Magazine article The Spectator

Exciting Times

Magazine article The Spectator

Exciting Times

Article excerpt

Whether or not I took the boy to his first football match depended on whether we would be able to obtain petrol the following morning. The boy was anxious and I was pessimistic. It was the opening chapter of To the Lighthouse for the modern reader. In the event, however, we did get some. On the Saturday morning our local garage had its first delivery since the ending of the blockade.

Our garage is a shabby, isolated, windswept affair. If there's another car filling up apart from yourself, it feels busy. It's always cold in the shop and for most of the year the man who takes the money in the shop wears a duffel coat and bobble hat. We aren't yet comfortable with the idea of paying by credit card down here. When I hand this conscientious fellow mine, he bows low and with furrowed brow studies the buttons on his till. Having selected one, he presses it tentatively - as if the till, or maybe the entire garage, is likely to blow up in our faces if it's the wrong one. Unable to speak and operate this till at the same time, he only takes questions after the transaction has been completed and the receipt presented.

I'd been going there for over a year before he ventured a pleasantry. `All right, then?' he said one day, as he handed over my copy of the bill. He said it as if he really wanted to know. I felt honoured. Wanting to get our relationship off on the right foot, I decided to be honest with him and told him that, on the contrary, I wished I was dead. Unfortunately the honesty of my reply transgressed his sense of propriety, or perhaps manliness, and he was visibly offended. He hasn't asked me again.

Under normal circumstances, this man has a long time to recover from the mental exertion required to perform each creditcard transaction and to psyche himself up for the next. But this day there was a queue of cars at the pumps, the first in living memory, and a queue at the till. Inexplicably, this small, privately owned garage had been selected as the first in the area to receive a delivery. The owner, a miserable, misanthropic, reclusive individual, was out on the forecourt beaming with pleasure, smoking furiously and chatting to his customers. It was perhaps the greatest moment in the history of Hangman's Cross Garage. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.