The Manhattan Project Party

A recent phone call from a friend has suggested a project for the new year.

Our local SES has used water bombers for a number of years to help cope with bush fires. I am going to propose that they acquire a Canadair CL 415 amphibious fixed-wing airplane and lend it out to me for party purposes.

The aircraft has a tank that will hold 6100 litres of water or fire retardant. If we clean the tank well, we can use it as a giant cocktail mixer.

4000 litres of rye whiskey, 2000 litres of Cinzano Rosso, a bath tub full of orange bitters and a truckload of lemon peel should do it. Take off from the local light plane airport, go to max height until the tank cools down, and then head back to Perth at 500ft.

If we gather the guests on one of the local football ovals, glasses in hand ( or, for that matter, water buckets…) the pilot will be instructed to dump the load as soon as he clears the perimeter of the ground. Those who wish to stand there with their heads held back and their mouths open may do so. If the crowd is dense enough there should be little spillage.

I am still trying to locate a serviceable B-24 to deliver the canapés and snacks. If they can get a Norden bombsight this can be done from 4000 ft. In the interest of public safety we are going to avoid anything with bamboo skewers.

 

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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.

Watching Championship Stupid From The Sidelines

We all see foolish things done and exhibited on crass television shows. We see them on Facebook and YouTube. But nothing beats seeing them fresh, live, and right in front of you.

I don’t mean the car crashes and people hitting light poles – these are accidents of our modern life. I also exclude criminal behaviour and its consequences – also a feature of modern life, but one that can stay well away from me. I am thinking of the modest little instances of stupidity that pop up from time to time and make us grin.

Yesterday I visited our downtown area to do a job, and when it was completed I repaired to a bookstore and then to a rooftop bar for a bit of reading and refreshment. It was delightful, until the last inch of beer in the glass. Then tow families of bogans invaded the bar with their 5 squalling children – obviously hungry, overtired, and at the end of a school vacation. The bartender looked like the hatch of hell had opened at his feet; I hastily downed that last inch and dived for the door, pursued by rising screams.

There is a provision in Western Australian liquor laws for children to be on licensed premises under direct adult control for ” reasonable refreshment” but up two flights of stairs onto a city rooftop bar seems to stretch the case somewhat. I can only hope that the children got espresso martinis and red cordial and that the train back home was delayed between stations…

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.

You Look Pretty When You Smile

But smiling doesn’t get you through the morning traffic on the Mitchell freeway, does it? Not even when you are driving a large silver car with LED lights gleaming at the front.

Mind you, snarling doesn’t seem to do it either – even if those LED lights are arranged in the form of a boar’s tusks or a glaring demon’s eyebrows, that righthand lane is still not going to magically clear for you. You could try a bout of horn-blowing or smashing your hands on the steering wheel to see if that helps.

I have sympathy for you. You’ve done all you could to let the foolish person in the large silver car ahead of you ( the one with the LED lights and the snarling driver ) know that a very important person is behind them. Goodness, if they had bothered to see you flashing your lights or driving half a metre behind them they should have taken the hint. I mean, it’s not like you are driving a poor person’s car, is it?

Look, would it help if I waved? I could put my book down and wave to you…or to the person in front of you…at least as long as the train keeps pace with your car. I’ve got both hands free. Actually everything about the train is free – I have a seniors card and it doesn’t cost a cent to ride all…Oops. Sorry, the train just pulled away from you and you’re disappearing back down into the line of cars.

Have you ever considered working from home? You could still have the big silver car to go to the Supa -Valu.

The Radiant Personality On The Radio

Saw a radiant person on a speaking stage a few months ago and was most impressed at her ability to pull a polished performance out of a hat. On in a flash, fun and laughter, several good stories and a mild sort of plugging for her radio show, and off again. The audience had obviously tuned in to her for years as an early television presenter, so she capitalised upon this for several anecdotes. She even got a plug in for the current radio station she works at…and then was off and running to that gig.

I know another person, a model, dancer, and general intellectual who also sits at a radio microphone a number of times a week and also manages to make the thing bop along in a very amusing style. She’s a find for the local station that employs her as it also has a great deal of artistry and intellect involved in its programming. These presenters are a  blessed relief on the air – they don’t shoot low and they don’t assume we’re riding Shetlands.

Neither of these ladies is rude nor crude. They lift the spirit. They might spend their holidays throwing rocks at trains but they do not let it show at all in their professional presentation – that is as clean and friendly as a whistle.

 

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.