AS I write this, the latest scare is the rumour that the Budget will include an increase of 5/- on the road tax, and that we shall soon have the dubious joy of paying 30/- per h.p. for the privilege of going as far in a month as can be done by the average donkey cart.
However, I Should not be surprised to find that the story is of the sort called by the French tendancieux, meaning that it is a straw deliberately thrown out to see which way the wind of public opinion blows. It doesn’t seem possible that Sir John Simon, even though no economist, deludes himself with the notion that an increase in taxation beyond a certain point will bring in more revenue; if he does, he might think about the whisky tax imposed during the last war, and still in force.
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Those who can’t remember as long ago as that might care to know that whisky used to be 3/6 a bottle, and that it rose to 12/6, the result being that the whisky decanter, which, used to be as much an indispensable piece of furniture as the aspidistra, now holds the wife’s tulips, if it hasn’t been sold to the old-iron man. Suppose the car should disappear from the average small home in the same way! Unthinkable, isn’t it? But so many of us have stretched all the elasticity out of our incomes already! Still, it is always possible that the rumour is a cunning scheme to scare waverers into licensing their cars while there is yet time, without waiting for better weather, as quite a number of us seem to be doing. It will be interesting to see whether car licences went up in numbers during the earlier weeks of April; quite amusing things might be deduced from the figures, if they appear before we have forgotten all about it.
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Equality of sacrifice is the slogan of the moment; it may be that somebody will remind the Chancellor of it, and that his rod may fall upon other backs than ours this time. Untaxed golfers still play as merrily as is possible with a rather depressing and Calvinistic sort of Scottish game; untaxed cyclists gaily ignore whatever mild laws have been made for their governance; untaxed footballers propel the muddied sphere, as Kipling calls it, and the noise of the innumerable juveniles on untaxed roller skates is deafening in the land. But the depressing thought will obtrude itself that the French, who have known about Equality for quite a time, usually refer to their national motto as une reve entre deux mensonges.
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This is, unfortunately, not the first war of which I have had experience, and it is true to type in that mysteries flourish in it “like the green bay horse,” as the hunting parson is reported to have said. One of the most unfathomable mysteries is the methods under which extra supplies of petrol are granted to the favourites of the gods. One case I know is that of a man holding an indoor public appointment, he lives close to a station from which there is a frequent service, and he works quite close to the terminus at the other end. What petrol he gets is known only to himself and (perhaps) his wife; anyway, he does quite a lot of driving, and also did something approaching the thousand miles on the generous Easter holiday these public officials get. Another case is that of a young lady employed close to her home; she does not use her car for business purposes, but she confessed to receiving 20 gallons a month. Asked how she wangled it, she became charmingly coy, but could not see why she shouldn’t have it, as one of her fellow clerks living under two miles from the office got 18 gallons for an Austin Seven. Perhaps you could cap these true stories, though you will still find it hard to beat the wangling record of the lady who, so the papers say, wangled a ration card for her pet dog. [Certainly more than we asked for, and get, for the Editorial Austin Seven.—Ed.]
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As there isn’t any sport to talk about, and the R.A.C. have decided to issue no Permits for the duration, we might continue to meditate about petrol.
As you know, I am no scientist, and claim to be no expert of any kind, but I do want to know why no alternative fuel has been produced. Steam seems to have something in it, if you could get over prejudice; gas is undoubtedly too clumsy and too unpractical; but what’s wrong with alcohol?. All we who are racing men—which means supporters and marshals as well as drivers—know that racing dope is mainly alcohol, and we all know that a petrol-alcohol spirit was marketed successfully before the war. If I can believe the encyclopaedia at our local free library, you can make alcohol out of most things, and particularly cheap things; will anyone tell me why we don’t have it mixed with Pool spirit, and also why we don’t produce some dope with an alcohol basis which would supersede petrol? It would be invaluable if we could do so, for un-fortunately, as everybody knows, oil lives a long way from this country, and if we could do without it, we should cut off the risks to tankers and the other risks to our exchange at one fell swoop. No doubt the learned men will inundate the Editor with abstruse disquisitions upon the various reasons why nothing can be done, but so many impossible things have become possible in my time that I don’t despair of having home-produced juice in my car yet.
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Prescott has earned for itself such a place in the affections of sporting motorists that it could hardly be allowed to fade out from the effect of war conditions. I hear that the Bugatti Owners’ Club is faced with the necessity of finding about £350 a year in addition to its subscription income in order to pay outgoings on the property near Cheltenham, for, in spite of rumours to the contrary, no Government department has yet spotted this perfectly ideal funk-hole. Members of the Club have already promised quite a substantial portion of the sum required, but wouldn’t this be a grand opportunity for some motor magnate to step in? The trouble is, that those gentlemen think in millions; a few hundreds seems beneath their consideration, no doubt.
J. D. A.