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Monday, 2 July 2012

Sick of Travelling

This is the latest Derby Telegraph article in its unedited state:

Car travel in the 1950s and 1960s was something of an overrated pastime, particularly if you were of the infant persuasion.  Summer days were a nightmare for those of us wearing short trousers, still de rigueur then, as you were in danger of third degree burns to the back of your legs from the red hot plastic.  If you could survive this, then you still had the unpleasantness of extricating yourself from the seat at the end of the journey, by which time your legs had been welded to the seat by a mixture of heat and pressure, and could only be removed with a worrying tearing noise.

Despite all of the above, a car trip could be the source of excitement, particularly if the destination was a long desired one, like a seaside holiday or, as in this case, the Boys and Girls Exhibition at Bingley Hall, Birmingham.

I don't know if you ever had the chance to go to this Exhibition but it was absolutely brilliant.  Like a preview of Christmas with every possible present under one roof.  There would be exhibits of toys, both firm favourites and new innovations that might, or might not, make it one day to your local shop.  There were also ground-breaking shows, and it was here that I first saw and was entranced by the 'Dancing Waters' (not Elsie and Doris) when it was still a new phenomenon.

On the last occasion that my Dad and I went to the Exhibition (and he was just as keen, if not keener than I was) we went with a friend of Dad's and his son.  We had a great time in the Exhibition and I came away with a load of literature, some free samples and a kit for a new toy that involved a tube of some plastic material and a sort of straw, with which you could allegedly blow a globule of said plastic into a variety of balloon shapes.  The bloke on the stall was adept at this and could make just about anything appear.  I on the other hand was lucky if I could manage something vaguely cylindrical before the whole thing disintegrated in a shower of plastic and a horrendously strong chemical smell.

On the way out, I spotted a Hot Dog stand and persuaded Dad to get me one.  I was a bit surprised by the taste of this as I had always been used to Hot Dogs being a traditional sausage in a bun, whereas this was a proper Hot Dog sausage, but I thought no more of it, guzzled same and headed back to our very stuffy and red hot, black Standard 8.  We can't have travelled more than a couple of hundred yards, when I was as sick as the proverbial dog.  This surprised everyone as I had never shown any inclination toward travel sickness before.  Dad sorted me out and we set off again, but I continued to be sporadically ill for the whole journey from Birmingham to Burton.  Everyone, including me, put my queasiness down to over-indulgence at the Exhibition in general, and the Hot Dog in particular.

Regrettably, this incident seemed to open the psychological floodgates as far as me and cars were concerned.  From then on, any car trip seemed to set me off.  Of course, travelling in a fug of smoke didn't help, but to have suggested a smoking ban would have been tantamount to asking them to stop breathing, so I suffered in wretched (and retching) silence.  Travel sickness pills were unheard of, so we resorted to all sorts of 'old wives tales' remedies to try to stem the flow.  Sitting on brown paper was one that didn't help.  Avoiding reading whilst travelling did, but the one that seemed to have the most success (for no apparent reason) was to hold an old penny tightly in my hand.  From then on, I made sure I always had a readily available stock of pennies in my pocket and, whilst I can't say I was never sick again, at least me and my coinage had a fighting chance.

You can find this, and many other stories, in the new compilation A Kick at the Pantry Door