New wheels

Yesterday we went to the local Toyota dealer and put down a deposit for a RAV 4 Edge hybrid .

A replacement for our faithful 2004 Camry had been mooted for quite some time, especially as bits kept on having to be replaced, and a kind of intermittent groan from the passenger side under the dashboard became more frequent. Our garage had been able to fix this when it first became apparent. Unfortunately it un-fixed itself, and became quite distracting. A proper fix would have involved taking off the dashboard, and would have cost $2,000-odd. Anyway, the old girl gave us sterling service for 16 years, and still drives well. A new set of tyres is unfortunately required, the old ones being unroadworthy, but at least we won’t have to re-register it — the rego only expires in May, 2022.

This actually fits in (fingers crossed) with the availability of the new car, which we won’t get our hands on until March or April. RAV 4s have been extreme popular of late, with hybrids especially requiring long wait times. According to one report, the Cruiser (previously the top model) has a waiting time of up to 14 months. (The local dealership quoted us eight months to get hold of one, against three for the Edge.) Why the delay? Apparently there is a worldwide shortage of semiconductors, with which modern cars are replete. Covid has apparently also gummed up supply chains in various ways. Demand really took off as well during the various lockdowns; when international travel became impossible (and remains problematic), people decided to travel within Victoria. All this, and a desire to get it done, meant we were ready to sign on the dotted line for one of the new model. Time is money!

We only drove a couple of cars yesterday. The first was a hybrid Camry, which felt very smooth and quiet. Then we hopped in a RAV 4 Cruiser, really just to compare and contrast. We both liked it a lot. It is a very easy car to sit in and figure out what does what — something that all the tests I have read say. It is a medium size SUV, with the increased height giving a better view of the traffic. RAV 4s have a very similar drivetrain to the Camry, being both mild hybrids. As drivers of these vehicles know, the switching between the electric motor and the petrol engine is very unobtrusive. The RAV 4 is actually a shorter car than the Camry, which is now approaching 5 metres in length. But the SUV body allows you to chuck a fair bit more gear in the back. The Edge is also AWD, which wasn’t on our list, but will give driving in rain more secure feeling. This feature is doubtless the majority of the price increase over the Cruiser. The rest goes on a new front bumper, and what could be a rather busy trim, featuring an orange stripe. (We only saw this on the large screen at the dealership, and in a brochure — none of our model has landed in Australia yet.) Apart from an extra 3KW of grunt, the Edge is basically the same vehicle as the one we drove, which had plenty of urge. All those people chasing one can’t be wrong!

The mild hybrid was a bit of a compromise from a plug-in hybrid or a full EV. The last we rejected on grounds of range anxiety. A recent trip to Daylesford revealed only one charger in the main drag — being hogged by a Tesla both times we passed. OK, the infrastructure is improving, but what do we do in the meantime? Also, Toyota doesn’t make a plug-in hybrid or an EV, and that was the make we were inclined towards. To date, we have, jointly and severally, owned five Toyotas — one each of the Camry, Celica, Corolla, Crown, and the GT. These have all been extremely reliable. The local dealer is also only a tram ride away, a consideration for getting the thing serviced. The cost of dealer servicing is generally usurious, but the RAV 4 only needs servicing every 12 months, and the first five services will cost $200 each. If services are carried out at a dealer, the five year warranty becomes extended to seven years. (This is nice to have, but I don’t expect we will need it. When I bought the GT I shelled out for a three year extended warranty, which I’m happy to say was a complete waste of money.)

The damage to the GT has been fixed for quite a while now (the repairer replaced the bonnet, and resprayed the driver’s side front guard). I still haven’t been reimbursed for the the excess I paid on my comprehensive insurance to have these repairs done. However, someone from our insurance company rang me on Friday and told me that they had obtained the monies from the transport company’s insurer. I will believe it when I see it, but it is definitely looking hopeful.

Level pegging

Updates to this post are minor, made only for clarity.

