Friday, 21 August 2009

Belts And Braces

A huge industry has taken off in the interests of in-car safety. Rear facing car seats for babies, front facing car seats for toddlers and booster seats when children reach the correct height/weight threshold.

In 1979, when we transported our daughter around in a dilapidated Renault 10, more often than not, she slept peacefully in a carry-cot on the rear seat with her Mum, without belts. We didn't see anything wrong with that in the days before tree-climbing was considered bad for kids. Of course now we would be held to account for acting so irresponsibly.

As a child - or as an adult, for that matter - I never considered my grandfather to be irresponsible. In fact I would have trusted him with my life, as my mother obviously did.

With this in mind my thoughts were drawn back to the June issue of Hampshire Magazine, 1988, where one of my regular articles contained the following:

"On occasions when I was allowed to tag along, we went 'up the copse' by motorcycle and box. Grandad sat astride his Triumph while I rode in a rough wooden box that couldn't have been elevated to real sidecar status in a million years. Though despite its humble appearance, this rickety conveyance had high spots on its passenger list. It had transported several members of the armed forces, a pilot and his parachute and my great grandfather in his armchair through the city of Winchester; though not all at once, and it was great grandad who rode through Winchester announcing, in response to raised eyebrows, that he didn't give a damn long before Rhett Butler made the words immortal.

The famed Triumph Thunderbird and box in 1982

So it was that I followed distinguished folk when I settled myself amidst the folded sacks, binder twine, hooks, saws and assorted implements. I was proud to take my place in a permanent swirl of dust behind my own windshield that flapped wildly only inches from my nose. Child restraints? Well my mother may have prayed for one in a moment of anguish, but it wouldn't have been applied in the interests of road safety. A gag was probably the sort of thing she'd have in mind, and looking back, who could blame her? A few miles from my home village of Upham then, and we might take the lane off the main Winchester road to either Redlands copse or Deeps wood, depending on where the hazel was ready for working.

Now the journeying along properly surfaced roads in the box was one thing. Careering along the woodland rides was another entirely. To me the effect had all the marvel of the switchback at the fair, and all the alarming qualities of shooting Niagara in a barrel. We wended our way over the ruts and ridges, the thundering machine and creaking box pitching and rolling at crazy angles. Great tentacles of greenery reached out at intervals and slapped me in the face. I ducked and dodged while grandad remained impervious in his flat cap, leather gauntlets and heavy canvas coat."

© 2009, copyright Martin T. Hodges


  1. Wonderful memories here. In case of emergency braking, I still find myself acting as seat restraint, flinging out my arm to protect a helpless child, who is now a mother herself. I enjoyed your grandparenting blogs very much. I often write about my grandchildren too, please come for a visit, I might have some tea.

  2. Thank you for these kind words. Writing from a grandafther's perspective is a labour of love.

    I've bookmarked your blog and I'll be popping over for a closer look...and maybe some tea, quite soon.

  3. What marvelous memories! I was never allowed to ride in a sidecar, but I have great memories of being allowed to explore the wooded area down the street from my home. Occasionally my parents would have an attack of the jitters, probably with visions of child molesters dancing in their heads, and forbid my sister and I to go. That wouldn't last long, though. It's hard for parents to draw the line between being careful and paranoid. I have a topic in my forum about whether modern parents are overly protective. It's a complex subject. I'd love your input.

  4. Susan, thanks. They were golden days and I cherish the memories. More to come later.

    I'd be delighted to offer a view in your forum.



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