I saw a 1985 Mercedes SE 380 advertised in the classified ads of the local paper and called the number. I was more curious than anything. A ton and a half of no-expense-spared German engineering, powered by an aircraft engine, and all for the price of a top-spec iPad. You don’t see many 380s on the road these days and what’s more the advert said there was no rust. It was at least worth a phone call.
The number given was a misprint, however. An amused woman in Huddersfield said I was the third person that morning to have rung up about a Mercedes. I rang the advertising department of the paper and the woman there said I was the fifth person to have rung about that particular ad and she had the correct number right there on a piece of paper in front of her. I rang that number but the advertiser was out, so I left a message. And then I forgot all about it.
Three days later I was down at the park, pushing my grandson on the swings, when the advertiser called me back. ‘Mr Clarke?’ he said. ‘You rang me up about the Mercedes?’ The voice was quavering and high-pitched; the accent a survival of the broad agricultural dialect-laden south Devon accent — also increasingly rare. Back in my trench-digging days I was often comfortably surrounded by them and I warmed to it immediately.
In the background I could hear a lot of dogs barking. ‘Sounds like you’ve got several dogs there,’ I said. ‘’Tis the ’ounds speakin’,’ he said. ‘I’m out with the ’unt, cub ’untin’.’