Cars in Books, August 1962

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Cars come in here and there in “Five Out Of Six” by Violet Powell (Heinemann, 1960). Although the First World War (fought to end all wars) was at its height when the family took a holiday near Swansea, but a car was found to convey them to Oxford Station, and it must have been a closed one, for a hat-box lashed to the top, took-off along the windy-ridge of the Oxford-Banbury road. The make of this taxi which somehow had petrol for this journey isn’t mentioned, but later we are told that the author’s mother “was far from fond of horses and had taken to motor-cars in their earliest days.” Indeed, her father had bought a Daimler believed to be the first car registered in Co. Longford; “after spending the war in purdah at North Aston it took the road again in 1920.” However, it was in a hired car “with battered flapping side-screens,” that they set off after holidays in Ireland, so perhaps the Daimler didn’t survive. Back home at North Aston the car “came growling up the drive bringing a new governess,” who entered (the hall) on a wave of petrol fumes.”

Italy, Violet Powell remembers for, amongst other things, “the Giovanelli family flashing white-toothed smiles from the driving-seats of Alfa Romeos,” and I like her for quoting a notice she encountered in a rural tram between Hardelot and Boulogne, which read: “It is forbidden to speak with the Wattman.”

By 1930 the author’s mother, Lady Longford, was still using a Daimler landaulette, “black and silent, essentially dowager-like,” but they also added a new car, “chosen from a shop in Bond Street,” with a cape hood that was always kept erect. There are no other clues to its make but earlier the young debutante had, inevitably, overturned a Baby Austin. Incidentally, although she claims to be a disciple of Bradshaw I do not think Mr. J. E. P. Howey will he very happy about her reference to the narrow gauge, Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway as “now, I believe, only a model system !” – W.B.