The Car As A Boy Carrier

Author’s Note, in setting up the list chronologically, Word Press has retained so many items that I propose only to mention those already available in the various categories, and post those not available.

Previous, under Pre-WW2, African Experience Arrival, Rugby And The Surgical Saw

Brought up in the British Raj it is hard to eschew old habits so when I say ‘boys’, I mean men, big black ones at that, in this context anyway – although I have since been taught the error of my ways – I think.

In Africa we had a car, an Overlander, it was a huge, strong American brute. It had mica detachable side windows, which formed part of a soft,collapsible hood which rested behind the back seat. It had large wheels, with mudguards to match, which made an ideal seat for our African servants. We went on picnics regularly and took servants with us to guard the car and more importantly the food, not from people but the baboons which gathered in enormous numbers around all the picnic sites. The servants also functioned in their named capacity and laid out the table cloth, on a low table or adjacent rock, brought chairs, and then set out the food. It is no wonder our neighbours who for all the years spent in Africa, had been dreaming of retiring to Eastbourne. When they achieved their wish after 1945, they only stuck it for two years and then returned to Africa. I suspect their muscles had forgotten what housework really meant. Usually we would take two of the ‘House Boys’, one on each rear mudguard, hanging on to the canopy as we went over dry earth roads which could be rutted after the rains by the wheels of ox carts. In the wet season we might take two more, perched on the front mudguards in case we got bogged down. Our two main venues were the Zambezi River and the Victoria Falls, two of the most incredibly breathtaking sights I have ever seen. The River for its sheer width and impressiveness and the Falls because it was so vast, so varied and above all, for its majesty. Seen on film it is certainly majestic, but to see the immensity, the rush of water, hear the noise and feel the constant rain of the spray is an unforgettable lifetime’s experience.

The Car As A Battering Ram

Our house was on a corner at the junction of two dirt roads and when we were going on trips my father would take the car and set it on the edge of the road, facing downhill, towards the River and the Falls. The servants would then load the car, my parents would get in, the servants would climb onto the mudguards and then we’d be off. When I actually joined in the proceedings is not clear except on THE day. On that occasion, probably to get me from under their feet, I was sent to sit in the car, which I did, in the driving seat. Where else? I naturally pretended to drive, who wouldn’t, aged seven.

To this day I maintain I did nothing, but then I would, wouldn’t I? It was hot. I know I was. I sat there for an age, and soon became bored with saying brmmm, brmmmmm, but what else was there to do? Start all over again? All I know is that the car suddenly started moving of its own volition and set off down the hill with an excited me on board. If my memory is correct it started to track from one side of the road to the other at a narrow angle, gathering speed until it reached the other verge, on a slight bend which it then mounted, knocking down some flimsy fencing, then a telegraph or electricity pole, which sheared at ground level, thanks to the attention of red ants, and which finally fell diametrically across the centre of a hut made of reeds and clay, used to house the servants working for another family. The pole demolished the hut. The car stopped short of the hut.

For a short while nothing happened. Where the servants were who used the hut, I had no idea. There were no shouts or groans and death never occurred to me, I was too worried about the impending doom I could see gathering on the horizon, or more accurately at our garden gate. I was whacked. On principle, if in doubt, whack. I explained or rather pleaded that I had touched nothing, total amnesia though is never an excuse, as I found out years later in the Navy. In fairness, my mother had lifted me from the car amidst the disaster, but she spoiled the effect by scolding. I was never believed by anyone but myself, and that’s no consolation.

A totally different and more interesting story was told that evening at Sundowners – alcohol has that effect. My absence in body, if not totally in fact, had been an edict, so I only heard what was said through a crack in a half-closed door, but the story had become a saga, the nub of which was not what had happened to the hut nor to the people who might have been in the hut, not even the traumatic effects on the psyche of a quivering child, (who had never quivered in his life), it was a long and tediously detailed explanation, with many repetitions, of how the car had been extracted from the hut and that it had not sustained so much as a scratch. Everyone has his order of priorities, mine were severely changed that night.

Categorized as Pre-WW2

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