Mexico, shopping and a passion for words

 

da1b6161394ee24b9fc8b7cce3948e65

This is the fifth post in this series, where I feature a car from my past and link it with something to do with being an author.

Today’s post features a British Classic, the ubiquitous Ford Escort Mexico Mark1. Mine was bright yellow. I think it is called Daytona Yellow, but I’ll stand corrected if you know better.

The Mexico was a product of Fords famous Advanced Vehicle Operations (AVO), built to capitalise on their success in the 1970 London-Mexico Rally. It used the same strengthened bodyshell as the RS models but was powered by a 1599cc pushrod engine, developing 86bhp and 92lb ft of torque.

Top speed? 99mph all-out (although ford said it could do 124mph.) That may seem pathetic now but still, the driving experience remains genuinely special.

Don’t just believe me, during the Silverstone Auctions in 2018 a 1973 Ford Escort Mk1 Mexico sold for a new world record auction price of £50,625.

The accompanying photo bears a close resemblance to my 1970s production car.

I was and still am a bit of a ‘Petrolhead’. I love fast cars and been fortunate enough to own several excellent machines and driven some other amazing examples.

It is a passion which I first recall having as a child of four or five years old.

I was born into a working-class family, living in the south of England, a country which was still smarting from the second world war. As with most families back then, it was a matter of make and mend.

Luxuries were simple treats like tinned fruit served with jelly and not as a separate dish on another day. We walked for miles to get to the shops, the market or visit relatives. Not many people owned cars and bus fares were deemed an unnecessary extravagance.

I recall many shopping trips when we wheeled a pram, a large ‘carriage’ type pram with a basket tray underneath and hooks on the handle. In the pram would be an array of bags. Sturdy leather ones for potatoes, vegetables and fresh fruit. Baskets for loaves and eggs, woven hemp or seagrass for the general shopping.

The shopping trip took in the butchers, I would watch as they cut the meats to order and 5fce18b692fa117009b2a6a5682aa3fccounted the number of sausages strung together.

“How thick would you like your bacon?” he asked,

“Number four, please,” my mother would reply.

A weeks’ worth of freshly butchered meats, all wrapped in white ‘butchers’ paper’, would go into one of those bags we brought with us, a particular bag reserved for meat.

This story was repeated at the fishmongers. A piece of rockfish for my father, a small portion of cod for mother and a bag of sprats for us children. Each item wrapped in white paper by the fishmonger who served us. We would have the sprats ‘on toast’ with tomato ketchup or with a slice of bread spread with margarine for our dinner that night.

These purchases again had a dedicated bag. Fish needs to be kept apart from the other foods.

The shopping trip continued. At the bakery, if I were lucky, I would be treated to an iced finger roll. Basically, a plain bread finger roll with a smidgen of pink icing on top. Often, even mostly, this was given to my mother by the baker. A gift for me in recognition of her continued patronage.

Dainty-Dinah-Tea-Rooms-and-Co-op-stores-at-Beamish

The main grocery store, ours was the co-operative (CWS), was something to behold. I loved this place. For a young child, it was magical. Men in brown coats, with the help of ‘shop boys’, scurried around fulfilling the customers’ orders, mostly women with hats or hairnets who stood gossiping while the storemen collected and packed each order.

Our shopping was piled into a big box, often a long box which originally contained a gross of hens’ eggs. Once the order was complete, the payment was taken, cash, of course, and put with the bill in a large wooden ball.

The ball was then hoisted upwards on a contraption until, near the high ceiling, the ball fell onto a narrow metal track. I watched in wonderment as the ball rolled along this circuitous track above my head and disappear through a hole in the wall.

A few minutes later the ball would return, clunking and rattling along with the same overhead rail system, passing over and under several other wooden balls making their own way back and forth.

Eventually, the ball would drop onto a cage and the shopkeeper who collected our order would deftly twist the ball to open it, revealing the receipt and the change. He would then pass the receipt to mother and judiciously count the change into her palm.

It was some years before I understood the balls were sent to the cashier’s office, where the payment is taken and change made, so those working on the shop floor did not have to (or be trusted with) handling cash transactions.

There is an open-air museum in County Durham, called Beamish. (If you have the opportunity, please go. I know you will love it.) In the reconstructed town, this museum rebuilt an original co-operative store where the payment/cashier system of sending wooden balls along suspended tracks is still operational. One of my delights, to this day, is watching the balls run along those rails, the entire system operated solely by gravity.

