Thursday, April 8, 2021

a cool clutch and four gears and even reverse

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Hammer Smith (© 2021). Digital montage.


An unidentified aging British chaffeur and auto mechanic, recalling his youth as a worker on an estate, in Ronald Blythe, The View in Winter: Reflections on Old Age. New York: Penguin Books, 1980, p. 65—

I’ll tell you how I learned to drive. There was a shooting party and I had just got this car all washed and polished and clean, ready for the pick-up—the guns—when a boy came out of the house to put some dirt in the dustbin. I called out, “Come for a ride, Harry?” just as a joke, laughing, you know, but then in Harry jumps aside of me, looking pleased and excited. So what could I do? I was sixteen. I'd watched old Crossley [the estate chauffeur] with the gear-lever and the brake, and I told myself, “If he can do it, I can do it.” So I reached for the pedals and suddenly there we were, dashing down the front drive! That drive was a mile long and ended at the bottom lodge, where the village policeman lived. I was driving straight to prison, I told myself, for taking the motor. And could I turn it round and bring it back? But that lovely motor had a cool clutch and four gears and a reverse, and by luck I managed them all—brought it back safe, washed it all over again, and nothing was seen or said. That was the first time I had a drive and I’ve been driving ever since.