Viv Stanshall, a tyre blow-out (and a new picture of my mother)

Last Saturday would have been my mother’s one hundredth birthday, had she not died in 1980. To celebrate the occasion my elder sister organised a small family party down in Gloucestershire, where she lives. She asked us to bring any photo albums we might have, so that the younger generation of our mother’s grand- and great-grand-children might get an impression of what she looked like. So the evening before the event, Maisie was going through a couple of old albums that had lurked in the darkest recesses of a chest upstairs, when I heard a squeal. She had come across this picture I took when Viv visited the family home in Hertfordshire in, I think, 1973. Some might find his appearance unusual, even for the early seventies, but Viv’s eccentricity was never ill-considered, nor in anything but the very best of tastes. Only his idea of taste was not as other mortals: I sometimes think he could even warp the laws of physics, if he put his mind to it. And those socks are surely gravity-defying. And as for my poor mother: she never liked having her picture taken, despite the fact that as a young woman she had been exquisitely beautiful – but in a strong way. Her appearance was a statement not a blank page, like so many current, big-eyed, girly models. Or am I being hopelessly sexist? Probably, but what the Hell.

Anyhow, we loaded the album into the car and headed south-west, away from the Fens. We had barely left Peterborough behind us, when there was a sickening bang and the off-side rear wheel tyre blew-out. Maisie who was driving at the time, did well to steer us off the dual-carriageway and onto the verge. Changing the wheel was hairy, as only the lorries pulled over, cars preferred to give us frights. After about ten minutes a passing farmer drew up and parked his car further out, so that brain-dead drivers had no option but to budge-over. I’m so grateful to him: whoever you are, MANY thanks! Then I put the stupid, flimsy pretend-spare-wheel on and we limped back home, at a snail’s pace. What an anti-climax. But still, we found that picture and can share it now with everyone. Enjoy!

Ma and Viv

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