Z strips down an engine

It was so convenient to go 300 yards or possibly metres to the garage to get the car’s MOT that Tim thought he’d get the brake pads replaced on his car at the same place. We like this garage, there is an air of honesty and capability. It is also very good value, especially if you’re used to going to a BMW garage.

Talking about looking after cars, thinking back in the days when one did one’s own basics reminded me of 1972 when Wink and I took on a Motor Maintenance evening class at the College of Further Education in Lowestoft. We knew the Principal, whose name was Alan Boddy, I remember. Nice man, friend of my parents.

Wink had an Austin A40, a small and fairly basic car and she hadn’t got a lot of spare cash at the time, so thought it would be a good idea to know how to look after it, rather than have to go to a garage every time the spark plugs needed cleaning or the oil had to be changed. In those days, it was entirely feasible to do all the work you felt able to do on a car. I volunteered to go with her, having passed my driving test about 18 months earlier. I drove my mother’s car when she wasn’t using it, but I’ve always been one to plan ahead.

I have no idea of the name of the teacher or any of the men in the class. We were the only females and we reduced the poor guys to a degree of confusion, simply because of our – what, powerful sexuality? Surely not. We were two rather shy young girls, slightly out of our depth. We did learn quite a lot about the internal combustion engine, some of which even remains in my head to this day. Sadly, much of what we learnt is redundant, now that a part is simply removed and replaced rather than repaired, nowadays.

I do remember the lack of ease with which those nice men treated us. At the end of the session, which lasted six months with a Christmas break, the teacher was given a present, which the class had clubbed together for; except that we hadn’t contributed. Embarrassingly, no one had felt able to ask us. It wasn’t deliberate, there was just shyness on every side.

The instructor himself wasn’t immune to the awkwardness. I remember him showing us how to bleed the brakes. He was overcome with embarrassment when he told us about the “bleeding nipple.” He apologised twice, once for each word.

2 comments on “Z strips down an engine

  1. Blue Witch

    I too did a car maintenance evening class the year I moved to Somerset. 1985 I think. Largely because it was the only class that would fit into my week, and every teacher got a free evening class course every year from the County Council. I was the only female and remember being severely patronised, until I came up with several correct answers to very technical questions.

    I had been helping my Dad with cars since I was tiny, and had learnt a lot.
    The next year I did calligraphy, and the year after glass engraving.

    I’d totally forgotten about that, so thanks for the memory jog!

    1. Z Post author

      They weren’t patronising, just awkward. They were nice men, in fact. We had been pretty ignorant at the start, so we couldn’t have blamed them for looking down on us.


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