Hitching a ride with Rachael Heyhoe Flint OBE
The name Rachael Heyhoe Flint will always be associated with women’s cricket in England – she’s the most famous female cricketer these shores have ever produced. Born in 1939, Rachael made her Test debut in 1960 and went on to represent her country for an incredible 22 years. For 12 of these years she was captain; leading England to victory when the Women’s Cricket World Cup was held for the first time in 1973 and skippering the first England ladies’ team to play at Lords, three years’ later.
In 2001 she was made president of The Lady Taverners charity which has raised millions of pounds to support young people with special needs by providing sports facilities and adapted mini buses.
She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours.
Since retiring from cricket, Rachael has been a sports journalist, author and a businesswoman. Apart from tirelessly helping to raise millions of pounds for charity, she is an after-dinner speaker, a Public Relations and Sports Marketing Consultant and vice president of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club.
She was made a peer in January 2011 and is now Baroness Heyhoe Flint OBE.
In April 2011, Rachael was honoured at being given the freedom of the city of Wolverhampton.
“I just feel it is essential to always ‘thank’ someone who has shown courtesy e.g. someone who has held a door open for you. I detest rude, bombastic people. I think a little bit of courtesy in the world goes a long way and the movement should get more national recognition”.
How long have you been driving?
I’ve been driving since I was 17.
Who taught you to drive?
It was a combination of proper driving lessons and my father who was a very patient man!
Did you pass your driving test on the first attempt?
No, I failed the first time because I was extremely nervous. Stupidly I wore thong sandals and when it came to the emergency stop, the thong strap got caught up in the back of the brake pedal! Although I failed, I was awarded full marks for swearing!
What was your first car?
My first mode of transport were Vespa and Lambretta scooters as my brother was nutty on motorbikes. My first car was a brand new grey mini van. In those days, if a car didn’t have side windows at the back, it was classed as a commercial vehicle and cheaper to buy. I was teaching netball and was able to cram in the whole team. There were six in the back with me and the captain in the front!
What car do you currently drive?
I have a Volvo D60 estate.
The former owner of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, Sir Jack Hayward, is known as a great British patriot. Apart from financing the first ever women’s cricket World Cup, he immersed himself in major projects such as savingLundyIsland, restoring SS Great Britain and the Vulcan Bomber. As Vice president of the club, I worked closely with him and discovered that he would not ‘be driven’ or even ‘sit’ in any ‘foreign made’ car. Although Volvo’s are inextricably Swedish, Sir Jack also had a soft spot for any country who helped Britain during the war and therefore was happy for me to have a Volvo.
I went through a phase of sportier cars after the mini and owned cars like an MG Midget, Austin Healy Sprite, MGB GT, Reliant, Triumph Stag and the Jaguar XJS. I even had a Ford Mustang once.
Have you had a favourite car?
The Jaguar XJS, it was a dream realised, in fact I’ve had 2. These were gorgeous cars but quickly became impractical. I was playing a lot of golf at the time and having to carry around ever increasing amounts of assorted junk. So I started to drive more comfy, practical cars like the Vauxhall Royal and Rover 75.
Who keeps your car clean?
I do – but it’s called Sainsbury’s Car Wash!
What would be your dream car?
I sometimes still hanker after a Jaguar and would probably go for the sportier model like the XKR.
Do you have a personalised number plate?
Although my car does have a personalised number plate ‘H8 Hoe’, it belongs to my son Ben. We bought it for his 21st Birthday. He in his 30’s now and works out in Singapore. Rather than have it on a retention certificate we’ve simply registered it to my car.
What would we find in your glove box?
Assorted, unopened instruction manuals. Whenever we buy electrical equipment like a TV etc., no-one ever reads the instructions. I also keep a duplicate cosmetics bag because I’m always forgetting vital necessities for ”us girls” when I drive to London for Parliamentary duties!
Can you pick out a memorable car journey and say why it was so?
A few years ago we flew toBarcelona, hired a car and drove down to La Manga. It took us over 6 hours in a little Fiat Panda, I don’t why but it was a pleasant journey that has stuck in my mind.
What do you like to listen to in the car?
Test Match Special and Radio 5 Live. When I’m driving home late at night and there’s nothing particularly sporting on then, I’ll switch to either comedy on Radio 4 or Classic FM….and turn the volume up very loud!
Who would you most like to have as a passenger on a long journey?
Margaret Thatcher. She probably wouldn’t get lost as I often do!
Who would you least like to have as a passenger?
Diego Maradona. I’ve never forgiven him for cheating against England in the World Cup for that unpenalised ‘Hand of God’ incident!
Have you ever experienced a car breakdown away from home and what was the outcome?
I was driving along the M5 in my Jaguar XJS to attend a speech day at Malvern Girls College. Suddenly my windscreen was covered in oil, a head gasket had blown. It was pouring with rain and I was wearing my posh frock and best shoes. I arrived rather late and as I got up to speak, I looked down at myself and to my horror noticed I was covered in mud and oil. To this day I wonder what the parents must of thought of the guest speaker arriving in that dreadful state.
How would you describe your driving ability?
I drive over 20,000 miles each year and think I’m pretty adept. As a member of the ‘polite society’ I try not to flash my lights quite so much at inconsiderate drivers.
What things annoy you about other drivers?
Lack of respect or saying ‘thank you’ after you’ve let someone out from a side road. I would also love to have a curtain in the rear window of my car that I could raise with assorted phrases such as ‘Get Back’…or words to that effect!!!
If you were Roads Minister for a day what would you change?
I’m not entirely convinced bus lanes are as effective as they’re made out to be. I’d probably remove them for a period of say, 6 months and if I’m proved wrong then I’d happily re-instate them. I’d also recommend HGV’s can only travel between 7.00pm to 7.00am. I’m not too keen on ‘bendy buses’ either!
Could you manage your life without a car?
No. Now that I’m in the House of Lords, I stay inLondonon average 3 days a week. The amount of reading material I have to carry along with my laptop and brief case, travelling by train and tube would be very uncomfortable. On the occasions the House of Lords sits very late into the evening or I’m attending a function sometimes till past midnight, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to travel back toWolverhamptonwithout a car.
What is your top driving tip?
Concentration, Consideration and Confidence.
How clean is your licence?
Not very! I have 6 points all for ‘minor’ speeding offences.