When I say that car journeys aren’t the same when you get big, I quite specifically mean too big to lie down across the back seat and go to sleep. When we were kids we lived in Vienna, and used to regularly drive back to Manchester, via the Dover ferry, to visit my mum’s family, who are all from there. In one of those turquoise things in the picture. In the words of Princess Leia: “You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought.”
It was roughly a twenty-five to thirty-hour journey, I do believe, and something we never really questioned, as kids. It was kind of exciting, honestly, although even as a child you know full well that boredom, frustration and irritability would inevitably kick in at some point and that exhasperated “I don’t bloody well CARE who started it!” would be wearily barked from the front seat.
Nevertheless, what interests me about long drives these days – the scenery, the tranquility (no, seriously), the chance to either turn things over in your brain for a while or chatter aimlessly to someone – didn’t figure at all back then.
I am not really sure what made these journeys exciting when we were kids, but there was definitely something mysterious about curling up to sleep on the back seat, when it was pitch black all around, with the hypnotic effects of the street lights and the subtle changes in engine noise depending on the surface we happened to be driving over at the time.
My parents had a couple of musical strategies for us on these journeys. They copied albums onto C90s and took the chance to listen to stuff borrowed from friends and stuff like that, but when we really needed pacifying then the story tapes would have to go on, including the Kenneth Williams version of The Wind in the Willows which led to me giving this blog its name.
To this day I still really strongly associate Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s Live in Budapest, Alf by Alison Moyet and pretty much anything by Bronski Beat and even Willie Nelson’s Willie and Family Live with sitting in that turquoise tin can up there and slowly chugging our way across Europe. At that age, even in that daft wee car, there was just something quite thrilling about it. Even that grey, wan light which awaited us as we left the ferry and is so characteristic of England had a certain mystique.
Beats the shit out of Ryanair anyway.
Willie Nelson – Good Hearted Woman
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Davey’s on the Road Again