Harry’s Ramblings My Shame
by Harry Pope
Have you ever done something that years later you say to yourself ‘wish I’d never done that?’ Well, there’s not much regret in my life, but there is one thing that I would undo if I had the opportunity again. It was an on-the-spot decision that had no consequences, but it was something anti-social. Here’s the story.
Pam and I were married in 1973, and for the first year of our life together lived in Surbiton in Surrey. We rented the top two floors of a house in Guilford Avenue, our landlord lived on the ground floor. I was a postman in those days, not a very good one, and our car was a Ford Anglia estate. This had cost me £20 from a postcard in a newsagent’s window, I did insure it but the tax had six months to go and just never got round to registering it with the then equivalent of the DVLA. Bear in mind that in those days matters were more relaxed, no-one checked, there was no instant police ability to check documentation, you had to be stopped and told to present your documents to a police station within five days.
The car was that lovely dull maroon colour, it was in reasonable condition, a manual four speed that was slow but more than adequate for our purposes. I cleaned it when I had to, tidied the inside when the contents spilled out when trying to close the driver’s door. There was nothing inside to document my ownership, I was going to register when the tax ran out. It was certainly my intention to keep the Anglia, it was a reasonable runner. Pam and I went out for evening one Friday, driving into the nearby Kingston on Thames. We parked in the Market Place, no charges in those days, it was a good short-cut through to the River Thames. We had a great evening out, the breathalyser was in operation, but most people ignored the drink driving rules. If you felt you were okay, then you took a chance, the only risk was having a drunk drive into you (definition of irony). I was only in my mid-20s, supremely confident, so we met some friends, had a pleasant meal, went to the pub after, then returned to the parked Ford Anglia. Key in ignition, nothing happened. Tried key again, still nothing. It had been playing up for a while, wasn’t too sure about getting it fixed as would definitely cost more than the £20 purchase price, so we looked at each other.
‘What are you going to do?’, asked Pam.
I was sufficiently sober to come to a sensible judgment. ‘Leave the thing.’
We cleared it out of anything that could possibly trace ownership back to us, stuffed pockets with paperwork, leaving
behind detritus that was valueless. We walked back home, about a mile and a half away, went to bed. The next morning we discussed what we could possibly do. Our options were somewhat limited. I wasn’t yet a member of any motoring organisation, so would have to employ the services of a garage. I was due to work that Saturday morning as a postman, so time was limited. I could run down to the car, leave a note on the windscreen, and hope that Pam would be able to sort matters while I was working. But, really, was it worth all the effort. Did we really need a car in any case, as public transport was pretty accessible and my work was based a mile down the road. Nope, it was going to be more trouble than it was worth, so we made the decision to abandon the car. I went to work, and mid-morning my duties took me through Kingston market Place. I drove slowly past in my red post office van, no sign of the car. It had been towed away. For the next few weeks we waited for the knock on the door, or the delivery of an official letter, but nothing happened.
To my great shame, we got away with our irresponsible behaviour, all these years later there’s nothing I can do about it except for apologise profusely to those long-gone tow truck operators who managed to dispose of my car, undoubtedly receiving far more in scrap value than I could have ever managed. I am quite certain that the scrappers paid them a tidy sum for their efforts, because non-runners were always being asked for in newspaper adverts.
But I shouldn’t have done it.