My lifts in Geoff’s Hornet have a sting in the tale

CAR-OWNING Recorder reporters were thin on the ground in the fifties. Geoff had one, however, and it spawned quite a history between us. First I knew of him boasting wheels was getting a surprise lift back to the office one press day morning after we d s

CAR-OWNING Recorder reporters were thin on the ground in the fifties.

Geoff had one, however, and it spawned quite a history between us.

First I knew of him boasting wheels was getting a surprise lift back to the office one press day morning after we'd shared Stratford court duty. Routine with that was to return to the office ASAP, tell the editor what you had, and see if it was wanted for that edition's 4pm deadline.

Geoff said his car was a Wolseley Hornet with a Ford engine. Whatever, it was a big advance on bussing it. I nipped out right on the office doorstep, and was banging out court copy when Geoff rejoined me, fuming.


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"Why didn't you do what I said?" he barked.

Totally lost, I said: "What? What did you say?"

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"I said I needed you watching, while I parked over in Oakfield Road," he snarled.

"You did not, or why drop me where you did?" I countered, hotly.

The trouble, it seemed, was that in parking on his own, Geoff had snagged the Hornet's curly rear bumper around a lamp-post, wrenching it half off. He thought I should pay for it. Not likely!

The barney resulted in us ignoring each other for several weeks.

Then a slow Thursday afternoon found us alone in the office, not exchanging a word.

When I put my coat on it was with the intention of not bidding Geoff goodnight.

He surprised me by jumping up, saying he was also off, and would be pleased to give me a lift to Gants Hill where I lived.

The olive branch was welcome. As I got out I thanked Geoff warmly, happy the silent hostility was over.

For one night, it turned out.

To my astonishment, the following morning, a stony-faced Geoff accused me of denting his motor the previous evening. He again wanted immediate recompense.

I'd hardly touched the blessed thing and could only splutter in bemusement. Geoff said I'd not closed the door properly and it swung open against parked cars as he drove away. Not while I was watching him go, it hadn't. So, no, I would not do "the decent thing." Nor ever go in his car again!

The ensuing rumpus ended the brief ceasefire and we resumed icily, refusing to acknowledge each other.

That went on for a month or so before evaporating in a remarkable piece of d�j� vu.

As before, it was the tailend of a quiet Thursday afternoon, with Geoff and I just in the office, saying not a word.

And as before, when I prepared to go home Geoff suddenly offered me a lift.

It was, he laughed, about time grown men kissed and made up. Certainly was.

I gladly joined him in his Hornet, an unobtrusive hand on the errant door.

Geoff pulled up in the same place as the last time. Getting out, I carefully half closed the door and said: "Better you do it, eh, Geoff?"

Smiling, Geoff leaned across, grasped the door from me and slammed it.

With a horrible splintering crash the window fell down inside the door.

Dumbfounded, I stood on the pavement open-mouthed as Geoff drove away without a word, look or gesture.

The implications of this ongoing business were alarming. Three lifts, three foul-ups.

The latest one had its funny side, though, with Geoff's own hand the last on the Hornet before disaster. I'd regale colleagues with the story next day.

What Geoff might have to say about it was something else.

In the event he never said a single word.

Almost at once a terse policeman from Barkingside nick was haunting the office looking for Geoff, who he said, had just sold him a Wolseley Hornet for 40 quid.

The officer had belatedly had it looked over and been advised the chassis was cracked, among other things.

He badly wanted his cash back. Whether he ever got it was not my concern.

I was just glad there'd be no more jinxed lifts.

When, some years later, I had a car of my own Geoff was elsewhere. That was a relief.

For I'd have ended up giving him a lift sometime, and he might have felt there was catching-up to do.

As that Italian gent used to sing years ago: "Toucha ma car, I smasha your face!

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