Saturday, February 02, 2008

Tuesday 28th December 1937

Up early, for a long drive. The Zephyr would not start; battery run-down. Back to the flat for breakfast, determined not to be fed-up. At last the garage men got the engine roaring. (“Keep her going” said the mechanic, “or else she’ll give up”.)

I drove home; dashed in for my luggage – the Zephyr still roaring – and eventually left for Leicester at 9:15. Droning northwards, through fog, through rain, through fog and rain. Visibility 200 yards, 100 yards, 400 yards. 40-35-45 miles per hour.
St. Albans, Dunstable, Fenny Stratford, Towcester. I stopped for petrol. By this time the battery had charged and the engine bellowed as soon as I pulled the doings.

“Weedon and Daventry” That signpost made me happy. Remembered names! Down Braunston Hill, by familiar roads, through Dunchurch, Rugby and Lutterworth. Then Leicester. Half past one. Called on the Woods. All just the same, and Mr Wood as unctuous as ever with his irritating little cough, as he held forth. The Garratts. When I called, Jack was wearing his old Scout jersey! The very same one but now with a ten year star on the left breast. We discussed his honeymoon arrangements. I went with Jack and May to their house at Birstall. They proudly showed me around. Furnished and ready for occupation!

Clear of Leicester by 4:30. Near the City boundary a man signalled. “Could you give me a lift to Southend?” Southend! He lived at Southchurch; an out-of-work named Patsy Taylor. He knew Sweeny, (193 Battery) who was mess tent orderly at camp.
So I had company for the night drive! Oadby, Glenn, Kilworth, Kettering, Thrapston.
Recklessly turned on the headlights and increased speed, towards St. Neots. The talkative passenger became quiet, then fell asleep. The road rolled on…
As the headlights swung, I saw a single word on a signpost pointing to the right; “Granchester” - Rupert Brooke’s idyllic village! “But Granchester! Ah, Granchester! There’s peace and holy quiet there…”

Taylor awoke. “Where is it, St. Neots?” “No, Cambridge.” A charming town; wide roads on the outskirts, picturesque little streets at the centre. We stopped for bread and cheese at a lorry driver’s café. Then into Essex. Saffron Walden, Thaxted, Dunmow, Chelmsford. Did the run from Duke Street, Chelmsford in 33 minutes and arrived at St. Christopher’s Garage ½ a minute before closing time.

The Zephyr had done about 240 miles and behaved magnificently, apart from the initial trouble.

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