Friday, July 31, 2009

40 years on the road

I like cars.

I've owned many cars over the years. The first car I really wanted was one of these.

It might even have been this poster that got me started. The open highway, the road already conquered receding at a rate of knots in the rear view mirror, the speed (I mean that looks fast even in a painting), the young lady, (she should be wearing a headscarf of course) - the whole idea of a Jaguar sports car had me in its grasp.

But most seventeen year olds don't start their motoring career in a two seater Jag and I was no different. I did not buy an XK150 as my starter for ten but in 1968 lashed out £25 for an Austin A35

This grey is even the colour of of my first automoblie although mine was never as shiny as the one illustrated. Also the one in the picture seems to be missing the brown trimmed holes in the door sills I thought came as standard on this model. I re-engined this with a BMC GoldSeal engine which cost me £17 15s 0d after I snapped the crankshaft in the original engine. Engine changeover done with washing line over a plum tree - OSH would be pleased. I used to run this car a lot of the time on a paraffin/petrol mix 'cos it was cheaper than all petrol and I had no dosh. Ran like a dog in this mode (but it ran) and needed decoking every four weeks or so. Used to make gaskets out of postcards and candle wax. Happy days - or at least I thought they were then. Looking back on it it now it seems a rather daft way to go motoring.

Had four and a half years at University in the middle of London when I didn't need a car (and couldn't afford one) and it was of no concern to me that the Austin had fallen to bits. Even the GoldSeal engine couldn't get around on four wheels, a hundred weight of bog and nothing else. Don't know which dump it ended up on.

Next car was a Minivan.

Mine was white - well sort of. I can't remember why I bought such a heap of junk (and mine certainly was) but I strongly suspect it was because it was astonishingly cheap. Note the air vent which I used to tell people (especially those of the female persuasion) was a sunroof. I left the UK at about this time; this was not entirely because I owned such a crap car. I thought I had sold the white Mini van before I left. When a year later my Dad was still getting parking tickets for it from all sorts of unlikely locations across London it was obvious that the white rust bucket had joined the realms of the undead. I think Dad killed it with a barrage of letters to Councils - or a stake through the heart or something.

Whilst in Papua New Guinea for a couple of years I owned no cars but had a Honda 125 trail bike.

This rusted away before my very eyes as I lived on the coast and drove it on roads (when there were any) made of crushed coral. Although I didn't own a car during this period I would often requisition a short wheel base Toyota Land Cruiser from the Public Works Department car pool for the weekend - as you do when you have a government driving permit.

I could have equally taken a grader or a road roller but they were a bit hard to parallel park.

Arrived back in London one Saturday morning and by tea time I had bought a Volkswagen Golf from virtually the first car showroom I could find. I needed wheels.

Mine was orange - how 70's is that?. This car was a bit of a landmark for me. It wasn't new (I am only one car away from that automotive nirvana) but was the first car I had owned that looked as though it wouldn't fall to bits before the end of the week. It also had a radio. This was bloody marvellous and I spent most of the late summer of 1977 tooling around the British roads listening to Test cricket. Still not much traffic in the late 70's and '77 was a good summer. An open road with John Arlott, Brian Johnston, The Boil, The Alderman and FS Trueman. It doesn't get much better. Well it could have as I test drove a Porsche 911 about three weeks after buying the Golf. It scared the living daylights out of me and I hung onto the other German car for a few months longer. A decision that probably saved my life.

Time to buy a new car. Not just new to me but new to anybody. What did I chose? A black one of these.

This was great. Me first tasty motor. Looked the business (just look at those twin headlights), quite quick, easy to drive and even smelled new. I loved it and it took me about three months to write it off. Not my fault your honour, honest. I was driving to work in the winter and a tractor couldn't stop as it tried to brake on an ice covered drive coming out of a farm and slipped sideways into a line of rush hour traffic. This was the only time in my life that I have won a lucky draw. Although I say wrote the Alfa off I didn't really as the bloody insurance company refused to declare it a total loss as it was so new and insisted on repairing it. Ratbags. After a long time at the panel beaters the black Italian was returned looking almost as good as before - but not quite. However it never drove at all well again and I wanted it gone. So go it did.

