Drive of my Life

Paul Hough of Whirlow with the rebuilt 1955  Porsche 356 Continental, the car in which he and his nephew nearly lost their lives
Paul Hough of Whirlow with the rebuilt 1955 Porsche 356 Continental, the car in which he and his nephew nearly lost their lives
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Paul Hough reckons he has spent virtually the whole of his working life as senior partner and auctioneer with property specialists Mark Jenkinson and Son, the Norfolk Row firm which has been part of the Sheffield scene since 1877.

“These days I’m a consultant, which means I go to the sales and shake hands with people. I can’t do any more as it would get in the way of holidays!” he says.

Paul is the first member of our business community to regale readers with the story of his most memorable road trip:

“I consider myself to be very fortunate. I love travelling and have done quite a lot of it by bicycle and classic car.

Memorable car journeys are many; like the time I had to drive our daughter to hospital while she was in the throws of labour - a short but frantic snowy night drive from Whirlow to the Jessops. Our second grandchild was well on his way and one of the many skills I’m short of is midwifery. I had an elderly Volvo 4wd estate. Car and daughter were panting in unison when we got there, while I was about half a bar behind.

My architect nephew Alistair Haxton and I survived a horrible crash when competing in the Rally Des Alpes in France a few years ago. We were in a 1955 Porsche 356 cabriolet I had in those days. A careless farmer turned his tractor left while economising on the use of indicators. We were overtaking him on an empty road. The hospital was brilliant, the police were useless and the car was wrecked, but rebuilt later.

Our daughter has inherited the travel bug gene and for years has lived in exciting places around the world, giving me great visiting rights.

She once lived in The Gambia, West Africa, and I got to visit that fascinating country a few times. I wanted to be Michael Palin and so I journeyed up country to Tumani Tenda to meet the village chief, the impressive Sulimen Sonko.

Bakary, my taxi driver, visited me the night before to get advance payment for the petrol to fuel his old Peugot 404, which was sagging a little and was painted various lurid shades.

About 90 per cent of Gambians are Muslim, and the rest are Christian. You can tell which is which. The Christian families mainly use apostle’s names. Bakary is Muslim, and our relationship was clearly strengthened when I said I was happy for him to stop on the journey to pray. He did so, including the ceremonial washing. Progress was slow in burning heat on dust roads with pot holes bigger than the car.

In Tumani Tenda I stayed in a small hut with a frond roof. Sulimen showed me where to find the loo, and warned me to carry a torch at night as snakes lay on the warm paths and would bite if trodden on.

The villagers live by growing rice and fishing the River Gambia. I joined them early one morning in a dug-out canoe. Later, a group of Germans trekking through the bush came into the village and invited me to join them for a swim. Sulimen assured me that the river was salt water and that Gambian crocodiles were only inclined to fresh. I didn’t want to appear nesh in front of the Germans, but it was a scary swim. I didn’t fancy meeting the first croc to develop a taste for salt.

The Germans left after lunch. I sat around for a while and then decided to take a walk in the bush. I called on Sulimen in case he advised against it, but he was swinging gently in a hammock and snoring loudly. I wandered off, noting my return route by the shape of a tree or an anthill. Two or three hours later I realised that all the trees looked the same and that there were loads of anthills. Darkness falls very quickly in Africa, and biting insects come out to play... And could there be snakes on the paths already?

I was saved by the sole of my shoes. I noticed in the dusty paths the distinct pattern of my trainers, and realised that I only had to follow my tracks. I eventually strolled into the village looking pretty cool in a sweaty sort of way, but feeling very relieved to be back.

I often wondered if Bakary had a word with his God when he stopped to pray on that taxi journey - just to make sure the Englishman came to no harm...”

* Tell us about the drive of your life. To feature on this page, email your 700-word story to jo.davison@thestar.co.uk