My life changed when that age came around: I passed my driving test. My father was especially happy because it opened the door to his not having to ferry me around for my running. Back then, children weren’t lucky enough to have parents toting them by car from pillar to post. But, my Dad did sometimes take me on the long ride to Ruislip, Middlesex (as it was then) to do my athletics training. I often had to negotiate bus and Tube to get there myself in the evenings or weekends. At some stage, I sometimes got a ride from a late-blooming athlete, who’d just left the army, and lived nearby. 

My father started teaching me to drive early, even before I could get a provisional licence 😊. There were many private places where I could ‘get a feel’ for driving. Once I had that licence, though, he and I used to make the trip to our track as part of my practice. The roads out there were quiet, and gave him more options for my driving without pressure. It was dormant enough for him to have drive around a roundabout BACKWARDS several times. If you could go backwards safely you’d be a driver, he told me. I could.

The car we had then was a Morris Minor, dark blue, four-door.

It was the first car my father had bought new. In the context of an immigrant from Jamaica, that was no mean feat. 

When I was 16, I went to take my test. I failed. I was so good that I did many things without much effort. However, the instructor didn’t believe I’d been using the rear view mirror because I hadn’t been turning my head. Well, I didn’t need to, as I moved my eyes and I had great peripheral vision. I was devastated at failing. “Move your head, next time!” my father told me. I did and passed. 

That car made a big difference in my life. I could take friends to parties, and I didn’t drink, so they could go as hard as they liked and getting home was no problem. DJ was a good driver! But, it kept me out of trouble with booze and drugs, which wouldn’t look good on my running resumé. I could freewheel to training and to my football games at weekends. Freedom!

When I went to university, my Dad let me have more access to the car, and after I graduated it became mine. But, during my early college years that car got to see Europe, including taking five of us to a farmhouse in France. Loaded down with things for the two week holiday and loaded with wine and French goodies going home. It withstood a dilemma of money for food or for petrol in Luxembourg. It went to the Black Forest of Germany. It was my car. 

The car later became a talking point, as its quirks were well known. The four-door version was rarer. More than once I had people trying to get to the back seats by passing through the front doors, but the front seats didn’t move. Duh!🙄

It never had the luxury of living in a garage but was parked proudly outside wherever I lived. Life was tougher and nicer then. 😊

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