It was said that my grandfather only passed his driving test on the seventh attempt. Whatever the true number of times, his driving style was never reassuring; roundabouts could be particularly unnerving experience as he unhesitatingly continued along his way. His driving probably owed much to his lack of driving; it was rare for him to go anywhere.
A green 1953 Land Rover was his vehicle for years. Three seats across the front were the only aspect of comfort. It had a basic blow heater, a windscreen wiper that could be operated manually, and a canvas roof that was protection against the rain, but did nothing to keep anyone warm. But why would there have been concern with comfort? The Land Rover was for work, not for going to places.
Perhaps my grandmother prevailed upon him to buy something more comfortable, for a dark blue Rover 2000 TC was bought. It sat inside a corrugated iron shed most of the week, coming out on a Tuesday afternoon when my grandmother would be driven the two miles into Langport to attend the women’s guild at the congregational church. Occasionally, there would be visits to family members elsewhere, if the journey there and back could be made in a single afternoon.
Lockdown would have presented few challenges to my grandfather because isolation was the norm of everyday life. Perhaps the presence of his own family around the farm was sufficient company. Perhaps the weariness caused by the demands of the daily tasks meant sitting in his armchair at the end of the day was all that was felt necessary by way of leisure.
There must have been countless people on small farms throughout rural England who lived similar lives. Milking cows twice a day, along with numerous manual tasks that are now done by machine, meant there was little time to leave the farm, not that there would have been money to spare for anything other than very occasional shopping trips or outings.
The postman would have pulled into the yard for a brief moment each morning. The Milk Marketing Board lorry would have collected the churns at the gate. There would have been occasional visits from the vet, or by salesmen from agricultural supplies companies, or by men from the Ministry of Agriculture, but social calls would have been no more than neighbours pulling up in the yard and standing for a chat.
It would not have occurred to anyone that this was an isolated life.