It was at about this time that Mrs Obald came along and she came complete with one of these.

The Citroen Dyane is the upmarket version (sic) of the 2CV. A bit like saying a Swan Vesta box is the upmarket version of a standard matchbox. Enthusiasts for these cars (and there are such permanently chemically altered fools around) laud the praises of these people's cars. They are wrong; they're garbage. This was my first encounter of the folly of buying a car on shape alone. I was to fall for this beguiling ruse myself some ten years later. I was not in the slightest bit disappointed when this bit of froggy junk left our presence to be employed driving a sewing machine - a task it should never have left in the first place.

Being as I'm a reasonable sort of a bloke I couldn't stand for SWMBO walking to work so a replacement for the French rubbish was required. As I was in my Italian phase we went for one of these.

Fiat X19 with styling (it really did have some) by Bertone. Only four colours available; silver, ice blue, maroon and gold. I chose (?) the gold and was the first car I had owned that had this new fangled metallic paint. This was a great car to drive. Mid engined, weighed about 500 grams and cornered like it was running on railway tracks. It had a targa top that you lifted off and placed in the front where all my cars up to this point had kept their engine. This reduced the luggage carrying capacity of the vehicle from two toothbrushes to one. I was very sorry to see this car go. At about this time I had my first spell of living in the country and first spell of owning a boat and so I had better get one of these as well as the Fiat.

Series III Land Rover 88. This was - well just a Series III Land Rover 88. Looked the part in the country and towed the boat. Practical but no more. But to be fair they were never meant to be anything else. However this was a landmark car for another reason. This was the first time I had owned two cars at the same time. Once you have been to this happy place there is no way back.

Well there is. You move to Singapore and find that cars are so bloody expensive that owning two is the equivalent of owning two super yachts. The burgeoning car pool is reduced quickly to this.

Back to earth with a thump alright. You think you are making progress up the automotive stairway to heaven and you find yourself buying a Mazda 323. Well it was new. And it had a radio. No, you're right, it was horrible. Another child arrives and we move up (sic) to this.

This is as painful to type as it must be to look at. This Nissan Sunny Estate (did I really own a Nissan? I mean the new GTR is technically a great car but that doesn't stop it being a bloody Nissan) although ghastly from an aesthetic and street cred point of view did serve us well. I must say that as it is true, but I hated this car.

Back to being two car family with a big mistake.

I thought the Saab 900i looked really cool. Maybe somewhere in the recesses of what I pass off as a mind I still do - no matter. So I bought a second hand one. There's two mistakes right there. Buy a car on looks alone and buy second hand. My wife told me not to do it and, as usual, she was right. For not the first time I ignored her sage advice and went ahead. The car I bought was a sort of dog vomit brown so I poured good money after bad and had it resprayed a very nice bluey grey. Right, the car now looked OK but it was an electrical disaster. The big heavy metal bits seemed to go round and work alright but all the electrical string just used to smell of burning (because it often was), give off smoke and make strange lights come on (or more usually off) at random times. Be very careful; these people make aeroplanes.

After this experimental dabble in the second hand market I listened to SWMBO and bought new again. Back on track again here with this.

Peugeot 205 GTI. I had the 1.6 litre as they didn't bring the 1.9 into Singapore. Great car - or it was until I forget to get the timing belt routinely changed before it snapped. A couple of bucks if you do it on a regular, change it whatever sort of basis. If you do it my way and change the belt after it snaps it costs thousands of dollars. One disadvantage of running a 16 valve engine is that if all 16 crash into the pistons that is how many you have to replace - 16. Despite this the 205 GTI was one of the best cars I've owned.

