After the Boat Race it was usual for spirited undergraduates to impinge on the Metropolis and proceed to paint the town a rosy hue. After a cup final even more unruly and rowdy members of the community invaded Piccadilly and its environs with high spirits, little paper hats and inflatable streamers. On New Year’s Eve, in peacetime, something of this merry fraternisation extended to normally sober members of our stolid island race, as they sought to dispel memories and disperse the effects of twelve months’ safe, predetermined, civilised existence. At times such as these those wonderful persons, the British policemen, kept a good-natured eye on things and did not intervene so long as people enjoyed themselves with reasonable regard for the feelings of their fellow beings.
Certainly, the merrymakers on these now merely historic occasions were not denounced as hooligans, lunatics and potential criminals. When, however, young men and women sought relaxation by driving their cars to some venue such as Shelsley Walsh or Donington, and back home again afterwards, a different outlook was apparent on the part of those who were onlookers and not participants. These young people were going too far, driving madly at great speeds along the King’s highway ; they should be charged with potential manslaughter ! At least they should be made to pay (in heavy fines) for their pleasure !—for did they not wickedly use poorly silenced exhausts (albeit not nearly so noisy as those of the aircraft now flown so gallantly in the defence of their country), drive at 35 m.p.h. and more through villages and towns protected by a well-advertised speed limit, and even hide their Road Fund licences (often, incidentally, costing them upwards of £30 a year, not including third-party insurance) beneath their fold-flat windscreens! Dark-hued police cars, steered as like as not by inexperienced constables through the medium of low-ratio steering and soggy tyres, did what they could to catch these young people and cow them into behaving henceforth as good and sane citizens, discovering, curiously enough, that in many cases their victims held virgin driving licences and could claim many years’ fast motoring without having harmed any living thing.
This contrast between the official and public attitude towards one section of the community’s enjoyment and another’s must not be forgotten by those who see in the improving war news hopes of unrestricted motoring relaxation in the not too distant future. If we can gently draw the attention of our fellow beings and of officialdom to the magnificent part played by the motoring “hooligans” in the present war (alongside those who used to scale Eros or endeavour to sit astride Nelson’s lions), so much more likely are we to realise our dreams of a world more tolerant towards, perhaps even partial to, that by no means dangerous vehicle, the expertly handled, decently serviced sports car. The enthusiast may very well have his future in his own hands.