Thursday, 27 June 2013

A few firsts

The first film I remember seeing at the cinema was The Cruel Sea.  I was 11, or very nearly so, and at school in Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight.  This was a residential school run by an order of nuns.  I have often wondered what it was that persuaded the nuns to take children of that age to the cinema to see a war film.  Even now, 60 years on, I still think it was one of the best war films ever made.  And I have seen a few of that genre: Reach for the Sky, The Dambusters, Yangtse Incident, The Longest Day, Bridge on the River Kwai inter alia.

Which leads nicely into the first record I ever bought.  But before that, the first 45rpm record, which was the theme from the film Bridge on the River Kwai.  I had bought a few 78rpm records previously as that was all we could play for some time.  My very first record would have been on the Embassy label, Woolworth's own.  It was either Carolina Moon or Dream, Dream, Dream.  Being on the Embassy labels, they would both have been cover versions.

And then there was my first car, a pre-war Ford which was 25 years old when I bought it for the princely sum of £20.  But hey!  It went.  I managed to get 60 miles an hour out of it on one occasion - or that was what the speedometer showed.  It was on a downhill stretch of road with a following wind.  I drove that car from Brighton (Hove, actually) to Coventry to see the new cathedral, slept in the car (a distinctly uncomfortable experience) and then came back down Britain's first - and then only - motorway.  As I tootled along in the left-hand lane, a Jaguar passed me in the middle lane as though I was stationary and a Rolls Royce passed him in the outside lane as though he was stationary!

I had to stop at garages frequently with that car - to fill up with oil and check the petrol; it guzzled oil furiously.  There was a time when I miscalculated and there was a loud clatter from the engine.  A big-end had gone.  I managed to get the car towed home (a story all of its own) and I and the lad next door stripped the engine down and rebuilt it.

I had my first RTA in that car.  Driving back to Brighton down the A23, I braked as I approached traffic lights.  But nothing happened and I hit the car in front, which hooked itself onto the car in front of that.  They had to be separated by a garage but I was able to drive home - very carefully.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt.  The police did try to do me for something - probably driving without due care or some such - and I had to prove to them that the brakes were working OK.  I told them the brakes had been seen to and they wanted to see the receipt from the garage but I had done the work myself.  In the end, they just gave up.


And here is my first car - with me working on it.


Buck said...

I and the lad next door stripped the engine down and rebuilt it.

You surely couldn't do that today.

Brighton Pensioner said...

Too true, Buck, too true. Life was much simpler back then.