Winter always makes me think of the Soviet experience in World War II. The severity of the Russian winter made what was already a brutal and difficult war even worse; and there must have been some unimaginably bleak days for the soldiers who were trying so desperately to defend their Motherland.
Artillery defending the vicinity of Moscow. Attribution: RIA Novosti archive, image #46802/ Temin/CC-BY-SA 3.0
Last night I wrote this poem, with the 1941/42 defense of Moscow in mind. For me, the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War was defined by great suffering and tragedy but also an omnipresent determination to go on. Even while being routed by the invading Wehrmacht in the first months of the war, people remained defiant and resolute in their cause. I hope you enjoy the poem, and its accompanying photographs of winter on the Eastern Front.
Here, Soviet aircraft overfly German positions near Moscow. Attribution: RIA Novosti archive, image #2564/ Samaryi Guraryi/ CC-BY-SA 3.0
A wonderful poster boldly stating, “We will defend Moscow!” By unknown author, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
On the Winter Wind
The winter wind is coming,
A wraith riding on his wings
Coming, closer, coming
And the wraith unearthly sings;
Its song not yet known to man
Harsh and fierce, it fills the sky
And now, now I understand
It sings a battle-cry.
The winter wind approaches
And on his wings is War
From homes and fields and trenches
We hear the cry once more
The cry of conquest, ages old
They come as men and leave as bones
Forgetting that we are Russian souls;
More stubborn here than stones.
Winter’s breath cannot break us,
Nor can War’s fatal song
Triumph will not be denied us;
When we see these frosty spirits gone.
The winter wind shrieks above
We sense the wraith’s most vile lure
But their assault is not enough;
We are Russian, we endure.
© Adair Jacobs, 2016
A tank of Germans with what appear to be Soviet civilians, perhaps displaced. Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-B15686/ Gebauer/ CC-BY-SA 3.0
On November 7, thousands of fresh troops marched through the heart of Moscow on their war to the front. Attribution: RIA Novosti archive, image #429/ Oleg Ignatovich/ CC-BY-SA 3.0
German soldiers retreat through the snow and winter wind. From Druhá svetova válka strucné dejiny, nakladatelstvi Svoboda Praha via Wikimedia Commons, unknown author, public domain.
Tankers go to the front with hope; their tank displaying the words “Happy New Year!”. Attribution: RIA Novosti archive, image #266/ Alexander Kapustyanskiy/ CC-BY-SA 3.0
It’s the Canada Day long weekend here in Canada; and if you ask me, there’s nothing better associated with a long weekend than awesome cars!! Summer long weekends are made for cruising, and now that I have a beautiful car of my own I appreciate them even more. There are multitudes of old muscle cars and vintage trucks driving around on weekends like this where I live– all awesome in their own right. But I do think it would be a great experience to visit England on a bank holiday weekend, and marvel at all the supercars that would surely be seen there!
In Part One of this post, I introduced you to many of the interesting and exotic cars I’ve seen on the streets of London. I hope that Part Two will be even more impressive– motoring in England is very different from North America, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy trips across the pond so much!
The Audi R8 isn’t quite as impressive-looking as a Lamborghini, but it does produce over 400 horses of precise German power
Seen here near Fulham, this Bentley and others of its kind are favourites of well-paid Premier footballers
The Nissan GT-R is one of the fastest-accelerating cars on the market today, and it’s one of my dream drives!
This Kensington Ferrari wasn’t getting anywhere fast in the rush-hour traffic. But, there are few things more eye-catching than that Ferrari red…
This loudly-coloured Lamborghini made quite a racket outside our window one afternoon. It sat in the road for a few moments, revving its engine, and then drove off.
Walking home one day, I saw this in a row of cars… a Volcano Red McLaren MP4-12C!
There are few cars more exclusive or well-thought-out than a McLaren. It was a privilege to see one so close in person
I marvelled and marvelled at this beautiful machine, along with several other passers-by! It’s surprises like this that make the streets of England such an exciting place.
Most people enjoy visiting England for the culture, or the history, or the food– and then there are people like me; petrolheads, who especially enjoy visiting for the cars. The streets of England are very different from the ones I’m accustomed to in Canada. Here, large SUVs and trucks are favoured; there, economical hatchbacks and wagons are preferred by most people.
The streets of London are different still. London is a fantastic place to see awesome cars. Locales like Kensington and Chelsea are full of wealth and, by extension, full of expensive cars like Maseratis, Aston Martins, Rolls-Royces, and Lamborghinis. Even outside the posh neighbourhoods, motoring exclusivity is everywhere. On my last trip (April 2015), I was on the lookout for nice cars, and there wasn’t one day I was disappointed!!
Back in April 2015, I’d been enthusiastically working at Mitsubishi for less than a month. Therefore I was incredibly excited to find this Mitsubishi pickup truck (not offered for sale in North America) parked in Greenwich!
The Mercedes in the background is covered in Swarovski crystals. I had actually seen an article on this car some weeks before on the internet… apparently it is often seen around the posh locales of London. All I can say is, unfortunately money doesn’t buy good taste.
