Once Upon a Time :———-

As we now drift well and truly into a New Year, 2013, for better or worse, and undoubtedly it will be an unlucky year for somebody, probably most of us. But then when I look back, when did any of us have any luck?

Having said that, we have been blessed with a week or two of snow and ice which always helps to keep the home fires burning. But already as the days lengthen I can feel in my water that the winter harvest is all but over, even if a few odd days remain to keep the wolves from the door.

But for how long? Already I have spouted this rubbish because there doesn’t seem to be much happening to write about over the last two or three months, in fact, it has been ‘EERIE’ quiet.

Looking back at a recent issue of Professional Recovery, being a nostalgia freak, I was very impressed by the discovery and publication of a major repair bill for a truck gear box, totalling something like £25 from back in 1938. At this time, of course, I was not even a spillage on the back seat of a Wolseley. It was not in fact until after the Second World War that I took my first breath, but I certainly have memories from around 1950 with the whole country having gone through a terrible war, with the aftermath lasting until the mid-fifties. I still remember the tremendous British spirit and comradeship that made Britain great, which has well and truly gone for good. How would our Nanny State have faired in 1942?

Professional Recovery touched on the well-being that people felt even though they were on low wages and didn’t know the meaning of the word “luxury”. But they certainly valued each other and I do remember a fair amount of food shortage. In fact, shortages of everything at least up to 1954.

I have fond memories of going to the shop with my Mum’s ration book to collect perhaps a bag of sugar. There is no doubt, on looking back, they were hard times but people could rely on everything that life offered, which of course was not a lot, but it didn’t let them down the way it does today.

I remember being ill and my Mum call the Doctor at 9 o’clock in the morning and he came straight to the farm after he had finished his surgery; all part of him doing his daily rounds. I have said it before: buses ran on time and there was a second person, the Conductor, to take your money as the bus chugged along from stop to stop; schools did not close because there was a few inches of snow and we had some damned good snowball fights, sometimes teachers against pupils.

There may have been no televisions, unless you were extremely wealthy, but every town or village with more than 200/300 residents had its own cinema. I always remember these small communities had a Police House and a Policeman on site. He sauntered about the town or village in his own time and knew where every criminal and upright citizen hung their hats.

And as schoolboys they used to frighten the living daylights out of us: threatening to send us to prison if we did not stop throwing sticks at the conker tree to get a decent sized one for school the next day. And of course we believed that this Policeman would actually do that, which was reinforced by the other people in the village who confirmed the prison diet was bread and water. I quickly decided a good conker wasn’t worth the risk. So from an early age I learned to respect the Law.

Living on a farm it was easy not locking the house doors, but this was a practice that went on across the whole community. I doubt some people even had a key for the house they lived in: some rear doors didn’t even have a lock, but then again, apart from a couple of hanging pheasants, a 1940s house had nothing to steal.

This was the true British spirit that had made sure the British people did win the war. Just think what would happen nowadays if we got another war; we would be rolled over from within in a couple of days.

By the time I started in the Motor Trade in 1960, very little had changed though prosperity had arrived. I believe a garage, as they were called, used to do everything. It was not much of a garage if it didn’t sell petrol, fit exhausts and tyres, service and sell cars: with panel beating and spraying also carried out on the same site, heating by courtesy of a pot-bellied stove and, if that wasn’t enough, a Land Rover with a Harvey Frost standing doing nothing was a must. This set up was repeated thousands of times across the country and all just to service something like three million cars.

Rather ironically, my first employer using his Land Rover and Harvey Frost, used to do some work for the AA and the RAC and he was just as full of hell about them as Operators are today. So, some things have not changed.

But, what was really good was: he who paid the piper, he who did the work, no quango, no handling companies, no consultants, no Health & Safety. All earnings, however small, went straight to the right person. It is often said that a man who works, lives longer; nowadays it just seems longer.

I am more than amused with the recent suggestions that burgers and other items of food might actually have in them an animal not listed on the packet. I find it a bit pathetic that somebody would say that a burger was not fit for purpose if it had the hind quarter of a Shergar inside it (now we know why he never turned up). In fact quite a favourite delicacy of France and Italy, but they are happy to chew away at the burger having total disregard for the huge amount of saturated fats, salts and other preservatives, that will go a long way to getting them their first heart attack, something the lean meat of the horse won’t contribute to.

Now we hear of tranquiliser drugs in this meat: what a bonus way to calm down wild Friday nights where many of these things are consumed.

I do believe I may have already eaten a burger with traces of zebra in it: the evidence was before me hidden in the bar code. People should not be concerned about such nonsense; people after the war would have been so pleased to be able to get something that was so tasty, even if it would not form part of their “stable” diet and at the worst could perhaps give them the “trots”. Anyway, what do you expect for 99p? I suppose it is a bit like buying a cheap Chinese motor bike then finding its got a Honda engine – not all bad.

Going back to Professional Recovery again (three mentions this month) I am so pleased that Dave Gregory has got back to his core activity and I value his statement that he wholeheartedly supports and will help our Industry. I would hope he means Operators like me and I do think he means well. I certainly wish him well but I don’t think we should hold our breath.

I have always advocated that each person should look at his own business and at all times do everything he can to develop that business.

Dave has a successful Publishing Company and the only way these companies operate is sales of advertising revenue. I cannot see how he can stand up an be counted without harming the hands that feed him. Just browse through any magazine and it is supported by everybody connected with everything. Over the years I have seen many a good story snookered by the buying of a full page ad.

None of us can afford to upset any of our customers and I would support Dave Gregory for doing just the same, but it does mean he cannot be relied on to fight our corner, leaving him a bit like David Cameron in some ways. So will the next person please step forward.

 

Fred Henderson,
Breakdown Doctor
February, 2013