A family excursion has an unforeseen outcome
I WAS RAISED in Birmingham, England, and can clearly recall one summer evening in 1954 when my father, who owned a motorcycle and sidecar, suggested we take a trip to the seaside. On Saturday morning, with our sandwiches and thermos flask ready, we excitedly set south for Devon.
Our mother sat in the sidecar with my five-year-old brother on her lap while my eight-year-old sister was perched in the small seat directly behind them. The hood was lowered over them to protect them from the weather and I rode pillion behind my father.
As we headed out, the weather was sunny and we were all in good spirits for the ride south. Just out of Bristol we pulled into a lay-by to eat our sandwiches and drink our flask of tea. We then continued through Somerset. As we rode along a quiet coastal road near the town of Minehead, black clouds came over the once blue sky. Unfortunately the clouds set in, and it got darker and started to rain. It was as though day had turned to night, so we stopped to put our raincoats on and then decided to turn back home.
Even with our raincoats on, my father and I were soaked right through. As we drove over a humpback bridge, the wet, shiny road ahead of us turned out to be a deep lake
of water and we ploughed right into it. The water fountained over us and the engine stopped dead. Despite Dad’s best efforts to kick-start the engine, it was impossible to dry off the wet points needed to start the ignition. What we needed was a dry cloth, such as a handkerchief, and ours were completely soaking wet. We had no idea where we were; fields surrounded us and there wasn’t a house in sight.
Fortunately, not long after, a car pulled up alongside us. The lady in the passenger’s seat wound down the window and called out, asking what she and her husband could do to help. My father explained our predicament and this lovely couple offered to give us a lift to the nearest train station. We pushed the motorcycle well off the road and all five of us climbed into the back seat of their car – the couple insisting that they didn’t mind that we were saturated.
We drove on for about 30 minutes but with no sign of a station, the couple announced that they would drive us home. My parents protested, saying that it was at least two hours out of their way, but it was no use. We were delivered to our door.
As we shook hands to thank them farewell I thought about what Good Samaritans they were.
Wondering what happened to my father’s motorcycle? On Sunday morning, my father got out a map, studied it and worked out roughly where we had left it: near the town of Thornbury on the A38.
He found he could get there by train and that’s exactly what he did the following Monday morning. He went to the nearest police station and explained how he’d been forced to abandon his motorcycle. An officer on duty kindly offered to drive Dad to where we’d left the motorcycle – a fair distance on foot, especially so since my father was an amputee with an artificial right leg. Once the carburettor was primed, Dad gave the bike one kick with his left foot and it started straight away.
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