My beloved and I went to see Dr P on Wednesday, October 27th. The PSA is very slightly elevated — 1.01, up from 0.94 at the previous test. However, Dr P. said this is within the measurement error of the machine. So we weren’t to worry. He emphasised that he was still happy with where I was at. I am to see him next on 22 November, on which date I will also be having another Zolodex implant.

I am a bit late posting this because the consult came at mid-way of an extremely busy week. On Monday I parked the GT at the back of the IGA supermarket on Maling Road, Caterbury. I noticed a truck unloading in a right-of-way next to my parking space. I went to four places on Maling Road, at all of which I checked in, using the Service Victoria QR code reader and digital vax certificate. When I got back from the last stop (the IGA supermarket, as it happened), the truck had gone, but I noticed a bit of damage on the car bonnet and driver’s side guard. (There wasn’t a note on the car acknowledging responsibility.)

I whizzed back to the supermarket and asked if they had had a delivery that morning. (I’d chosen not to get a receipt for the items I’d bought, but, via the Service Victoria app, was able to show them that I had been in the store within the last half-hour.) They were very helpful and gave me a copy of the receipt that they had received from the delivery driver. The latter wasn’t an employee of IGA, but was working for a transport company. The invoice gave me his name and other useful information.

When I got home I wasn’t sure whether to call the transport company or my insurance company. I hadn’t seen how the damage occurred — I was only inferring that that it had been caused by the truck driver who’d made the delivery to IGA. So I rang my insurance company (Apia) and explained what had happened. They agreed that there was only circumstantial evidence that a third party was involved, charged me my excess (which I paid over the phone by credit card), and set an assessment and repair appointment in train.

After this I rang the transport company. They were unexpectedly sympathetic and said they would speak to the driver, and that someone would call me back. I didn’t have great hopes from this. However, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from the company the next day. They had indeed spoken to the driver, who said he hadn’t had any traffic accidents on his run. However, they had looked at footage from a video camera mounted on the back of the truck. This showed a pole, called a pogo stick, which the driver used in unloading the truck. The driver had leant the pogo stick against the truck, causing it to fall onto the bonnet of the GT as the truck reversed out of the right-of-way. So they acknowledged responsibility for the damage. (I thought this very decent of the company to put their hand up for this, and said so.)

To cut a long story short, after exchanging a few SMSs and emails, I received an indemnity form to fill in and send back. According to this the company said they would pay the amount of my insurance excess, if I, my heirs and descendants and so on, undertook to make no further claim on them in this matter. Rightio, I said, and filled it out and returned it to them forthwith. (What is this mysterious company’s name? I haven’t received the money yet, dear readers, so I am keeping schtum until I do. However, I expect the amount to be forthcoming.)

In the same week

  • I had two in-person exercise classes at the exercise physiology practice;
  • via Zoom, had a German lesson (for which I hadn’t done much hausaufgabe);
  • also by Zoom, had an appointment with my psychologist;
  • hooked up our barbecue (which had been sitting out in the garage for eighteen months or so after having been gifted to us by a former neighbour), in preparation for a Cup Day get-together with friends;
  • drove the GT out to Blackburn to the damage assessor/body shop place, where it resides until Friday (Apia shouted me an Uber back home); and
  • baked two sourdough loaves.

The loaves turned out well, the BBQ works fine (although I have to clean the grill plate soon), and I have been adapting well to only having one car between us. Actually, my beloved and I got by perfectly well with one car between us for twenty years. It is only in the last seven years that we have had a car each. As far as I am concerned, I would be happy to trade both the Toyotas in on an EV.

I can’t preview this post as I used to be able to, so I am just going to post it as is.

Marching on

I had my appointment with Dr P this morning. The PSA has gone up slightly again — to 4.8 from 3.7. However, the scans I had on Monday didn’t reveal any new activity. So I am still radiologically in remission. Dr P said there was a spot on my chest which was probably causing the increase in the PSA. (On the way home I checked the list of metastases, or “spots” in doctor-speak, that he gave me in February, 2019. This showed one on the sternum — this is probably the one he was referring to this morning.) Dr P referred me to a radiation oncologist for stereotactic treatment of that spot; I will be having this treatment starting on the 23rd.

