8 months ago


120 EVERGREEN Autumn An

120 EVERGREEN Autumn An English lady driving barefoot prompted admiration in some countries, astonishment in others! (continued) we stopped outside a bar crammed with men watching football on a flickering black-and-white television. My father and I ventured nervously in; our mixture of schoolboy French and war-movie German, which got us through most situations, failed to extract any meaningful directions. Indeed it stimulated chaos as different men offered different ways to the hotel. We had to walk out and find our own way, leaving an arm-waving argument between barman and customers as the football was ignored and the various routes furiously debated. By 1972 we thought we should tour our native country of England; amazingly blessed with good weather almost all the way. The following year found us in the South of France: the glamour of the Riviera and the elegance of Nice. In 1974 we sailed for Denmark: more seasickness on the voyage to Esbjerg, then into our red Ford Cortina Mk. III to cross the flatlands and bridges to Copenhagen, which seemed a stylish, fun-loving city. Our last family motoring holiday came in 1975 when we toured Scotland in a Hillman Avenger. But I had already fallen in love and wanted to spend my holidays with my girlfriend while she took a summer job in Kent. By this time my mother was growing tired of the heat and dust and the long hauls to foreign hotels of dubious quality, there was also illness in the family, so the car tours came to an end. But over 10 glorious summers we had seen the fascinating sights of Europe in a most exciting and satisfying way. If I give the impression that these holidays were jolly jaunts packed with excitement, amusing incidents, the occasional hardship and a few hair-raising escapades, that’s true enough. But for me they were also intensely spiritual experiences which have inspired me throughout my life. In those years, the trips abroad seemed the most important things I was doing. Winter months would be spent on intense planning with my father, the latest maps spread across the dining table: more absorbing than any homework offered by

2017 EVERGREEN 121 Newcastle upon Tyne, the author’s home city, where the family sailed from on their 1968 holiday to Norway. PAUL THOMPSON school. The journeys themselves were as valid an education. I treasure the constellation of youthful memories and images they gave me, some of which found their way into the written works and novels of my maturity. I thought I might never find another writer who could express something of what I had experienced on those soul-stretching trips — until I read this passage in Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities: Driving a fast car abroad is one of my keenest pleasures: the eight o’clock departure with some distant luncheon stop as target, the intermediate stop for ‘elevenses’ on the shady terrace or under the fruit trees of a Gasthaus, the good moment when the target is reached and luncheon comes…then the shorter run in the afternoon to the chosen hotel, the walk around the village or town, dinner and a deep sleep after planning the next day. What is so pleasant is that, combined with the delicious new sights and smells of ‘abroad’, there is a sense of achievement, of a task completed, when each target is reached without accident, on time and with the car still running sweetly. There is an illusion that one has done a hard and meritorious day’s work… Every touring motorist knows these sensations and I expect, for all of us islanders — from the first cobbled kilometres at Calais to the sad day when you re-embark as the lucky ones’ cars are being unloaded — Continental touring is one of the most delightful experiences in our lives. I know exactly what he meant. ROGER HARVEY

This England
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