The Serendipity of the Seven – from Corsham to Tokyo via Moscow

Christopher Blakey, a retired school teacher, enjoys a full life as a house husband and father in Corsham. Chris will admit, however, that he is an inveterate handyman and always needs to have a project to focus on. This, his most recent project, came about partly through a chance encounter with a visitor to Corsham outside St Bartholomew’s Church. This is his story about the chain of events that took him from Corsham to Tokyo via Russia.

As a dutiful house-husband and dad, it is one of my tasks to prepare supper for my wife and son when they return home at the end of a day.

We hadn’t long moved to our new Corsham home and I had already heard that Haynes the butchers in the High Street was a superb place to shop. At that time, I wasn’t aware of the then parking costs needed in the town centre, so I tripped off in my Austin 7 merrily unaware of the impending issue of not having any change to pay for parking! Once I was there and fully aware of my predicament, I was left with little option other than to drive round to try to find a vacant free space somewhere close to the High Street. I eventually found a spot close to St Bartholomew’s Church.

It is probably at this point that I should introduce my car, the heroine of both my story and the subsequent epic adventure. Her name, following her global trip is Babushka but, prior to the trip, she was simply known as BBM 57. She had already had an interesting past by the time I was lucky enough to buy her. She was originally built as a standard 1937 Austin Seven. Over the many years, like all good old things, though, she has had to undergo a few modifications and adaptations, but at core, she is still an original Austin 7. During her time, she has helped to promote ownership and use of Austin Sevens to newer and, hopefully, younger audiences and she had, for the two years before our road trip, played a role in the
“Celebrate the Seven” project which saw her in car shows, various museums and rugby clubs.

Chris with his wife, Helen, and Arthur, their son, receive a Corsham bon voyage.
Chris with his wife, Helen, and Arthur, their son, receive a Corsham bon voyage

On my return to the car, after shopping and having a very pleasant look around St Bart’s, I found a gentleman in a black leather jacket standing by my car. He was particularly interested in finding out why it had a Russian flag on the side of it. I explained to him about my project to drive to the World Rugby Cup in Tokyo via Russia. After a long chat about the car and the project, I discovered that the visitor was called Ilya and was originally from Russia. At that point, he noticed the time and was concerned that he would miss his bus back to Bath. The car and I leapt into action and we managed to get him on his bus in time. It was a small friendly act, that paid huge dividends.

Over the next year, Ilya, who now lives in the US, took it upon himself to get in touch with a number of his friends and contacts across Russia, who in-turn, got in contact with me: all with offers of support. How lucky!
One highlight of meeting up again with Ilya, this time in Moscow, was a chance to enter the classic car rally from Red Square where, the newly named, Babushka, was awarded with 007 as the car’s start number.

So, to cut a long story (not to mention a long journey) short, that one chance meeting: a small piece of incredible serendipity outside St Bart’s Church ensured that Corsham played an integral part in the success of an amazing journey and for helping me to forge some lasting friendships around the world. And all because I needed some sausages from Haynes the butchers and I didn’t have any change for the carpark!

We never know what might come from a chance encounter!

Chris Blakey

by | Jan 4, 2021 | Archive