(I had stereotactic radiation treatment a few years ago — after the operation and before the chemo/hormone treatment. So it is quite familiar. All these treatments are pretty refined, and fortunately don’t seem to cause me many side effects.)

Anyway, Dr P is not worried about the blood test and scan results — “not even close” were his exact words. I am certainly still feeling fine. The sleep continues to improve, and this always makes me feel better. I will continue with the exercise classes twice a week. (Ditto with the hormone treatment unless and until I need a different one.) I had another Zolodex implant after the appointment with Dr P. After that we had a coffee on Maling Road, and I went to the greengrocers.

The day went a bit pear-shaped after we got home, though. I should explain, for those who haven’t been to our place, we are in the rear unit of two. Another pair of units is directly to the north of us. As we approached our place, we saw a police car on the nature strip and a fire truck and an SES truck in the street. As we passed the units beside us, my beloved glanced up their driveway and exclaimed “Oh, my God!”. A car was sitting in their driveway at right angles to the boundary fence. When we got up to our driveway, the car belonging to the neighbour in the front unit was parked outside our garage. This was all highly unusual!

We asked one of the coppers what was going on. Apparently someone in one of the units to the north of us, while driving out of their garage, had lost control and gone through the boundary fence. This had flattened a section of the fence, and knocked a hole in the garage of the front unit on our side. (This was why the neighbour’s car was outside our garage.)

Our garage has a party wall with that of the front unit. The police and SES therefore asked to check inside our garage to see if it too was damaged. There was a small crack in our garage wall, but no other visible damage. As a precaution, though, the SES put a prop inside our garage to reinforce the roof where it joins our neighbour’s. The latter went to the trouble of tying up the prop to prevent it from falling onto our car, should the wall shift. (They were very concerned that they get this prop back — I assured them I would keep an eye on it. I reckon if the prop fell on the Camry, we would be up for a new car — they are hefty pieces of kit!) Our neighbour’s garage is quite badly damaged — one can see straight through the wall where the impact occurred. She will have to leave her car in the street for the time being. It was just lucky no-one was hurt.

Everyone was very calm and pleasant. One of the police helped me drag some stuff out of the garage to let the SES put the prop in. The police also helpfully supplied us with the contact details belonging to the driver of the car. Armed with this information we rang our insurance company and explained what had happened. They will be sending out someone to assess the damage to our wall in the next few days. No-one actually said “You can go on parking your car in the garage”, but we inferred that this was a fair thing to do while we are waiting for any remedial work that might be required. TBC!

Broken out and washed up

My beloved and I returned on Thursday from a couple of nights away, which we spent in Daylesford.

The end of lockdown has brought an exodus from Melbourne into country Victoria. I wasn’t sure that we would get anything in the rush, even though we were going mid-week. We ended up with a place called Lake Orchard Villas. The main draw with this property was its location, walking distance from the lake. You could also, theoretically, walk to restaurants and shops on Vincent Street. This would have involved a couple of fair size hills, though, so I have to ‘fess up — we drove.

The villa had two bedrooms, a spa bath, and a kitchen. The last was essential in allowing us to make breakfast for my beloved, ensuring that she got at least one “safe” meal a day. Being weatherboard, it was all very charming in a Chekhovian sort of way. The only really startling thing was a whistling kettle. (The first time I boiled it, I thought I had set off a fire alarm.) There was even a bowl of chocolates, of which I had one. One could sit on a little balcony out the front, and there was a bigger area at the rear with a barbecue and a large dining table. We are planning to go again, when I will definitely be looking to fire up the BBQ one evening.

An unexpected feature of the place was Netflix. We watched several episodes of Emily in Paris, a rather anodyne series about a young American woman suddenly sent to Paris for her work. The whole thing is really an excuse for some gentle cross-cultural comedy, and to show off the leading lady’s wardrobe. (That of her boss, with whom she has a fractious relationship, isn’t bad either.) It is all quite fun and totally undemanding — just the thing for a holiday.

