It’s odd what you can learn about your parents later in life. Talking to my mother, Pat, this morning, I discovered a new wrinkle in a story about my father, Tim, which I thought I knew quite well. It started, at least for me, when I was called in by the headmistress at prep school to be told that Tim had been involved a severe car crash.
It was the early 1960s and he had been driving at 100 mph, as was his wont, somewhere in the West Country. In his Rover 3-litre, he managed to avoid a lorry that lumbered out in front of him, no doubt misjudging the speed of the oncoming car. Not everyone drives like ex-Battle of Britain pilots.
But then Tim over-steered and his rear end caught an oncoming white van, which was full of china. The noise can be imagined. He was thrown clear of the car (no seat belts in those days) and it surged ahead into a different country, smashing through a field gate and releasing a number of horses along the highway.
Taken to hospital, he apparently drove the nursing staff mad – they said he had been climbing the walls. One of the medical staff asked Pat if Tim’s skull was normally shaped that way and, somewhat later, after he had been discharged, it turned out that he had a 9-inch crack in his skull. So back to hospital.
I got to all that this morning when I asked Pat when this hyperactive man of ours had started to take afternoon rests, something I like to do at the weekend. Apparently it was after that crash. He had been prescribed rest – and found he rather liked it.
What I hadn’t know was that at the time of the crash he had a loaded Browning automatic, which he had worn constantly for self defence when we were in Cyprus in the late 1950s, stashed away in the car’s glove department. Pat told me that it was illegal, Tim retorted that he had a licence.
Then Pat added another piece of in formation I hadn’t heard. When Tim was in Russia during the WWII, teaching the Russians to fly Hurricanes, he was known as ‘Krupps,’ because he always wore his own gun, that he had bought for the purpose.
One lives, sometimes, and learns, sometimes.