Miss Bracher

Miss Bracher lived at the bottom of our street and owned a Wolseley 150.  An ageing spinster, the Wolseley’s long face was entirely in keeping with her narrow features and thin life.  A few doors up, John Fawcett’s dad owned a Standard Vanguard.  A slightly rotund young boy with a matching father, the American inspired design, bench seats and column gear change, were custom-made for the over-size family (young John is second from the left, here).

The interior of an entirely original 1954 Standard Vanguard.

My dad’s Mk1 Ford Consul with its svelte modern lines was entirely in keeping with my view of the world and my place in it.

We lived at number 12, the duodecimal house. Years later I would come to understand the magic properties of the 1900 Series 24-bit word mainframes, supporting four 6-bit characters per word and using octal for binary short-hand, it was inherently superior to the IBM systems, which used 8-bit bytes and hex.  Not everything that is best survives. Similarly, for years I worked on X.400 based messaging systems, a significantly more elegant, reliable and efficient standard to SMTP which is used across the Internet. If I have lost you, worry not – put simply, once everything was right with the world, now I am not so sure.

That uncertainty crept in during my teenage years and never left the room.  My passion for the still image, I owe to my dad – an industrial chemist, he taught me the secrets of the dark room at a very young age.  I can still conjure him into existence with the smell of developer and fixer.  He had no real interest in cars and even less in motor sport.  When they became the centre of my existence, we effectively went our separate ways.

That separation means I struggle to connect with his ghost but there are plenty of photographs and, occasionally, words.  This from a blog post in 2013It is from a small photograph album made up of 3 x 2 inch contact prints which he put together as a young boy – they are individually captioned in a manner consistent with a 10-12 year old; this one – Mummy Daddy and Baby:

Mummy Daddy and Baby

Earlier this week I got the opportunity to sit in an Austin Ruby, a slightly later model of this car.  A wonderful machine, beautifully preserved, it would be a fictional pretence to suggest I was aware of my dad’s presence.  However, it did reinforce something I had always felt – we were born to an entirely different age.  Dad would have been 100 in 2020 – anything we shared together, is all so long ago:

Austin Ruby – the interior

Austin Ruby – the front end

Austin Ruby – engine bay

Austin Ruby – rear end


Hell’s Mouth

Tish Farrell has produced a fascinating post entitled Gazing into Hell’s Mouth at Plas yn Rhiw  which got me thinking – I was reminded of an old family photograph.  My comment on Tish’s post says  I have a family photograph taken on a road above Hell’s Mouth – there is my mother, my sister, and me, leaning against the car in a pretentious fashion (makes a change from gurning I suppose). I would be 9 or 10 which makes it 1960 or thereabouts, possibly earlier. The car was the family Ford Consul, reg – RMA 803 – now I must find the picture.

This is wrong on two counts – firstly I am now fairly certain it is 1958 and we have taken a ride out from a holiday let at Morfa Nefyn.  Secondly I am gurning after all – perhaps in a satirical reference to the location, I am stretching my mouth sideways with my fingers.  A much more likely explanation is that I am pulling faces at my too-grown-up sister.  I perfected the art of the irritating younger brother at a very early age:

Hell's Mouth

The black Mk 1 Ford Consul is the first car I remember, a very solid piece of engineering prone to not starting in the winter.  Dad would eventually resort to dangling a light bulb in the engine compartment overnight to keep the temperature up. It seemed to work.  This is the insurance documentation – all very straightforward – the same document was just updated whenever the car was changed; two more Consuls followed by two Ford Corsairs. All but the last had column gear changes, something my parents insisted on long after they were a standard fitting. Creatures of habit in more ways than one were my Ma and Pa.

RMA 803