Rust and nostalgia

Nearly forty years old, the horse transporter rolled down the motorway between Weston—super -Mare and Highbridge. Travelling between fifty and sixty miles per hour, it was probably at its maximum speed. “W” registered the first time around, it must have been registered between 1st August 1980 and 31st July 1981.

At such an age, it should have had a vintage feel about it, a suggestion that riding in the cab would carry passengers to a bygone age, instead it was square and boxy and ugly. Rust streaks ran along the paintwork. In a time when rust on a car has become a rare sight, it is odd to think back to times when it was the scourge of motor vehicle owners.

Perhaps the transporter was a more fitting reminder of the realities of the past than the sort of vehicles that appear at vintage shows. The times when it would have carried horses to gymkhanas or hunt meets or point-to-points or race meetings were not the times recalled in nostalgia.

1980 was not a prosperous time. Unemployment was rising rapidly, inflation was over 20% (train fares went up by 20% twice during the year). In the cities there was a growing sense of alienation and discontent. The Saint Paul’s area of Bristol exploded into rioting that year; violent unrest would be much more widespread the following year, bringing demands for urgent change in places like Brixton in London, Handsworth in Birmingham, and Toxteth in Liverpool.

There was not much about the times for which to feel nostalgic. It was the year of the Iranian hostage crisis, the assassination of John Lennon, the Moscow Olympic Games that were meaningless because of the American boycott.

It is hard to recall much that was positive about 1980, perhaps a rusty lorry is the best symbol for that year.

If someone should decide upon taking the horse transporter and restoring it, then it might be taken along to vintage fairs where people recall with fondness the times that are gone by.

Nostalgia is an industry that rewrites history, that pretends things were when they weren’t. Often those enthusiastic about recalling the past are those who lived through little of the realities of the times.

Perhaps those sitting in the cab of the horse transporter will look back in forty years’ time and recall with nostalgia their times travelling up and down the motorway. Perhaps they will recall 2019 in terms similar to how I felt about 1980.


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