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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 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…


  • 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 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.


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…



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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.


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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Stereotyping gets a bad press! In fact, modern usage of the term seems almost entirely pejorative, with the emphasis on the possibility/probability of negative consequences. This is a considerable distortion of the term’s original connotation as a ‘sense-making’ tool – one which is supposedly judgementally neutral. I must admit to having played my own minuscule part in the assault on this particular gambit by inveighing vigorously and vociferously again same whilst studying psychology in my first year at college back in the early 70s. Needless to say I failed the unit!

Where is this going, you ask? Well – naturally to a cringe-making admission that I now recognise in myself an unfortunate tendency to conform to at least one formerly unacceptable stereotype… that of the grumpy old man!

Can it really be that things are considerably more ‘pants’ (technical term!) than they were 40 years ago, or is it just that the young of all generations are simply immune to the inanities and ludicrosities of life? They presumably have far more important things to worry about than modern systems that don’t work properly, or facilities that appear to have been designed by the inhabitants of an entirely different universe to the one that the rest of us inhabit. Maybe all that us old folks have left in life is the desire and capacity to have a jolly good whinge about things…

Do feel free to disagree at any point!

‘Oh dear’, you say to yourself, ‘this is building up to an anecdote’. Too right!

I posted a few weeks ago on the subject of the nerve-tickling experience of Pearl’s MOT test. Since then I have had to pay her annual road tax – very probably for the last time (sniff!) – and just this last week her insurance fell due. Now – I have owned Pearl for 9 years and have insured her through the same online broker throughout that period. When I first applied for insurance in 2003 I was told that – because she is a soft-top – I would need to fit an immobiliser. This I duly did and everything then went ahead without further hitch.

This time – on receipt of the renewal reminder, a weighty document of a dozen or so pages – I called the broker and asked to renew. We went through the lengthy process on the phone and all seemed to have been settled. A short while later I was emailed the new policy documents – another hefty tome which I, being a Luddite, naturally printed out for posterity.

There was a pause.

Then – after about half an hour – the phone rang. It was my broker. He informed me that the insurers – having already issued the documents – had now discovered that they could find no written record of my ever having installed the immobiliser – nine years previously! Somehow I had had getting on for a decade of perfectly successful insurance – including one small no-fault claim – but was now being told that I couldn’t get cover because they did not have the essential document. Doh! The broker inquired sweetly as to whether I might still have the original receipts and documentation. Honestly!!

Sad thing is – of course – that I had…

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Oh it’s such a perfect day,
I’m glad I spent it with you.
Oh such a perfect day,
You just keep me hanging on,
You just keep me hanging on.

Perfect Day – Lou Reed

Well – a perfect weekend really… with one glaring and – hopefully – blindingly obvious exception.

Following last week’s unbridled incalescence the temperature dropped a couple of degrees, the heat haze dissipated to leave the sky a cloudless cerulian and a playful breeze tempered even the most febrile of brows.

Friday evening found me in the company of a group of School staff at a buffet reception in the High Master’s garden; a most agreeable way to unwind after the week and a good way to prepare for the weekend ahead. The final weeks of the summer term can sometimes almost overwhelm with their abundance of social events – a last frantic ‘hurrah’ for the leavers and a long slow exhalation for those others for whom – unlike me, sadly – the long school summer holiday hovers tantalisingly on the horizon.

On Saturday I packed a variety of bags and set off in the 300SL for Sevenoaks in Kent. A beautiful leisurely drive – wind very much in hair – through the Surrey hills delivered me to our good friends – who live at another school not dissimilar to this one – in plenty of time for an aperitif before dressing for the main event – a splendid black-tie ball organised by the parents’ association. Though I am not, myself, much of a dancer I am always happy to don the tartan for such an occasion, and the combination of good food, good wine, good friends and good conversation meant that when the 1:00am deadline for carriages rolled around no time at all seemed to have elapsed.

Waking only a little the worse for wear to find an equally lovely day already well under way I bade my grateful farewells and retraced my top-down tracks as far as Guildford, where I was to play my first proper game of cricket of the summer. The ground was up on the downs (I realise that may sound counter-intuitive to Canadians and other non-Brits!) above the town and offered splendid views over the Surrey countryside towards London. The match was played in a suitably amiable spirit, I scored a few runs and the right side won. It was, all in all, a most satisfactory result and I rolled home close to 9pm tired but happy.

One thought, however, nagged at me throughout… one cause for a scintilla of sadness, regardless of the loveliness of the days, of the caliber of the entertainments or of the pleasures of the bucolic countryside. To whit  – what could possibly be the purpose and meaning of such joy if not shared with one’s consort? I have been fortunate enough to have experienced many wonderful things and exceptional times – both in the UK and in BC – but without the Kickass Canada Girl at my side nothing is as ambrosial, as piquant… as exquisite… as it is when she is!


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There is a certain nervous tension in the air ‘chez nous’ this weekend. Both Pearl and I are in need of examinations.

