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black and white“Colour television! Bah, I won’t believe it until I see it in black and white.”

Samuel Goldwyn

Not in this case a nostalgic look back at the cinema of a bygone age – nor indeed a reference to the school colours of my erstwhile employers…

…but in this case a brace of ‘his and her’ automotive conveyances!

I made reference but a few posts back to the fact that the Girl was in the process of having to change her mode of transport in the light of her renewed need to commute – with a view to keeping herself safe and sound in the face of the somewhat erratic driving habits of some other users of the ‘Pat Bay’ highway here on the Saanich peninsula… this being – of course – a move that I endorse whole-heartedly.

Those who know the Girl will also know that she is not one to hang around when the mood is upon her. Sure enough on Friday last we drove up-island with a view to investigating a low-mileage pre-owned (so much better than ‘second-hand’ or ‘used’ whilst not being quite as wince-inducing as ‘pre-loved’!) automobile. As is the way of such things, after a long day of negotiation and paperwork she drove back to Victoria in a brand spanking new one instead! Rest assured that she came away with a particularly good deal…

For those interested in such things the vehicle is a shiny new Mazda CX-5 with all of the bells and whistles. This thing is practically frothing with technology, all of which is in the service of keeping the occupants as safe as possible out in the jungle that is the modern metropolis. If you are of the persuasion that will not rest until you know all of the details then you should consult the Girl for the full run-down – or avail yourself of the wonder that is the InterWebNet to carry out your own researches. All I know is that this thing certainly has more computing power on board than did the entire fleet of lunar modules (apologies for the extremely dated – though still germane – reference).

This leaves the Girl with a couple of vehicles to sell. She has of late been driving the little Miata in the summer months and reverting to the ancient Honda Accord when the weather turns inclement.

The CX-5 will now cover all the bases.

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Image by Andy Dawson ReidSince the Kickass Canada Girl went back to work recently she has had – yet again – to take on something of a commute. Nothing much by way of comparison to that which either of us endured back in the UK, but tiresome nonetheless. Much of it is along the main arterial route down the Peninsula into the centre of Victoria – Highway 17 (or the ‘Pat Bay’ as it is ‘affectionately’ known). This journey should take only around 20 – 25 minutes. That it has – of late – been taking considerably longer is in the main down to some Victorians being apparently unable to drive safely along the highway just as soon as the sun shines.

The Pat Bay is not the perfect road by any means. Much of it comprises two lanes in either direction and, whilst the southern stretch is adequately equipped with the sort of interchange with which we are familiar in the UK, north of Royal Oak, unfortunately, the intersections revert to being flat crossroads with traffic signals.

The problem is that some of those acclimatised to keeping their feet down on the southern section seem unable to reconcile this with having to stop at the lights further north. Even worse – if a green light can be seen at an intersection up ahead that seems like a good excuse to keep the power on. There is – of course – the possibility that the signal has only just changed to green, with the vehicles ahead still accelerating away when some monster pickup barrels into the back of them doing something quite illegal.

The Girl has of late come home grumbling of extended delays a couple of times a week. I had myself to pull over and let three police cars, two ambulances and a fire truck get past to deal with a shunt only this afternoon – and today is Sunday!

This has all – rather sadly – forced the Girl to rethink her means of transport. In England the cute little MX-5 can more than hold its own in traffic. Over here – fun as it is on the curvy stuff when the roads are clear – it doesn’t take much for the diminutive roadster to vanish into the blind spots of ‘semis’ (‘artics’ to UK readers) and pickups alike… particularly given their jockeys’ penchants for tailgating.

A larger – and safer – vehicle may well be required… at least while she is yet in employ.

As for me – there are definitely unwanted echoes of the traffic conditions I used to encounter on the M3 on the way into London every day.

Not what one looks to find in paradise!

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Converted

image from Pixabay

Way back in the very earliest days of this blog I posted this missive. The main thrust of the piece (aside from providing me with an opportunity to effect an introduction to ‘Pearl‘, my gorgeous and much missed Mercedes 300SL) was to ruminate upon the Englishman’s love of – almost fetish for – his (or her) open-topped automobile. This I duly did at my usual length.

Much later – of course – the Kickass Canada Girl finally succumbed to the Anglo-Saxon obsession herself and purchased her very own ragtop roadster. She enjoyed the top-down experience so much that she determined – on our arrival upon these shores – to seek in short order another similar vehicle.

Hunting through advertisements from various online sources before we left the UK left us with the very distinct impression that our search in Victoria for a Miata (as most British Columbians still refer to them) might not be a brief one. This did not altogether surprise me, for had I not written in my original post on the subject:

Which leads me to this observation… My perception, rightly or wrongly, is that – for a state that has a mild climate and considerably more days of sunshine than we do in the UK – British Columbians do not seem particularly keen on open top motoring. Yes, there are enthusiasts, but nowhere near the numbers that we see in England. Pickups are all well and good, but – for me – just do not hold the same appeal.

