Hello Dolly or Life on Mars?

Someone suggested to me recently that people who blog and tweet ion sex related matters have one track minds. Not so, I retorted, you’ll find that they are rounded people with a range of interests. As if to prove my point I had a conversation on Twitter last weekend with Heather of the London Fetish Fair (@heatherydoune if you want to follow her,) about our mutual passion for classic cars. This inspired me to write a short reflection about 1973.

You may remember the BBC’s time travelling police drama Life on Mars in which a detective in early 21st Century Manchester is hit by a speeding car and wakes up in 1973, Life on Mars playing on the 8 track cartridge player of his P6 Rover as it had been playing on the radio of his car at the moment of the accident. He finds 1973 to be a strange and alien place in many ways, confirming the truth of LP Hartley’s observation that ‘the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there,’  This series didn’t impress everyone I know but it made an impression on me because of the year. I was eleven years old and becoming aware of the world around me.

Looking back it wasn’t all bad compared to 2013. Britain, after twenty five years of the the post war boom, was a fairer more equal society than it is today, the utilities were publicly owned and not run to pour money into the pockets of shareholders at the expense of the poor; strong trade unions with mass membership protected the interests of their members whose living standards were rising. The banks were tightly regulated. Most people had permanent full time jobs, many of them with good company pensions  and for those unlucky enough to find themselves out of work benefits were rather more generous than they are today. Unemployment benefit even had an earnings related element.

Not that those things concerned me a great deal. I was more interested in music and cars. Some of the songs I first heard in 1973 remain favourites – Life on Mars? obviously, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, God Gave Rock and Roll To You. I listen to them now and am taken back to 1973, to taking a transistor radio to school to hear the new Top 30 introduced by Johnny Walker on Tuesday lunchtimes, taping the complete rundown on Sunday evenings, to buying Slade and T Rex singles from Woolies with my pocket money. Then there are the cars .

1973 began badly when my father bought a new car and traded in his Ford Cortina 1600E of 1969 vintage, a car I loved and still love. It broke my heart to see it on the dealer forecourt with a price displayed in the windscreen and I never got to love the Mk 3 Cortina that replaced it. Later that year I fell in love again, this time with the car that is still the object of my dreams. At about the same time that British Leyland brought out the awful Austin Allegro they gave the world one of the finest ever sports saloons: the Triumph Dolomite Sprint. Powered by a 2 litre 16 valve single camshaft engine it could get to 60 mph from a standing start in 8.5 seconds and reach 115 mph. That’s good by 2013 standards – in 1973 it was a sensation. The cars look fab as well, still do, and I want to have one. I will have to wait as there are only about 400 cars left of 23,000 built. A few months ago as I left the gym and, as I do, pulled out my cigarette packet to light up, I stopped in my tracks. There before me was a Sprint, an L reg, one of the very first. I scribbled a note and put it under the windscreen wipers to give the owner my mobile number in case he should ever wish to sell.    .   .

When I do get my Sprint I will love it and take care of it because, as Heather rightly pointed out, we do not own classics but hold them in trust for future generations. I will not have sex on the back seat, I will use the performance but sparingly I will not be a girl racer. I will drive like a woman, meaning better than a man. And if you don’t believe that women are better drivers than men, ask an insurer.  .


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