My father’s pre-war Austin 10 remains in my mind. My last sight of it was after the war had started. It had been propped up in its garage on bricks, put away ‘for the duration’. The wheels had been removed. I don’t know what happened to it, or to the house which my parents had so recently bought next to open fields by the river. I do remember that my father said the car’s number began with JY, which was a Devonshire signature.
The house must have been sold at some point because we never never lived in it again. I remember the fun of driving over hump-backed bridges, as my middle swooped up into my throat and back again. And for some reason I recall the song ‘Katie by the cowshed’ as the adults sang the chorus in the car, echoing the staccato stammer with which a bashful soldier tried to woo his girl friend.
I was puzzled about the cowshed and the girl and the stammer. It was certainly a catchy tune. I have a memory of an open sunny road to the sea.
And then there was the windsock. We always looked out from the car for the windsock – red as I recall – and the adults told me it showed the way the wind was blowing. This was somewhere around the Yelverton area. I think that airfield must have been what is now Plymouth airport.
My dad wore his plus fours, thick brown tweed with a small check as I recall. My parents must have been yuppies for their time. My father, manager of a factory soon to be bombed to the ground, were friends with the bank managers and similar folk in the city.
And I remember having a serious, infant crush on a waitress in the restaurant of a store: Spooners it was called. And a small girl, older than me, called Nancy, who was the daughter of a neighbour. I was under instructions to be polite and join in the organised games at her party. Not if my infant ingenuity could avoid it That was the first time I heard the word ‘taffeta’, which I gathered formed the frills of her party dress. But I reluctantly attended.
And her mother’s saffron cake. That was delicious. I always looked forward to saffron cake.
That was something else about to change