In the early 70s I had gone through a particularly difficult divorce when my then wife left me for another woman. I now see that as a positive event (neither of us loved the other) but at the time I thought my world had collapsed. Our three roomed flat at the top of a shared house in Hackney was owned by a small kind Jewish lady, who would bring a large bar of Cadburys Dairy Milk chocolate for my three year old daughter who I had fought to keep.
Anyway, life went on and although I was employed by Hackney council as a plumber, I only had an old bone shaking push bike to get me from (a) to (b). Then I met another girl who lived with her Dad in a slum block of council flats in Haggerston. Her dad was a friendly gregarious bloke who enjoyed several pints in his local pub, The Black Bull, in Clarissa Street and I soon became a drop-in-regular and became good friends with Bob and Eileen who owned the pub.
Bob knew I was working five and a half days for the council and the weekends for myself. To cut a long story short, Bob asked me to install a new boiler in his private kitchen at the back of the pub, which I readily agreed to do. Just in idle conversation I happened to mention that I was thinking of getting a car and Bob replied that he had a mate who was a second hand car dealer.
The following Saturday Bob ran me along the Romford Road to a dealership and I was shown a lovely yellow Ford Cortina estate car. OK it had done quite a few thousand miles but I was assured Cortinas in that condition would last another twenty years providing I serviced it and attacked any rust problems as soon as I found them. The deal was done in no time and at £250. we shook hands. I was so proud of that car. The rear was large enough for a full sized bath to fit in and of course I was no longer tied to working locally.
One of the first tasks I set myself was to weld a full length roof rack out of 3/8th conduit iron pipe that was sturdy enough to take both double and treble extension ladders.
That car really was a work horse –it took me the new wife and kids all over the country on various holidays and I don’t remember it ever breaking down. Many years later, every Sunday morning I would pack my four kids in, pick up my brothers two kids and we would all go swimming. That went on for years and soon my six were joined by four of their friends. I was followed by a police car once and thought, “I’m going to get done for dangerous driving or something,” as there was me and ten kids in the car. However, I explained I was just giving the kids their regular treat by taking them swimming. He said, “Yes I could see all the children, but did you know you appear to have a defective rear nearside wheel.” I assured him that I would check out the whole of the rear end of the car including the differential, half shafts, king pins and wheel hub bolts as soon as I got home which was only about a mile away. The copper was kind enough to suggest that if I took it very slowly no more than five or ten miles an hour – he would follow me and make sure I got back safely. It turned out that I had to replace a worn bearing and so another few thousand miles were added to that old cars life. I sold it years later to a young plumber who worked with me for just £20. and bought my neighbours Ford Zodiac for £150. but that’s another story.