Home Run


Richard Lutz reviews his past week.

Down the M6 motorway that runs through the west side of Britain, taking in traffic from all over.

It’s more a linear car park than a highway. It’s closed for three junctions and roadworks seem endless – warnings such as “Repairs for next 176 miles” seem to litter the roadside. It has something to do with creating a ‘smart motorway’ and no two people have defined what that means.

I’m heading home after a while away. The house is the same. There are the pictures, the kitchen, the stain in the carpet, the garden. But I forget where things are: Where are the scissors, what day is the rubbish picked up, where are the spare batteries kept? 

It’s all mundane. But it’s telling how the minute things of life add up to something important. On this crazy planet, home is important. Crucial. It is an anchor and I want to know where the toothpaste is.

When I return, even before ripping through the mail, I always have a cup of coffee (where’s my favourite cup?) and sit and think: Is this old place still my house, my centre, my home? It still is.

The house creaks in the same place, sighs in the same way, lets the sun flow in through the south facing window (albeit through dirty panes). Maybe one day, I’ll have that cup of coffee and it won’t be  home, but just a building. 

I’m greeted, as all Britain is, by brown grass, dead flowers, droopy bushes. It hasn’t rained in weeks….months.

City people have cast off clothes and everyone seems to walk a pace slower in the heat of the day, the warmth of the evening. People wait for a breeze. The parks are rammed. Kids play outside like “in the old days”.

The last time I lived through a hot British summer was forty years ago. We lived in a place fed by a hill stream. It dried up and we filled buckets from the nearby town to keep us clean, cook and wash.

It jettisoned us back a century or two when it took time and energy to get through a day, especially with a toddler.

The urban scorcher is best conjured up, I find, by two songs from the long ago past: Summer in the City by The Loving Spoonful and Long Hot Summer by Jimi Hendrix. Both get that gritty feel of a city and heat, the windows open, the rattling air con on full blast, the radio singing out through an open window.

4 thoughts on “Home Run

  1. 40 years ago I had never actually witnessed aircon in any car in the UK however I did in the USA.
    The first petrol crisis had hit. Sheik Yamani and OPEC put the squeeze on and car manufacturers were trying to wean people off 7 litre V8s onto little engines. I remember borrowing a Ford Pinto which was dangerously gutless but hardly went at all if you put the aircon on. That slowed it down faster than the brake pedal.

    I imagine that in Europe a few very rarified cars had it but the very smart Mercedes my dad had in those days certainly did not nor was it offered. Cars had quarter lights in the front to help ventilation and to suck out cigarette smoke but generally having windows wound down as you bowled along wasn’t a problem because cars were, and went much slower.

  2. Although I was a child of the sixties, I have no clear recollection of the summer weather during that decade, save that in my mind it was always sunny. Then again, as the bard says, “the past is always more glorious by reason of its being far”. However, it is striking that a number of those pop songs which evoke hot summer the best hail from 1966: the Lovin’ Spoonful (I agree, the best of them all), the Beatles “Good Day Sunshine”, the Kinks “Lazin on a Sunny Afternoon”, the Beach Boys “Good Vibrations” and for me (don’t ask me why) Petula Clark’s “Downtown”. I’m guessing ’65 was a warm one?
    I do remember 1976 with more clarity. We haven’t yet reached the drought proportions of that year. Watering the garden, as I recall, was strictly forbidden, and taking a bath (at least, on your own!) discouraged. Whistle blowing was actively advocated. Our neighbours designed an elaborate device to water their fruit and vegetables via a sprinkler system directly hooked up to their drainpipes. It didn’t work, of course!
    My uncle had one of the early Jaguar XJ6’s. It did have aircon, but switching it on literally halved the petrol consumption. It also had electric windows. One day, when my aunt and I went to pick up her eldest son, my cousin, from school, his two younger siblings managed to completely flatten the battery in no more than 10 minutes by continuously sliding them up and down. Now there’s an interesting experiment for the kids and cars of the 21st century!

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