The young apprentices at Hoovers in Merthyr Tydfil looked on in awe.
They had heard the phrase, ‘necessity was the Mother of all invention’ and this was in fact the ultimate Mother.
Sat in the now empty Pentrebach Factory, that had once employed thousands of local people, was a brand new car- the like of which the World had never seen before.
If the Sinclair C5 Electric trike produced in the 1980’s was to be the saviour of Hoovers- then this new invention was bound to clean up.
It was the brainchild of local man Ian Venter, who had used the discarded scrap parts of old washing machines, tumble driers and vacuum cleaners to create the ultimate ‘Hoovercar’.
The apprentices could not believe their teenage eyes- it was like something from an episode of Futurama.
A vehicle that could hover above ground – just like the vehicle driven by Luke Skywalker on the planet Tatooine in the first Star Wars film – it really was a ‘New Hope’.
A new hope alright to employment in the small but historic, South Wales Valley Town that had been in recession for over two hundred years.
“I don’t believe it!” said local lad Vic Meldrew.
“There is something in the Air!’ expressed open-mouthed Aled Jones Junior- singing out in his dulcet Valley tones.
The car was not surprisingly made up of metal from white goods and had two vacuum hosepipes as the exhaust to filter out the gases.
To limit the effect on the environment, the patent holder, Ian Venter had it linked to a tank of Lenor, which gave it a softness and a freshness that people just couldn’t ignore.
It had a twin tub engine, which was fuelled by a new secret biofuel which Ian Venter didn’t want revealed to the World, unless he was to mysteriously Die Son.
“Does it really float of its own accord?” asked Vic- doubting even more than his mate Thomas standing next to him.
Ian produced to the apprentice a skipping hoop acquired from the local Afon Taf school.
Just like a magician’s assistant, he passed the hoop over the car to show that it was not being held up by invisible wires attached to the Factory ceiling.
“Unbelievable!” said Chris Kamara Junior.
“There is a lot less Bovver with a Hoover!” said Ian proud of his creation.
“When are you going to reveal it to the general public?” asked Thomas sceptically.
“I plan on a big publicity splash soon and seek to recreate the original bet between Ironmaster Crawshay and Richard Trevethick but this time have a sponsored race with an Tesla electric car retracing the original route from the Tramroad at Penydarren to Abercynon- but using the existing road network- I will of course stick to the Taff Trail- so it is a Musk Win for me!” Ian continued.
“Sounds great!” the wide-eyed teenagers felt like they were witnessing an important event in human history.
A vehicle that was not only eco-friendly but might offer one or two of the acne brigade a chance to impress teenage Scandinavian green Viking warrior Greta Thunberg.
“How did you come across the formula for your bio-fuel?” asked Victor.
“My Grandfather was a soldier in the British Army that liberated Berlin in 1945- he came across a famous German Physicist, Otto Von Jizzmark, who had unfortunately just taken a cyanide capsule rather be taken alive by the Red Army- in his laboratory coat pocket was a series of algebraic equations that Gramps had not seen before and which the dead scientist had been testing on a metal bell which apparently floated in the air unsupported- only the Nazi Swastika symbols could he recognise- but when he came home he gave it to Grandmother who kept it safe- it had weird alien spray writing on it too!” continued Ian.
“Do you think it has extra-terrestial origins?” questioned Victor further.
“Either that or my Grandfather found the original ‘Banksy’… Ian replied.
“But first, I need a volunteer pilot to test drive the car!”
All three teenagers shouted ‘Me’ at once.
None of them had full driving licences but both Chris and Vic both had passed their theory driving tests on Glebeland Street and held provisional licences.
Chris had the advantage though, as he was much lighter than Vic and had driven his Father’s milk float around Galon Uchaf on more than one occasion- as his Father needed someone to ride shotgun.
Not to just sit on the front passenger’s seat but also to ward off ‘the Humphries’ or milk thieves that lived near the Frontier Town’s Wild West Trading Post.
The ‘last straw’ for him was watching the Humphries ‘cream’ off all his weekly profits by pinching his ‘white goods and cheeses’ from the back whilst distracting him at the front of the vehicle.
He had got one of them back by reversing over his head whilst he ‘supposedly’ reached under the milk float for his football.
It didn’t kill the young soccer thief but it was very ‘Messi’ and his new triangular shaped head had earned him the nickname ‘Dairy Lee’ locally.
Chris didn’t know it at that juncture but being appointed the first ever test pilot of the Hoover Car would secure his place in history and of course the Guinness Book of Records.
