My Father's remarkable prowess as a driver was discovered during his national service when driving was not considered a universally achievable skill.
Those with the aptitude to master the unforgiving British military vehicles of the nineteen fifties were admired and in demand. He quickly gained a
reputation for being able to make any vehicle go anywhere. Later while working for the South Western Electricity Board (SWEB) he was highly valued
and known for being the only man qualified and capable of Driving every type of company owned vehicle between Bristol and Lands End. In this capacity,
which was just one among others such as, mechanic, spray painter, panel beater and electrician, he was often require to drive large off road capable
vehicles, for the purposes of delivering telegraph poles to rural locations on Dartmoor and elsewhere.
I include this background because all my school friends thought that it was incredibly cool that my Dad drove all these mighty beasts, and also to
outline that my Father is not, and has never been given to flights of fancy. He is a very intelligent and broad minded individual, and it would not
be inaccurate to say that I get my pragmatic nature and enquiring disposition from him. Despite now being retired and approaching his Eightieth year,
his mind still works like a steel trap and he is as silver tongued and charming as ever he was, I like to think those are also traits of his that I
have been fortunate enough to inherit. I have also included it because his role as a driver brought him the experience I will relate in this post.
On a spring day, some thirty years ago, my father was required to take a large four wheel drive low loader, known as a Hyab up to a remote Dartmoor
village known as Manaton. At the better part of thirty feet long with an inflexible chassis, getting this wide bed vehicle, fitted with a driver
operated rear seated crane, for loading and offloading the telegraph poles it was designed to transport, to the required rural location, would have
been beyond the capabilities of many. But to my Dad this was just another opportunity to get away from the bosses back at the yard, and drive out to
picturesque location, and likely charm some tea, and maybe even some home baked delicacies from some of the moorland natives, who are widely and quite
rightly known as some of the most friendly, helpful and generous people you could ever be fortunate enough to encounter.
On arrival at Manaton the first task, like on every other pole delivery was to locate the Electrical Sub-Station. These power distribution buildings
were, and still are frequently in very inaccessible locations, due to people not wanting the noise and low level buzz to disturb their domestic bliss,
and also to a somewhat lesser degree in modern times, the unfounded dangers of high voltage electrical sub-station to those in their proximity. There
is of course always a danger if you start getting close to them and touching them, but in the days when these infrastructures were first being
installed there was some considerable fear of what these buzzing concrete and metal invaders might have wrought on an unwary community.
The only route into the village suitable for the sort of vehicle my father was driving that day lead straight into the centre of the village, which
consisted of a well kept green square about which are situated several larger early Victorian era houses. The dwellings around the central green were
not cottages and were constructed for the more well-to-do residents of the moor of the time. Wealthy retiree's from the professional classes seeking
rural tranquility and such. Having parked up, and trying a few doorbells in the hope of someone being able to direct him to his objective and finding
no one at home, my father continued his way around the square.
Glancing through a gap in a somewhat poorly maintained hedge he saw to his surprise and amusement a neatly kept dwelling similar to the others around
the square, but lacking modern exterior glazing and retaining some of the more traditional features such as wooden window shutters, old style exterior
wall lanterns and thick velvet curtains. But what had really caught his attention from his viewpoint across the neatly kept lawn,that was bordered
with pruned rose bushes and and other flowers were two ladies. Both were dressed in what he recognised as Victorian dress including matching frilled
bonnets. The lady wearing the blue was seated in a Windsor style chair on the veranda reading or possibly sewing, while the other dressed in dusky
pink, was tending one of the many window boxes situated on the downstairs window frames.
Standing looking at the delightful scene long enough to take in the details he decided it was not worth asking the two ladies where he might find the
sub-station as they would be unlikely to know. I remember him saying that he got the impression that the seated lady was somewhat older than the lady
tending the window boxes, and that he thought they might have been mother and daughter. He carried on ringing doors and was eventually directed to
where he needed to go to complete his task. The reason I am able to describe this in such detail to you now is because my father related his
experiences that day to us all that evening around the dinner table and, as you will see, there is a very good reason why those details are as firmly
etched in my mind as they still are on his.
He had been unable to complete his task that day in the allotted time because some of the necessary equipment due to arrive from elsewhere had not
turned up until late in the day, so the following day he returned, this time in a smaller maintenance vehicle, as he had put the heavy part of the
load in place the day before. When the job was completed he decided to go and take another look at the delightful Victorian house he had seen the day
before. At this point I will take this opportunity to refer you to the beginning of this post to remind of the sort of man my father was and still
I remember clearly that evening when my father returned from his second visit to Mannaton, I remember that it was already dark when we sat down
around the dinner table that evening, I even remember that we had steak and kidney pie with boiled potatoes, peas and gravy followed by a shop bought
lemon meringue, but what I remember most was my father seeming unusually quiet and somewhat reticent. It was soon clear that it was not just me that
had noticed my father's demeanour as my mother asked him if anything was wrong. After a long pause he finally spoke. He asked my mother if she
remembered him telling her about the old house with two ladies wearing the Victorian dresses. My mother replied that she did and so did I. The hairs
on the back of my neck are standing on end now as I type this in exactly the same way they did when my father went on to say that he had gone back to
take another look at the old house that afternoon and found it to be completely derelict, with an overgrown garden clearly showing that the old house
had been that way for many years.
edit on 17-3-2017 by CulturalResilience because: (no reason given)
edit on 17-3-2017 by
CulturalResilience because: (no reason given)