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the young policeman who tested me being a bit apologetic. ‘You must remember’, he said, ‘that traffic in Gwelo has become very heavy now that you RAF people are here.’ To listen to this, after having prided myself on being first round Hyde Park Corner every morning I passed it on my way from my digs in Swiss Cottage to my office in Grosvenor Gardens, was something of a joke. You would be lucky to meet two other cars as you drove around the town’s streets which were in any case about three times as wide as anything at home. I came back from a leave in Durban in early 1943, feeling a bit brassed off


at the thought that there would be another six weeks before I could enjoy a swim in the Indian Ocean, when I espied just outside my bedroom window a lovely little BSA Scout two-seater, finished in maroon and looking very sporty, which I had not seen on the Station before this. As I stood admiring it I was joined by the Station padre, complete with his dog-collar. ‘Do you like it?’ he asked.


‘I certainly do – I wish it were mine!’ I replied. ‘Well,’ said the padre, ‘Do you want to buy it?’ ‘Is it yours?’ ‘Yes, I bought it in Bulawayo and I’ve just driven it up.’ ‘How much do you want for it?’ ‘I’ll take £100.’ was the reply. I did not hesitate. It seemed to be a very fair price, if not indeed a bargain and I shook hands on the deal there and then.


And only then did I get into the driving seat and press the starter. I have rarely heard an engine noise like what came from under the bonnet. The padre had gracefully retired and I could understand why. It sounded as if every bearing in that engine had given up some unequal struggle. The engine was obviously in a very bad way.


I was friendly with the one garage proprietor in the town, Bob Kennedy, and I took myself off down the road without delay and drove into his premises. ‘Bob,’ I said, ‘will you as soon as you can drop this sump and tell me what the bearings are like?’ ‘I don’t need to do that.’ replied Bob. ‘I did it yesterday for the padre.’ ‘What about it then?’


‘The big ends and the main bearings are all gone!’ he told me. Many years later, someone asked if President Nixon of the USA was the sort of man from whom you would venture to buy a secondhand car. I certainly had no suspicion that our Station padre, whom I knew to be more than averagely knowledgeable about cars, was the type of person from whom it was less than completely safe to buy such an item. We live and learn. There was nothing to be done about the car except use it carefully and the big-end rattle subsided a little if it was run with the ignition retarded. No spares


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