The bloody Sunny was ten years old and in Singapore terms that means it is off to the crusher for you. Couldn't happen to a nicer car. SWMBO replaced that with a Mitsubishi Space Wagon which she loved.

I'd had the Peugeot for a while. A while on my automotive timescale is about two and a half years and it was time for a change. I swapped one really fun car for one that was even more fun. I bought two really good cars in a row.

The Mazda Miata as it was called when I bought one (red of course). No one calls them Miata these days and they only answer to MX5. Best handling car I had owned since the Fiat X19 nearly twenty years earlier.

Time to leave Singapore and repair to the Land of the Long White Jap Import. Briefly dallied with my most recent (I'd love to write last but I wouldn't be so presumptious) motoring error.

What ever possessed me to buy a car this large with a 2.4 litre power plant is beyond me. It couldn't tow the skin off a rice pudding let alone a decent sized trailer boat. As boat towing was supposed to be one of its prmary functions it had to go. The Previa was replaced with a proper tow vehicle. In fact it was so proper I've had a couple of them. Not at the same time you understand.

The Toyota Land Cruiser is right up there in the best cars I have owned stakes. Excellent bit of kit. Well that's the boat towing and kid ferrying department sorted. What have I used to get to and from the fields?

Well I've had a couple of these.

A 1.8 litre and then a 2.6 litre. OK I suppose and initially bought becaus the A4 is not a 3 series BMW. The 1.8 was bit gutless and so hence the 2.6. I really quite enjoyed the Audis but there were plans afoot - vide infra.

The kids no longer needed ferrying and wanted to do the driving themselves. I left SWMBO to organise this. You know, Mum would know what sort of cars daughters would like - this sort of thing.

To say I was somewhat surprised when a purple one of these turned up at home would be an understatement. Me 'What size engine does that have in it?'. SWBMO 'Don't know'. Me '4 litres'. SWMBO 'Is that good?'. Me 'Have you tried insuring a four litre car for a sixteen year old?' Its four wheel driving qualities are not over exagerated; you could drive it up the side of a house. However comfortable it is not and frugal on fuel it is not - as if I cared. However it is the car that I have owned the longest ever in my car owning career; I've had it eleven years now and it is still used daily. Practice what I preach; even my wife has a four litre run about.

When it came to second daughter's car I thought I had better get a bit more hands on to head the Hummer off at the pass. Can't complain about the result - it is even quite agreeable to drive

Nearly thirty years after buying a VW Golf I get another one. This car is still around. With the kids now driving themselves and the my trailer boating days over there is no need for a big tow wagon so I no longer own a Land Cruiser and we are back down to three vehicles.

The Audi A4s were OK but remember where all this started?

How could I resist one of these after all those years?

Well I couldn't so I bought one. I've had the XKR since 2000 and apart from the Jeep (and the Sunny if you insist) is the only car I've ever owned for more than a couple of years. I love it and use it as my day to day car. I mean who couldn't enjoy driving to the fields with this lot under the bonnet.

Huge wheels, bigger tyres, f. off brakes, computer aided suspension, leave the traction control on as the 'bigger tyres' aren't given away with a packet of Weetbix, terrific sound system. Turn the Harman Kardon down a bit if you want to hear the whine of the supercharger as you roar past a stock truck. Love it. Nothing you can't overtake. And I've only fallen foul of the speed nazis once in nine years - and that was for 72 kph. What an embarassment.

There is only one place to go from here.

Not this week. I waited thirty five years for the Jag........

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The other side of Albany Hill

New Zealand does a few things well. Scenery we are quite good at. We do striped marlin very well. We used to be good at rugby (hopefully this will get better again) and softball (vide supra) and yachting. A few people can run quickish on occasions, we have a girl with huge teeth who is good on a BMX bike. We make nice honey and our dead sheep pass muster with a few roast veggies. However of the many things we do badly building roads is one of our blind spots.