We returned on Thursday via Clunes and Ballarat (where a modest-looking restaurant yielded a cracking Chinese meal). The next day the dishwasher people arrived (early) to put in the new dishwasher. I had been a tad nervous about this. Old dishwashers tend to leak: if the guys removed the old one through our place, I could see the carpet getting stained. Fortunately they had a trolley with soft tyres, allowing the appliances to be brought in and taken out via the courtyard. Once up the steps, everything happened on a tiled floor.

The installation was mostly uneventful. The old dishwasher had started leaking, and this moisture was mopped up by the installers before putting in the new appliance. Dishwashers sit on adjustable feet; if these are jacked up, the gap which this creates underneath is hidden by a kick plate. The Siemens was not quite as high than the old Dishlex, so I had to choose between having a noticeable gap at the top (between the dishwasher and the underneath of the bench) or a bigger one underneath it. I chose to even them out and have some gap top and bottom. The new kick plate is a lot more recessed than the old one, and this exposes a grout line in the floor tiling that we had never seen before.

The kitchen floor is tiled in a diamond pattern. Underneath the cabinets, for some reason, this changes to a square grid pattern. The grout line from the second pattern is what is now exposed, along with a gap of 1.5 cm or so underneath the dishwasher. It is possible to have the old kickplate trimmed and fitted back underneath the dishwasher. That will mean that it matches the cabinet underneath the sink, but not the dishwasher door (which is stainless steel). Anyway, all these things can be fiddled with at our leisure. The installers ran a test load, and the Siemens is certainly incredibly quiet compared to the Dishlex, which used to groan, gurgle, and thump away.

I had a bad moment reading the warranty leaflet, which mentioned a factory warranty of two years. This was a surprise, as the store had advertised a five year warranty for this brand. I got on the blower to the salesman, who knew straightaway what I was ringing about. The leaflets are printed overseas, and reflect the warranty offered in other places. Siemens dishwashers in Australia have a five year warranty. He sent me an email to this effect so that I had it in writing.

Having taken what will probably be the last trip in the Camry, I read with interest a road test of a Mercedes Benz GLC 300 PHEV. (PHEV, as you will no doubt know, is a plug in hybrid electric vehicle.) This was the same model that we had hired over a year ago when I won sixth prize (!) in the 3MBS-FM radiothon. (That one, though, had a diesel engine.) The GLC is a big vehicle, to be sure, but I really enjoyed punting it around the Dandenongs for a day. $80,000-odd is out of our range, though, so we will probably end up with another Camry. The last one is still going strong after sixteen years, just getting a bit elderly and cranky — like one of its owners.

Isolation diary day 6

Today kicked off with a real expedition. We had to be out of the house to give our cleaning lady an open go. I hadn’t driven the GT for over a week, so I decided to give it a run up to the Dandenongs. So we headed up the highway through Ferntree Gully and took the familiar left turn up the mountain.

The last time we had ventured this way was about eighteen months ago, when we had the loan of a very large Benz for the weekend. Readers will recall that I won sixth prize or so in the annual 3MBS-FM prize lottery. A free hire of a Benz was the prize that time. We had requested one of their sedan models. That weekend, though, they were trialling a Sunday opening for the Grand Final, and consequently wanted to keep a few smaller models for any punters who wandered along. Consequently we got a monstrous GLC four wheel drive, all $90,000 worth. I liked it rather a lot, but it was too large for my beloved, so we thankfully gave it back to the dealer the next day. Mercedes Benz Toorak must have known we weren’t prospects, as they never called us to ask whether the experience made us feel like putting it in our garage for keeps. 

Back to this morning, and the GT proved just the vehicle for the windy roads leading up to Mount Dandenong. We stopped for a coffee at Olinda; my beloved made the purchase, which we consumed in the car. (It was drizzling, and quite parky for, err, is it late summer? Early autumn?) Our return was as uneventful as the outward leg had been, and the route led us conveniently to Canterbury Road. My beloved went to the pharmacy in Maling Road, and joined the queue lining up to be served in the doorway. (This pharmacy is only a small establishment; I think the idea was to regulate the number of punters per square metre to the present rather draconian level.)

