The Barn Find

Barn finds are either a type of motor car or fresh eggs…the proper thing to do with them is to either fry them or repaint them. This thought came to me this afternoon on Leach Highway when a car pulled along side me at the lights.

It was a Mitsubishi of indeterminate age, and it looked like it had been shot down over Bougainville in the 1940’s. When it went down it was probably in need of a wash. Apart from tip trucks, I have not seen a vehicle on the road that was covered in as much rubbish.

The disgusting condition may have been a cunning plan to avoid the attention of thieves in carparks…though it carried with it the danger of being taken for a derelict and getting towed to the wrecker’s yard. Yet there may have been nothing mechanically wrong with it.

Some cars get that way because some drivers just don’t care how things look. I must confess that my first car eventually needed a re-spray due to the paint deteriorating, and that was because I didn’t have enough time in a week to give it the wash and wax that the paints of the day needed. Yet it passed the seven years that I owned it with only very minor mechanical repairs needed. And the interior was lovely to the last.

I do think we have been ill-served in automotive finishes during some decades…and particularly by some makers. There was a rush to metallics and clear coats with some Japanese cars that proved premature. The number of blue-green and maroon cars with severe peeling and fading shows that it was more than just owner-error. And we have thankfully seen the last of the vinyl roof cover that trapped water underneath it. Vinyl has gone the way of the contact-adhesive walnut dashboard and as far as I am concerned the velour seat can follow it. Along with the dashboard that lights up like the CIC of an aircraft carrier.

And then there are the good points. My little Suzuki Swift has arrived at the end of its first seven years with the paint work largely intact. There have been a few bumper scratches but these have been touched up and the glow of the rest of the of the shell is undimmed. As Western Australian sun has grown stronger during the decades while my cleaning performance has hardly altered, this shows a corresponding improvement in the paint. I was initially dismayed to see that my choices were limited to a metallic colour, but time has proved it to be fine.

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The Invisible Man Vs The Invisible Woman

Well, I looked as hard as I could, but I didn’t see anybody there.

I knew that they were fighting, or making love, or possibly doing laundry. There were a series of bumps and gurgles and at one point something viscous spilled on the floor. I decided that it would be more discreet to just leave and read about it in the newspaper next week.

That’s the problem with super-powers. They are bound to cause trouble sooner or later. The entire collection of Marvel and DC characters, together with the Japanese anime figures, seem to be incapable of living quiet lives. They are either fighting crime or committing it – and mostly to the detriment of the environment and people surrounding them. I cannot think of anything worse than being neighbour to a super hero or super villain. No matter what they did it would break fences and scatter the street’s rubbish on Bin Night. And you can just bet that it would never be during business hours – I’ve read enough Batman comics to know that whenever he roars out of the secret tunnel at 165 dB it is the middle of the night. Who sleeps?

The business of radioactivity and strange oriental poisons is another thing. I can take the average hazards of suburban life – the magpie swoops and the blood-and-bone fertilizer on the garden beds in Spring. The repeated attacks of the Mr Whippy van in summer. The drains backing up in winter. It is the price you pay for having a bit of space about you. But with a super-whatever on the street you are just as likely to glow in the dark, turn sterile, or keel over foaming and choking as soon as they open the basement vents. You can be certain that they have a secret laboratory down there because nothing grows in a radius of 50 metres of their property.

Of course there are those who say having a super-hero will be good because it means the neighbourhood is protected. What they don’t figure into the equation is the fact that the superhero attracts their opposing number 100% of the time and you end up avoiding two men in tights instead of just one.

I could actually enjoy super women in tights, but I’ve seen the muscles on some of them and I don’t think I would survive…

The National Day – Part Two – Independence Day Or Dependence Day?

Remember I mentioned that most national days commemorate someone declaring themselves to be independent from someone else? And determined to govern their lives on their own terms?

Unfortunately for Australia, the events of 26 January, 1778 were rather in reverse. The local people were free before the fleet rocked up but not after. Think of it in terms of a D-Day landing but instead of the British, Americans, and Canadians storming ashore it would be the Wehrmacht. Possibly with better air cover…

Well, 230+ years have rolled away since then and there have been other amphibious assaults to thrill and entertain the citizens. Not all of them successful, but that doesn’t stop the national desire to march and cheer. But that idea of thinking that nationhood came in boats full of convicts under musket guard is starting to be a bit suss. And it begs the question that is answered everywhere else by a definite set of criteria; when exactly did Australia become independent from the guards with muskets?

You’ll be pleased and horrified to learn that it was on the 1st of January 1900. Pleased because it happened without bloodshed, and horrified that no-one now wants to have it as the national day. Why?

Because it is on one of the New Year’s days. The one that is recognised by most of he population, but is already surrounded with boozy celebration and hangovers. Hardly anyone has the energy to be patriotic after a night on the tiles. So the day is shifted to 26 January, by which time livers have uncurled.  No-one wants to have to be sober and proud next morning when there is avocado dip in their hair. ( Presuming that it is avocado dip…)

And now the indigenes are unhappy and the immigrants are unhappy and the cheap journalists and cheaper council politicians make a fortune of money and publicity out of stoking that emotion.

