Sunday, 1 July 2018

That Was the MUSE That Was

Allegro ma non troppo 

West of Birmingham,
the Men of the Midlands
always bought Austins.
When my father elected Harold Wilson,
he was driving a turquoise A40.

He moved to the Cotswolds;
kept his Black Country accent
and bought another Austin
– a mustard-coloured Allegro.
Perhaps he thought it would help him blend in.

When he elected Margaret Thatcher,
he wished to acquire
a mushroom-coloured Triumph
and handed down the Allegro to me.
Perhaps he thought I’d assume something of him,

sitting in his seat, steering by his wheel.
I tried to like the Allegro but
I rarely topped it up with oil or water,
or washed it. I never polished it.
I commuted in it 10 hours a week.

It started to fall apart.
I called it ‘The Heap’ –
to forestall the mocking Yuppies
I knew at the time.
The only Allegro in that part of the city.

In 1985 I drove my wife and best mate
on the cricket tour to Cornwall.
I promised, if I score a century,
I’ll buy a new car. Safe bet:
I’d never scored more than 60.

I was out – caught on the boundary for 91.
All were dismayed:
the Heap was reprieved.
I kept the Allegro a couple more years.
By then, it was not going at all briskly.

Sometimes my father asked about it.
I’d say something positive – to chime
with him on a chord of his choosing
such as ‘It’s a fine old war-horse’ or 
‘They don’t make ‘em like that any more’.

 © Richard Devereux

Austin Allegro: how the worst car of all time came to be made

Richard Devereux is a member of Lansdown Poets and Bristol Stanza. His collection Bill tells the story of his grandfather, a soldier of World War One who fought on the Balkan front in northern Greece. Richard taught English in Athens and his knowledge of Greece inspires and informs much of his writing. His poems have appeared in several anthologies and on-line magazines.