The night before the Run, I went down to the hotel
bar for some dinner.
There were perhaps ten or fifteen people in the tiny room,
and you can imagine my astonishment as I noticed that a number of gentlemen
present were wearing blazers bearing the insignia of the Veteran Car Club.
The power of this coincidence was far too much for even my
deeply-ingrained reticence to bear. I tapped the gentleman standing closest to
me on the shoulder and asked him if he had a car in the Run.
This was Clive Hawley. Precisely the right person to tap.
We Americans harbor all sorts of stereotypes about the
British. We believe that residents of the UK are, generally speaking, more
intelligent, more compassionate, more kindhearted, and more genuine… than your
average resident of the US.
Where did we ever get a goofy idea like that?
I'll tell you where… I'm guessing it all started with
Clive Hawley. I'm sure it would be wrong to think that everyone you bump
into in England would be like Clive… but it would certainly be nice to
Clive responded that yes, he did have a car in the Run, and
asked me if I had an interest in the Run. I responded that, in fact, I'd flown
over to see the Run.
Now, thousands upon thousands of people make it a point to
turn out for the London-to-Brighton Run each year. They line the roadways,
applaud the cars and their drivers, take pictures, shoot videotapes… and host
barbeques, parties and car meets all along the route. So the fact that I was in
London to see the Run was thoroughly unremarkable.
But seemingly not to Clive, who called out to his group,
announcing to them that I'd come "all the way from America just to see the
Run." I was introduced to Clive's wife Maureen, to his son, Clive Jr., to
Anthony Roberts, to David Potts. These were the people with the cars; these were
the drivers and navigators; these were the stars of the show. Their interest in
me - after all, just a spectator - seemed incredible but genuine.