The blingy crystal Mercedes was followed by something much more appealing; this immaculate Bentley. I think it’s an old Continental coupe.
I saw this incredible vintage Jaguar outside Sir John Soane’s museum in Holborn. This is one of my dream cars– an old Jag in British racing green, of course!
My mum loves the original Mini, and we always keep our eyes open for them in England. We saw this one in Hammersmith…
…almost immediately followed by a garish pink modern Mini, complete with eyelashes over the headlights. What would John Cooper say?
The roads of England are well-populated with motorbikes of all kinds since they’re economical and small. I took a photo of this gorgeous Triumph for my brother, who is eager to get his own motorbike one day
Not far from our rented flat in Bayswater, amongst beautiful white plaster terraced houses, was this very British Lotus. I detail a whole array of cars at work, but I hope someday to get the chance to detail a car like this!!
In Kensington, an enormous Rolls-Royce. It’s always interesting to wonder who is behind the wheel of cars like this
A military presence on the Strand! A hulking truck like this would be something to drive through the narrow, congested streets of London
These are only some of the awesome vehicles I saw on my trip to London… watch for part two for the rest! It really is cool to go to a place that has such a wide range of vehicles. It’s just a shame that, in the slow, congested traffic of London, you never get to hear the Bentley W12s and roaring Lamborghinis to full effect!
The end of an era has arrived for me. This past Wednesday, the car that I learned to drive on and that I drove for six years, finally died. It’s been a lot for me to take in. Over the years I got very fond of that car; and although I’d been bracing myself for its demise, there are some inevitabilities that one can’t really prepare for. This was one.
I realise that the theme of this post may be alien to some– after all, isn’t a car just a collection of metal parts?– but to me, certain cars are special. Working at a car dealership, I know that all cars feel different; some are nimble and energetic like toddlers, some are stately and dependable, and some are simply crotchety and don’t want to drive at all. And for me at least, certain cars are so unique that they seem to have a personality all their own, and I know them as I know my friends. As Jeremy Clarkson said, “It’s what non-car people don’t get. They see all cars as just ton-and-a-half, two-tons of wires, glass, metal, and rubber. That’s all they see. People like you or I know, we have an unshakable belief that cars are living entities. You can develop a relationship with a car. And that’s just what non-car people don’t get.” He’s exactly right. It would be easier to be a non-car person, no doubt– but it wouldn’t be much fun either.
The Marquis in 2013; her fenders were hardly even rusted back then
My family’s old gold Mercury Grand Marquis was a special car. Dubbed “H.R.H”, “the shiny beauty”, “the old girl”, or “Titanic” depending on who you ask, the Marquis was old and weary by the end but she held on longer than anyone expected. We owned her for eight years, and although we didn’t mistreat her, she was run hard. She towed a camping trailer for several summers, and her V8 engine was always enjoyed in the hands of me or my brother. And she did have many issues, I will admit. A differential issue, transmission trouble, a shattered pulley bearing, power steering leak, and (most recently) spark plugs which worked themselves out of the aluminum head. It was the spark plug issue which finally ended the Marquis. Although it’s fixable and we’d already dealt with two escaping spark plugs in the past year, it seems that the third time is unlucky. This time, a hole was actually blown through the head which is obviously not what one wants in an engine. The consensus among the techs at work was that this is the end for my poor car.
But I don’t want to remember her sitting sadly behind the shop at work like she has been since Wednesday. There are so many great things to remember. This is the vehicle that made me comfortable with driving and parking, and what a journey that was! I didn’t learn quickly, and for awhile I hated and dreaded driving. But eventually I learned to handle and appreciate the Marquis’s powerful engine and large frame, and over time driving became a true hobby. As for parking, it was nerve-wracking to learn to manoeuvre a land yacht like the Marquis into small spaces. Many times, I was convinced I couldn’t do it. But in 2014, with my final driving test looming, I made up my mind and mastered it. Being able to consistently, adeptly park seventeen feet of car is something I’m proud of, especially since I used to have such trouble even with my driving instructor’s small and agile Toyota!
The Grand Marquis always helped me through my problems. If I was bored or stressed at home, going for a drive and feeling that dependable V8 power always cleared my head. And through emotional turmoil at work, I could always go sit in my car and feel some degree of comfort. That car also helped me to conquer the most difficult period of my life. In the lead-up to my final driving test, I experienced terrible anxiety and hopelessness due to a previous failure. I knew I could drive well, but all I could think was what if I fail? The only things that helped keep the worry far enough away that I could function were my mum’s reassurance, reading the Bible… and driving. My beautiful car made me happy and confident, and remembering how I felt when I was driving it kept me calm enough that I passed my test.
I brought my car into the shop one day, and was telling all the techs how wonderful she was. Although they laughed at the disintegrating fenders, they had to admit that the underbody actually looked very good!
