Happy birthday

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If I were of the present generation I’d probably remark: “Really good!” or “Brilliant”. I am not, but to say I was overwhelmed is an understatement.

I refer to my recent 80th birthday, and the fantastic number of greetings I received, so many from MOTOR SPORT readers and VSCC members. They simply flooded in, not only from this country – let’s call it Great Britain, shall we? – but from Europe, America, Africa, Hong Kong, Nicaragua and elsewhere. These cards are definite proof, as if you didn’t know, that so many people derive avid enjoyment from motoring as a sport, that I hope you will forgive me for making this page a means of thanking very sincerely all those who so kindly sent them.

All this helped to take the sting out of having joined the octogenarians (should I now buy an MG?), although I am convinced that I do not deserve such attention, for others have done far more for vintage motoring than I have, as competitors, officials, marshals and reporters etc. This should not imply that I am ungrateful for all this attention. Many of you asked me not to give up writing. Well, that is in the hands of God and other deities, but I shall do my best.

The number of greetings I received exceeded 700. The volume was such that, on the day I changed into this octo-thing, the Post Office sent our smartly-uniformed postman in a spick-and-span Bedford PO van to deliver them. With him came a sort of kissogram girl, in fact a ‘non-kiss’ uniformed PO-girl, and a local photographer to record the happening, if not for posterity, for the regional papers. As the bag of greetings cards was so heavy I could hardly carry it, I felt it would be churlish not to comply with this Post Office publicity. If it comes your way, you get a Royal Mail book containing collectors’ stamps and a Post Office ‘Penny Black’ tie. . .

Back to these birthday cards – thank you all so very much! I shall derive endless enjoyment from them and the messages, reminiscences of long-ago happenings that I still remember and references to old friends and acquaintances etc.

Even my comments about Rolleiflex cameras, minuscule car cubby-holes and my Boxing Night ‘Exeters’ are recalled! I have been reminded too that many of you discovered MOTOR SPORT around 1945-50, although one reader has read it since 1929 and another from 1930. Several first saw it at school, one at the age of 10.

The cards depict not only cars of all kinds, but railway and aviation subjects, with ordinary cards sprinkled around as a change from wheels and propellers. One contrived to have a picture of me on the cover of a February 1993 MOTOR SPORT – very clever printing, this! Others show me riding in cars from years past, such as with John Eason-Gibson in his Frazer Nash-BMW at a Brooklands’ event and at Silverstone in ‘Babs’ when driven by Roger Collings. Alas. space is insufficient for me to list them all. Even those from the Motor Clubs, many with a multitude of signatures, and from other organisations (the suppliers of MOTOR SPORT’S paper, to name but one) would fill a page. But I am most touched, and very grateful to you all . . .

I shall keep these cards and look at them again every year, to ward off depression. The used stamps will go to charity.

Nor was that all! After shaking hands with the non-kissogram girl, my wife and I went off in the still-reliable (after 34,850 miles) Ford Sierra to Hereford, where the past-presidents of that wonderful club, the VSCC, had arranged a lunch for us at the Green Dragon hotel. Again, I was overwhelmed. It was such a jolly party, with president Bruce Spollon and his wife lune (who had laid on everything so splendidly: the cake, the candles – not quite 80! – the room, the champagne), Roger and Judy Collings (who had nudged it into reality), Kenneth Neve OBE and his daughter Judy Portway, Ronald ‘Steady’ Barker, Nigel and Pam Arnold-Forster, Tom and Di Threlfall, Peter and Jennifer Hull and VSCC president-elect, Barry Clarke. It had meant long journeys for many of them. As I said, what a wonderful club.

I am conscious that all this may seem too personal. My excuse it that it is a further reminder of how deep-rooted motoring sport is, in all its forms. No stupid restrictions must impede the pleasure it provides for so many people. Let us remember the efforts the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs is making, to ensure that such harmless enjoyment is not ruined by the rule-makers in Brussels.

W B