Tony gets his first Jag.
Once again it late summer, and the casual work started to dry up as the tourists departed. My summer jobs had earned me enough money, but I’d also spent it as fast as I received it, so with the winter coming I didn’t have a lot of spare cash. Betty was great, but she had her own issues with money, and we scrapped by from week to week.
One evening I was working at the Harbor Inn when Grahame called me over. He told me he’d just clinched a deal to buy an old cottage on the coast near Old Hunstanton, and needed someone to work on bringing it up to scratch for renting the next summer. Would I be interested in doing it for him “cash in hand”?
I had been around enough to know how this worked. Grahame could employ a builder, but that would cost too much money and it’d involve the tax man too. Much easier to get some kid – me this time – to do the work at half the price, and no need to involve the authorities.
This was too good an opportunity to miss, and I jumped at the chance to earn some real money. The only problem was how to get to the cottage. All these summer months I’d walked to and from my various jobs and the house, with the occasional bus ride into Lynn or other towns. But the cottage was about 5 miles away, and I’d need to carry tools with me. There was no bus to that part of the coast, and I shivered thinking about the north winds and freezing rain that cut right through you out there on the coast.
For these logical reasons I needed to get a car, but there was also an underlying emotional reason. I didn’t just want a mode of transport; I wanted something that expressed who I was. I wanted something smart and elegant and showy. I thought back to my adventure going to the county show all those years ago. I wanted a Jag.
Betty just laughed at me when I told her what sort of car I wanted to get. We were sitting in bed when I was telling her my plans, and she snorted in that way that I at first found amusing, but which was increasingly becoming annoying. Despite her amusement, I looking at used car ads, and soon found a 20-year-old Jag for sale. I went straight away to the address, a small dealer in one of the back streets, and fell in love at first sight. It was a Jaguar XK150 MC Ghia Coupe, long and sexy in a bright fire red, a few dents, but nothing that didn’t add character to the car. And it was just about as old as me.
I didn’t have enough money for the car but we haggled a bit, and my small savings and an HP agreement soon dealt with that. I would be in debt for the next 7 years, and not really sure where I would get the money to pay the installments, but I was sure it would all work out fine.
As I was signing the forms and chatting with the dealer, I realized that I was talking with another one of the Smith family. I tentatively asked about Ruby, saying I used to go to school with her, and he told me that she was engaged to be married. He proceeded to show me pictures of Ruby and her fiancé, telling me how they had met when the man was on holiday here.
I didn’t care, of course. Ruby and I were nothing to each other, and I was happy enough being with Betty, but even so there was a spark of something that might have been jealousy somewhere in the back of my head. By the time the deal was done I had details of where the ceremony was and when, and also found out that the couple was moving to a flat in Old Hunstanton after the marriage. David, Ruby’s soon to be husband, was a traveling salesman, and on the road all the time, so they wanted to start with a place where Ruby would have friends and family nearby.
I told Betty all about it when I got home, only to find that she already knew about Ruby and David from her girlfriends. “And you didn’t tell me?” I said. “Why are you so interested, I thought you were over her?” she replied. We got into a petty quarrel then, the sort where the real reason for the argument is never discussed and never resolved. In the end, I just let it go, more interested in my new car and my new job than anything to do with women.