The Right Wrong Right Side Of The Road

Which side of the road do you drive on where you live? if you’re in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaya, Siam, South India, North India, East North India, South Africa, Rhodesia, and Japan, you drive on the left hand side of the road. If you are elsewhere you drive on the right.

The chief need, whether on left or right, is to do it well. With dignity. With foresight. With accuracy. All concepts that I am desperate to introduce to the residents of our street.

We are a mixed lot here in Dreyer Way, and generally benefit from it. All races, all nationalities, all ages. We do not hold wild parties and we keep our lawns mowed. We do not break into each other’s houses. We pick up litter after bin night. But we also do not know how to park in the street to save our lives. If we do not learn, some of us will risk losing them.

The convention in Western Australia – at one time enforced by the police – was that you had to park your car as close to the curb as practicable. It had to be in a place that did not obstruct other road users or the driveways and pathways that served the street. The car had to be parked on the left of the street. This seems to have changed.

On days that see tradesmen working in the street – house repairers or lawn mowing men, etc. there is no problem – they follow the old rules and you can navigate around them as you go along. They are never loud or unruly and do not speed in the street. They may be different when they get out on the open highway, but at least they are exemplary here. The residents, however, have taken to parking every which way on both sides of the street – even when their own driveways are unoccupied. Their travelling guests follow suit, and often will stop opposite a car that is properly parked on the left hand side. This narrows the street’s passageway to door-wrenching size.

Please note that our house is base to four cars – Two big ones, one medium-sized sporter, and my little Suzuki. We park on our own drive and lawn and do not encumber the rest of the way.

The bottleneck is next door, and I am starting to think that there might have to be some creative thinking to solve it. I do not want to make enemies of the neighbours but I also do not want be barricaded into my yard. It might be too much to hope that a Sherman tank with a mine plow will come down the street and shove the Mazdas aside, but I may have to resort to driving over the next door’s council nature strip to bypass their visitor’s bus. Perhaps the council garbage truck will loosen their doors a little at about 5:00 AM. I’ll listen out…

Note: Apparently they also drive on the left side of the road in England, North England, West England, and Even Further West England. I’m glad they have followed our lead.

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A Very Slightly Grand Tour – Part One

We have all read of the Grand Tour – the coming-of-age tradition for those of the wealthy classes from Western Europe in the 18th and 19th century. France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and then back again over several months. Sometimes it extended to years if side trips could be made to the Ottoman empire or to eastern Europe. Tourists came back with a wealth of art, impressions, and diseases.

Of course it can all be done very much more rapidly these days, and from anywhere in the world. A quick whisk through all the capitals is no more than a Eurail pass away, and you can cram several cathedrals and palazzi in a day – with time to spare for the bar and the duty-free on the way home. If I wish to meet foreigners and hear the exotic patois of their languages I need not leave the comfort of my own city – they’ve come here these days. A smart-card bus ticket and a day will let me see Europe, Asia, Africa, and parts of South America all spread out over Perth.

But where can I go to tour grandly? If not in culture, and not in pure distance travelled, I think the southwest of my own state is a very good place to start.

It is possible, by dint of grind and caffeine, to use the modern freeway and highway system to circle the southwest from Perth to Bunbury, Busselton, Dunsborough, Augusta, Walpole, Albany, then back to Perth in a day. You won’t get to see all the sights and you won’t have fun, but you can do it. But if you add a few days to experience all the stops the tension goes and the fun seeps back in. Food, drink, trinkets, art, scenery, yokels, it’s all there. And I am looking very hard at adding another factor to the equation: theatre…the theatre of living history.

It won’t be public theatre – so much of the best living history is played to an audience of the actors alone. It won’t be dramatic theatre – because the WA southwest is not the cockpit of anything. But if it can be done right, it may prove to be as delightful an experience as anything that 18th century Europe could throw up. More plans to come…

Old Coot On The Road

Old Coot here. How ya going?

I’m the maddening character in the little car at the front of the traffic queue going very slightly less than the sign-posted speed limit. The one in the hat with both hands on the wheel. If you’re polite to me I’ll be in the left-hand lane for most of the journey.

Note: I write from Perth, in Western Australia, where the left-hand lane is the curb-side slow lane. The middle and right-hand lanes are for the people who wish to go faster and I wouldn’t dream of interfering with them as they do.