Recent readers will be aware that – counter to our expectation – the Girl effected the location and purchase of a good low-mileage MX-5 within a week of our arrival in BC. I put this down in the first instance to our newly rediscovered good fortune, but I have since been driven to revise this opinion. In this glorious Victorian summer (with apologies to those of you in the UK) it has become apparent that convertible usage at this end of Vancouver Island is as high as it is in the south of England. Indeed, the Mazda MX-5 is to be found here in greater numbers than just about anywhere else I know.

How to explain this shift in perception – this somewhat embarrassing revision to a publicly stated former view? I can think of only two possibilities:

  • there has been a dramatic increase in soft-top ownership in Victoria since my earlier posting in 2012…

…or:

  • Victorians – unlike the Brits – only dust down and bring out their convertibles when the sun is well and truly shining. There is none of the mad-March scramble at the first hint of a break in the cloud-cover that is so prevalent in the Home Counties.

Well – I am sure that I do not know the correct interpretation. All I do know is that this is yet another sure sign that the Girl and I have relocated to the right part of the world!

 

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidStrange the way things turn out…

As I posted on Friday of last week, we were off on the Saturday morning to look a 4×4.

My choice of vehicle is based on the firm conviction that – within the next year – I will purchase some sort of small power boat so that I may indulge my piratical whims about the Gulf Islands.

Much research and diligent enquiry suggested that the ideal vehicle for the job was the Toyota 4Runner which has – in its V8 incarnation – sufficient power to drag around some 7000lb in its wake. Furthermore, the truck is built like a tank and will pretty much go on forever – making it entirely possible to find a ten year old model with yet plenty of life in it. The only downside is that this famed longevity keeps the used price somewhat on the high side.

Such it was that we viewed on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, through the vehicle was itself sound it had not been loved and the interior was in a pretty poor state. We decided to pass.

4Runners of the requisite vintage are in short supply and it looked as though a long trip to the interior might be necessary to effect a purchase. Then, almost by chance, the Kickass Canada Girl – on glancing through the online version of ‘Used Victoria’ came upon an advert for a twelve year old Lexus GX470. Aficionados will be aware that the Lexus is basically the 4Runner platform with a rather more luxurious facade atop. Even better, this particular specimen was but a few streets away. We paid a visit.

Though being of a considerably higher mileage than we would have liked, the Lexus looked pretty much as though it were fresh out of the showroom. Not only had it clearly been well loved, but it was also complete down to the least detail – the handbook and service record au naturelle, but also the comprehensive original Lexus toolkit and first aid kit.

The owner – the vehicle’s second – had advertised it at a very reasonable price but had no bidders, so had just dropped the price by $2,500. The Girl – as is her wont – enquired as to whether there might be any ‘wiggle’ room. The owner – without so much as a proper haggle – stated his bottom price, some $1,500 lower yet.

We asked if we could get the vehicle checked over – the which we did on Tuesday following – and were informed that the brakes needed renewing. The owner most kindly went halves to the tune of a further $500!

What a bargain – and a completely unexpected one.

And ‘Lorelei’?

Well – a vehicle as sophisticated and elegant as this one can only be a lady, though perhaps one with a mischevous spirit. The Lorelei was – of course – a siren, luring innocent(ish) men to their doom.

Seemed like a pretty good match…

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidBitter:

Some things are just very sad…

I have mentioned in these dispatches on numerous occasions this particular of the lovely ‘ladies’ by which my life has been blessed. I refer, of course, to Pearl – my beloved Mercedes 300SL – which may be observed here posing decorously on the Cote D’Azur a couple of years back.

No point in beating about the bush. This is a sad occasion. She and I have finally had to go our separate ways.

I have owned the car for more than a decade. In that time we have traveled extensively together. We have toured on the continent. We have driven through the street of Paris and London on summer nights with the top down. We have posed together outside stately homes. She bore the Kickass Canada Girl and I up to the English Lake District on our first major adventure together. She has been an utterly constant and reliable companion.

I always knew that we could not take the SL to Canada, and that she would have to be sold. It was just a question of timing. In the end – because we don’t know how the early part of next year will pan out – I decided that I should try to sell her this autumn. An advert was placed – there was much interest and she went very quickly. I can’t say I am surprised…

Just sad…

Pearl has gone to a firm that restores and deals in classic cars. She will there receive much needed care and attention before finding her way to a new and grateful owner.

Sweet:

The only possible way to consider this turn of events without getting depressed about it is to tell myself that such things represent forward movement towards our ultimate goal – our dream of retiring to BC. The monies realized will be put towards those ‘toys’ without which it seems not possible to truly enjoy the Canadian outdoor experience – the 4×4 – the trailer – the boat…

When other items on the programme are dragging their heels and taking their sweet time it is good to get a sense of things actually being accomplished – of progress being made – and we are grateful for that.

