Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The Wolseley Awakening










Amazing how a simple image from a 1950 copy of the Illustrated London News can act as a touchstone to an event that, if not entirely forgotten, was at least tucked away amongst the deeper recesses of my memory files. As I dust this one off, all I ask of you is that you imagine this Wolseley Six-Eighty is painted in glossy black.

I was between schools, aged I suppose around thirteen, and this was the geography master's car. When the summer holidays came, and before the new term started elsewhere, I joined a school camping trip to Symond's Yat in the Wye Valley for a week. A host of teachers were in attendance, all now calling us pupils by our first names. It was so surprising to be called 'Peter' by the PE master instead of 'Ashley you cretin', and having him talk to me nicely instead of blowing a whistle in my face. We gathered at the school on the Saturday, and were divided up between the cars, one of which was towing a trailer with all the tents. Including the geography master there were six of us squeezed into the big Wolseley. I was in the front on a bench seat, with a GIRL in-between me and the driver. Having two brothers I'd never been this close to one ever. So we drove off with me staring ahead, bright red and clasping my hands between my knees. After a couple of miles our driver said "Peter, wouldn't you be more comfortable if you sat with your arm around Diane? You don't mind do you Diane?". I can't remember what she said but she smiled at me and I smiled at her and thought to myself  "Oh God you're so pretty". And with delicately pink cheeks and black curly hair she certainly was.


Three or four hours later we got to a muddy field near Symond's Yat and we fell out of the car. Diane ran off to join her girlfriends and I was left gazing fondly after her. For the rest of the holiday I could be seen lurking in the distance, tripping over guy ropes and behaving suspiciously in the environs of the dining tent. Quite rightly she completely ignored me, and I was grateful for an overnight canoe trip downriver with three mates, just so that I didn't have to worry about it all for a while.


I can't remember ever seeing this Wondrous Beauty again, but Wolseleys will always have a special place in my heart. Even the one my dad drove into the side of a Midland Red bus. Another awakening. But it does make me think. My Youngest Boy will be thirteen very soon. But somehow I don't think for one minute he'll have to be encouraged to put his arm round a girl.





10 comments:

Hels said...

Peter

I am not remotely interested in cars, but a] my brothers loved them and b] I became quite fascinated with Deco design and its move to the car industry. Your beloved 1950 Wolseley does not look hugely different from the Wolseley 18/85 that was first designed in the late 1930s. It probably used half the national product in petrol, but hey... we are talking style here, not environmental protection.

By the way, I didn't know my primary or high school teachers HAD first names. I assumed they were born as Miss Mrs or Mr.

Peter Ashley said...

You are so right Hels. I didn't mean to give the impression that we called the teachers by their first names, so I will alter the post immediately. Thank you.

Stephen Barker said...

Is this going to become the Leicestershire equivalent to "Cider with Rosie" ?

Peter Ashley said...

Could be Stephen, could be. Or The Go-Between, or.....

Jon Dudley said...

Girls n'cars - you've done it again.

Funny how those glorious 1950s automotive advertising illustrations always ever-so-slightly enhanced the proportions of the cars - as if the illustrator knew better than the designer...which he or she probably did!

Peter Ashley said...

Indeed Jon. Big cars and tiny people, all at the twitch of an airbrush.

Sue Imgrund said...

I wonder how that would have worked out these days, with seat belts and airbags and health & safety regulations?

Jonathan Dudley said...

And an ample supply of fitted ashtrays!….

Peter Ashley said...

Sue: Indeed, it makes me want to go out and buy one now for my Unmitigated Travels.

Jon: Oh yes, and those Smiths instruments set in walnut veneer and those multiple spokes on the steering wheel and the semaphore indicator switch above the horn button and....(contnd. p.99)

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