New Zealand roads are dreadful - especially if you own a 390 horsepower car and want, no require, yet more automotive grunt. I mean the first (or last) 30km of the so called State Highway One aren't even sealed. Most of aforementioned SH1 is only two lanes. There are many points along the way where the camber is just plain wrong. It has ersatz motorway bits which stop in the middle of nowhere as soon as you have settled into barrelling along with cruise control doing all the thinking. NZ roads also have a feature which I have not seen anywhere else in my reasonably extensive sampling of driving around the world. This is the three lane bit. Overtaking lanes I think they are called. You get warning about 2km out that a 100 metre overtaking lane is coming up where if you are driving a Veyron you might be able to get past a Massey Ferguson. The actual tarmac (we have no proper concrete roads, of course) gets a bit (not much) wider and the motoring security of a bit of paint means you can venture into a land where a mile back you would die. These overtaking lanes are the place where the Morrie Minor that has been sitting on 87kph for the past half hour suddenly and temporarily cruises along at 105kph. Still overtake able but at the risk of a few demerits and a few dollars.

Anyway as bad as these apologies for proper roads are I suppose they are better than nothing. We have a really quite expansive bit of three lane nonsense on my drive to and from the fields up both sides of Albany Hill. Well we did. On Sunday night a gang of Fulton Hogan's finest were out with enough traffic cones to circle the globe and a pot of white paint to obliterate about half of it. The steep bit where it is needed most. Why? I really don't know but strongly suspect that, perversely, safety is at the bottom of it. Building even the ersatz crap we fob off as roads ain't cheap; measured in millions per kilometre I'll be bound. Just getting rid of some of it with ten bucks worth of paint is insanity.

Watch this space. If I get to the bottom of this madness I'll report back.

Reluctantly, politics

In its infancy and previous life this blog used to be heavily biased to New Zealand politics. I wouldn't elevate it to status of a commentary on same but more a prolonged diatribe aimed fairly and squarely at the left. I dislike, nay hate, the left wing view of life almost more than I dislike anything else going. I accept that destructive criticism is the easiest form of comment to put together but I make no apologies for that.

My over riding emotion on the evening of the first Saturday in November last year was one of relief. Relief that the horrors of where the damned left was leading the country was over. My need to comment on the wastrels in the Beehive stopped virtually overnight. I generally approve of the way the country is being run at present. Sure there have been a few things I don't like (Nick Smith saying he will be doing anything at all about anthropogenic global warming springs to mind) but in general all is well. The country is bobbing around like a cork in troubled global seas and cutting its cloth according to its means.

Now those who used to have to be obeyed are in opposition and it is their job to oppose things. What sort of a fist are they making of this? Bloody 'orrible. They couldn't organise a nun shoot in a convent. Everything Alfred E Neuman touches turns to crap. It is scary that he and his ilk only recently had their nasty grubby hands on the levers of power. They just aren't good at anything. I'm sure the best way of getting The Goof into a small business would be to give him a big one and wait.

The government is getting on in a business like way of doing things. The cycle way? Who gives a stuff? Cycling is stupid, I mean why were vastly overpowered cars invented, but its harmless for the most and as planned will bring a bit of dosh into the country. And it will get a handful (and no more) blokes off the benefit for a while. All good. They can earn money which will be taxed and the government can spend this money on something useful. Which brings us to the nub of what is going on at the moment.

Alf and his mates are still playing politics circa 2005 whilst all this pragmatic stuff is going on. Scoring points in the Beehive is the most important thing. And what weapon have they chosen? Benefits. And it has gone tits up twice in the last couple of weeks. First we had the bloke who couldn't get a benefit and would have to sell his lifestyle block when he got made redundant. Labour parade poster boy as an example of the heartless capitalist pigs at their worst. Goof stands up all red faced with adrenals in overdrive shouting at Key who calmly asks if he (Goof) has all the facts at his disposal. Well no he doesn't. Poor downtrodden worker has an investment portfolio of a couple of properties worth north of seven figures.