I am also very glad that the Merc will go to a good home.

You might – of course – be feeling slightly nauseous by this point – wondering how such a fuss can be made about an expensive and out-dated mode of transport. Well – if you get it – good for you – and if you don’t – then I guess you don’t… Personally I would much rather experience such enthusiasms and emotions (even should the object of them be inanimate) than not do so.

But that’s just me…

 

DSCF0501

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Photo from Wikimedia CommonsIn my previous post I posited the question:

Which advance in automotive engineering – had it come into widespread use sooner than it actually did – might well have completely changed the course of twentieth century history?

The answer – as I’m sure many of you knew – is… reverse gear!

Though the first production car to be fitted with a reverse gear – Ford’s ubiquitous Model T – made its appearance in 1908, it was some years before the application of this innovation became established practice throughout the world.

On 24th June 1914 the Austrian Archduke, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sophia paid their ill-advised visit to Sarajevo in the province of Bosnia-Herzegovina, unaware that a group of seven young assassins – their bombs and pistols provided indirectly by neighbouring Serbia’s military intelligence service – lay in wait for them along the route that their motorcade was to follow.

Though several of the would-be assassins lost their nerve at the vital moment, one – Nedjelko Cabrinovic – did throw his bomb as the Archduke’s car passed. The missile bounced off the canopy of the car and exploded under the following vehicle, injuring several of those on board. The remainder of the motorcade continued to City Hall where the furious Archduke rounded on the Mayor of Sarajevo. It was decided that the visit should be cut short.

Franz Ferdinand – however – insisted on first visiting the hospital to which those injured in the explosion had been taken. The motorcade accordingly retraced its passage back along the Appel Quay – the route that the motorcade had already come but also part of the originally scheduled onward journey. Unfortunately the change of plan had not been communicated to the drivers and on reaching Franz Joseph Street, where one of the conspirators – Gavrilo Princip – was still stationed, the cars slowed and made the turn. On being alerted to this mistake the driver of the Archduke’s car braked the vehicle with a view to rejoining the chosen route. The car came to rest a short distance from Princip’s position.

Unfortunately, the car had no reverse gear – and thus had to be pushed backwards onto the Appel Quay. Princip had time to reach the vehicle and to fire the two shots that killed the Archduke and his wife.

Had Princip not been able to fire – or had his shots missed or only wounded the Archduke – Austria-Hungary would not have had a casus belli on which to go to war with Serbia. Had a fresh Balkan war not broken out the Russians would not have mobilised in support of the Serbs. Had the Russians not mobilised, the Germans – who had offered Austria unconditional support – would probably not have launched an attack on Russia’s close ally – France – aiming to remove them from contention before turning attention to the Russians themselves. Had Germany not violated Belgian neutrality to attack France the British would most probably not have become involved in what rapidly turned into the Great War.

Had there been no Great War it is highly likely that the subsequent rise of fascism would have taken a very different course and there may well not have been a second conflagration. Had there been no World War II the course of European history would have been very different. There might have been no impetus to develop nuclear weapons and the standoff between East and West that overshadowed much of the latter part of the century might never have occurred.

Who can tell? What is clear is that none of the European nations that allowed themselves to slide into the war in 1914 had set out with this objective in mind.

If you have not previously done so but now feel impelled – in this centenary year of the start of that lamentable conflict – to gain a clearer understanding as to how this unfortunate sequence of events unfolded, I strongly recommend Christopher Clark’s excellent ‘The Sleepwalkers’. Comprehensive, well argued and splendidly written, this volume cuts through much of the fog that surrounds the causes of this most terrible calamity.

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Image by Damián Navas on Flickr

A little teaser for you…

Which advance in automotive engineering – had it come into widespread use sooner than it actually did – might well have completely changed the course of twentieth century history?

Answer to follow… Let’s see if someone gets there before I post it!

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidTomorrow the Kickass Canada Girl and I head for France. As mentioned previously we intend to meander slowly down to the Dordogne over a period of some three days in the Girl’s spanking new convertible (well – new to her… You know what I mean!).

Now – the boot (Canadian – trunk!) of the Mazda (Canadian – Miata!) is the cutest wee thing going. It is good to see that the Japanese made no concessions whatsoever to utility when designing the ultimate ‘British’ sports car and that they wasted no efforts either there or in the strictly two-seater cabin on such fripperies as storage. As a result packing for the trip presents an interesting challenge.

I have discoursed briefly before on the Girl’s packing habits. She has – naturally – been working on the problem already for the best part of a week. It might appear – to the uninitiated – that her method consists of emptying out her entire wardrobe and then successively dismissing items ‘not required on voyage’ until such time as she can shoehorn the remainder into whichever trunks, valises and other items of baggage have been selected for the journey. To suggest that this were indeed the case would be a scandalous calumny and a terrible mistake, which I – for one – do not intend to make. However, given that the sum total of her travelling wardrobe must fit into two small soft bags I sense that this time her skills may be tested to the limit.

