Percy’s Van - Will’s Story
Most of the time Percy drove around in an old van, in my time it was a Bedford van with the engine in the middle of the two front seats; just like the van in the early Heartbeat series on ITV. Us lads had to sit on this engine, but first we had to put this huge piece of foam under us because it would get red-hot! Seat belts weren’t worn in those days so we held on to whatever we could, including Percy’s long hair or if he braked suddenly his flares, because we ended up in the mat well against his feet and dangerously close to the pedals. He and his brothers use to have this chant which went “woo hold it, hold it” and they would lean in unison as we went sharply round a corner or traffic island. They would all chuckle as this was the “in” saying!! “Woo hold it, was hold it!! Like some rodeo rider. Percy did have a brand new van once, but it was not new for long, indeed when we were off in convoy to the River Lea I remember seeing Percy in his ‘Huskie’ van with Maurice leaning out trying to keep hold of a smart bit of chrome that edged down the roof on the water gully. Very smart! With poor old Maurice leaning out of the window holding on to this fancy stuff Percy flashed us and we stopped. Maurice tried to place the trim back on the roof rim, carefully working it along the edge. Percy, impatient as ever, just walked across, pushed Maurice to one side and ripped it off saying “Don’t need this bloody thing” and chucked it in the lay-by. Now being all proper and that I gathered it up and neatly put it in the roadside bin! The next crop of youngsters to come through after me suffered similar circumstances, but in different vans. One such character is Will Temple, who told me the following story, but first a bit about Will! Will has matured a little, but is still the ‘baby’. “One day Will you will have this huge responsibility and be President, so you had better get up to speed on the pen pusher bit!” Anyhow Will’s story is quite frightening. One day Percy picked Will up to go fishing on the Burwell Lode. The van at the time was a clapped out ex-post office Fiesta that leaked oil and had a family of mice living in the back – honest! Poor old Will was in his early teens but very mature for his age. He is in his twenties now and is a father, but somehow looks just the same - well except for the beard – not sure about that Will; you look a bit, well, erm from the Fens! So off they set after picking up Jimmy dog from Percy’s little flat in Fen Ditton, tackle in the back, bait, the lot. Jimmy had to be in the front with Will and Percy. Maybe he was scared of the mice or something but he had to have his little nose poking out of the window. It was quite a site around Cambridge. This old van, a greengrass look-a-like and a hairy little dog with his facial hair brushed back by the wind. Will was, as I said, only a little lad, but still his parents trusted Percy to look after him! The fools! To be fair no harm came of Ian, Will or me, but it was more by luck than anything. So round a sharp corner they go when all of a sudden Jimmy dog, who had been perched on Will’s shoulder, falls out of the passenger window. Percy drove on and this poor little terrier chased after the van .Will cried out, Percy, Jimmys gone! Percy slowed down, learnt across Will, one hand on the steering wheel - no eyes on the road, opened the passenger door for the little dog to jump in while Will tried to grab the dog by the collar, all with no seat belts and all at around 30mph. “Did you not think it best to stop Percy?” Will, enquired “No son, I know what I’m doing dear boy! Young Will had never experienced anything like this and so when they eventually parked at the Lode, out Will got, grabbed a dock leaf and promptly dropped his trousers! All right son? Percy enquired, “erm yes Percy, sorry.” Said Will. “No matter, I might need that myself!” Said Percy. Will is now a Level 2 Coach and is well up on the Child Protection Regulations and lifesaving stuff and all that, so you see we have had installed in us quite an ethic…….. or is it just the fear resulting from the experiences we have had?