I fell in love on a sunny morning as I was walking up the hill outside the village.
The 1962 Ford Consul Mark 2 was, frankly, the finest example of a classic car that I’d ever seen, and I couldn’t stop staring at it in wonder.
My friend Stuart was with me, and we were on foot, making our way to the Classic Car rally, which was being held in the nearby farmer’s field.
As the car passed, gleaming chrome, shining blue bodywork, sunlight dancing from the mirrors, I took a picture on my phone, and caught a brief glimpse of the smiling lady driver and her husband beside her, and two young boys in the back, who were beaming and laughing.
“Wow!” I said to Stuart, gazing after it as it disappeared around the bend. “Have you ever seen anything like it? It beggars belief that it’s possible! For all the world, that fifty-two-year old car looks as if it’s fresh from the factory. I’ve never seen a restoration job like it!”
“Nor me, mate,” Stuart was as enraptured as I was. “Just goes to show, if you’ve got time, tenacity and patience you can restore any car into perfect condition.”
All morning we were at the rally, but, despite searching everywhere for the sensational classic car, there was no sign of it. I even asked a few people, but no one had seen it. It made no sense at all. Why on earth would a wonderful classic car like that be in the area anyway, if not to go to the rally? I resolved to ask around local classic car enthusiasts, in case anyone had heard of it.
After the rally we went to the Dog and Duck for lunch, where we met our friend Robin Gargle, the local vicar. There was quite a crowd in there, and Robin explained that he’d just conducted the funeral for Valerie Patch, who had lived locally for most of her life, and the pub were handling the small after-funeral ‘do’. When John Patch, one of the deceased lady’s sixtyish sons, came across to our table, Robin introduced us.
“Very sorry for your loss, John,” I sympathised.
“Thanks, but poor old Mum was very ill towards the end. In one way it was a relief that her suffering ended.”
John shook his head miserably. “What hurts most is that I wasn’t there right at the end, to say goodbye. I just went outside the room to get a cup of tea, and when I came back she’d gone. I wanted to be with her. To hold her hand, to tell her how much she meant to me. Just a word, a wave of her hand, would have meant so much to me. But I never somehow found the words and in the event, she died there all alone, everything unsaid.”
“Some people prefer that,” Robin tried to reassure him. “She knew how you felt about her, John. You couldn’t have done more.”
“But I so wanted to just say goodbye,” John repeated gloomily. “And she couldn’t say goodbye to me.”
There was nothing much to say, so we sipped our pints for a few moments.
“I think I met your mother once,” I said to him. “She used to work in one of the shops in the village didn’t she?”
“Yes, the Village Stores. Here.” John produced the funeral card and passed it across the table.
On the front was a headshot of an elderly lady. I turned it over, and on the back was another photograph: a family in a car, the woman driving, her husband beside her and her two boys sitting in the back.
“Good that picture, isn’t it?” John said to me, noticing how I was staring at it. “I remember that day myself, sitting in the back of the car,” John continued, almost to himself, smiling at the memory. “Last week I showed Mum the old albums, and when she looked at this one her face came alive. She said that moment in 1962 captured in the photo was probably the happiest time of her life—everything was going well, dad had got promotion at work, new house, new car, we were going on holiday—”
Without saying a word, I took my phone out and found the picture I’d taken this morning, and passed it across for him to see.
The picture on the card was exactly the same as the picture on the screen of my phone.
Except for one thing: in the picture on my phone the lady driver had her hand raised—she was waving at someone.
For a moment, John just stared at it.
Then, to our surprise, the image faded and disappeared before our eyes.