Being a chap – of course – I will simply toss a couple of t-shirts into a bag at the last possible moment and call it good. Well – there have to be some advantages to chapdom!

And if – by chance – I find that I have forgotten something, then the odds are good that the Girl will have packed said item instead – and I can simply borrow it!

Good luck with that one – as they say…

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Image by Rama on WikimediaIt is half a year now since the Kickass Canada Girl’s (purportedly) splendid job in Victoria went – to appropriate the vernacular – ‘tits-up’. She was – as a result – obliged to leave our dear friends in Saanichton and to return – jobless – to the UK, just in time for Christmas and for us to wave an un-fond farewell to the tenant in our Buckinghamshire apartment (and, of course, to his rent cheque!).

All in all, not the best of times!

In line with the seasons, however, that winter has finally turned to spring and all indicators are that summer will – as it ever does – eventually arrive.

The Girl’s new job in London was always really considered a positioning exercise with a view to a more appropriate opening rapidly becoming available in the organisation’s head office in Reading – a stone’s throw from our Berkshire home. Sure enough, she has duly been awarded a suitably interesting management post which she takes up today. Congratulations KACG! We celebrated appropriately last Sunday with a really rather splendid lunch at a beautiful hostelry in Oxfordshire.

I made reference at the top of the year to the Girl’s quest to source a ‘new’ car, to replace the sexy Civic that she so generously sold to my nephew before leaving for BC last year. This search has taken longer than anticipated for a number of reasons – not least of which are those related to the difficulty that we encountered (and which I will document in a future post) transferring monies back to the UK from Canada. No matter! She finally found what she wanted and parted with her principal.

The Girl’s choice of motor fully meets my approval. She has – on past occasions when in the market for ‘wheels’ – flirted with the idea of acquiring something ‘interesting’ – but has ultimately ignored my blandishments and settled for the ‘sensible’ option instead. This has always struck me as being slightly surprising since – in many ways – she’s not that kind of girl! Not so this time, anyway. She has finally bitten the bullet and invested her hard-earned moolah in… (drum roll!)… a convertible!!! Not – in her case – a Merc (we can barely afford to run one of those!) but instead the best ‘British’ sports car never made – the Mazda MX-5 Roadster.

Hoorah!

What with new tenants in our Bucks apartment and spring finally bursting out all over we are both feeling positively perky…

…and who knows where that might lead!

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There are signs – here at the top of the year – that the tough times of the concluding quantum of 2012 are perhaps now behind us and that things are starting to move forward again. Thank goodness for that, we say!

Though forced to kick her heels at home for the best part of a month waiting for the normally reasonably alacritous Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) to produce the required ‘all-clear’ documentation, the Kickass Canada Girl should now be starting her new job in about a week’s time. She experienced a brief moment of apoplexy when she was informed – on the day that the CRB paperwork arrived – that she would also need to obtain the Canadian equivalent – a process considerably more complex than that operated in the UK, requiring one’s fingerprints to be taken and sent to Canada for processing! Fortunately the Girl’s enquiry as to whether she could start work contemporaneously with the check being carried out (subtext – “could you not have asked me for this a month ago?!”) was answered in the affirmative.

There are also indications that we might have located someone with an interest in letting our apartment in Buckinghamshire, which is clearly also good news. We must keep our fingers firmly crossed on this one for the moment, but the omens seem propitious.

The Girl thinks that she may have a purchaser for her Canadian car – the bargain of the century – and is now looking for a replacement in the UK. Having seen her in action purchasing a vehicle in the past I feel slightly sorry for the fervid factotums (sadly not ‘factota’!) of the motor trade. The Girl spent a period in sales herself – and she knows how it is done!

At the School our new science building has finally been handed over. Though the building work has taken a mere 18 months the project as a whole has been in the planning for more than a decade.That this phase is now at last complete feels a little – strange.

Finally – and a cause in my mind for a mild celebration (above and beyond the fact that it is Burn’s Night!) – this blog is now a year old. Unbelievable! In that year I have published 130 posts and around 400 images. I am strangely proud of the fact that I have maintained a reasonably consistent rate of posting, and I just hope that I have on occasion been able to contribute odd item of interest.

I raise a glass, therefore, to all good and gentle readers – and sign off with this apposite toast:

May the best you’ve ever seen
Be the worst you’ll ever see;
May a moose ne’er leave yer girnal
Wi’ a teardrop in his e’e.
May ye aye keep hale and hearty
Till ye’re auld enough tae dee,
May ye aye be just as happy
As I wish ye aye tae be.

 

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