There was a time when Kensington Olympia was the gateway to Devon. All you needed was a nervous driver, a Ford Cortina and a Motorail.
In the summer of 1972 I was taken, by my dad, from our home in Balham to Kensington Olympia – the Motorail terminus. I sat in the back of my uncle’s Ford Cortina as we travelled the 100-yards to board the Motorail. When we parked and my uncle had applied the handbrake I remember thinking that Devon was not all it had been set up to be and the beach smelled of exhaust fumes; there wasn’t a cream tea in sight, either. Having never been to Devon before, it looked suspiciously like West London.
I didn’t have to spend the entire time in the Ford Cortina – my only companion, after my uncle had got out of the now stationary car, was the model dog in the back of the car. Not much conversation, although it did seem to agree with everything I said; it certainly nodded a lot!
I realised, after what had seemed an eternity, that Dawlish was the end destination. Luckily the house where I stayed backed onto the railway line, so it felt, for the entire fortnight, that I was still on the Motorail.
I rarely went on holiday with my dad; but he would visit for the odd day. He made a special effort this holiday to come to Devon as he’d heard Dawlish were playing a Chelsea XI in a pre-season friendly. I subsequently realised my dad was more interested in Marvin Hinton than me. More Marvellous Marvin than Marvellous Micky.
The Motorail no longer runs, probably because Ford Cortinas are no longer that popular. As are nodding dogs.