My little car is bright hi-vis green so that you can see it and dodge round it when you are racing toward your next amphetamine delivery. Don’t worry about me racing you for it…I hate to wear rubber off the tyres needlessly. And there is no need to flip fingers or scream obscenities out of the windows. I am perfectly willing to regard you as obscene under any circumstances.

No good looming up behind me to terrify me. I’ve worked retail for years – I can stand a looming that would crush a battlecruiser. I won’t speed up at all for tyrants, whether they are at a counter or a steering wheel. Being retired, I rarely need to get anywhere on my own time, let alone anyone else’s. And I like to use the exercise of driving to give me time to think. Time to think of my Super-Power…Old Coot Super Power.

Old Coots have been here before – sometimes here was better before, and sometimes it was worse – we have a comparison to go by. If it is worse now we are prepared to do something to make it better, and if it is better now we are prepared to take the time to be grateful.

We have seen better people than you do worse things, and as we are still here driving, we know how to cope with it. As conceited as you may want to be, you are not our worst nightmare. In fact a lot of us have taken up the nightmare business ourselves and we know how to do a lot with very small resources. And we are always looking for something to fill the day in between the morning radio serial and the cocktail hour.

Old Coots know that one day it is all going to end. And we’ve generally racked up enough time already to free us from regret if the one day turns out to be next Tuesday. Threatening us may seem all gangsta until you find out that we don’t care – and the man who doesn’t care is a floating sea mine with one bent horn. Steer clear.

Old Coots also can be very kind. We will change tyres for the helpless, guide the lost, and provide lunch for anyone. There is a price – we will talk while we do it. And the topic may not be apposite to the problem at hand. Don’t feel that you can ignore us – there will be a quiz later, and half your year’s marks will depend upon it.

Old Coots will rarely cuss you out, and if they do the terms they use will most likely sound quaint. They’re not. If an Old Coot calls you cowardly son of a bitch, he means it, and you are. Old Coots operate on simpler vocabularies.

If an Old Coot thanks you or praises you they also mean that sincerely.

 

I Want To Feel Better – Hand Me A Hammer

In the merdestorm that is the current Australian political climate, I have found myself wishing to see less and less of the opinions of my social media acquaintances, and more and more of logical and pleasant subjects. Thus I turned to a series of pictures taken at this year’s Sydney Hot Rod Show. It may be rusty, but we all need iron in our diet to some extent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They can also be said to pay you off for years before – in the sense that if there was some aspect of car building that you had always taken for granted or only vaguely understood, the cat of seeing it pounded out in front of you also tends to pound it into your brain. The chopping of the top on this Chevy is exactly a case in point for me. I say – for me – because you might have realised the difficulties and understood the procedures long before this. I’m just grateful that I got to see these chaps working.

Who are they? I do not know – it would not have been polite to interrupt. Do they know what they are doing? Look at the pictures – they are doing it. It was obvious from the straightforward way they went about measuring the thing with a steel tape and then bending and clamping that they knew precisely how to move that metal and exactly where to relieve it. It was staggering to see the condition of the car and to realise that one day it will re-emerge from destitution into a thing of beauty.

The shapers at the English wheel were good to watch but not quite as exotic for me – I have a friend who has an extensive metal-working workshop and forge and I’ve seen he and others using these machines to make plate armour pieces. They are not car enthusiasts as such, and they have lives too busy to become such, but I’ll bet that if the armour and blacksmith boys had to repair their own car bodies they could make as good a job of it as the professional panel beaters.

Of course they would not be able to help themselves somewhere along the way. Enthusiasm would surface and eventually one of them would be driving a Peugeot with pauldrons…

The Plates

I used to be scandalised by things on a regular basis. I’m talking about pre-social media days…when there was less scandal to cope with, and you could get right down to it on individual cases and do a thorough job of indignity. In the last 5 years this passion for outrage has dissipated. I can still spark up at people being bad mannered to no purpose, but I rarely react to inanimate objects.

Just as well – the special plate craze has flourished in Perth over the last 20 years and there can be some pretty extreme ones. But I’m happy to say that the examples I found at this year’s WA Hot Rod Show were charming, silly, or just plain fun. No more comment – just a few views of the name badges of the cars.


