Mad youths

“He went over the hedge with Pammie in the car. He was going down Turn Hill.”

The story was unsurprising.

Pammie was a slim, blonde-haired, blue-eyed head turner. If you were old enough to have had a bank account, you might have gone to the local branch of the National Westminster Bank just to catch a smile from her at the counter. (Being a cousin of some degree, Pammie was also someone towards whom there was a sense of duty to be protective).

He was a legendary figure in our community.  A farmer’s son, he seemed of a generation not inclined to conform to the ways of his forefathers. He was a pointer to a possibility of ways of living very different from the traditional and conservative ways to which our community was accustomed.

It was hard to imagine he would ever have gone out in a sports jacket, corduroy trousers and a flat cap. Rustic fashion would probably not have caught the eye of a bank clerk (and in our community working in a bank represented a level of sophistication far higher than the sort of lives that most of us lived).

Where he was driving Pammie has long ago faded into the mists of the unknown. Perhaps one or the other of them would recall, but it might shatter the mystique of the tale if it was revealed they were simply going to the pub, or, even more mundanely, to the shops. It was the reckless nature of the journeying that was significant.

He was known for his travelling around the roads at speed. The speed was probably modest compared with anything considered fast now. If car went much beyond fifty miles per hour, we thought we were going quickly.

One of his contemporaries was known for his customising of innocuous cars so that they might reach speeds their designers could never have envisaged. It was said that one adaptation of a Land Rover included fitting it with a Rolls Royce Merlin engine from a Spitfire. The story seems improbable, implausible even. Wouldn’t an aircraft engine have shaken to pieces an old Land Rover?

Yet it wouldn’t have mattered to us if the stories were untrue. What mattered was the spirit that they represented, the suggestion that the old ways were not the only ways.

Perhaps mad youths were a feature of every generation – until now. Rebellion has become a rare phenomenon.


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