changes, wicker hamper baskets chrome and brass. Oh joy of Joys. Regrettably more than a few few of these impressive voitures
failed to start and finished the tour on flatbed trailers.
I was overwhelmed to alight on a a Wolsey 4/44. My father had such a model.
But first a short break for Tiffin.
Where was I?. Ah yes my Fathers’ 1950’ ish 4/44. It did not bear comparison with the outstanding specimen on Tour. The 4/44 model was regularly seen and associated as a police car with cacophonous ringing bell chasing incompetent criminals. n the Cinema Films or Pathe News Reels.
Our pride and joy however, had suffered from abuse and neglect from a previous owner and as a consequence exhibited a few deficiencies. Nay i cannot deny it, a veritable litany. Picture it if you dare, namely a unique patina, (otherwise a mix of chipped and fading paint and rust patches ) , mud splattered tyres, (the mud at least masked the protruding fabric in the non existent tread), a defunct under dashboard hand brake, the boot lid and heavily pitted partly chrome bumper held securely in place with multiple strands of green garden twine. In the half open glove compartment were old cinema and tram tickets, a ration book, one string backed driving glove, the right I think, brought into service far too often to clear a patch of vision in the steamed up cracked windscreen and drivers side window which refused to open, possibly as t a missing handle had lodged itself almost irretrievably under the back seat. In the Boot was a curious bundle of oily rags torn from a thread bare shirt. We used to tell inquisitive street urchins that it concealed my Fathers service revolver but in reality it was probably just a starting handle from a pre war Morris and a rusting scissor jack. Additionally, there was a multiple retreaded cross ply tyre, a can of water for the forever leaking radiator, and, more importantly, a large can of engine oil. We measured progress by the oil consumption, not mpg. Oh and a spare lightbulb but again for the Morris.
Did I mention the trailing wires from the dashboard, a non functional heater, faulty brakes, and the wireless that worked only intermittently with snatches of the Light program from the Dodderhill , Droitwich Long Wave Transmitter, drowning out the whirring and whine of the sadly asthmatic hopeless engine. But it was transport. It was a real car. Oh how i loved that car, I even washed it once I think, although this may be open to dispute. We children used to hide our half eaten gobstoppers, licorice and marbles in gaps in the dilapidated back bench seat. My sister wept inconsolably when it passed away.
I have vague memory of the French Mistress at school owning an early Delahaye which reeked of Gauloises and Gitaines. She also had what every pimply first year scholar yearned for… muscles and a deep baritone singing voice. Oh and legs that wet right to the bottom. Why do foreigners speak in strange tongues? I presumed she took a shine to the Science Lab technician as the cars interior was, amongst other detritus, strewn with rubber tubes for bunsen burners, jars of formaldehyde and wiggly wires for potentiometers. C’est La Guerre. Either him or the English Master with round tortoise shell horn rimmed spectacles who affected velvet jackets, multi coloured waistcoats, corduroy trousers with pronounced turn-ups, spats and who spent most of the lesson quoting endlessly passages of Beowulf, or from long dead poets, or obscure passages of literature while gazing wistfully out the window .
Nowadays i have taken a fancy to vintage Edwardian and earlierTaxis. The sort glimpsed in period Edwardian dramas on the television where, against a background of Bath, Chelsea or Regents Terrace, Hercule Poirot, Captain Hastings, Miss Lemon and Inspector Japp regularly hail and bellow “Scotland yard Driver!”
Oh and a flat rad and /or a vintage 3 wheeler.
Dieu. Adieu.
Hic.
peter
peter rafter
 
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Joined: Fri Nov 17, 2006 8:37 pm

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