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The Village Garage, A Friday Story

by Mike Rooth

Of course, there wasn't one at all, at first. Heaven alone knows where the villagers got petrol from. So the friend of Father's, whose family were farmers/agricultural contractors, bought a plot of land from his father and just built it, as far as I can gather. And Father went and assisted, taking Eldest Son with him. Presumably Youngest Son was still at the age where he was being a bloody nuisance (some things don^Òt change), and was left at home. I didn't mind. There was the rickyard to explore, eggs to gather from the stacks, and old machinery to muck about on. And the owner/builder was one of those rare beings that treated kids as adults, unlike my own parents and their other friends. Further, I was given; at the age of about twelve; the Grey Fergie to drive, complete with bucket at the front, in order to shift the pile of spoil. After the garage opened for business, its immediate requirement was for tools. Not that the owner didn't (or hadn't) possess(ed) any, it was just that when a tractor or combine lacked its proper complement of spanners etc, the driver wandered into the garage and wandered out again. With the necessary items to complete his toolkit. Which led to the owners wife descending on the miscreants like the wrath of God, usually too late, since they'd already lost that which they had nicked, and were ready for another raid. Which, in turn, led to a complete inventory being taken, tools being locked away, and many phone calls from various points of the compass from distressed tractor drivers. Said calls were answered, and the contracting business was charged at, I suspect, rather more than the going rate, for the remedial action. The exception was the Massey Harris combine. This horrible contraption required as a toolkit a large hammer and an even larger adjustable spanner. Needless to say, neither of which it possessed. This came about because Massey's, in their infinite wisdom, had invented their own bolt threads and A/F sizes. This rendered, at a stroke, all spanners held by the garage totally useless, and as a by-product, automatically absolved its crew from accusations of thieving. It was perfectly natural, therefore, when Yours Truly acquired a motor vehicle, and when a certain Marples, then Minister of Transport (may he rot in hell) introduced the Ten Year Test, for me to have said Test attended to there. The aim at the time was to rid the roads of all the pre-war wrecks that were then using said roads. Brakes, lights, and steering, was the brief. Basically someone wandered around the vehicle, played with the lights, shook the wheels, and tested the brakes. This latter was achieved by loading a device called the Tapley Meter in the passengers footwell accelerating like hell across the forecourt and ramming the anchors on. Since the forecourt was gravelled at the time, this produced an exciting four wheel drift, and rendered the brakes useless for further operational use until re-adjusted at home. Of course you had to wait until the owner had finished long conversations with ever present locals, who, since the pub was shut, used the place as a base for a bit of a natter, and to keep out of the wife^Òs way. And usually they were on the scrounge. Even if it was just for a mug of tea, since the kettle was invariably hot. It came to pass that the village bobby was replaced by a younger, keener, and therefore universally disliked member of the constabulary. After hours drinking had to be held in the back room of the local, quietly, which involved an extra trip for the land lord to fetch more beer from the bar. Matters, in a way, came to a head when this doyen of uprightness noticed the shotgun propped up in the office of the garage. Being an honest young man, he requested backup in the form of another of his ilk, in a car, and swept down on the garage like the fabled Assyrian of old, and demanded to see the licence. Whereupon the owner replied he hadnt the time to muck about with the likes of him and told him to get lost. Or something. Ill-advisedly the sprog became officious. Mistake.The owner never did have much regard for the so-called forces of law and order. He was(is) a countryman of farming stock, and a village dweller. So he seized the offending weapon of mass destruction whirled! it round his head and shouted words to the effect that he was less than enchanted by their visit, they should go away, and as for the paperwork(at this point the gun was brought crashing to the ground, it de-activated) they could whistle for it. At this point, he noticed that the village bobby was cowering behind the car, and the other one was frantically radioing for armed backup. And half the village was rolling around holding their sides, tears of laughter streaming down weathered cheeks. It was a much chastened policeman that applied for a transfer... Which is, of course, why ever since this iniquitous annual torture of the Mot test was invented, that, one year excepted, I have used the place. The owner retired, having fallen off a ladder into a six foot deep lorry pit, shattering his leg on its side on the way. He rented the premises to the current occupants, but kept the lorry bay to keep his hand in on such local lorries as come his way.

It hasn't changed.I was over there yesterday, to get two secondhand tyres put on Nora's front feet. A local bloke, clad gloriously in a long, yellow oilskin, cloth cap and wellies, wandered in a and said, "Can I borrow the steam cleaner?" To which the mechanic replied "I don't know, its Reg's steam cleaner, not mine, you'll have to ask him". "Righto", and two minutes later the steam cleaner could be heard outside. When finished, the bloke wandered back in again, availed himself of the washbasin, hot water and soap and wandered out. Personally I wouldn't have steam cleaned the underside of a VW Polo at all, but he seemed quite happy... I doubt whether Reg knows even now.

Reprinted from the OVLR Newsletter, April 1998
Copyright Dixon Kenner, 1995-2011. Last modified March 15, 2005.
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