For new readers I should explain at this point that Pearl is my rather lovely Mercedes 300SL, about which you can read more here. It is widely held that – for chaps of a certain age – owning a convertible is a sure sign of mid-life crisis. If that is the case then mine must be one of the longest on record, given that I have not only owned Pearl for more than 10 years, but she also is my third rag-top. Perhaps my life is a perpetual crisis… On the other hand, if this is indeed mid life, then I should be in for a good long innings!

I digress…

I am in need of a medical examination as part of the application process for my Canadian permanent residency. More on this – quite probably much more – in my on-going series of posts explaining the whole process in gruesome detail. Let us – for now – focus instead on Pearl.

It is that time of year at which Pearl’s MOT test falls due. I feel sure that vehicles in Canada are subject to a similar testing regimen – indeed I have no doubt that such is the case the world over. In the UK the test was instigated in 1960 by the Ministry of Transport – hence the origin of the name. We no longer have a Ministry of Transport, but the name survives in acronym form as the title of this annual inspection.

When first established the test was applied to vehicles aged ten years and above. By 1967 it had been modified into roughly its current form, applying to all vehicles that have achieved their third anniversary. This reminds me of the witty comment made by Michael Flanders – the vocal half of Flanders and Swann – during their 60s musical comedy review, ‘At the Drop of a Hat’.

“Hello again. We had to look outside during the interval, see if our car’s all right. It’s getting a bit old, it’ll have to be tested soon. You know they started these tests for 10-year-old cars, they brought it down to six, now five, they’ll bring it down to three. There’s even been some talk of having them tested before they leave the factories.”

I grew up on Flanders and Swann, largely as a result of my mother’s affection for them and for their satirical songs. They were an unlikely duo who had been at Westminster School together before the war, but who hadn’t really started working together until they met again once the war was over. In the meantime Michael Flanders – who once had ambitions of becoming an actor – had contracted polio and was confined to a wheelchair. Donald Swann wrote the music and played the piano, and when they discovered that Flanders’ humorous introductions went down as well as the songs they adopted the review format that was to make them famous.

Their humour was gentle, witty and intelligent – all the things I like in comedy. I was immediately impressed by a duo who could base a song on the first and second law of thermodynamics – who wouldn’t be – but the clincher for me was an elegiac lament called ‘The Slow Train’, which – by incorporating the idiosyncratic names of many of the bucolic English villages and hamlets that had their railways stations sundered from them in the early 60s as part of the wide-ranging cutbacks imposed by the pillaging Dr. Beeching (the first Chairman of the British Railways Board) – contrived to say something heartfelt about the loss of a minor but important part of our heritage.

“The Sleepers sleep at Audlem and Ambergate.
No passenger waits on Chittening platform or Cheslyn Hay.
No one departs, no one arrives
From Selby to Goole, from St Erth to St Ives.
They’ve all passed out of our lives
On the Slow Train, on the Slow Train.”


I digress – again!

Pearl is now some 26 years old and getting through the MOT test is no longer the formality that it once was. To be fair, she does live in a dry garage – under a cover – for much of the year, and does a relatively low mileage mostly in dry, sunny conditions – but I reckon she has earned that. Anyway – when it came to it she sailed through with flying colours.

Let’s just hope my medical goes as well.

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Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

Gerald Levert/Andy Gibson – sung by Janis Joplin

It is surprisingly difficult to find statistics on worldwide open-top ownership, so my gut feeling that the English must come somewhere near the top of the league when it comes to this peculiar obsession must remain purely subjective. At this time of year the merest hint of the sun peeping through the murk is enough to bring to the roads an epidemic of rag-topped roadsters that have presumably spent the winter months hibernating in warm, dry garages.

Why it should be that the English are thus so afflicted I am not sure – particularly given our infelicitous climate. Perhaps it has to do with wishful thinking, or the lack of a pertinent contemporary mythology – or perhaps our midlife crises are just more acute than for other races. Either way, those from sunnier climes who might be expected to embrace the joys of wind-in-the-hair motoring instead tend to eschew these delights in favour of air-conditioned homogeneity.

I am, myself, a long standing convertible convert. The above is my pride and joy – the other lady in my life – and she is called Pearl. You probably don’t really need me to elucidate the origin of the name, but (for younger readers)… ‘Pearl’ was both the title of the album that Janis was recording at the point of her untimely death, and indeed her nickname for herself.  For those that care about such things my Pearl is a 1986 300SL. I have owned her for around ten years now and she has given me a great deal of pleasure over that time.

Regrettably, any thoughts of bringing her to Canada in a couple of years time really are a non-starter. If I wished I could pick up a North American version of the SL for somewhat less than it would cost to ship her over and do the necessary work to register her.

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.

So – what should I drive when I finally make it to Victoria? My instinct is that I should run a 4×4, and I will certainly need it to be equipped to tow a boat. I am no stranger to the breed having previously owned an old Landrover 110 Station Wagon, which I really enjoyed both on and off-road. Unfortunately the fact that it boasted a 3.5l V8, weighed over 2 tons and had the aerodynamics of a block of flats (Canadian: Condo!) meant that it averaged only around 12mpg! In the end I could no longer afford to run the beast – even had my conscience allowed me to do so.

Trouble is, I still hanker after a rag-top – and whereas there used to be quite a range of 4×4 convertible options, as far as I can see there is now only the one…

Hmmm! What to do?

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