Monday 30 August 2010

Miserable old git

15st 7lb, 5.2 units. August Bank Holiday Monday. When I was a lad we always had to spend bank holidays at home, because my dad pronounced that “the world and his wife” would be out on the roads (this circa 1960, when there were some 8.5 million licensed vehicles in the United Kingdom, compared with more than 34 million today, though admittedly we have constructed a few more miles of motorway in the intervening years).

At the time I thought he was a miserable old git and resolved that I would never be like that (as I resolved never to take a nap after lunch, as my parents did every day, leaving me to wander around the garden having meaningful conversations with my imaginary friend Mr Fothergill – it is a wonder, with the benefit of hindsight, that the neighbours did not apply to have me certified).

Then, in the natural course of events, I turned into a miserable old git myself and realized that the old boy had been right all along. Few things beat a nice afternoon nap, and driving anywhere on a bank holiday is for mugs. The furthest I used to go on August Bank Holiday was the Glendale Show at Wooler, some 13 miles from home. Then came the year I drove the three miles to the A697 and found that the queue to get into the car park started right there. So I gave up on that for the rest of my life, and sat at home with a good book instead.

But that was before I acquired a family, who obviously need entertaining. So this year Mrs H proposed a visit to Bunbury church fete, having taken the precaution of checking on all the other traffic-generating events in the area and calculating the optimum time for our visit, taking into account both likely vehicle flows and The Boy’s all-important feeding schedule. We got there around 3, without incident or delay, and were directed smoothly into Beeston Castle’s overflow car park.

The fact that we had to wait a while for a long stream of cars to leave did suggest that we might have missed the best of the day’s fun, and the dog agility display was indeed over. But there was still the second hand bookstall, where I bought four 50p paperbacks despite my firm resolution never to acquire another book until I have worked my way through the several thousand unread ones I already own. Then there was the chance to buy some jams and chutney, and to have a lovely slice of homemade cake with a mug of tea in the tea tent. Best of all from The Boy’s point of view were the bouncy castle, to which he rapidly developed a homing instinct, despite our warnings that he was far too young to participate in the fun; and the miniature steam engine, which he observed with absolute fascination. This was very encouraging news for a Dadda with ambitions to build him a serious train set.

The Boy's first encounter with a steam engine
The proud owner of the steam locomotive observed that it was always nice to see the young taking an interest, and gave thanks to the Rev Awdry and Thomas the Tank Engine for sparking their interest in something that they otherwise simply would not understand. I observed that The Boy probably had something of an advantage in that respect, having a father who was used to seeing every train hauled by a steam engine in his own youth. He looked at me as though I were slightly deranged, but it is true. Many were the happy hours I spent by the sidings at Little Benton watching East Coast expresses steam through as smaller locomotives fussed about shunting rakes of coal wagons. I rather wish now that I had not had that short-lived burst of maturity in my early teens, which led me to discard the many books full of locomotive numbers I had collected.

After a couple of unsuccessful goes on the hoopla stall, we headed for home feeling suitably contented with our simple pleasures, swerving to avoid the occasional impatient motorcyclist but otherwise experiencing no road-related problems whatsoever.

Sorry, dad. I feel as though I have rather let you down.

1 comment:

CC said...


So Charlie has finally said the magic word...
Dadda! Congratulations, Dadda.