Bad enough but now we get even worse. A couple of wummins are complaining about their benefit being cut. They go public all bleating and equipped with their victims visages on the back of only the information they want us to see to paint their plight in as grim a light as possible. Enough says Paula Bennett and tells all and sundry what the real score is. And these two aren't on the bones of their respective bums at all. Our victims then cry 'Privacy' (i.e. will the State please get these nasty people off my back) whilst all the time revealing their income status to all who are stupid enough to read the Trade Me bulletin boards. Bollocks. You pick a fight, you take the punches when they come your way.

The problem here is not $700 a week or privacy it is bloody attitude. The attitude that living off the state is a right. The attitude that when doing this it is a right to have as many kids as you please even if you can't afford them 'cos it is your right to have the state support said offspring. Well none of the above is a damned right. Anyone living off my taxes for doing nothing is partaking of a privilege and not a bloody right. The DPB and its many tentacled other entitlement mates were apparently introduced as a temporary safety net for those in need. Fair enough - ish. The metamorphosis into a lifestyle and a right is complete and must be reversed. We can't bloody afford it. I am reliably informed that the country's expenditure on 'Welfare' is measured in billions per week. Good grief even I couldn't spend that. I could buy a different colour DB9 for every day of the week, no every hour of every day, every week and still wouldn't scratch the surface.

So obald@home reluctantly comes back to politics for what I hope is a brief visit. And what brings me back? Bloody left wing crap again being blown like annoying smoke in the face of the pragmatic business of running a country. The opposition should just STFU if they haven't anything worth saying.

And they won't have anything worth saying because they never have and never will.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Spot the difference

This is a difficult one because I don't think there is much

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


This was going to be a coda to the lawnmower post as I thought lawnmowers and hats made a nicely bizarre juxtaposition. However lawnmowers went on a bit and I couldn't be blowed to get onto hats last night; or the following couple of nights as it turns out.

I've long thought that hats are good things. I've even argued that hair could be done away with and we are all issued with a lifetime supply of suitable chapeaux at about age one. I didn't get much of buy in from hairdressers on that one. A hat is a head covering. It may be worn for protection against the elements, for religious reasons, for safety, or as a fashion accessory. Just think of the many marvellous hats that have given such pleasure over the centuries. The cheesecutter for openers.

Protection against the elements is a pretty basic reason to wear a hat and I use four at varying times of the year myself. I wear a golf cap because it has a peak and is essential teeing off on the 10th or 14th much before 0930. It also keeps a bit of the rain off one's glasses should you be stupid enough to play in the rain. I try and avoid this at all times. I would prefer not to wear a golf cap playing golf because a) everyone, lemming like, does it and b) it is very hard to find one that does not give free advertising to someone. A Florida fishing guide hat with huge peak and neck cloth that also covers the ears is de rigeur when gamefishing. Looks ridiculous but who cares? This really is protection from the elements stuff on steroids. A Tilley sailing hat is also used on a regular basis but far from the briney. It is the best hat I have found for sitting on the tractor in mid January as you can also wear ear muffs without disturbing the jaunty rake of the head covering. Reluctantly I add a beany to my list of hats I actually use. I say reluctantly as an offshoot of this is one of the main planks of my argument in banning hats that do not perform a function. I wear a beany to keep my head warm (and I reckon I am in a global minority of one here) about twice a year.

Hats for religious reasons? The Pope has a nice line here but he is just about the only bloke who carries this off with any aplomb. Little skull caps? No thanks. Turbans are worth a look but although they go on and off like a regular hat there is a couple of kilometres of cloth in one of those and they look far too much trouble. I also couldn't grow the luxuriant black beard that you have to use as a chin strap. I don't go in for religion inside my head and I'm not about to start outside either.