Ian lowered the car to the ground and switched the engine off.
Chris moved quicker than an England Football Fan without a Euro 2020 ticket at Wembley.
As he clambered aboard, Chris was reminded that unlike Princess Diana, he must wear his seatbelt.
Chris looked at the series of dials on the dashboard.
There were red buttons, green ones and amber ones too- but was more scary than the ‘Squid Games’.
“Whatever you don’t press that button with the ‘Red Arrows logo’- or the one emblazoned with the faded words ‘Spin Cycle’….as it turns the car upside-down’ and is only to be used on an official fly past above the Queen of England!”
“Press the circular one to start the engine!” instructed Ian.
“The one marked ‘Up’ is what you press very slowly…if you press it too hard you would shoot up like a Harrier Jump Jet and will be crushed by the asbestos ceiling tiles!” the creator explained.
Chris did as he was told and raised the car three feet up off the factory floor.
All he could manage to utter was the word ‘cool’.
He hovered there suspended in mid-air like a fart in a vacuum.
Whereas he was in fact a fart in a different kind of vacuum.
His pals looked jealously on at the chosen one.
“What is its top speed? Shouted Chris from mid-air of the designer.
“Don’t know yet!” Ian replied.. but I have the ideal test track on the former Hoover’s cricket pitch..I should be able to discover its ‘run rate’ then easily!” he continued.
Schrodinger’s Chris was encouraged to return to Earth and landed like an expert.
“When is the test scheduled for?” he asked excitedly.
“Saturday, so be there promptly for 7am, I don’t want too many of the HGV lorry drivers to see my invention as they should all be stuck in Dover post-Brexit by then!” Ian declared laughing.
The students went home each fantasising about joining the Mile High Club with the young Thunberg for ‘Swede Dreams’.
When Saturday came, Chris was dressed to impress his Teacher.
Dressed in a Second World War jump suit obtained from the Army & Navy Stores bearing the word ‘Stig’ written in Sharpie Black pen on the top he stood with his Uncle’s Helmet ‘borrowed’ from his Vespa Scooter.
In his eyes he felt he was wearing ‘Top Gear’, whereas in fact to all and sundry he looked like a complete pillock, as he ambled down Pentrebach Road past the long red-brick building.
Ian was waiting for him as he entered the ‘Field of Dreams’.
As a child Chris had not been breast-fed but raised on Formula One and felt that this race was his destiny.
His shot to be the new Lewis Hamilton and move all his assets and domicile to Switzerland- where he would live the good life in the land of milk and honey surviving on Milka bars & Toblerones to keep his big race energy up between Groupies.
Chris climbed into the cockpit feeling just like Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder or Steve McQueen in Le Mans.
He was familiar with the controls and upon the lowering of the chequered flag by Ian, he set off in a clockwise circular direction around the field.
His trusty steed handled like a dream.
He felt cocksure with the arrogance that comes with youth that he could beat any mortal in a fair race.
Even a Tesla.
The Morning of the promotional race came around and Chris was sat in his prototype whilst he had learned that his rival was Malcolm Campbell Junior, Junior, from Pendine Sands Carmathenshire- a very religious driver who had christened his Tesla ‘Sunbeam’ in the hope of getting approval from his big boss upstairs.
As everyone knows Jesus loves a Sunbeam.
He genuflected before putting on his helmet, clutching the steering wheel theatrically and revving his silent engine, just like Marcel Marceau would have done.
Chris started to get nervous- looking at the model of Trevithick’s Engine in Pontmorlais he said a silent prayer of his own but given his green credentials to the Greek Earth Goddess Gaia.
The race was on.
Whilst the Tesla sped away silently like a chapel fart, it soon becoming entrenched in Merthyr Town Centre’s demonic one-way traffic system which must have designed by Chris Rea.
Malcolm Campbell didn’t like having to stop at the Pontmorlais ‘Circus’ zebra crossing as high above his head was the red-and yellow brick former Young Man’s Christian Association building once listed now just listing and looking like it could collapse at any moment.
Even the pigeons that roosted there would confirm that it was no longer ‘fun to stay at the YMCA’.
On the other hand, being much narrower and more flexible, the Hoovercar could use all the escape lanes known only to local taxi drivers and car thieves to get ahead as it sped down the Tramroad behind the Red House, Old Town Hall, whilst the Tesla was still log-jammed at the top of Town.
As it sped along, Chris suddenly realised what the environmental benefits the Hoovercar could bring to South Wales.
As it went along it sucked up all the discarded fly-tipped plastic bottles and containers and used them to burn away the air miles.
