Monday, June 26, 2006

Cars in my life

I have always been a demon driver. People who get into my car often emerge shaking. So I buy very small cars -- which enable me to flash through traffic down lanes that are not supposed to be there. I remember one occasion when I upset some guy in a big Ford without being aware of it and he decided to chase me to remonstrate with me. I was just driving in my normal way but it still stretched him to chase me. By the time he caught up with me he was too exhausted to say much to me. If I had been aware of him chasing me, he would never have caught up.

But the cars I drive are not powerful ones. Not at all ones that rev-heads like The Good Blair would approve of. My first car was a VW and those since have always been small and humble too. Though I did at one stage have a Mini K -- which was an Australian version of the Morris Mini Minor but with an 1100cc motor in it -- and did that thing go! There is NO car that is as much fun to drive as a Mini.

At the beginning of 2005, I had two cars -- a 1991 Ford Festiva (really a Korean-made Kia) and a 1995 Daihatsu Charade.

Daihatsu Charade

The Festiva was as near as I had come to a Mini in terms of fun to drive. It was a real Go-Kart. But my son Joe was just starting university so I gave him the choice of which car he wanted to drive and he chose the Festiva. It was a VERY old car as small cars go, however, so at the beginning of this year the motor blew up and I reluctantly gave it away and gave Joe the Daihatsu instead.

I then bought a one-year-old ex-hire Toyota Echo off Hertz for myself.


I had always thought that my Daihatsu was the easiest car to drive ever made but the Echo was even easier. If you see them being driven around the place they are almost always flying and that is because they are such a Swiss-watch of a car. They feel like a single thing to drive rather than a mechanical device.

But that was not enough. I have always wanted a really old car as well, and now that age has slowed me down I thought it was time. Vintage cars are of course wonderful but you virtually need to be a mechanic to keep them going so I have compromised on a veteran car -- and not such a veteran one at that. I have just bought a 1963 Humber Super Snipe off a family who had been driving it since new. It is a big old English car and, as such, bound to need lots of work to keep it going but I have a mechanic friend living just over the road so I think I can afford it! I remember that when they were new the Humbers were being advertised as being able to cruise on the open road at 100 mph but I am not going to try that. I am sure it would blow up if I tried it at this stage in its life.

The difference in handling of the two cars is of course enormous but I used to be a cab-driver many years ago so I am not bothered by big clumsy cars. The style of the Humber makes up for all else, in my view, particularly as the car has been very well-maintained and looks immaculate.

Collecting the Humber yesterday morning was rather fun. Everybody who heard about the impending purchase was enthusiastic and none more than an old friend who was born and bred in Coventry, England, where the Humber was built. The first car he ever drove was a Humber so he couldn't wait to see my Humber and came along with me to collect it. And my stepson Paul was equally enthusiastic. He and his wife drove us out to collect it and both were delighted by the car.

When we got the car home, we all had steak pies, teacake and tea on my verandah to celebrate.

I have posted some photos of the Humber here

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Queen’s birthday

Seeing I am a monarchist, I am delighted by the following

LONDON: British soldiers in bearskin hats marched before Queen Elizabeth II and military jets saluted her with a flypast over Buckingham Palace on Saturday during a second round of 80th birthday celebrations. And for the first time in the Queen’s reign, troops assembled in the palace forecourt gave the feu de joie (fire of joy), a traditional military salute consisting of a series of volleys of shots interspersed with snatches of the national anthem. Thousands of well-wishers—many waving small Union Jack flags—yelled “happy birthday” to the Queen, who waved back with a white-gloved hand.

Elizabeth, wearing a deep purple coat and hat, rode down the Mall near the palace in an ivory carriage, built for Queen Victoria in 1842, for a morning of pageantry at the Horseguards Parade ground in central London. Mounted members of the Household Cavalry wearing golden armour rode before her.

Later, 49 aircraft—led by Spitfires, Hurricanes and a Lancaster bomber commemorating the World War II Battle of Britain—flew by as she and her family watched from a balcony at the palace. The Trooping of the Colour parade marks the Queen’s official birthday every June. She was born on April 21, but the official, outdoor celebration comes two months later, when the chance of warm weather is better.”