1982 was a good year.  I got served in a pub, I dyed my hair burgandy and blonde and I made the school’s netball team.  It was also the year that I learnt to drive.

 

As a child, I was lucky enough to live in a house that my dad built (his name’s not Jack – although my mum’s was) and at the back of the house was a big field and orchard.  Not only did that mean copious amounts of apple pie (damson jam, blackcurrant crumble and pear tarts) but it also meant being able to learn how to drive, albeit in a slightly perilous and, some might say, somewhat illegal way.
To keep the weeds down on the tracks between the trees, my dad would drive a small car down there.  Usually a Mini, but whatever old banger happened to be dumped his way.  The learning had to be done in stages.  Initially, my brother and I would learn to drive on the sit-on lawnmower.  In a very slow, tentative first gear, we would trundle around the field, never managing to cut the grass in straight lines because one of us would invariably drive off at a right angle to try and mow the other one down.

 

We then progressed to being allowed to drive the Mini around the field.  Again, a lot of near misses, including the occasional reversal into the cherry trees, but gradually, we got the hang of it.  My brother had been through this initiation five years prior to me and took great pleasure in telling me as much.

 

The day came when I was finally allowed to race, I mean slowly drive, through the orchard and I was very excited.  It was meant to be a sworn secret (I think Dad was slightly worried about how this would look to the neighbours, and to Mum come to think of it) but it didn’t stop me telling all my friends, who were extremely jealous, which was, of course, the plan.

 

The one thing even better than driving around the orchard?   Was it possible to get any better?  Oh yes!   Lying on top of the car when the other one was driving.  Now that was brilliant.  Bearing in mind that you really couldn’t go faster than 2nd gear, but it’s worth pointing out that my hands and feet could barely reach all corners of the roof so it literally was a white-knuckle ride.

 

There had to be a technique to the whole clinging onto the roof thing or, quite frankly, you’d fall off.   Which happened on occasion if you went round a corner particularly fast.

 

Imagine going on the scariest ride at Alton Towers.  Now double it.  Hell, triple it.  That was how exciting it was to be riding on the roof of that car at 12 years old.

 

At the end of the ride my hair would be covered with a combination of dead spiders (complete with cobwebs), leaves and the occasional twig.  My berry streaked face would then run up to the house to ask for a slice of Mum’s apple pie – complete with pink icing, just for me.

 

1982 was a great year.

 

kate sutton

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