It was a real shame that Erin Brockovich wasn’t present, as the plastic fumes from the twin tub exhaust filtered upwards and started the fill the hole in the ozone layer as it solidified.
Used discarded syringes were no trouble for the Hoovercar, in fact they gave Chris’ vehicle an ‘injection’ of pace and left the Sunbeam ‘Chasing the Dragon-Park Silver Machine’
Sweeping and cleaning as it went, it would have saved the Council a fortune in street cleansing- if only they hadn’t stopped street cleansing due to austerity measures five years before.
Flying across the junction markings without stopping, just like the average Audi driver, Chris sailed on passed the temporary car park at Tesco that has been up for over two decades.
Using the pavements and side alleys he flew on without impediment as he made much swifter progress than the conventional cars gridlocked and frustrated by streets and lanes designed for horses and carts.
Being faithful to the route taken a few centuries back in Victorian Times, he was cheered on by a time-travelling member of the Conservative Party replete in Top Hat, tails and pin stripe trousers all laid out for the Right Honourable Member for Somerset North by his Nanny that Morning.
He made good time whilst his race rival was trapped in the Wacky Races behind the Merthyr Tydfil version of Penelope Pitstop, busy putting on her make-up in the rear-view mirror.
Sounding his steering wheel horn, Campbell received a dirty look that would have put Medusa the Gorgon to shame.
Chris had now reached the Rhydycar zebra crossing and floated across the road, narrowly dodging myopic pensioners who only passed their tests when accompanied by a leading man with a white flag and cyclists from the Taff Trail who refuse to dismount or slow down.
Complete cycle paths the lot of them.
As he passed over the River Taff, he admired the number of migratory supermarket trollies caught up in the torrent, that hadn’t yet reached the Merthyr salvage yards in Penygarnddu.
Now on the Taff Trail behind the Rhydycar Leisure & Swimming Pool which sadly had built too small to host Olympic Competition, he began to become worried that he would run low on fuel but fortunately there was plenty of nitrogen and methane available thanks to irresponsible dog owners in the form of discarded dog-shit.
Chris had once thought that dogs were dumb animals but realised that he had never ever witnessed a dog stepping in human shit.
His machine, originally modelled on the Sinclair Trike, had a top speed of 20mph and floating above the tarmac he didn’t need to worry about lumps or bumps unlike the Tesla, who had to negotiate the surface roads with less tarmac than the ones in Kiev during the Russian Invasion.
Malcolm Campbell loved a challenge but driving on these Valley roads left him shaking more than Billy Connolly coming back from a wanking contest.
Unfortunately, his progress was also hampered by the knock- on effect of roadworks on the A465(T), the A4060 slip road, the A4102 at Jackson’s Bridge in Georgetown and the A470 (T).
He couldn’t understand why all works were scheduled for the same date- especially on the day of the exhibition race.
The effect was total gridlock on streets designed for horses and carts with only fools and horses driving them.
Even the speed camera van had given up the ghost – there would be no soft motorist targets with cars moving less than 10MPH.
Malcolm Campbell was however, very competitive and even more resourceful.
As new laws had been brought in banning the use of handheld mobile phone devices in moving vehicles- he realised that there was still a loophole in the law, sat in his log-jammed car he googled the sound of an ambulance siren and set his phone to the loudest noise setting.
He knew in a lawless Town like Merthyr Tydfil it was no good calling up a Police Siren, as it was an everyday sound and no-one would voluntarily pullover to assist the Cuntstabulary in the lawful execution of their duty.
He would now drive like he did on Gran Turismo, forcing vehicles off the road in a fraudulent ‘Dai- version’
Using this technique, he soon reached the ‘A470’ at the Trago Mills roundabout glancing up at the grey towers of Merthyr’s version of Cinderella’s Palace.
He was now able to start making ground on the Hoovercar, which was now speeding down the Taff Trail, passed Upper Abercanaid- with hums and arias, as it nodded in the direction of its birth place and the land of its Father.
The Hoovercar was now low on fuel as a local charity ‘Bags under your Ayes’ had been busy clearing the illegally dumped plastic containers, beer cans and soft drink cans tipped merrily down the side of the embankments of the Taff Trail by a local publican enraged at the cost of commercial waste collection by the Local Authority.
The Gethin Woods now looked like it was sponsored by Pepsi to the Max and of course Red Bull.
The Charity collection organised by a group of local politicians to assist with a donation to the MP’s ‘Commoners’ bar at Westminster.
