Although we are a long way from Pesach, I decided that a good clean out of overflowing cupboards was needed. Amongst the accumulated junk, I found a CD, its faded label just readable – La Dolce Vita by Federico Fellini.
For my younger readers, I should explain that a CD (Compact Disc) was an ancient technology using a disc to store data music and videos. It started life in 1982 but has been replaced by new formats such as MP3 that can easily be distributed over the Internet and played on very small devices.
I would have liked to watch La Dolce Vita but, alas, I had no way to play the CD disk. Even my desktop PC will only accept a disc-on-key. If I wanted to play my CD, I would need a Rosetta Stone. Turning, instead, to the internet, I found no shortage of articles about the film. But what grabbed my attention were the pictures of Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni driving through Rome in a British sports car – my Triumph TR3.
Well, it wasn’t actually my TR3. I had the improved Triumph TR3A with a massive 2-litre engine giving 100 bhp, that’s almost the same horsepower as today’s 1.5-litre Hyundai Getz. The gearbox was manual, but had overdrive with the flick of a switch. As a true British sports car, it was a convertible with a canvas roof. I didn’t have a lot of use for the open-to-the-skies option, global warming had not yet reached London and cold, wet and windy was the order of the day. It had, in Triumph’s own words, an “occasional rear seat”. Even in those days, when the English were still slim and healthy, rare indeed were the occasions when a passenger could be persuaded to use this glorified back shelf.
All thoughts of Fellini forgotten. I found myself back in 1967. My TR3A was 10 years old and rusting nicely, its British Racing Green looking a bit brown, but the Jewish nation’s star was shining brightly. Against all odds, and the experts’ predictions, David Israel had beaten Goliath Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. There was, of course, no mention of the Palestinians; they had not yet been invented. Proud of “my” country’s achievements, I taped a small Blue and White flag to my car’s wing mirror. I was met with enthusiastic waves of support. Today, my car would be scratched, the flag thrown to the ground, and an invitation to the International Criminal Court tucked under the windscreen wiper.
But many things have changed since those long-lost days.
Then: In La Dolce Vita, one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time, the car typified an Italy where life was good, full of pleasure and indulgence.
Now: The Italian government has passed new controversial measures to curb immigration. Italians worry about the impact of immigration on their country as they see the large numbers washing up on their shores. In the last few years, huge numbers of migrants from sub-Saharan African and Bangladesh have made their way to Italy. For many Italians La Vita is no longer Dolce.
Then: In Britain, Sterling was a currency to be proud of. I paid £185 for my secondhand TR3A. If I had been using my secret fund of US Dollars, I would have needed $520.
Now: just $225 would be enough. My London house had a garage to park my precious TR3A. I paid, with some help from the mortgage company, £6,000. Unfortunately, I sold my house when I made alyia in 1970; it’s now worth more than a million pounds.
1967 was not a good year for British drivers. Although my TR3A could manage a little over 100 mph, the newly introduced 70 mph limit took away much of the fun of driving on England’s winding roads. And, until 1967, you could drink as much as you liked, as long as you could stand on one leg, and touch your nose with your thumb, when stopped by an inquisitive policeman. The introduction of the Breathalyzer put a stop to that.
Snuggled comfortably in my TR3A’s bucket seat, I had many a heart-stopping moment as I accelerated round blind corners and overtook ordinary mortals on Britain’s three-lane roads (one lane up, one lane down, and the middle lane up for grabs). But I was not worried; in 1967 Dr. Christiaan Barnard had just carried out the first successful human-to-human heart transplant in the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. If the old one stopped working, just get a new one.
My TR3A had a radio; not a standard accessory back in 1967. I was able to listen to an eerie echo of the great Brexit debate when the territory of Gibraltar held a referendum on whether or not to stay with Great Britain or join Spain. Unlike Brexit, an overwhelming majority of the citizens of Gibraltar voted in favour of keeping British sovereignty with 99% in favour and a 95% voter turnout.
My last meeting with a TR did not go well. On a visit to France last year, I chanced upon a vintage car rally. I fell into conversation with the owner of a beautifully restored TR, in showroom condition. I was about to ask if I might sit in the driver’s seat, for old time’s sake, when I realised that I would have to lower myself almost to the road level and twist my body into the seat with my legs under the low-slung steering wheel. I might have been able to get in but there was no way I would be able to get out again. It was clear that I am no longer in showroom condition!
When it comes to priorities, I have to go for matter (my body) over mind (my memories).