Celtic Illumination, part 133, On the gear.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. It would seem that I should spend my whole life apologising, despite the fact that you might often think well, should I? I suppose it’s easier to say sorry and forget about it or does that approach show a certain lack of humility? See; I can’t even say sorry without dragging myself into an argument, there will be fists flying soon. Strange I should mention flying as that is what I wanted to talk about. And for the more senior members of the Illuminati you will know when I mention flying I’m not talking aeroplanes.
I’m talking flying Ford Cortina’s, mark three. I can still remember the registration of that car, FLO688J. How sad is that? Anyway. It was a Saturday and I would have been playing rugby for Wymondham. I can remember that I had a car full of drunk rugby players one of whom was Chidge. Peter Chidgley was a mechanic type fellow who worked at Honington but lived at Watton. He was a very good rugby player and drank like a fish. To prove a point I made some time before, it was during this match that I was attacked.
I know it was rugby and I was attacked during every match but during one particularly rough scrum, a hand came through the mess of bodies, and two fingers inserted themselves into my nostrils. The fingers then tightened and the hand began to withdraw, in a movement designed to remove my nose from my face. Roughness and brutality was quite common in a scrum but a directed attack was something I had not come across before, unless of course you count the punch in the face from Martyn Bennett resulting in stitches. But that was training, and not a match, so doesn’t count.
I grabbed the retreating wrist and held tight. As the scrum disintegrated I continued to hold on to my attacker until we were standing alone. I called for the referee to come over as I needed to report this fellow for ungentlemanly play. The referee ignored me and continued running after the ball in play. I shouldn’t have released my attacker’s wrist for he now used the wrist to propel his fist into my face. The result was an enormous black eye which I believe showed, if not proved, that I was not a dirty player, it is the one time in my life that I wished Brown had been there so I could have proved my point.
Anyway, there was me and my black eye driving the Ford Cortina, mark three, and Chidge was acting as navigator, side kick, and spotter. It was dark so he had an easy job. Navigating was of course extremely difficult as someone had stolen all the road signs. We were accelerating to Mach one when we encountered a small hump backed bridge. Like any sensible driver I understood the only way to cross the bridge, especially with a car full of drunk rugby players, was to take it as speed. A technical term many of you may have heard before.
As I washed the engine every week, this was a high performance vehicle so it was no surprise that we actually got airborne. I still prefer flying helicopters as the aerodynamic qualities of a brown Ford Cortina mark three, were minimal; in fact they were very similar to those of a house brick. The car landed, however the extra weight, six rugby players, each containing at least eight pints of beer, meant that not only did the wheels hit the road on landing but the engine did as well. At least it was clean, I would hate to think of the mess we may have left on the road had it been a dirty engine like a BMW or something just as common.
There were, as you may expect, certain expressions of shock from the passengers however the most observant among us had noticed that the car had stopped. I think the technical term was that it was fecked. I turned the key thing and pushed all of the pedals but nothing. Fortunately, as it was dark, we could see the lights of a farmhouse, so we all staggered off to see if they would allow us to use their telephone for assistance. Luckily we were returned to Watton Lodge before the bar closed so could continue our carousing.
The next day, along with someone who knew about cars and a mildly suffocating hangover, we recovered my car having discovered that all that had gone wrong was a wire had disconnected itself. Otherwise the car appeared to be fine. I learned a lot from that incident. In the future I should try to hit the bridge even faster as this should propel me further along and provide a much smoother landing.
The car did actually break down once and I took it to the garage next door to John Fellingham’s for advice. It would appear that I needed a new clutch plate which of course was double Dutch to me, but they were certainly speaking a similar language to me when they talked about how much it would cost. I couldn’t believe how much they wanted to change the clutch plate so I suggested that I would do it myself at which they scoffed and said that I would need a specialist aligning tool.
Chidge was a tool, but more importantly he was also a mechanic type of person so sod them I thought, I would do it myself. I ordered a new clutch plate and waited. We had the use of the facilities at Watton which was a real bonus. There was a complete mechanical transport yard complete with its own vehicle hoist. Chidge wasn’t available so Martyn Bennett and myself decided that we would change the clutch plate. We each knew a mechanic so we were well qualified for the job.
We put the Ford Cortina, mark three, on the lift and raised it up. We did have one of those books, you know with the pictures and drawings that take you through a lot of this stuff step by step. I undid the bolts on the bell housing and dropped the drive shaft. The old clutch plate came out and the new one went in. I lined it up with my fingertips, specialist tool my arse. However we encountered a small problem when we tried to put the drive shaft back on. It wouldn’t go.
Now Martyn and I were both big strong rugby men so I can tell you we put a fair bit of effort into that thing, but it just wouldn’t come together. We lowered the drive shaft and I immediately realised what we had been doing wrong. We hadn’t put the gear stick thingy through the hole in the floor of the car. Once we slipped the gear stick thingy through the hole in the floor, the whole shooting match fitted together perfectly. We tightened everything back up, lowered the car and unbelievably drove it out. It was fixed.
It was sometime later when I was driving to Liverpool and giving John Hodgskinson a lift to Manchester. We were waiting at some temporary traffic lights. As they went green, I slipped the car into first and moved off. Unfortunately the gear stick thingy had come off and was now looking quite useless in my left hand. It would appear that the gear stick thingy was held in place by a big plastic bung that screwed into place. Our attempts had sheared all the threads on the bung, which now had decided to leave its normal position and explore the rest of the car.
John was a little concerned but I managed to push the gear stick thingy back into place and it worked. Now I just had to be careful when changing gear however more importantly I had discovered a brilliant anti-theft device which I knew I should patient and take to the market. Suddenly my red bricked Victorian mansion, Rolls Royce and turban wearing Indian manservant were much closer indeed.