After all, the cost of living crisis meant that the price of alcohol had risen, together with sharp fuel cost rises and with a mere 15% increase on their salaries some MP’s were struggling to heat their stables effectively.
The Hoovercar began to chug and splutter like Boris Johnson at the dispatch box, as the rubbish began to run out.
Chris scanned the immediate location and suddenly struck gold as a local fly by night removal company had tipped a load of unwanted items previously destined for the Antiques Roadshow which had been looted years ago from Cyfarthfa Castle archives.
A signed first edition copy of Charles Darwin’s book the Origin of the Species – previously thought to be a study on the finches of the Galapagos Islands- but was actually about the building of the houses in the Gurnos and the Council policy about bringing up the standard of the poorest by rehousing gypsies and battered wives amongst the managers of the Imperial Chemical Institute (ICI) and their Stepford Wives.
Next came, Lord Nelson’s telescope and eyepatch last used in the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar.
Then to boost the fuel was fed the handwritten missing ending for Charles Dickens’ the Mystery of Edwin Drood together with the ostrich feather used to pen the same.
Dozens of stuffed animals-a taxidermists’ nightmare- ‘stuffed’ into the fuel tank as the Hoovercar regained the initiative on the Tesla.
The Taff Trail ended and the two vehicles came side to side on the Cynon Valley Road as the Mountain Ash Dash intensified.
Who would cross the finish line first?
Rounding the bend serving the Mountain Ash Rugby Club the rivals suddenly realised that there were pedestrians in the road ahead.
Joe Rassic-Park had a chip on his shoulder.
His Mother had in the 1960’s, whilst pregnant, taken a drug to ease her morning sickness and as a result he had been born with two tiny arms but oversized hands.
He looked like a cross between Kenny Everett character Brother Lee Love and a tyrannosaurus rex.
Today, he had a chip on his shoulder principally because that was the only way he could eat his food.
The environmentalist and green campaigner had tried to make a difference all his life raging against Big Pharma and the Multi-National Corporations that were destroying our Planet with their plastic pollution, car fumes and engineered wars.
This is why at the age of Sixty, he had joined the protest group Insulate Britain to become a cool cat.
Money was no longer of any concern to him following his early retirement – as he had just discovered that his occupational pension pot was empty after being looted by the Trustees, and who were now based in the Cayman Islands- so angry that he had just decided his moral crusade was justified for the next generations of children that regional and National Governments were failing.
Despite having a small amount of money, he was in fact insolvent.
Stuck to the tarmac road by his face, he refused to move as he lay right eyelid glued to the road surface of the A4059 Mountain Ash Road.
If only inventor Percy Shaw could see the alternative cat’s eye stuck in the middle of the highway.
Little did Joe realise that today like suffragette Emily Davison, he would literally die for his cause.
The glass of water perched next to him to ease his dehydration began to ripple.
Something big was coming his way- he couldn’t hear it but he could sense it.
Since the introduction of electric vehicles and their silent running, pensioner deaths had trebled.
The Government’s master plan of Covid Herd immunity had saved the Non-Dom Chancellor of the Exchequer at Westminster a fortune in pension pay- outs so much so he could afford tax cuts for the Times Newspaper ‘Richi’ List.
It was now onto the next phase of the cull of the surplus population, the roll-out of fully driverless cars and smart (no- hard shoulder) motorways.
The planned reduction of the number of cars on our roads by lethal but legal means.
Malcolm Campbell’s silent machine of death had already left a trail of dead hedgehogs in its wake.
The poor creatures had merely stepped out from their Chris Packham Springwatch nature-built apartments to meet with their friends for a short time but instead ended up visiting their ‘flat’ mates.
Now it was the turn of the ‘Swampy’ pensioner to fill the potholes.
The Tesla ploughed into the OAP shocking him than a monkey in a test laboratory experiment.
Never mind being tasered by the Met Police- being Tesla’d was much worse.
Chris in the Hoovercar just floated over the human roadblock and crossed the winning line to the sound of a loud cheer from his sponsor- Ian Ventor.
In triumph however, Chris made one fatal mistake.
Glancing back over his shoulder and giving his rival the bird, being a youngster he took his other hand off the wheel for a mobile phone selfie to upload to Instagram and just like 1970’s T-Rex frontman, Mark Bolan ploughed straight into a Mountain Ash tree the village was named after.
That too was to be his biggest ‘hit’.
His car burst into a ball of flame at the edge of the Taff Trail.
To the horror of Ian Ventor, the plastic prototype melted quicker than a Kardashian standing too close to an open fire.
Chris had become a Trail blazer indeed.