In the last year, I’ve driven assorted Mitsubishis more than I’ve driven the Grand Marquis. I drive other cars too, but out of everything I’ve driven (from full-size pickups to Mitsubishi Evos to Jeeps), nothing is as wonderful as that 15-year-old Marquis. Not many people understand my love for that car– of course, the fad nowadays is for little hatchbacks with irritating exhaust kits and purple lights underneath, etc. etc… and those little cars are probably fun, but so was my car. Although she weighs over two tons, the V8 engine is undeniable. Dressed up Civics may get going faster, but I doubt many people of that scene know what it’s like to drive a big, imposing car with power. When I’m driving around or talking to my friends and coworkers, I don’t feel superior; I just feel like I know something that they don’t. And I keep trying to convert them! It’s a fact that cars like the Grand Marquis are favoured by the elderly, but it’s not well-known that they’re not slow either. There’s a reason that North American police forces have used the Marquis’s cousin, the Ford Crown Victoria, for decades…
The heart of the beast, a 4.6 litre V8 engine with an output of 235 horsepower
Aside from that, these big cars are just my kind of vehicle. They’re very old school; there are few large, comfortable, rear-wheel drive cars anymore. And although they’re affordable and accessible, they’re built along the same lines as my ultimate dream: a Bentley or a Rolls Royce. I know and love everything about the Grand Marquis/Crown Victoria, and that’s thanks to my lovely car. Although not ideal in adverse conditions due to her weight and handling characteristics, the Marquis was great to drive, and I came to enjoy the feeling of driving a boat. And my car was classy and dignified, but she could roar when she got going! I always knew how she would handle and react, and in that respect she never let me down. Whether accelerating onto the highway, cruising on a summer day, or off-roading through a pile of gravel on a country road (I actually had to do that once…), my car would do it. She made me proud. Of course, my coworkers laughed at me the time I gave her a full detail on my day off when her fenders were falling off, but I had so much pride in that vehicle. She still makes me proud.
The shining result after a morning of detailing– this coined the moniker “shiny beauty”
I’m not sure what we’re going to do with the Marquis now. She will probably go to charity for scrap value, which is good but will make me very sad. I have a lot of trouble when things come to an end. But I’m grateful for these six years, because that car helped me to gain confidence and have a lot of fun. I’ll always remember how the passenger door lock stopped working and had to be operated manually from inside– a bit of a pain if it was raining! I’ll remember how much my dog Crumpet loved taking up the entire expanse of the back seat by himself. I’ll remember often taking the long way home from work just so I could cruise and enjoy the car. I didn’t want her life to end so abruptly, but the Marquis and I had a good time together. She was a faithful companion and she served her purpose well.
I always enjoyed working on this car. I helped fix the blower motor when it broke, and I always helped change the tyres and oil as well.
It’s not been easy this past week, but at least I’ve got the memories plus hope for the future. I plan to buy a Crown Victoria of my own within the next few weeks, which is a helpful distraction. And everyone at work has been brilliant to me; I’ve had three people offer to lend me their cars, and in the meantime I’m driving Mitsubishi’s work truck. My work buddy (our craziest mechanic) texted me on Wednesday evening to ask how I was doing and to offer me encouragement… he told me to keep smiling. I’ve really been struck by how kind everyone has been; I felt silly to be so bothered by the death of my car, but they’ve been wonderful. My bosses have also been compassionate. They even let me go home early on Wednesday when I was upset about the Marquis. So although I feel that this is the loss of one friend, I know I have others.
Well, I’m not really a fan of singer-songwriter Neil Young, but to say goodbye to the old girl I’m afraid I have to quote him:
Long may you run, long may you run
Although these changes have come
With your chrome heart shining in the sun
Long may you run.
Despite having limited time due to work over the past ten months, I have still made an effort to keep up blogging; committing to one post per week no matter how stressed or exhausted or busy I may be. However, I must inform you all that you won’t be hearing from me on Keep Calm and Remember for the next month!
This Wednesday is the Christian day of Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. It’s customary to give up some sort of luxury or indulgence during the 40-day period of Lent to show one’s penitence and to bring oneself closer to God; and in the past I have given up such things as coffee or nail polish. But this year, I’ve decided to give up blogging. I did consider giving up coffee again, knowing that that choice would require serious commitment– but I work such early hours sometimes and I do so much driving that I thought giving up the thing which keeps me awake on the road might bring me a bit too close to God, if you catch my meaning!
Therefore, blogging it is– and although this may seem a silly thing to give up, I have my reasons. It’s true that I don’t always feel like writing for Keep Calm and Remember after a Saturday at work when the weekend is nearly over and Monday is already looming, but I feel a compulsion to write anyway. I have a great sense of duty when it comes to certain things, and my sense of guilt when I neglect this duty is much harder to bear than the simple deprivation of something frivolous. So I feel that giving up my blog for a month is the best and most difficult choice; and although it will be tough I know that being around technology a little less will make time for more important relationships.
I will be back posting on March 12, and for the remainder of the Lenten period I pledge to give up tea– which is no mean feat bearing in mind I’m British! I hope that you will all look forward to my return to this blog, and accept my Lenten absence. During Lent, although I’ll be away from the keyboard, my mind won’t be idle; and I’m already planning some (hopefully) brilliant posts for once I’m back. Thank you for your understanding, and if you too are observing Lent, I wish you all the best!