While she was thus occupied, I leaned against a post on the far side of the road, trying to look as if I had something useful to do. This charade was bolstered by the appearance of an elderly gentleman, who headed in my direction carrying a white cane, then did a 90 degree turn a few feet in front of me, obviously intending to cross the road. I was able to scuttle up to his elbow, scan the traffic in both directions, and advise him that it was safe to cross. (As Dad would say, quoting G&S: giving artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.)

Back home, my beloved got to work, like all her colleagues — only the CEO is physically in the building today. (Is this allowed under OH&S? At RMIT, if you wanted to work late, at least one other person had to be there , in case you fell and broke your leg or something equally inconvenient. But CEOs appear to be invulnerable.) Phone calls were fielded by us both. In my case it was my writing buddy Graham, a fellow labourer in the memoir writing vineyard. We are guide, mentor, philosopher, and friend to each other in this intermittent endeavour.

This evening our very first online grocery order is to be delivered. This service is not available to any except the most deserving, into which category we appear to fall. A few of the things I requested are not available, something about which I was forewarned. (Substitutions have been made in a couple of cases.) Yesterday we received a delivery, also a first for us, of fruit and vegetables from our local greengrocer. A couple of the mangoes were sub par — fortunately, we have ordered some from the supermarket as well. With this exception, getting our grub this way was extremely convenient. The order was placed by SMS, the payment effected (as real estate agents like to say) by bank transfer. So we are managing to keep ourselves fed without a lot of effort.  

Libraries are all closed not, of course, so I have reactivated my Overdrive account from our local public library for reading e-books. There is a fair number that I have either downloaded or placed holds. I am going a bit slowly with our current book group book. (Meetings of the group are suspended, along with most other things, until further notice). The book is No friend but the mountains, by Behrouz Boochani. It has undeniable authority and terrific urgency, but I find I can’t read it for very long. 


Poetry on wheels

In the 1970s, my parents went on their first overseas trip. I was living in the family home in Mosman. (They probably asked me to look after the place for them.) I was enjoying the freedom from parental oversight. I managed not get up to anything too terrible, except for damaging Dad’s car.

He had left me the key to his still pretty new HQ Holden. I was probably just supposed to take it out once a week to keep its battery charged. It was more fun to drive than whatever old bomb I owned at the time, so I may have interpreted my brief rather liberally. So it was Dad’s car that that I was driving home one night along Bridge Road in Glebe, when someone pulled out in front of me and scraped one of the Holden’s near side panels.  

I was a feckless university student in my early twenties, with only the vaguest idea of what to do. I pulled over and exchanged details with the other driver. Then I did nothing more. In my defense, insurance claims were a complete mystery to me. And of course I wasn’t the registered owner of the Holden, so I may not have been able to do much. But I somehow forgot to let Dad know what had happened. (I doubtless rationalised it as not wanting to spoil their trip).

He noticed the dent when I went to pick them up at the airport. When we got home, after they told me about their trip, I told him the story. What remained of his holiday mood must have evaporated fairly quickly. Dad must have loved me a great deal not to have torn a strip off me for general hopelessness. His forbearance continued over the years — he never once reminded me of the episode. I had only thought about it a few times until, forty-odd years later, I heard that Holden was finally withdrawing from the Australian car market.

Dad and I didn’t go to sporting matches or fish. Instead we bonded over music, chess, and cars. I can claim to have introduced him to Haydn, whom he came to love almost as much as Mozart. We played the occasional game of chess, although he was much the stronger player. (I did beat him once that I recall — quite an Oedipal moment.) We also spent quite a few hours fixing my various old bombs. At that stage of my life, I seem to have changed my car over about every two years. Dad was always involved in these purchases, and in working on them when they required some attention. They provided a handy source of problems to solve, something that Dad always loved. 

Dad was quite keen on cars too. In days of yore there had been a Pontiac with a crash gearbox. The first car that I remember of his was a tan and white FE station wagon. This was our car in Darwin. I have vague recollections of my parents talking about shipping it it on the train — presumably the Ghan — so they must have had it in Adelaide as well.

