Buck Up, The Clubs

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AFTER over fifteen months of war we can still count our blessings. Petrol is being more freely allocated than before, lubricating oil is still unrationed, the purchase of luxuries is only just becoming difficult, few of us have felt the effect of food rationing to any extent, and the roads are still very full of cars.

Our shores are strongly defended, our Army, Navy and Air Force are fighting hard, but ordinary life goes on and, indeed, entertainment of Service personnel and of those civilians engaged on work of national importance, is recognised as a very necessary means of maintaining the morale of the country. Curious, surely, that the motor clubs, with the exception of the young and ambitious 750 Club, have virtually ceased to exist; are, indeed, now mere lists of members’ names filed away somewhere, ironically symbolised by the badges still carried on the enthusiasts’ cars. In September, 1939, it was thought that no one would have time to organize club events, that no one would have petrol to burn in transporting himself to any events which were organised; perhaps that no one would have a skin to go in, unless he spent 100 per cent. of his time defending it. A year of strife has shown that this war is not quite like that. This is a battle being fought with and by specialists, and relaxation is regarded as essential to the specialist—in uniform and out—if he is to keep “fighting fit” throughout a war that is expected to last a number of years. Ample petrol is issued for business consumption, leaving the basic ration free for the purpose intended. Lots of people, key-personnel included, are working seven days a week in the national cause, lots more are working six, but even then at least half a day’s leave a fortnight is the order. Many enthusiasts are free and able to attend club functions—and there are none to attend. To blame the barrage and the bombs is futile. Lots of us now find ourselves exiled in the country, out of reach of inconveniences, but away, too, from former interests and away from our friends. Service duties, work of national importance, or the responsibilities of heads of families to those near and dear to them, have sent thousands to the country. Cinemas are open, for bombs and shell fragments are never encountered, but townsfolk have seen their out-of-date films and they shut early. Favoured books remain at home, the workshop equipment likewise; country roads are uninviting in the blackout. . . . . Boredom is not uncommon, or unexpected, in the circumstances. In this busy age the basic fuel ration is not readily consumed, and we exiles would willingly use some of it to meet old friends under conditions suggesting the conclusion of a peace-time trial. Let the clubs hold socials outside the towns these winter evenings. It may be folly to motor into a town on which bombs are falling, but the Luftwaffe has not cowed the motoring sportsman and he will not mind facing the run back into the danger zone after a good evening’s entertainment in a peaceful area. Then, a Sunday picnic meeting would enable sports-cars to forgather again, with a minimum of organisation and black-out driving, and expenditure could be covered by a small collection, where clubs have locked away the coffers for the duration, as the Vintage S.C.C. has done. Cannot those versatile club secretaries of peace time buck up and do something along these lines on behalf of bored, if not yet war weary, enthusiasts? They could be certain of the gratitude and support of a large number of motorists without offending or injuring anybody.