I am clearing out the cupboards in our smallest bedroom. I have been meaning to do this for simply ages - years even - but it has taken the Coronavirus and subsequent Lockdown to spur me into action.
It is interesting to note that one of the side effects of the Loft Clearance Project has been to make me far more cavalier in my handling of the “stuff” I am
finding in the cupboards. Why, I filled my first black sack within minutes!
What’s this? I ask myself, as a small, slightly tatty looking green book emerges
from the second shelf down. I have to peer really hard at the front cover to see an outline of an old-fashioned car and the title “Motor Car Expenses.” I carry it down to Mr B who receives it with the kind of pleasure other people bestow on long-lost
relatives tracked down by Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall.
Each double page has headings for the date, journey undertaken, mileage, oil, petrol and repairs. The
records start from Mr B’s 31st birthday on January 10th 1975 when he put 9.70 gallons of petrol in the car at a cost of £7.10. Eat your hearts out! I’d completely forgotten that the book was a birthday present from me to him - I guess I did
buy him something more substantial as well but whatever it was it didn’t have the staying power of “Motor Car Expenses.” I think the car in question was a Morris Minor which had 59664 miles on the clock in January 1975 and averaged 22 miles
to the gallon (if “Motor Car Expenses” is to be believed.)
In May of the same year, the book records, we exchanged this car for a Ford Cortina which
only had 31054 miles on the clock and averaged 29 miles to the gallon . Clearly we were going up in the motoring world. In June we had it serviced which cost £12.50 and had to pay out another £12.67 for a tyre, valve and VAT. Things stepped up
somewhat in September when the MOT, radiator and brakes cost us a hefty £47.27. I guess we didn’t eat too well that week...
It’s a bit like a
diary, of sorts, with every transaction noted down up until the book runs out of pages on 25th November 1981. On March 10th 1978, we sold the Cortina and bought a 2000E with only 32142 miles on the clock - I seem to remember this was Mr B’s favourite
car, though he doesn’t record such sentimental details in his book, only mentioning in passing that it needed a new exhaust on June 13th at a cost of £23...
On March 12th 1980 - another motor purchase though there’s no record of the make and model. Mr B has noted, however, that it was “Bought for £2500” and had 16,916 miles on the clock. It seems it wasn’t the car for him,
as he sold it for £2300 in February 1981 for a new car which had travelled but 4022 miles - hardly run in, I imagine Mr B will have told me should I have questioned why we needed a change of wheels. The last four pages of the book are populated with
Mr B’s calculations, mostly (I think) working out the miles per gallon of each vehicle. Mr B has always loved his sums.
Such a lovely find, that was - looking
through it has given me a quite ridiculous amount of pleasure, providing, as it does, an insight into those early days of car ownership. I don’t think we ever bought a new “Motor Car Expenses” book once this one was full - perhaps, come 1981,
we weren’t so worried about counting the pennies?
I return to the cupboard, eager to search for more treasures and come across two plastic food containers.
A yellow post-it note is plastered on the lid of each container, bearing the message, in Mr B’s best capital letters: “Very Important!” Excited? I am beyond excited...
Inside each box, a collection of old papers, bills, leaflets none of which bear any relation to anything going on in our present day lives. Once upon a time, these pieces of paper were so important that they merited a container of
their own and a bright yellow warning notice (presumably to me) that they were to be Kept At All Costs.
Such a message for today’s mad, mad world - however
important something is at the time, one day it will pass into history and we will all move on.
At however many miles to the gallon...