My name’s Stan and I’ve been chief mechanic/landlord at the Crown and Sceptre for over forty years. I used to run the garage at the other end of the village but, with oil prices being what they were in the seventies, I couldn’t compete against the service stations on the motorway. There are too many of them nowadays, aren’t there? No-one needs to stop for a pee and a cardboard burger every 25 miles. What else are empty lucozade bottles and homemade cheese sandwiches for if not to keep you going on the road? Oh, yes, I miss the days when you could picnic on the hard shoulder! All you needed was a couple of deckchairs, an umbrella and maybe a sharp-eyed kid to keep a look out for a police car. Sad to say, my old garage is now a garden centre where pensioners come to buy bedding plants and eat cake in the café.
My daughter, now with kiddies of her own, says the place also has a children’s play area, with a ball pit and those sit-on cars that go up and down if you put a quid in a slot. I asked her why she didn’t bring the kids here; we’ve a patch of grass right next to the motorway, which is just the job for real life car watching. Fair enough, we don't generally welcome kids but you have to make an exception for your grandchildren, don't you? If my daughter asked nicely enough, I’d even put up a fence and grub out the nettles. At the moment, I use the field to take my cars for a spin now and then. With it being private land, I can do what I like and I don’t have to bother about car insurance and tax. My daughter doesn’t approve. She’s that sort. She says I should wait until I have my licence back before I drive anything.
It doesn’t matter how many times I tell her that you don’t need a licence to drive on private land, she doesn’t listen. ‘But it’s not your land,’ she says. ‘It’s Mum’s. You need the landowner’s permission to drive on their land and you don’t have hers.’ I ignore her. What she says is technically true; I don’t have my wife’s permission but I’m sure she’ll give it, just as soon as she comes back from her yogic retreat in the Himalayas. She’s gone with Gordon, from the new dormitory town they built at the bottom of the village high street. Anyway, she’ll definitely be back soon. He never learned to drive. He rides a bicycle, instead: one with a bell and a wicker basket. I don’t see the attraction myself. When trouser clips and a good cagoule are the most exciting accessories you can buy for your chosen form of transport, you ought to know you’re doing something wrong.