Safety. Do I have to? I can see that Lewis Hamilton wearing some sort of safety hat to work is a reasonable plan. I'll grant you riding a motorbike, with a helmet on is quite a good idea. Lumberjacks? Alright. Mountaineers? Not much point really. If you fall off big time wearing a helmet will just make sure that the head that may or not be attached to the broken neck is a bit more cosmetically acceptable. You're still dead. But what I really can't stand is the OSH mandated hard hat. You know the style of thing. A chain link fence around a piece of flat ground that contains a wheel barrow, a shovel, a thermos and a copy of The Friday Flash. There is a bloody great (red usually) notice declaring this a 'Multi Hazard Area' No admittance unless you are wearing a hard hat, safety goggles, a respirator, climbing harness, fire axe, GPS locator, steel toed boots and a letter from your Mum. There is currently one of these 'Multi Hazard Areas' containing a bit of 'Ground under Repair' on the 5th at the Golf Club. Give me a break. The only hazard in this bit of land is the loss of $10 if you can't find your ProV1. And I ain't going looking for a golf ball attired like a member of a SWAT team. Idiots.

Well after a pretty rosy start hats are going down hill at a rate of knots, are they not? And we have only just got onto the fashion bit. In days of yore there were some rippers. The top hat. Blokes used to wear them just to pop down to the dairy. That is if they didn't fancy a jaunty bowler or a fedora. In fact a fedora is a dreadful hat but is worth buying just for its name. If you are a woman of the female persuasion you can go completely burko in the millinery department - especially if you are going to the races. Who was that stupid woman who used to go to Epsom Downs every June with a grand piano or a bowl of fruit or an aquarium or a goat on her head? Mrs Schilling I think. Harmless fun.

But there are a couple of Johnny Come Lately fashion hats that almost bring me to uncharacteristic violence every time I chance upon them. They are worn by youfs generally of the bloke type. They are stupid on a biblical scale and they should all be burnt.

Hat of Hate Number One is the beany with a peak. These are usually knitted out of wool that has been dyed by immersion in sick or diarrhoea; a sort of nondescript browny-yellowy-grey. What, pray tell me, is the point of putting a peak on a woolly hat. You make great progress by cutting the bobble of my youth off but then stuff it up by putting a silly little peak on. Why? If there is a reason of the sun shading variety then this is negated when the peak is placed at a jaunty (sic) angle behid the left ear. Perhaps all these spotty youths that wear this horrible hat have another eye behind their ear. And why do you wear them indoors? God, I hate everything about these hats.

Hat of Hate Number Two. Another derivative; this is an evolution of the golfing cap that I allow myself to wear. There are two deriviative I hate here. The first (and I only dislike this not really hate it) is the 'truckers cap'. This is plastic mesh for the posterior 270º (yellow or red preferred colours) and the front 90º is held rampant by a piece of cardboard stuffed up behind the cloth. The front of this front panel ususally advertises large earth moving machinery. These are just cheap, tacky and nasty.

The derivative I really hate however is the......... well I don't really know what it is called.

We'll start at the victims ears. These will likely be filled with earbud earphones through which to listen to ghastly tuneless music. However the ears are mentioned for another reason. The top third of the ears are covered by the hat. I mean how can you have a cap type hat into which you tuck your ears? We are now into the ghastly body of the chapeau. It is a sort of hemisphere with a coule of inches of linear inferior extension (to cover the ears as previously described). It has no adjsutable bit at the back (you know the bit that female golfers with longish hair put their ponytail through) and so you end up with our plonker wearing a sort of cloth pudding basin. So far so bad. But this is a cap and therefore has to have a peak. This is perfectly flat and the size of a small country. The peak can be orientated to shield the normal eyes (and this is quite common) or it can be swivelled to shield the post auricular eye as per peaked beany. These totally hideous headcoverings are commonly in the colours of American baseball or football teams. Goes with the damned music spewing out of the headphones. That the wearers of the hats wouldn't know a baseball from a pile of wet fish is of no relevance in this copycat cultural nonsense.

I bet there was someone once who thought the cheese cutter was an abomination.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

This annoys me

I know it shouldn't. It has nothing to do with me. Just ignore it and let it go. But.....