After we moved to Sydney, Dad was able to trade the FE in on a new car, his first company vehicle. I remember him or my mother joking that his employer was sick of looking at the old FE in the car park. He chose another Holden, a white HQ wagon with a V8 engine. (Yes, that was the one that I was driving that night.) After that, he owned a Falcon, and a Mazda 929. All these were station wagons.

I have owned a few cars in my time, but never a Holden. In Sydney, I had been the owner of four vehicles:

  • a 1957 Austin Lancer;
  • a Wolseley 24/80 (a rebadged Austin Freeway);
  • a Valiant station wagon; then
  • a 1968 Toyota Crown.

The Crown was fully imported, and my first Japanese car. It was an extremely solid vehicle, and far more refined than its Australian counterparts. After that I briefly owned a Volkswagen Passat, then a Mitsubishi Sigma wagon.

When I moved to Melbourne I brought the latter with me. Living in St Kilda and working in the city made it redundant. For the first time since turning eighteen, I had no car. Mum was concerned that this would inhibit my dating activities. Fortunately my beloved had her own wheels.

For most of our marriage we got by with only one car: initially her Corolla, then a Peugeot 405. The Peugeot was our only new car purchase, and our most exotic choice. It was reliable and great to drive, but spare parts became more expensive, especially as the years wore on. We reverted to Toyota for its replacement, a 2004 Camry Azura. Sixteen years and 150,000 kilometres later, it is still her daily drive. 

We became a two car couple about seven years ago when my beloved’s family gave us a 1990s model Ford Fairmont. I drove it for five years, during which time it proved extremely economical and reliable. (Local cars did improve out of sight, but the market had moved on.) It became surplus to requirements when I rather rashly bought a Toyota GT 86; a red one, no less. When I saw this car I thought — to quote Primo Levi — if not now, when?

At the age of 65, I enjoy having a sporty drive. Being low slung, it is a totally unsuitable car for an arthritic old fart. I don’t care; getting into and out of it keeps me a bit flexible. It is only taken out to get the shopping, drive to the train station, or to go out to coffee. Dad always bought cars on the basis of function, but I think he would have felt the touch of fairy dust this one sprinkles over the most routine trip. 

No guts, no glory

I was originally going to call this blog post “Smörgåsbord”, and it’s not surprising I should have had food on my mind. I came down with gastroenteritis on Thursday, and since then I have subsisted mostly on dry toast, tea, water, and electrolyte drinks. Forays into peanut butter on the toast and lentil soup were unsuccessful. I have only been beyond the gates a couple of times since it all began; the excursion yesterday was to a GP in Camberwell. My loyal readership might think I am taking an attack of the runs a bit seriously to call in a medico. For those who have had immuno-suppressant treatments like chemotherapy, however, the recommendation I have read is to call in a GP if the gastro goes on beyond a couple of days. (This was also the suggestion of my oncologist Dr Parente, with whom I had a brief phone conversation yesterday.) So it’s not just me being a wimp!

A medication that Dr P recommended is called Gastrostop. This contains both loperamide, which helps the bowel contents to firm up, and another ingredient meant to reduce abdominal swelling (which can be quite painful). I can report that this combo works well. It is delivered via a chewable tablet, wherein lies its only disadvantage in leaving a bitter taste. (This may not happen for other people.) To get around this, I have been breaking the tablet up and swallowing it in water. When I did this this morning, I felt quite nauseated; fortunately, I wasn’t sick. This could have been related to my being unable to swallow the tablet fragments, and having to chew them after all. Maybe there is a reflex that makes you feel nauseated if you chew something you haven’t been able to swallow. For anyone remotely interested in how their tums work, I can recommend Gulp: travels around the gut, by Mary Roach. (The link points to the Boroondara Library service record.) This is a great piece of science writing. Just don’t read it in your lunch break: especially when she is talking about vomiting and elimination!

