In 1957 my father passed his driving test first time and bought a Ford Anglia 100e in Warwick Green. For me, at 8 years old, this was exciting! The open road beckoned and off we would go, my parents, me and my sister and later my brother, on days out on a Sunday to the Kent countryside and coast; Westgate and Broadstairs being our favourite resorts. Our first holiday in the Anglia was to Weymouth and I can remember my father bitterly complaining about the parking restrictions even then! When my brother was 2 months old we drove to Hayling Island and the Sunshine Holiday camp. I don’t know how my mother managed with a young baby bundled on the back seat with my sister and I sitting hunched up beside the carry cot! We had this Anglia for ten years. I passed my test in it in January 1967 but little did I know that three weeks later I would write it off and put myself in hospital. After the initial shock of my being involved in a road accident my father was devastated about losing his pride and joy. When he went to see it on the scrap heap it was ‘still shining like a new pin’. And I had to provide the £90 deposit for the next car, a second-hand Ford Anglia estate, yellow and white. Needless to say I was never allowed to drive that car!
In 1969 I bought a second-hand pale blue Ford Popular for £65. This turned out to be a mistake. My fiancé knew a thing or two about car engines but it caused rows between us when he could not keep it running through the winter. I finally sold it for scrap and received £20 for it. It would be many years before I owned another car.
My fiancé and I got married in November 1970 in a silver Pontiac Firebird. It was so wide that the gates had to be removed to accommodate it in the grounds of the Camberwell register office!
My husband bought a Vauxhall Ventora in 1971. It was white with a black vinyl roof, but the car was too big for me to drive and I got into a few parking ‘scrapes’. One day after a shopping trip, when my daughter was 18 months old and strapped into her car seat in the back, I locked the keys in the car. I tried to tell her to lift the knob on the door sill but of course, she was too young to understand. I was beside myself. What was I going to do? I couldn’t leave her in the car while I tried to find a garage. Then along came a knight in shining armour who found a wire coat-hanger, hooked it inside the door and hey presto! Up came the release button. I never locked the keys in the car again.
In 1974 our next car was a second-hand Ford Cortina 1600e. I loved driving that car; it was sporty and made a nice throaty noise when I put my foot down and listening to Band On The Run on the 8 track stereo was well cool. We took it to Crayford Stadium one evening to watch the banger racing and when we came out there was a big gaping hole where our car should’ve been. We had to get a bus home. A fortnight later we found it parked in a road in East Dulwich near where I worked, unlocked. We bought an alarm for it but my husband never got around to putting it on. It was stolen a second time and the police found it dumped in the middle of the road in Swanscombe, totally stripped, as if it had just come off the production line. These cars were very desirable and known for their trim – many went the same way as ours.
I must add that during all these episodes, my husband had a company car but he enjoyed having a ‘nice’ car to go out in at weekends. We used the insurance money from the 1600e to buy a Ford Consul GT in Daytona yellow. We thought we were The Sweeny driving around in that! My husband was into custom cars at the time. We attended the Chelsea Cruise on a number of occasions where he got the idea to add sidewinder exhausts to the Consul.
We moved from London to Royston Hertfordshire in 1983. In 1984 I found a job in a salon in Saffron Walden and needed my own car. Someone my husband worked with was selling his grey Fiat Strada so we thought it was a safe bet. Needless to say it didn’t last long. The engine froze in the winter and seized up.
I started working for myself in 1985, mobile hairdressing in and around Royston, and I needed a reliable car. I saw an advert in the local paper and went to test drive an Indian Red Vauxhall Viva saloon at a garage in Royston. It was only two years old, 24,000 miles on the clock and handled like a dream. I bought it there and then and had it for twelve years. During this time I went through a divorce and remarried and moved to a village near Ely, Cambridgeshire. I loved that car but by 1997 it was getting tired. When I sold it it had 150,000 miles on the clock. I advertised it in the local paper for £200. One Sunday morning a man knocked at the door asking about the Viva and could I take him out in it to see how it performed? I gritted by teeth hoping the car wouldn’t let me down and drove him across the fen roads, after which he said he was pretty sure his wife would like it but was it all right if he brought her to see it? The following Sunday she said it was ideal for her job – mobile hairdressing in and around Royston!! He gave me a cheque and they drove it out of my life.
My next car was a new silver Vauxhall Corsa purchased from a dealership in Bury St Edmunds. The unmistakable smell of newness wrapped itself around me as I drove it home. One day I took my young daughter to see my now married daughter and she told me that my old Viva had come back to haunt my ex-husband – the woman had crashed it outside his house!
In 2005 my husband bought a VW Golf persuaded by our 15 year-old daughter to have it in coastal blue. When he retired we bought a bungalow in Cornwall but our daughter wanted to remain in sixth form in Cambridge. To facilitate this, I remained in Cambridgeshire with her until she went to Sheffield University. During this time I drove the Corsa 300 miles to and from Cornwall for the school holidays and Christmas. I knew the route so well I could have done it in my sleep. I also drove many times to Margate to see my brother and to Eastbourne to visit an old friend.
One day I was driving along a narrow moorland road with high banks when a car coming from the other direction ploughed into me on the blind bend. Neither of us were hurt but my Corsa, now 15 years old, was badly damaged on the wing and a write-off. It was a long time before I found another car I could afford but hated having to rely solely on the Golf. Eventually I plumped for a black Hyundai Getz but I never took to the car. It handled badly. We moved to Norfolk in 2015 and I sold the Getz to the garage owner in our Cornish village before we left. I didn’t fancy driving it 300 + miles to Norfolk!
I now drive the coastal blue VW Golf, now 15 years old, and my husband has a silver Skoda Octavia that he bought when we moved. We will keep the Golf until it falls apart but it shows little sign of this happening in the near future. But of course, this year 2020, owing to the pandemic we don’t go very far and I feel I am losing the ability to drive! Roll on next year and happier times when I can get my wheels back in motion.