It never fails to bring back memories of my childhood.05-The-Co-op-hardware-shop-at-Beamish-1024x768

 

One of our final stops, when shopping, was a second hand (used goods) store called ‘Bluebird’. This is where my mother would buy clothes and household equipment. Many of the clothes were unpicked and made into entirely different attire. The odd bits and pieces of scrap material too small to be useful became dolls clothes for my sisters, other remnants rags for cleaning.

However, while my mother was looking around the shop and gossiping, I would go to the corner of the ‘Bluebirds’ where the toys were, especially the matchbox cars.

Here is where I found a Jaguar XK120 and a 150, both in ‘old English white’, a bright red e-type, a blue Bugatti racing car and so on. Sometime mother would let me keep one and I would carry it, clenched in my small fist, all the way home without letting it go.

I would not let my grip release the car, even when I needed to help push the pram or help mother to steady it up and down the kerbs, the large box on the wire tray beneath, bags sitting in the pram and those with the ‘delicate’ items swinging from the handle. Whatever occurred, I would keep my new car clasped tightly in my palm.

I did not know at the time, but this was, I am sure the beginning of becoming a petrolhead.

My dear little Mexico stayed with me for a well over a year. Only the water pump failed. I must admit I was a little sad to see it go, as I have been with most of the cars I owned.

(My next car, another Ford, soon helped me forget the Mexico… but that’s a story is for another time.)

Anyway… this post is leading me to say a person’s interest, their passion starts somewhere, usually in a small way when a certain event triggers their inquisitiveness, stimulates their curiosity.

matchbox_1120_15For me, it was my child-being falling in love with small model cars which led to me having so many marvellous wheels once I became an adult.

Later, in my teens, I found books created those same heart-fluttering moments of marvel and wonder as I became totally lost in their pages, carried off to fictional worlds which made themselves real within my mind, so real they distracted me at school as I wondered what was happening if I would miss anything, anticipating what the character would do next.

Both reading and driving are passions conceived in childhood and now, in my dotage, they both still excite and comfort me in equal quantity.

I say to you, write if it is your passion to do so. Write in a way and a style which is all yours. Let it be fired by your love and lust for wordsmithing. Look to no one for permission or approval.

Buy the car you want to drive. Write the book you want to read.


You can check out the books I wanted to read because I followed my own advice and wrote them.

They are all on my website, right HERE

Feel free to browse around.

Pub2

The Wind & the Sun

hqdefault

  This is a story my father used to tell me as a young child.

  Way back then I had no idea that this story was his version of an Aesop’s fable.

  I loved listening to him regale it over and again; although I had heard this story many times, it was not until I was about seven that I began to understand how the moral of the tale, or at least the basic message it carried, related to life.

   My father has now been dead for over thirty five years, yet I still recall his voice when I think of the Wind & the Sun.

   Moreover I am still learning the true extent of how the simple and basic message this story carries can affect every part of our lives, in work, play, socially, and in our domestic and love life relationships.

   I will try my best to recount this tale as closely to my father’s recitation as I can recall, because I still prefer his version to that of Aesop!

   Maybe you would too, if you could hear his voice as clearly I still do.


One day the Wind and the Sun were looking down upon the earth when they saw a man walking along a footpath.

‘Look at that man’ said the Wind, ‘I bet I can get his jacket off him quicker than you ’.

‘You think you can?’ answered the Sun.

‘Of course’ the Wind replied ‘because I am strong and powerful’.

‘Go on then’ said the Sun ‘let me see what you can do’.

So the Wind began to blow. As the Wind blew the man’s jacket flapped in the breeze. The Wind blew harder, whipping up clouds of dust and blowing the leaves from the trees.

The man buttoned his jacket, turned up his collar, lowered his head and continued walking.

Displeased with his efforts so far the Wind let a howling gale bellow over the ground. It was so forceful that the man had to fold his arms across his chest to stop his jacket from being blown off.

The Wind saw what the man was doing took a huge puff and let loose a tempest.

The man clutched his jacket tighter to himself, holding it firm with both hands.

Again and again the Wind blew and blew. The harder the Wind blew the tighter the man clung to his Jacket.

Eventually the Wind had puffed so hard for so long that he blew himself out.

The sun laughed and said to the Wind ‘Now it is my turn to try and get this man’s jacket off’.

So the Sun smiled and shone his gentle rays of warm sunlight upon the earth and upon the man.

The man took his hands from his jacket.

The Sun continued to smile and spread his warmth.

The man unbuttoned his jacket and loosened his tie.

After a while the man, bathed in the glorious heat from the sun, removed his jacket, slung it over his shoulder and began to whistle as he walked.

