‘Ron asked me if I was interested in buying his car. What do you think?’ B asked Ursula, out of the blue, one day. ‘Can we afford it?’ ‘He’ll sell on instalments after a down payment which fits our budget; it would be nice to have a car of our own.”Yes, it would.’

He would be 40 years old in a couple of months time and had never owned a car. There had always been Company cars available – in Pakistan, at Morro Velho and now, here, in Sao Paulo. He and Ursula had found that they were not modernists, or materialists, as far as the acquisition of the new products now being more available around the World, post War. They had not bothered about having a telephone in the sobrado and had done quite well, up to now, by using Company cars, with the exception of the jeep that wouldn’t start when it was needed to get to hospital for the new baby’s, Linie’s birth earlier in the year, and had to get there by taxi. They used public transport regularly by choice to get around the City on buses or the bonde (tram); and sometimes the railway to get to some of the interior towns or to their favourite place by the sea at Balneario Florida along Praia Grande. It always seemed to be so much more interesting, using public transport, although, at times, the heat and crowding, and even smells could be a bit off-putting.

Like the time on a train last year along the southern littoral from Santos to their rented seaside bungalow on Balneario Florida one chilly day at Carnival time, he recalled. The train was crowded and they had been obliged to stand, pressed against a mass of other travellers. They were returning from a day in Santos, where they had eaten lunch at their favourite restaurant, Roxy, and then watched some of the street Carnival parade. But the weather was too dull and cold and when light rain began to fall they had decided to head back. In the train, B was holding Julie’s hand and Ursula held Cliffie’s and, as is often the case when one is hemmed in by a crowd of people, there is not much else to do than put the mind into neutral and occasionally meet the eyes of another, to give a wry smile.

He could see Ursula’s eyes directed over his shoulder and glanced round to see a poorly dressed man carrying a boy who could have been about Cliffie’s age, but was smaller and thinner. He was quite an abject little fellow, two strands of mucous led from his nostrils to his mouth which he intermittently attempted to sniff up again; his eyes looked tired and fever touched; he wore a thin, shabby shirt and shivered convulsively. Once B’s attention had been drawn to this pair, he met Ursula’s eye and they both watched covertly. The father was kind and solicitous of the small, shivering child he carried and it was clear to see that poverty was the main burden.

The crowd in the train pushed and shoved, outwards and inwards, at each station. The next one would be Balneario Florida. ‘Ours next,’ he called out, knowing they could not see, and gave a little squeeze to Julie’s hand. The next instant he noticed Ursula freeing space among the surrounding passengers and, in one seamless movement, wrestled Cliffie’s warm anorak – the one she had bought for him last year in Germany – from him. To Cliffie’s querying expression she responded with a few, swift, explanatory words. The train had stopped and B pushed through for their group to alight. As they passed close to the father and the little boy he was carrying, Ursula, in a movement, so dexterous, that it was like a conjurer presenting a new trick had, without disturbing the child unduly, put the anorak around him and his arms into the sleeves. There was a smile for the father and a touch on the boys face before she stepped out of the train to join them on the platform. As the train drew away, it was then, if he had not known it before, that B realised he was united in life with a very special person.

With a car user these small encounters were not so likely to happen. A family become isolated from the common ruck of humanity when they become car owners, and car owners were increasing in number in Sao Paulo, although still a very small minority of the population. Notwithstanding, these considerations a surrender was made to ‘progress’ and, on 10th October 1964 he paid over to his friend, Ron Duncan a sum of US$400.00 and £100 plus six post-dated cheques for CR$188,800.00 each at monthly intervals. The car was a 1962 Gordini of French origin and manufactured under licence in the Sao Paulo factory of Willys Overland, an American company. It had clocked up 12,030 kilometres and its price in Sterling of the day was £550.

The following day was a Sunday and they decided to drive out in the car to the lakes where they had bought a plot of land and membership in a club called Silvaplana. He noticed on their return that they had covered 47 kilometres on this excursion and the indicator showed 12,077 kilometres. The Gordini was a small car and not at all robust in its make-up so he decided he would continue to use the cars from the car pool at work, and the Gordini remained unused until they were visiting Norah and Ron in December. ‘Have you still got the Gordini?’ Asked Ron. ‘Yes, it’s at home.’ ‘Don’t you use it?’ ‘Not a lot, I’m using Perkin’s cars, chiefly. Why? Do you want to buy it back?’ ‘Well, it so happens I would,’ replied Ron. A deal he had been negotiating regarding a car had fallen through.

Whilst Norah and Ursula chatted over the two babies, Caroline and Lorraine, and Julie and Cliffie looked at toys and books with the bigger Duncan girls, Ron and B agreed a return sale of the Gordini for CR$1,544,800.00 and the cancellation of the remaining cheques still un-cashed. ‘You’ll have to call round to collect the car before the 27th; that’s the day we’ll be off on holiday to Ubatuba.’ Ron called with Pammy and Daphne on 26th to take the car away and pay over the money in cash. The Gordini still had only 12,077 kilometres on the clock, so B had kept the first car he had ever bought for only 75 days and, in that time, had run it for a total of a mere 47 kilometres. It was not until he was over fifty years of age, another 12 years on, and living in a different country before he came to buy another car.

12 OCTOBER 1964