Further in this vein, a good source of information about gastroenteritis (which I sincerely hope you won’t need) is the Better Health Victoria web page . From this and other sources I learned that my gastro is viral, not bacterial. Bacterial is accompanied by vomiting and abdominal pain, and can be treated by antibiotics. Viral has neither of these effects, and can’t be treated by antibiotics, or anything much. The main recommendations here are rest, very plain food, water and electrolytes to replace the fluids. Paracetamol can help reduce fever, but won’t do anything for the gastro. (Something nobody points out — stay near a toilet — i.e. at home. And wash your hands every time you go. My beloved has so far not succumbed, although it is way contagious.) The BHV page is superior IMHO to the equivalent federal government one, which is well written, but contains some weird advice along the lines of “Eat normal meals if you feel hungry”. This is pretty much guaranteed to irritate the gut big time! Stick with dry toast, maybe chicken noodle soup, plain rice or noodles. Avoid coffee, alcohol, chocolate, butter, spicy food, and all other fun things. Some GPs feel that loperamide-based medications like Gastrostop prolong the condition by stopping you up, and thus inhibiting the virus from passing through the system. I tell you what, though — if you have been to the toilet ten times, a bit of stopping up starts to feel like a good thing! At the very least, if you want to get a half-way decent sleep, have one or two of these (as directed) before you go to bed.

Coincidentally with this happenstance, we have been down to one car (the GT) in which to get around. Someone ran into the Camry while my beloved had it parked at Chadstone shopping centre. (She wasn’t in it at the time.) Fortunately the driver of the other car left a note under her windscreen wiper, apologising profusely and including her contact details. After quite a number of phone calls, the mobile C-suite has a new bumper, paid for by the other lady’s insurance. Drop-off Thursday, recovered yesterday. (Fair play to the repairer, Capital Smart, for providing my beloved a free Uber ride home and back to the workshop in the wilds of Mulgrave.)

Things got faintly complicated when our insurer got involved as well. We had a comprehensive policy on the Camry at the time of the accident, and ended up paying them the excess on that policy for the current repair. (When our insurers are reimbursed by the other insurers, we should be fully refunded.) Before I got crook, I ferried my beloved around in the GT; fortunately she also had a couple of drives with me as the passenger. This came in handy when I couldn’t stray beyond the front door! She is a very capable driver, however, and got the hang of it in no time, looking very Agatha Raisin in her string-backed gloves and big sunnies. She ended up taking it out for quite a few spins, including a night-time trip to a pharmacy. We bought an automatic model partly so that we could both drive it, and this turns out to have been a good move. It is a very entertaining little device, and injects fun into the most mundane supermarket trip.



Sir’s undetectable

There was a line of wigs or hairpieces widely advertised in the media of the 1960s or 70s as “Sir’s Undetectable”. I am hoping that someone of my vintage, or thereabouts, can confirm (or otherwise) that I am spelling “Sir’s” correctly with the apostrophe after the “r”. These products were legendary in our family as “Sir’s detectable“!

Dr Google can only turn up a Yellow Pages advertisement for “Sir’s For Men Wigs & Hairpieces” in Baulkham Hills, Sydney, which assures us that this is “A Name You Have Relied On For Three Generations”. My curiosity being aroused, I turned to Trove, where I performed the following search . This only found results from advertising in the Canberra Times from 1980 onwards. These advertisers of this era were unsurprisingly unsure about whether to spell their product “Sir’s”, “Sirs” or even “Sirs’ “, resorting to all three spellings in the 19 ads retrieved. That apostrophe was indeed a pesky piece of punctuation! Is there a grammarian in the house?

There is indeed method behind all this tonsorial nostalgia. My last PSA result repeated the previous one, I think it was, as 0.01. Apparently this amounts to  being undetectable. (I had been hoping for the “bagel score” of 0.0, but I guess the .01 part is a courtesy amount, rather as people refer to retired military or politicians by a courtesy title.) Anyway, I remain happily in remission. The last chemotherapy session went well, as all the previous ones had. Only one to go, on Boxing Day! (I will be seeing the good Dr P on Christmas Eve to get the go-ahead for this final infusion.)