There was a recently a round of the Australian V8 Supercar Series in Hamilton. So far so good. Not my cup of tea but all good, noisy, fossil fuel wasting stuff. This had the extra attraction of being a street circuit. And I must confess the idea of big grunty cars doing 250 kph past Whitcoulls and The Mad Butcher with the council and traffic police having to just grin through gritted teeth and do nothing adds a certain piquancy to the whole affair.

But the Jobsworths of the world were not to be outdone. A couple of enterprising people who owned properties overlooking the circuit climbed onto their roof for a free squizz. Well you would, wouldn't you? The bloody Council then slaps a $1500 fine on them for breaching building regulations. One of the owners of the Scotsman's Stands quite rightly told them to bugger off. Mr bleeding Council initially dropped back into the comfy slippers of 'them's the regulations' but eventually took legal advice and backed down.

Why so? Because legal advice was that if the punters fell off the roof the Council would not be liable......but having a free watch of the V8s from your roof is still illegal as it still breaches the building code. Next time they do it they will just get a warning.

Well, Hamilton City Council, you are pack of wankers of the first magnitude. If I want to stand on my roof, what I own, sitting on my property, what I own, for any purpose I see fit, I will bloody well do so. I couldn't give a rat's arse about your bloody regulations, building or otherwise. If I fall off it will likely hurt; that will be my problem and nothing to do with you. Sod off.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


We are currently mired in the depths of a North Island winter. We have had, hopefully not to return, a few days of plant killing frosts in June and now normal service has been resumed. It just never bloody well stops raining. Well it did stop for a wee while yesterday and I partook of a pastime that has huge prominence in my life from September to May but has needed little attention recently. The maintenance of Obald Acres involves cutting grass on a scale I had never before contemplated but I now have it sorted. Tools are the key.

When we moved in the only lawnmower I possessed was a 18" MTF powered by a 3.5hp Briggs and Stratton. I imported this from the States via Singapore and it had manfully coped with about 10 square feet of lawn one degree above the equator and about double that thirty seven degrees south of the same meridian. However my current front lawn is 3/4 acre (and that is just for openers) and so some rethinking on the tooling front was required. In fact surveying the property mowing was obviously something that needed some thought and planning on a global scale.

Grass in many various forms and volumes. Four paddocks, paddock edges, aforementioned 3/4 acre front lawn, nice lawn around the house, four hundred metres of drive edge and median strip, assorted bits of grass and puny shrubs under trees. Not all herbivorous problems are created equal and in the end none of it addressed by the MTF which now sits forlornly in the barn awaiting my placing the black cap on my head and committing it to hang by the neck until dead on TradeMe.

New tools required. Fossil fuels need to be bought in ongoing large quantities.

However the first implement requires no fuel at all and is the best implement at my disposal.

Sheep are excellent lawnmowers. Over the last year between 35 and 60 of our woolly friends (depending on the timetable of the bus to Horotiu) have kept the paddocks looking jolly spiffo. What breed of sheep? There is only one sort to contemplate and that is the Lesser Spotted Other People's Sheep. Anything amiss with the operative dealing to the four square metres around the oak is cured with the usage of the electric telephone; on the blower to its owner. Sheep are every bit as daft as advertised and they need to be kept inside fences. They cannot be trusted to do anything except eat grass;reading newspapers or going where they are told is quite beyond them. The only other thing they do well is defaecate. This means the pastures grow well and there will be more for them to eat later in the year. I think I might not be the first person to make this observaton. Sheep are good stuff; get some. So the paddocks are sorted.

Moving up the food chain in terms of volume of grass consumed per unit time we have the next variety of mower I have found to be of value. This is a common or garden Masport (well this is New Zealand).

