It is heartening to see lines of lorries on the M5 motorway. Articulated trucks filling the inside lane and taking regular possession of the middle lane are a reminder that life is returning, that the world is returning to normal, that economic activity necessary to sustain us all is resuming.
I never thought I would be pleased to see lorries in general, but lorries in particular were always welcome: those from Wincanton Transport. To see a Wincanton lorry, no matter where in the country, was a connection with home. Wincanton is an attractive town in east Somerset, complete with its own racecourse. But the name of Wincanton took me even closer to home, Huish Episcopi School is on Wincanton Road in the parish which has been home to my family for at least four centuries.
Wincanton Transport was a connection with home, but it was more. When I was young, it seemed one of the significant enterprises connected with the county. We had Westland Helicopters and Clark’s Shoes, but Wincanton was the name you would see when travelling around the country.
For Somerset to be significant seemed important when I was young. We had our legends and our history, we had Joseph of Arimathea and King Arthur, we had King Alfred and the burnt cakes, we had Glastonbury Abbey and Roman Bath. We had battlefields and fortresses and air stations. History and legends were supplemented by the natural beauty that extended from the dramatic rock faces of Cheddar Gorge to the flat flood plains of Sedgemoor.
Yet, when you are a teenager, you are always seeking something more, something immediate to which you can point.
Once I argued that the railway line from Paddington to Taunton was the most significant. Of course, such a claim did not stand up to close examination. However, years later, I discovered the source of such a piece of boosterism: in the 1922 Bradshaw’s Railway Directory, London to Taunton was the first timetable shown. Perhaps I should have claimed it was the premier line rather than the most significant.
Glastonbury Festival had taken place in 1970 and 1971, but was not staged again until 1979. It was a small affair compared with its modern manifestations and we didn’t even refer to it as “Glastonbury,” to us then (and to some people still, it was “Pilton Pop Festival” because that is where it takes place.
People might wear Clark’s Shoes, they might see Westland helicopters in the sky, but, going down the motorway, there was always delight in seeing the blue livery of Wincanton Transport.