 

Doesn’t Matter If It Is A Front Porsche Or A Back Porsche…

It’ll still be grey…

That’s an old Canadian joke, and I’m qualified to tell it. In North America there are three colours for the front or back porch of a private dwelling; unpainted  ( and weathering badly…), grey, or salmon pink.

The unpainted ones are seen in the hillbilly states where money is tight and in the New England states where there is more money but the people are tight. They are also traditional in the maritime provinces and out in the bush in B.C. Doukhobors take it further and never paint anything else on the house – it means they blend into the landscape better when the Mounties come searching.

The grey ones painted with a special mixture that consists of any paint in the garage that has not entirely dried out and is contained in a tin that can be prised open. All the blacks, whites, greys, and lesser colours are poured into a tub and mixed up – this gets slathered over the porch. Sometimes it is glossy and sometimes it is matte, and if you don’t get it all done in one day you risk getting both finishes at the same time. No-one ever cleans and saves their brushes after a porch job – it is generally considered hygienic enough to throw them in the nearest bushes.

The salmon pink is also a mixture made from all the brightly coloured tins that have been left over after painting bathtubs, soap box racers, and Finnish houses. It is distinctive and memorable, and no-one ever really thinks it is going to turn out that shade. Not even the salmon. Note that one car maker actually made a car – a small Hyundai sedan – in this exact shade, and they made them deliberately…at least I think it was deliberate. I can say I have seen them about 10 years ago here in Perth. Short-lived, unfortunately.

These vehicles are enthusiast’s cars seen in Sydney and Perth at car shows – though there are certainly a number of Porsche vehicles on the road at any one time – including a somewhat unexplained SUV with curves named after a variety of pepper. My contact with the marque has been very fleeting – an associate of my late father owned a bathtub Porsche in 1966 and there were some occasions when it was repaired enough to go on the main roads. I believe it had prestige value at the time, though the real value may have lain in the pile of receipts from the mechanics. I remember he had the rubber shock mounts between the body and chassis replaced at one stage of the game and the cost equalled the price of my new Renault sedan.

Have I ever wanted to own or drive one? Not really. I do covet the Audi TT and I would love an early 1960’s Volkswagen Beetle in perfect condition, but the sporty Porsche has never rung my bells. I remember James Dean.

 

 

The Highway Or My Way

I live near a highway. Not an interstate or intercity one – one that just feeds along a metro corridor from the airport and rail freight terminals to the seaport – servicing suburbs rich and poor along the way. There is a little commercial activity in one suburb where it grazes an industrial area but very little else for its length – it is even hard to get petrol along the Leach Highway.

It is, however, easy to get stuck.

Stuck behind container trucks feeding from rail to seaport and back again. 2:00 PM is tag-a-truck hour and you can spend the best part of 90 minutes getting from one end to the other. Best is not really the word you are looking for, but WordPress doesn’t want me to use the appropriate ones.

Stuck in lines of tradesmen early in the morning and late in the afternoon. They are patient and kindly drivers, in the same way that fulminate of mercury is a docile chemical.

Stuck in equally long lines of Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar, Lexus, and similar expensive sedans as the managerial suburbs of Leeming and Winthrop empty and fill. As soon as the stream dwindles, the managerial spouses take over in the 4WD SUV versions of the luxury sedans. If anything, they are even more arrogant, entitled, and impatient. I put it down to the MSG and the designer sunglasses…

Stuck at road works. ” Expect Delay ” is an odd phrase – it does not promise anything good, but it wants you to be patient so that you can be annoyed slowly and carefully. I am retired, and rarely have to be anywhere quickly – but what must the effect of ” Expect Delay ” be for the managerial suburbanites…

Stuck at the road junctions. If, worse luck, the firm that you wish to deal with has a shop on the other side of a divider strip, you must travel to the next intersection, go round a block, re-enter the road from the other way, and hopefully catch a break in the traffic. It can be 10 minutes waiting to cross the three lanes of solid vehicles and then another 10 after your shopping trip to get back onto the highway.

We were once promised a diminution of the truck traffic – but that faded at the last state election. The problem is set to become worse in the next 5 years, and there may come a time when I have to give up dealing with the other side of the highway. It will become a land of fable and I will restrict myself to my own little village.

That’s what a motor car will do for you – confine you to your own home…