I am still enjoying punting the little Toyota around. The previous weekend I had the chance to stretch its legs a bit on a run down to Cranbourne. This was the first time I had had it on a freeway. It felt very stable and solid, and there was no problem keeping up with the other traffic. It isn’t the best car for an interstate cruiser, being a bit noisy on coarse-chip road surfaces. But it was definitely fun. I think what is enjoyable about it is not just the attributes of the car itself, but the fact that I bought such a wildly unsuitable and midlife-crisis advertising vehicle in so insouciant a fashion!

Still, I am trying to make it as practical as possible. I had the full size spare wheel fitted and the steering wheel re-covered at the dealer’s (these things having being folded into the purchase agreement). I also had a sunvisor and the reversing camera replaced, both under warranty. It remains a delightful car in being easy to manoeuvre around shopping centre carparks, small enough to fit in most car spaces, and very sporty in which to whip around corners. I am also getting the hang of various features like the ability to retract the side mirrors at the press of a button.

On one of these shopping expeditions, I left it in a brand-new supermarket carpark, and returned to find dark red fluid leaking from underneath its nose (or so I thought). On checking the service record, I found that the last service had occurred about nine months ago. This being, oddly, the service interval for this vehicle, I took it to my local garage for a workshop once-over. They replaced all the fluids, and declared that no leaks could be found. The previous owner having been pretty spotty with the servicing, I know it has been brought up to where it should be.

A crazy day

Crazy it might have been, but it was definitely fun. I have just bought a red sports car, same colour and shape as this one — although mine is about four years old.

A bit late for a mid-life crisis, I know. But not too late to do a bucket-list thing. It all started quite inoocently, going into Camberwell Toyota for some spare brake light globes for the faithful Camry. There was a white GT-86 in the used car lot; not the one I ended up with, obviously. (That one was a manual.) Anyway, I asked if they had any automatics. They had one; red, very low kilometres. That was pretty much game over.

When I took it out on its first test on Friday, the manager did inform me that someone was talking to finance about it. When I got back, it had been sold. I wasn’t bothered. This morning, a phone call from the sales rep. The deal had fallen through. So they are fairly popular cars. Was I being played? Possibly. But my beloved and I chipped enough off the ask to make it worthwhile for us to sign the contract. She was the bad cop in the negotiations, and played that magnificently. As soon as she said “We’ll have to go away and think about it”, it all got more business-like. Being near the end of the month helped as well, I think. Everyone wanted to get it done. I will miss the old Fairmont, just a little — it kept me on the go for five years — but I think I will enjoy driving a bit of testosterone on wheels!

I did some vaguely rational stuff like taking it to our local garage for them to give it the once over. (They found no evidence of prangs, or anything wrong.) I cast an eye over prices of the other automatic 86s for sale in Melbourne. I also bought a two year warranty with it, with roadside service. It is even going to come with a full size spare! (This would have been a deal breaker had it not been provided.) My beloved gave it a test drive also; it’s not much use if only one of us can punt it around. Yes, we can both get into and out of it. We will just need to be a bit selective about where we park it; it needs enough room to open those long doors. And, for a sports car, it makes sense. As the guy from the garage put it, a joint development of Toyota and Subaru has good genes. Like any modern car, I just have to keep it serviced properly (I have read about Soobies). But the $64 question is: is it fun to drive? Definitely!

What else happened today? We had our plumber install a towel rail in the ensuite; initially upside down. (He came back and put it in the right way up.) And we had a new bed delivered. This seems enormous, although it is the same size as the last one. However, it is at least 10 centimetres taller. Thank goodness the sheets fit it! A new bed tends to set off a frenzy of vacuuming; all the dust balls lurking under the old base are fairly unattractive. This delivery was no exception. However, the guys were very careful to only move it in the plastic, so no grubby handmarks on mattress or base. I gave them a couple of chocolate brownies in appreciation.

The chemo seems to be going OK. I get awfully tired if I overdo things. Apart from that, I feel fine. Looking forward to a less crazy day tomorrow; I might be able to get some cooking done, and even get out in the garden. The new wheels should be visiting Burwood later this week.