by Mercedes Kemp
played by Rebecca Hulbert / Seren Evans
. . . .
I am Arminel, daughter of the Prouts of Launceston, engineers and purveyors of motorcars for the people of Cornwall. I was born in 1904. But I was REALLY born when I got my driving licence in 1921. Seventeen and licensed to drive! Some say that when I was born my father touched my forehead leaving a motor oil mark, giving me the gift of the love of speed, and engines, and a mind of my own.
I remember myself best in my girlhood. My brother Reggie and me. (We called ourselves a couple of toughs). On the train to Birmingham to buy a couple of lorry chassis and engines to bring back for dad to do up. We strapped a kitchen chair to each frame and raced each other all the way back home. I learned to tinker with engines with Reggie and dad. We were young and life was fast. Motoring trips to the beach with our chums. Wearing racy bathers and swimming against the tide.
There is a photograph. There I am. In my Jantzen costume and my bathing hat, draped on the waterline. One hand shading my eyes, the other holding a cigarette. And there he is: Morris Powell. Looking young and a little wild. A shock of dark hair falling over his eyes. His heavy lidded eyes, half-closed against the smoke drifting from the cigarette which dangles from his mouth. He looks like a film star. I remember thinking: “You are the man for me.”
So we marry. Morris and Arminel. Young, fashionable, rich. We go fishing, shooting, hunting. And partying. Always partying. We motor around the country. Shopping, theatre, cinema. Cocktails and dinner and dancing. When I am 25 my baby girl is born between a hunting party and a fishing trip. Just a note in my diary: “Baby arrived 10.10 am. Baby and self doing well.”
And we will do well. When Morris leaves some months later. When I become a divorcee. When I am shunned by my own brother. Reggie, oh Reggie, don’t you remember our racing days? My girlhood is over. I am in charge of my own and my daughter’s destiny.
The time comes for war. We live in Plympton. The bombs keep falling. I am on fire duty. Sometimes the planes will fly so low that I can see the pilot’s face, grinning as he flies by, dropping a cargo of death. One day when I return home I find my house on fire. It is enough. My daughter returns to Launceston to the family home. (Where Reggie, my lost brother, will soften, and take her in).
I know what I’m good at. I join the Women’s Transport Corps.
I am driver and mechanic. I can fix anything. I drive tank transports, trucks, motorcycles, often at night and without lights. One time at Harrogate I drive my motorbike along the balustrade of the Majestic Hotel. I drive limousines. Criss-cross the country ferrying great men about their wartime business. And once to Buckingham Palace to see the King. I loved the war. I loved the freedom.
When it’s over I have to build a life back in Cornwall. I am resourceful. I make my business as a publican. I am fond of a party AND I can manage men. My daughter. My only daughter has six babes of her own. I have granddaughters. To them I give this advice:
Don’t tie yourself to any man. Tie two to each end of a piece of string and reel them in like fish. Line the stomach with a pint of milk in order to go drinking and be fit for duty in the morning. This is my legacy.
. . . .
Postscript: Arminel Powell spend her last years here in Redruth, at Pendriggy, where she taught four of her six grandchildren to drive. They all passed first time.
. . . .
Arminel Powell (1904 – 1979)
GRAVE LOCATION 11