Val was a lover of fast cars. He owned a souped-up Vauxhall, metallic blue which was a very unusual colour in those days. One of his favourite tricks was to do racing starts in clouds of dust and showers of gravel on the drive at Beechfield, to the amusement of some and the dismay of others (especially John Vince). Just before he left BAA he bought a long-wheelbase Land-Rover and was planning a round-the-world trip. I heard that he got stopped by the local lot in Darkest Africa and they took away his car. He then set up a Land-Rover agency there to cover the obvious demand (or so the story goes) but as far as I know no-one has heard from him since. Maybe they ate him?
After repeated and unfruitful searches for Val Prinsep on Google (he had a famous ancestor of the same name which complicated the search) I tried <“Val Prinsep” Jeeps Africa> some days ago, and there he was staring me in the face! You can read what he has been up to on my page of the site. So the stories of him having been eaten by the locals have proved to be inaccurate. In fact one could almost say that he has eaten them!
Val occasionally dropped in at Neston too. We could hear him coming several minutes before he turned up – the tremendous roar of his engine. Once or twice we went out to the pub together, he and Dad and I. Dad’s favourite home-from-home was The Bell at Broughton Gifford. The landlord there was ex-RAF and had been based in Akureyri in the north of Iceland in the wartime. They were his glory-days and he loved telling us stories from Akureyri. Trouble was that her couldn’t pronounce his 'r's, not to speak of rolling them like the Icelanders do, so he could never say the name of the place properly!
Not many of us owned cars in those days. Apart from Val I think there was only one person in Graphics who had one, Sue Whitesmith, who had a Mini and often used to drive over to her parents’ place in Maidenhead at weekends. There was Mike’s famous jalopy and a very ancient Austin 7 owned by a large fellow in Painting who took up both front seats. Then there was Maria Simonds-Gooding, Margrét’s Irish friend from Painting. She had a very dilapidated Morris Minor 1000 convertible, a sort of dirty cream colour with a ragged dark red hood (canvas top to those who speak American/colonial English!). It seemed to get her from A to B and she and Margrét sometimes went on trips together. But this was before I met Margrét. The thing about Maria’s car was the hole that had rusted through the floor in front of the back seat. It was usually kept covered with a bit of hardboard, but on occasion, when there were womenfolk on board, they used to use the hole in the floor as an easy way of relieving themselves on long journeys. Saved them from having to stop at wayside conveniences!
click A Tale of a Goat to read a story from Ireland, as retold to me by Paddy Goff.
Maria is still a very good friend of ours and has been doing great things in her art in Ireland. She has visited us in Iceland and was very surprised by the greenness of the place. And I thought Ireland was supposed to be the Emerald Isle! We have also visited Maria. Most of the year she lives in a tiny cottage near Dingle in County Kerry, sheep country a bit like parts of Iceland, with a view over to the Blasket Islands. There’s a big new studio at the back where Maria works, mostly plaster work and of late carborundum prints. Maria never married her boyfriend Ken Evans, nor any one else for that matter, though she tells us that he once came to visit and announced over the whole village, after a drink or three, that he was “going to marry this woman!”. I am told that Ken is now in the art-dealing business somewhere.
Some people had motorbikes, including Clive Adams. When he started going out with Juanita, a Chippewa Indian girl from the States, he bought a sidecar to match and very nearly came to grief in the lane up to Beechfield one lunchtime. He turned his bike over on the grass bank at the side of the lane. He had clean forgotten about the sidecar and came very pale and shaken into afternoon classes!