My first car was a Fiat 500; my last car was a Fiat Seicento. In forty-three years of motoring this progression from one small Fiat to another seems a rather small development in the size and make of car! In fact it is the increase from five hundred to six hundred (which is what Seicento means in Italian).
I bought the Seicento new in 2004. It was the first new car I had ever owned; my wife had already bought a new VW Polo, and my sister Tiggie had always bought her cars from new since 1963. But I had always relied on hand-me-down motors, their having been bought new by Tiggie or my father. For several years I did not have a car at all, but relied on my wife’s Beetle and a moped to get me around.
The Seicento was very cheap for a new car. They were never expensive cars but this was particularly good value because it had just been discontinued in the UK, although they were still being made in Poland. I was very daring and up-to date in buying it; I had found it on the internet, and I tied up the deal on my mobile phone. I can even remember where I was on my post round when I agreed to buy it.
I had to go to Lincoln to collect my new car; so far in my life it is the only time I have ever been to Lincoln, although I have been to Lincolnshire often enough. I caught the train from Norwich, going via Ely. The train journey was an experience in itself. I caught the cross-country train to Liverpool as far as Peterborough. From there I had a short trip on the main East Coast line to the North as far as Grantham. This train was pretty full and held all sorts of people, including a man who had taken his shoes and socks off and busy inspecting his not very clean feet. From Grantham I caught dmu to Lincoln. It was misty when I arrived.
One of the first things I had to do once I had written a cheque to pay for the car was to get it filled up with petrol. When I stopped at the garage I realised that I didn’t know how to open the petrol cap! I forget now how I resolved this problem, but I soon learnt the workings of the car.
The trip back from Lincoln was the longest journey I did in the Seicento. I used it for pottering about in Norfolk, and mostly for the miles or two to work in the morning. Of course we made plenty of longer journeys including a couple to France, but these were made in my wife’s Polo. I had to do the driving in France, as my wife felt dubious about driving on the wrong side of the road. The Polo was not a large car by any means, but bigger than the Fiat Seicento. The Polo moreover had five doors, while the Seicento had only three.
It was quite an old-fashioned car in not having electrically operated widows; this seems quite adequate to me and at least the dog cannot open the windows if left alone in the car, as he does o our current Skoda (unless it is locked when he repeatedly sets off the alarm). It did have a radio. Unlike the more up-market versions of the Seicento it had no sunroof either, but the days when you can use one in the British climate are limited. The instruments were not electronic, but none the worse for that.
I sold the car in 2009 when I retired and following my stroke I gave up driving. The Seicento was my farewell to the world of motoring.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY was spent in Keogh Barracks in Ash Vale, just outside Aldershot by me in 1986. This was quite a journey from Norwich, but all done at the Army’s expense, on a rail warrant. I had travelled down to Liverpool Street Station, across London by Underground and then onto the train at Waterloo to Ash Vale. At the time we were not allowed to travel in uniform, in case that made us targets for terrorists; a rather craven attitude that I am glad has now changed. But in 1986 that meant an extra change of clothes to carry.
I was there for Remembrance Sunday by accident; my TA Course happened to coincide with that Sunday. I was there doing my Regimental Medical Assistant (Class 3) Course which, if I passed, would enable me to go onto my preferred job of medical storeman. Unfortunately I failed at my first attempt in November which meant a return for another week the next spring. But back to the previous November; there was an important parade that Sunday morning with the RAMC Band taking part. This Remembrance Sunday parade was strictly for the Regulars. Part timers of the TA were not invited (thank goodness!). Parade ground work was never my strong point. Nevertheless to witness the professionals was quite an experience, even if it was to observe it from a safe distance (an upstairs window in the barracks).
AlthougHh not the oldest branch of the Services (which of course is the Royal Navy) it is certainly the one which has lost most men in the conflicts of the last century. Consequently the day has a special place in the Army. I was taught some of the rules that govern the observance of Remembrance in uniform. I will start with the Poppy itself, which civilians wear on the chest or lapel. A soldier on the other hand wears his Poppy behind his cap badge. This entails taking it apart and discarding all but the petals. Despite our not attending the parade we all wore our Poppies – in the approved manner, of course.
The preparations for the Remembrance Parade started on Saturday 8th November with the arrival of the bandsmen. Their uniforms were nothing fancy like those of some Corps, or the Royal Marines; just the ordinary ‘blues’, the No. 1 uniform of any professional soldier. Close up the uniforms looked quite tired on the bandsmen, as did the bass drummer’s leopard skin. With their uniforms getting so much use they could have done with replacement. But the sound of the band was what counted, and that was fine. The whole barracks resounded to sounds of the trumpeters practising for Sunday morning.
As members of the TA one of our intake was a former Regular, who found the Remembrance ceremony at Keogh Barracks particularly moving. He had lost a colleague while serving in the army, and this was only a few years after the Falklands War so memories of that conflict were still fresh.
It was only a few years before the First Gulf war in which members of the TA (especially the medics) were to take an active part. In more recent conflicts particularly in Afghanistan the TA has been heavily involved with at least one making the ultimate sacrifice. With the planned reliance on part-time soldiers this can only become more likely.See my earlier blog on Remembrance Sunday in November 2011 (The Fallen), 2012(Remembrance Sunday) and 2013 (Poppy Day).