It’s the beach – hooray!
The dog loves a car ride as much as the next person – or possibly, a lot more! There’s nothing he likes better than being shepherded outside the front door and lifted up into the hatchback, where his travelling crate awaits him. His nose goes into overdrive as we drive along, twitching frantically between the bars as he tries to work out where we’re going. Will it one of his favourite places, such as the park, or maybe – even better – somewhere new? Claws crossed it won’t be the vets!
As soon as we get wherever we’re going he snuffles his way enthusiastically out of the car, drawing in lungful’s of new and exciting scents, and gazing around to see if there are any other friendly dogs on the horizon that he can chat to. He always sees a car ride as a pleasurable experience – a joy to be savoured, rather than just a means to an end, so I can’t help thinking that the dog would have really enjoyed the early days of motoring, when people seemed to go out driving mainly for pleasure; stopping here and there for roadside picnics, and admiring the scenery as they chugged along the almost-empty roads.
At the end of last year, when I was editing and preparing some wartime diaries for publication (‘Loughton in Wartime’, published by The Loughton and District Historical Society, 2018), I was lucky enough to be able to borrow some other volumes of the same diary from the family of the original writers, some of which had been written before the war, in the 1930s.
In these volumes, the author, Richard Norman, described the car he owned in 1937 – it was a 1934, 6 cylinder, 16 horse power, Morris Oxford, and it was painted green with a black top. Richard called it ‘Moll’, and treated it very much as a member of his family. He and his wife, Elsie, spent a lot of their free time motoring around the lanes and villages of Essex, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire, and then, for longer holidays, driving much further afield – the Cotswolds, Devon, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and everywhere in between.
Before starting each holiday, Richard would write to the AA for advice, and a few days later he would receive back a map and a suggested route, with recommended stopping places. Over the course of a few years, they seem to have driven to almost every corner of the UK, staying in hotels and inns here and there for one or two nights, before hopping back into ‘Moll’, and setting off down the nearly empty roads, to the next place on their route.
Richard and Elsie didn’t have a dog of their own (although they were always very happy to stop and say hello to other people’s), but I’m sure that if they had, it would have been perched on the back seat, nose pressed to the slightly-open back window, sucking in the exciting smells along the journey. He or she would have enjoyed the ride as much as the humans in the car, back in those long-gone days before traffic jams, bus lanes and double-yellow lines – although I’m sure it wasn’t all a bed of roses (or a box of dog treats, as the dog likes to say) – they also didn’t have Satnavs, heating, air conditioning, or (according to Richard Norman), reliable brakes – so maybe today’s driving isn’t all bad…