Sunday 10 August 2014

Memories of my Grandfather's Wartburg

The weather has kept me inside most of the day, aside from a brief ten mile cycle blast late in the day, through a Coddington village rich in swooping swallows by the windmill, and stubby house martins - always reminding me of piebald flying fish - over the school in fair numbers.

But I have the need to write. Only question is; what about?

Salvation came in the unlikely form of "James May's Cars of the People". My eyes turned a somersault when I saw one of them, igniting a whole slew of memories from a very young age.

For my Grandfather, who died in 1976, had a Wartburg, a 50s issue one. My memory of it was exactly the same as the one shown in the programme, a red and white rasberry ripple of a car vaguely reminscent of one of those old Citroens that went up and down like a hovercraft. Just like this one.

Wartburg 311, courtesy of Torsten Maue, Wikimedia
How it ended up in South-West Scotland is anyone's guess. Apparently my grandfather bought it for £20 from a local garage in a part of the world where communist cars were unusually common; we had family friends with Ladas.

I was very very little, but my memory is trying to tell me one or two things, initially a Proustian memory surge caused by smell. I'm sure it smelt bad, of oil, petrol, chemical smells and cheap leather furnishings. It was also very very bumpy, I seem to remember always rolling around the back seat as it bunnyhopped its way over rough Scottish roads. This wasn't helped by my only signifiant memory of my grandfather is him getting into a low speed accident in it while I was messing about lying on the floor in the back.

Where we went in it, I have no idea. I have memories of chasing sheep as it was parked by the roadside, sheep that looked back at me with contempt as they ensured my terrifying 3 year old platinum  blond self could never get near them. Another time, we may have driven to Whithorn, where I was told  - rather dangerously - to look for Eagles around the rocky coast. Eagles! I doubt there were any within 150 miles.

Sergeant Howie was burnt in his Wickerman at Whithorn, by the way.

Grandfather died in, I think, 1976 walking home one night - his heart gave out. He'd had a colourful life pre-WW2, I've seen pictures of him in a Del Monte man outfit in Hong Kong and Singapore when he was a buyer for Templetons or some other Scottish store. After the war, he drove buses.

That is about as much as I know and remember...and all inspired by the long haired one from Top Gear, and a crummy East German pig of a car made from toxic waste cotton.

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