What to do? Well, first of all recognise exactly what the truth is about the current day. And decide what a national day really should be. And then unravel the story so that everyone can read it. In the phrase beloved of all bureaucrats: ” Bring us into line with other nations “.

Tomorrow? The new days planned for Australia.

 

Letting The Dishes Pile Up

Yesterday the dishes piled up. Normally this would cause great consternation and a flurry of scrubbing. Instead, I went for a walk in a garden and looked for flowers.

The dishes will get washed eventually, and I have a whole portfolio of beauty for my trouble today. I must make these sort of choices more often.

A Little Time In The Garden

Those of you who know my habits know that what little time I spend in the garden is generally confined to replacing sprinkler fittings or burying dead pets. For the most part I leave the vegetation alone and try to ensure that it does not attack me.

Yet, with the coming of spring and the hardy recurrence of the vegetable pirates I can take some advantage of them by testing out camera lenses on them. There is no subtlety in this – colourful flowers are a sure-fire drawcard for any website. All you really need to do is get them mostly in focus in clear sunshine. And try not to kneel in an ant nest as you are doing it.

If you are quiet and observant you get to see the workings of the suburban zoo – the tiny insects attacking and devouring each other, and the silent passage of the standard skink. I have yet to see the gecko that hatched inside the house but am still hopeful. And I do have a spot of affection for a wooly bear caterpillar I saw at work on the weeds that grow between the patio bricks. I left him eating one and discovered at the end of the afternoon that he had ingested his way down the whole walkway.

If we were real gardeners we would probably have enough wildlife in the back yard to attract David Attenborough. Perhaps we should plant bananas and hope for gorillas.

My Kinda Social Justice Warrior

I was never much of a fan of revolution until I saw the uniforms. Particularly the ones they gave to the girls. Eugene Delacroix was on the spot to capture the new fashion and I am grateful.

I even approve of the musket, though my experience of the 1777 Charleville .69 calibre arm was mixed. It had a good barrel, and  a convenient set of barrel bands to allow for cleaning, but the stock was woefully short coupled – the French must all have had short arms and tiny physiques. The British Brown Bess was a much more comfortable firearm to use. About the only really clever thing the French did was put a locking ring on the tree-cornered bayonet so that you could withdraw it without having it fall off the barrel.*

The heading image is only part of Delacroix’s painting; ” Liberty Leading The People “- if you google it you’ll get to see the chaps on the lady’s right and the kid with the pistol. The one with the top hat seems to be hefting a blunderbus…which leads one to question who exactly he is, with the fancy clothes and the civilian man-killer. Stagecoach guard? Gamekeeper?

Further to her right is a pirate with a cutlass. He’s also got a pistol aimed at his own goolies.

The kid with the pistol is actually toting two of them, plus an improbably large bag of accessories. It may contain his play lunch.

And they are all climbing over a pile of broken furniture and rubbish. Delacroix has used the caption to suggest a noble purpose for it all, but after looking at this lot, I have come to the conclusion that Liberty is not really leading the people. She’s had a good look at them and is doing her best to get away from them.

I should too. Armed amateurs with no sense of firearms responsibility. Any SSAA range officer would throw ’em out in a minute.

*  When the US Army redesigned the basic musket in 1842 they added more stock and wrist to it and it became a really good battlefield shotgun. But by then the rifled musket was the queen of battle so it was a second-line item.

Another Bluebird Of Happiness

Only this one wasn’t made by Datsun. This is a Morris Minor of 1953…65 years later. Lets face it, Folks…none of us reading this looked as good when we were 65, whether we were bright blue or not.

I’ve commented before in this column that it is surprisingly to see many of the cars that we were familiar with in the 50’s and 60’s here in Australia taken up in the hot rod or custom scene. Oh yes, there are Ford Customlines and Holden Fj’s and such, but the percentage of Dodge or Chrysler is low and the percentage of British or French cars that also get taken into the fold are even fewer. Least considered are the Japanese imports of the time. Hot rodding can be surprisingly blinkered.

This makes a car that is as well turned out as this Morris Minor a real pleasure to see. It is of a size that can lend itself to some of the smaller modern engines – my brother-in-law built a MM ute with a Nissan engine and he was the fastest old man in Mandurah for a while. But every project eventually gets finished and his MM finally was…and then interest was lost…

Well, thankfully the man who made this blue beauty carried it through to a magnificent conclusion. I envy him not only the finish but the practicality of it. That was meant to be a small commercial hauler and it still is – albeit a faster one, with better seats. Given the modern tyres as well as engine and suspension parts, this would be a magnificent wanderers van for Western Australian summers.

Winters, however, in cars of this vintage can be a damp and misty experience. Ask anyone who has travelled in Perth in rain with a tea towel to wipe the steam off the inside of the windscreen  and listen to the historic language. The 60’s saw a complete industry of add-on demisters and heaters and none of them worked a damn. Eventually you just wound down the side windows and froze or swam your way to your destination.