‘You see, Wind’ said the Sun, ‘you can accomplish far more by being gentle and giving than you can with brute force alone’.

.

I hope you enjoyed my father’s version of this story.


You can read more by visiting https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/

Guest Blog – Shawn Jones

Shawn Jones

Today I hand my Rambling’s blog over to Shawn Jones, He may like his dog better than he likes you or I but I can forgive him for that, so long as he continues to write superb sci-fi like The Warrior Chronicles, a science fiction series available exclusively from Amazon .(http://www.amazon.com/Shawn-Jones/e/B00I3JJFYW/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1)

I read a poem by Jessika O’Sullivan recently.

The day you no longer remember your childhood dreams.

How the world blurs when you are on a swing.

The smell of your classroom.

Your best friend’s eyes.

Your teenage confusion.

How your first love made you feel.

The hours in the dark, listening to music.

The taste of beer and snow in someone’s breath.

When you no longer remember.

You might blame adulthood.

But the truth is you lost something.

Jessika’s word are the difference between everyone else and a fiction writer. Those memories… the smells… the tastes… fiction writers never forget them. The rest of world grows up and moves on, but not us. We never forget the bump on our bicycle handlebar grip that was the trigger stud for a laser that protected the girl we had a crush on, hoping to be rewarded with a kiss. We remember climbing into our treehouse and ‘targeting’ the top of the round apartment building down by the river, because in our minds, it’s not a building. It’s a rocket. A starship filled with aliens about to overtake the Earth. We were, no I was, on a simple wooden platform in an old fruitless mulberry tree, the only thing standing between those aliens and the end of humanity.

The vinegar I smelled when I walked into the house when Mom was canning pickles… No, it wasn’t vinegar. It was toxic gas, and I had just seconds to make it to my bedroom before I would be overcome by them and breathe my last breath, never knowing the feel of Debbie Koffman’s kiss on my cheek.

We had an old wood pile in our back yard behind the garage. When we were having a cookout, Dad would build the fire and leave me to monitor it while he did whatever dads do while the fire died down to a nice bed of coals. I would see ants start to pour out of an old log, which was my cue to get to work. I’d run behind the garage and grab some branches from that old mulberry tree and hurry back to the fire, where I’d carefully place the fresh limbs to give the ants a way to escape. Then I’d use another branch to gently guide some of the ants to the escape route. Once they were moving across the sticks and away from certain doom, I would rest on my laurels knowing I’d saved lives. Because that’s what heroes did.

People who don’t write do have memories like mine. But I remember the texture of the handlebar grip. The curl in Debbie’s coarse, black hair. The shape of that apartment building’s roof. The smell of the fire coming from our old, square fire pit. Dad made it with concrete and flint rock, so the first few years it would get really hot once in a while and a rock would shatter, sending shards of flint at one of us unsuspecting boys. There was a cool aspect to it as well. If you hit one of those flint rocks with a hammer just right, you didn’t need a match to light the fire.

Writers never grow up. Even when we write about adult things like crime and physics and politics, we are still kids. In every other aspect of our lives, we are told that we are immature and have overactive imaginations. But when you put a real (or digital) piece of paper in front of us, we become gods. It’s not because we are smarter, or even more imaginative. It’s because we never stopped being kids.

My wife rolls her eyes at me when I come up with some new idea for an alien. One of my brothers thinks I have something loose in my head. My sister is amazed at my memories of our childhood. They aren’t always a blessing, though.

I remember the eyes of Lady, my first dog, just before she died. I remember a bitter, evil woman’s hatred of me because I was adopted. I remember the sting of getting swats in elementary school. I remember the smell of Mom’s cigarette-laced breath as she gave me mouth-to-mouth because of my asthma. I also remember the smell of her hospital room as she slipped away from this realm.

And Debbie Koffman? I remember getting her a necklace at the state fair. She loved it. For a week anyway. Then it broke, and she thought it was a sign that we weren’t supposed to be sweethearts anymore. I never got that kiss.

Think about this moment. This one right now, as you read these words. Look around you. As surely as you can see the things in front of your face, a writer can see the past. We can see the future. We can see into the mind of a killer, or the soul of a dog.

You live your life in this moment. Writers live theirs in every moment. Every single one. Past, present, and future, they are as vivid to us as the screen you are reading this on. Speaking of the future, I have a universe to build. I’ll see you there.

Footnote. Why not check out Shawn’s Sci fi blog at http://shawnjonesscifi.blogspot.co.uk/