THE news that Rolt, after doing great deeds at Calais, is reported a prisoner is an announcement we all regret, especially those who saw him do equally great, if more peaceful things, with the E.R.A. the one and only Freddie Dixon tuned for him. It may not be generally known that Rolt comes from an old family seated in Flintshire, where, I believe, he was brought up. While I was always a bad hand at genealogy, I fancy he is a grandson of that General Rolt, described charmingly as “a British Soldier,” in memory of whom a semi-circular seat has been erected overlooking the wonderful view of the Vale of Clwyd, at Tremeirchion, and who, if my memory does not fail me, lies resting in the ancient churchyard of that tiny hamlet.
In fact, the General, who has handed down his gallantry to his descendant, slumbers not far from the tomb of the famous first vicar of the parish. That ecclesiastic is said to have been a very learned man in his day, naturally meeting the fate of all learned men of the period by being reputed to have had commerce with what the Welsh politely call the “Gwr Drwg.” The agreement was, according to legend, that the aforesaid Evil Spirit was to be entitled to possess himself of the vicar’s body, whether buried within the church or without. So many stories exist about the simplicity with which cunning peasants, to say nothing of learned churchmen, could be one too many for the devil, that it will hardly surprise you to hear that our vicar also pulled it off by having himself buried in the wall of the church, that being, according to ecclesiastical law, neither within the church nor without. As far as I could gather from his effigy, he continues to be very well pleased with himself. Tremeirchion, which you ought to visit in happier days, lies a little off the main road between Holywell and St. .Asaph; it is also a place of pilgrimage for Boswellians, for Dr. Johnson’s Mrs. Thrale came of the still-ruling local family, and she also is buried in the church.
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The only time I can remember when motorists had something like a square deal was when Mr. Morrison was Minister of Transport, for that statesman discovered the remarkable law that, the faster the traffic, the more of it the roads will hold. Unfortunately his successors were prompt in branding this axiom as a heresy, and a heresy it remains to this day, having been replaced by the axiom that, the more motorists are discouraged from using the roads, the more room there will be for any who remain undiscouraged. It may really be that discouragement is, at present, a necessary evil, but the bull-dog character of the English race is well seen by the number of those who still use the roads. What with teaspoonfuls of petrol, fantastic shades designed to prevent the emission of driving light, the ukase that parts of the cherished car should be besmeared with white paint, the driver’s life could not be a happy one, but when it comes to people coming home late, risking death at the hands of an amateur sentry who has made some sort of vague signal to stop, it begins to look as if the garage would be the best place for the car. Those who carry on in spite of all obstacles are supposed to lock their doors and take away their ignition keys (if any) every time they leave the car, under pain of finding all tyres deflated when they come back.
All these things must be suffered cheerfully, but I wonder whether the police, who ought to know something about car thieves, have ever been asked by the Great Panjandrums to say exactly how long a locked door and the absence of the bit of tin called an ignition key hold up the enterprising people who, when caught, explain that they only took the unattended car for a little joyride. However, comfort myself with the thought that Jerry has had so long a training in being law-abiding that, if the parasites ever do arrive, they will respect the symbolic locked doors, and will understand that the use of unattended cars is verboten.
That is, if any of them escape the attentions of the host of military and semi-military people who are itching to get a pot-shot at them.
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As the carburant question is a matter of national importance, I think I needn’t apologise for returning to the subject. Last month I quoted a story about a man said to have found Calor Gas an efficient substitute for petrol, the tale being exploded by the Editor, who asked for confirmation at the fountain head. Since then, I have met one of the company’s engineers, who told me quite unofficially that the reason for discouragement was the certainty that, if successful, experiments with the gas would lead to the usual swinging taxation being placed upon it; a thing which obviously wouldn’t be fair to the multitude of country consumers who use this most useful invention. To my mind, a belief of that sort shows how the real national interest is obscured by the mania for making life impossible to those who want to use the roads, and also shows the difficulties met by those who try to discover some substitute for imported petrol.
But the man responsible for the original idea of using this butane gas now alleges that he has invented a way of compressing town gas into the Calor containers, though smiles and hope have not resulted in his giving me a demonstration. I hope his experiments won’t end in an unpremeditated visit to the stratosphere!
Talking of ersatz carburants, the following story is current in the village in which I live. A man of optimistic mind drove rather too far in order to visit an old friend, who, as it turned out, had made up his mind to renounce alcoholic drinks for the duration, and who, desiring to banish temptation, presented the hero of the story with his last bottle of Plymouth gin, a special affair which was wrapped up and cradled with care on the back seat. The friends parted with regret at a late hour, and all went well until, not very far from home, our hero was pulled up by a posse recognisable, in spite of armament and fierce looks, as our grocer and other leading tradesmen.
The word was given that papers must be produced, after which, everything being in order, the driver was told that he might proceed. Alas! all the engine did was to cough, splutter, and finally dry up! The posse was clear that the car couldn’t be allowed to stay where it was, and it was equally clear that, without the essential juice, it couldn’t proceed. At last the bottle of gin came into mind, so, in despair, the driver proposed to sacrifice it by pouring it into the tank to see whether it would do the trick. But the posse was horrified at what they thought was a most Fifth-Columnist idea, so, after a lot of discussion, it was decided that the liquid should be used in a more Christian fashion, and that the posse would, in return, get car and driver home somehow. Quite a pleasant hour or so was spent by the barriers until, the bottle empty, the posse was relieved by another squad. As soon as the splendid fellows were off duty, they pushed car and driver to the top of a long hill which leads into our village, scrambled aboard, and, as soon as gravity failed to get them any further, they piled out joyously to push car and driver in triumph to their garage a mile away. There isn’t much wrong with England, is there?
J. D. A.
Mr. and Mrs. K. N. Hutchison have moved to Couchmore House, Littleworth Common, Esher, and wish it to be known that they are at home to their trials-minded friends, given a little warning of a proposed visit. Hutchison has plans for a new trials motor after the war, so his Bugatti-bodied Allard-Special is for sale to anyone interested.
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An R.A.F. pilot, recently decorated by The King, used his T.T. Replica Frazer-Nash, painted camouflage, to drive to and from Buckingham Palace.
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A London firm is advertising car camouflaging from 70/- for an 8 h.p. model.
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There is a twin-carburetter, twin-magneto G.N. “Mowgli” V-twin racing engine in a South London shop window.
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The “Brooklands”-bodied Austin Seven illustrated last month is for sale in Lewes for £10.
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The Maserati which won at Indianapolis in 1939 and again this year, driven by Wilbur Shaw, was a Type 8 C.T.F. The Maserati driven by Riganti was a Type 8 C.L.