How boring is this? This is the house mower. It even lives in the house; well in the garage. I mean I don't keep it in the living room next to the elephant's foot umbrella stand. Just look at it. A real big girls blouse of a mower. Willy woofter 3.5 HP Briggs & Stratton motor (a good engine but 3.5 HP, please). Sort of thing hairdressers (and me, I suppose) would buy. All clean and namby pamby with his little catcher so he doesn't make a mess. Because that would never do when trimming the rye and fescue mix in the Eastern Suburbs would it? I hate this mower. It isn't even noisy and can quite easily be driven without ear muffs. This mower needs a harden up pill. But it is necessary to keep the really quite manicured bit of grass around the house respectable for afternoon tea and crumpets.

Enough of this crap lets get real. Paddock edges, under shrubs, slopes that would kill me if the tractor rolled on me, the drive border and medium duty scrub clearing need a man's toy.

Now we are getting to something a bloke can get serious about. 26" Stevens self propelled mower powered by a 6HP Honda 4 stroke. Marvellous bit of kit although it could do with a bit more horsepower. If this engine craps itself (or I get bored) I'll swap it it out for a 8.9hp. All this through a simple gearbox that drives the wheel drive shafts and a solid cutting bar with a couple of blades bolted on the end; easily self sharpenable - none of this taking to the dealer crap. Main reason for this is there doesn't appear to be a dealer. All good; I don't own three bench grinders for no reason. The pneumatic tyre shod wheels are driven independently by clutching them in with the levers on each handle. This tensions a roller on a drive belt; one for each wheel. Combined with the jockey wheels on the front which spin through 360º the whole thing can turn in its own length. Careful here. The controls are overcentreing levers and they can lock on if you aren't paying attention. SWMBO calls the Stevens the Runaway Mower for a good reason. This mower was bought second hand from South Head Golf Club where a ride on was needed to replace it. About as serious a lawnmower you can get without sitting on it.

Pretty much all the grass accounted for except the 3/4 acres lawn (and a couple of expanses of about half this scattered at other loci around the place). Even I wouldn't attempt this with the Stevens. If you have to mow a bit of grass that resembles a bit of parkland you need a park mower, right?

Fieldmaster 500 series, three rotor 2.4m park mower with rear roller. This is not my one but mine is four hundred metres away, in its shed, it is dark, it is cold, it is raining and I can't be bothered walking up there to take a picture - tomorrow if I remember. Turn the shaft inside the yellow shaft guard and twin belts from the central gearbox spin the rotors. I got a bit bored pulling this around spinning the propshaft by hand. There was a fitting on the end that seemed like it might fit on the PTO of this.

So strap the mower onto the PTO of the 42HP Shibaura and we have a viable system. I've added front wheel weights since this tractor picture was taken and really must get around to filling the front tyres with water as all that mower on the back makes the steering very, very light when the hydraulics lift it off the deck. In fact if you aren't careful and raise it quickly going up an incline you can get the front wheels off the ground. That is getting into very dangerous territory. Now this is the business. Put the earmuffs on (and believe me they really are required at this end of the grass cutting scale) and start burning diesel. Mowing is no longer a chore, it is huge fun. Tractors are great. Dangerous but great. You don't play the goat with this stuff. Lose concentration and it'll chop your head off - I'm afraid literally. Never mind dangerous makes things more fun, n'est ce pas? If you haven't driven a tractor and attached things to its PTO you haven't any idea what torque is all about. Power, grunt, get out of my way or I'll chop you into bits - and I'm talking to you Mr Small Tree. Love it.

So what did yesterday's the break in the weather mean I could do? The sheep are the only things that work well when the ground is in swamp mode - and they don't really like it with that soggy foot rot thing they get. But they are sheep and don't have an opinion - shut up and eat. The hairdresser's mower? I struggle being seen pushing that around in February let alone demean myself by giving it an outing in July. The Shibaura/Fieldmaster combo ? I wish, but I reckon I could lose the lot in a flurry of mud and bubbles if I took it further than the concrete drive at the moment.

No, I had to content myself with a couple of hours with the runaway. And very soothing it was as well