I was taught to wear a seat-belt by a chap called Reg White. Some forty-plus years ago, he drove me to school, along with his son and my sister. Cars came with seat-belts factory-fitted by then, but wearing them did not become a legal requirement in the UK until after I left school. The lesson was a trivial car crash – no more than a few miles an hour, rolling into the vehicle in front in stop-start traffic. My memory is hazy, but I don’t think either vehicle was damaged. My head, however, smacked off the windscreen pretty damn hard.
It only took one lesson.
I’ve not thought of that in years and was reminded by a recent drive to Plymouth for a hospital appointment, and buying a new toilet. Ordinary, everyday stuff, but on the way, we passed a friend’s house, which set a whole train of thought going, all the way back to Reg White.
We have an old Volvo sitting in our paddock. It did good service for nearly twenty years until it got too difficult and too expensive to pass the annual emissions test, the power-steering was becoming unpowered and the gearbox required a mix of good fortune and brute force to select the desired gear. We ought to get rid of it, but there is a certain sentimental attachment – we went everywhere in that Volvo, frequently packed to the roof with camping kit, and even slept in the back for short events. As it turns out, the back of a Volvo 740 Estate is about two inches too short for me to lie comfortably but easier than pitching a tent for one night.
The Volvo is in our will, a bequest to the friends on the road to Plymouth, a bit of posthumous housekeeping, or paddock tidying. That clause is redundant now, as the Volvo-fanatic friend on the road to Plymouth died a year or more back. That set me wondering how many more of our odd bequests will pre-decease us?
There were a few of those in my Mother’s will. I don’t think she ever actually told my sister or myself that we were her executors, so it was a bit of a surprise after she died that we had to go and pick up the will from her solicitor. It was all quite straightforward, the bulk of her estate divided up amongst family, but like our own wills, there were redundant bequests, including Reg.
One of the last times we saw Reg was small get-together we hosted – my family, some friends of my partner, Reg and his wife. He was already ill by that point, prostate cancer held at bay, and not noticeably unwell. He tucked into the chicken in cream, almond and mushroom with enthusiasm (Reg was a bit of a foodie before the word was invented) and then had a portion of the vegetarian option. His prospects were good – prostate cancer is often slow – but his proved aggressive and unpleasant in the extreme.
So there it is, a train of memories back to a lesson in seat-belts from a man I remember as generous with time and tales, patient and devoted, and a life cut short.
OMP Admin Note: Mark Huntley-James writes science fiction and fantasy on a small farm in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner and a menagerie of cats, poultry and sheep.
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