Friday, 28 August 2009

An Edwardian petrolhead

I’m off to the Shrewsbury folk festival tomorrow so I thought I would post something for everyone else stuck in a Bank Holiday traffic jam. It’s from a book, The Complete Motorist, first published in 1904 by an Edwardian petrolhead called Alexander Bell Filsom Young. People don’t tend to get quite so excited about tyres on tarmac today.

‘The miles, once the tyrants of the road, the oppressors of the travellers, are now humbly subject to the automobile’s triumphant empire, falling away before it, ranking themselves behind it. The wand of its power has touched the winds to a greater energy, so that the very air it consumes is crushed upon it with a prodigal bounty, sweetened with all the mingled perfumes of the fields and the seasons. It flattens out the world, enlarges the horizon, loosens a little the bonds of time, sets back a little the barriers of space. And man, who created and endowed it, who sits and rides upon it as upon a whirlwind, moving a lever here, turning a wheel there, receives in his person the revenues of the vast kingdom it has conquered. He lives more quickly, drawing virtue and energy from its ardent heart. Even if it should threaten to rob us of a few of the melancholy days of old age, this new slave or ours has won back for us the roads …

The motor car restores to our journeys their true value and importance, making them not a matter merely of departure and arrival, but of deliberate and conscious progress, in which every mile, every yard, is of equal importance with the beginning and the end …

The driver never overtakes the road; it is always before him, just round the next corner, wriggling away like a snake from his pursuing wheels, always cheating, always beckoning, always eluding him, always going on …

I doubt not that when some of us who have fallen into this bondage lie a-dying, the last image of the world present to our minds will be the picture that thousands of miles have photographed on our memory; of the road stretched white and narrowing, of the trees hurrying to meet us, of the snug homesteads left behind in the dusk, of the eternal Unknown that lies just beyond the turn of the road.’

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