How often have you made plans that seemed such a good idea only to have the whole thing collapse into a big disappointment? While these things are miserable at the time, they make for enjoyment when we recall the awfulness of the occasion.
Like most young couples, we never had any money. Getting married at nineteen and twenty with a baby on the way, plus three more to follow in quick succession, meant it took us many years before we actually had money to spare.
We bought several old cars in our early married years, none of them were very roadworthy and didn’t serve us for very long. Our first car didn’t like winter when its spark plugs got cold. Every morning at 6.30 Dave brought the spark plugs in the house and lay them on the gas stove to warm them up. Once they were warm and thoroughly dry, he put them back under the hood, rolled the car down the hill and then thrust it into third gear. A method know as jump starting and was easy to do on old timers with a manual transmission.
What we would have done if we hadn’t lived on a hill, I don’t know but this method worked every morning and got him to work easily enough. It didn’t seem to give trouble coming home, just early mornings.
The floor in front of the front passenger seat had holes rusted in it so I could watch the world go by as we drove along. On wet days, I put newspaper down to prevent splashing of my feet. It was good for taking us places until it eventually died. This was followed by several other old cars which didn’t live very long. Then came several years of no car at all as Dave got a friend to travel to work with and they shared the cost of gas.
In some of the English coastal towns, which were summer tourist spots, they tried to extend the holiday season by lighting up the town in fall. This was a really ambitious project involving hundreds of thousand lights. There were huge moving pictures of nursery rhymes accompanied by the lyrics. Lights made into famous faces, scenes and numerous other things. As soon as the town got dark, the lights would go on and repeated every night for about two weeks. Thousands of people flocked to the towns, causing huge traffic jams, but nobody seemed to mind waiting to view the spectacle.
One day, Dave’s parents offered us the use of their car to take our two young daughters to see the light up, about an hour’s journey from our home.
We set off early and enjoyed walking along the sea wall then having our picnic by the sea. As twilight approached we got to an area where we could walk through the town to look at the various scenes. It took us a couple of hours to view everything then we headed back to the car. Two very sleepy little girls lay on the back seat and promptly fell asleep.
The car was a Volkswagen Beetle, really small but the girls were just eighteen months and two and a half so fit on the back seat quite well. We left the town earlier than most so we didn’t get caught in the huge jam of people who would be on the roads later. We got onto the freeway, about forty minutes from home but soon noticed the headlights were fading. A few minutes later, and they were almost non existent, so we had to stop and call for roadside assistance.
The tow truck took us to the nearest repair service which was the service area on the motorway. No mechanic on duty but the gas guy put the battery on charge overnight. That meant we had about eight hours to kill before we could drive home. We sat for a while in the tiny car. The bucket seats were not designed for sleeping or even getting reasonably comfortable. If we tried to snuggle down we got entangled with the gear shift stick or the hand brake, which stuck up between the two front seats. By wriggling around, I could get my feet on the dashboard but it was not a comfortable position for a nap. Dave, at 6ft 3inches could not find any comfortable position at all.
To break the discomfort and the boredom we took turns walking round the service area. The stores were closed but the café was open. We couldn’t afford to buy anything there but we took turns reporting on the state of a meal that was sitting under a heat lamp all night. The meal was a breakfast of bacon, eggs, baked beans and toast. Each time one of us did the tour of the area we looked at the deteriorating mess. It was still there when we did our last tour at 8.00am. I wonder if they ever sold the rubbery eggs and completely dried out bacon and toast. English catering at its best!
Once first light became strong enough to travel, we headed for home, luckily the little ones had slept the night through and we had some cookies left, from our picnic, to satisfy them until we got home. The breakfast I produced was well accepted by all of us and sure got better reviews than the one we had watched all night.