Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A to B

I'm buying a car to leave up North to use when I go up there by bus.
The bus trip is actually quite pleasant and only takes two and a half hours which is about half an hour more than by car.
It is cheaper too when there's just me as about $45 return is cheaper than petrol.

The car I'm buying is a Toyota IST 2004.
That's right a Toyota IST. I'd never heard of it before either. It's actually a bit of an old lady's car but, for what I want it for it will do nicely.

I'm buying it from the tenants in our house so know that it's well looked after and, if something goes wrong I know where they are!
Actually, I'm also buying it from them as a favour as they are good tenants and need the money to put towards a camper van.

This got me thinking of the cars I've owned over the years. I've had company cars for over 30 years and these have been much better but I won't list those.

The first car I owned was a 1948 Austin 8. This sounds really old but as I bought it in 1970 it was only 22 years old. There are a lot of older cars on the road today.

I bought the car when I was in the 7th form at college. It cost $80 which was a lot of money then. I used it during my final school year before I went to university.
It was a neat old car that had leather seats and doors that opened out opposite to the way doors usually do. It had some idiosyncrasies like: needing to be hand cranked to start it sometimes; having virtually no brakes and having to use blocks of wood when parked; having to reverse up hills when the petrol tank was low as the fuel pump wouldn't function properly.

It was fun though and I sold it at the end of the year to friend Tony who coveted it.
Going against the trends for motor vehicle buying and selling I sold it for $100 a 25% increase on what I bought it for.
Tony liked the car and used it for a couple of years. He also abused it and once peed in it I think. Richard of RBB no doubt will have the details.

Keeping with the theme of usury I bought the car back from Tony for $60. 40% less than I sold it to him for. Net profits over the two transactions - $40.
I sold it to my brother for $60 - hey he was my brother (and besides the car smelled of pee) and he converted it into a 'beach buggy' for driving up the river beds over Cape Palliser way.

The second car I bought seemed like a real doozy. It was a 1962 Triumph Herald (remember this was 1970 and I had been driving an old Austin 8).

I bought it for $400 from a car dealer on Christmas Eve. Late. So late in fact that the State Insurance office was closed (no internet transactions in those days). Of course the worst happened and on Christmas day I crashed it. Into a parked car. I spent the rest of that year paying off the damages to the car I crashed into and had nothing to spend on mending my Herald. I bent and twisted the metal as best I could. I replaced broken lights. I tied down the strange lift-up front end that Triumph Heralds had with ropes which would have to be anchored to the drivers and passenger doors. It would have been a nightmare in an emergency.

All good.

But ........

I crashed this car again, this time crossing the Porirua motorway and bashing into a bank on the other side

And ......

A truck reversed into it while it was parked in an alley.

The car from the two frontal crashes and one rear one developed a lopsided crabbing motion.
This was spotted by a traffic cop and I was ordered off the road. This was before the days of pink-stickering. The cop just said "we know where you live and don't want to ever see you driving it again".
I complied. I sold it for $200. I told the guy that bought it that it had been ordered off the road. "No worries" he said "I'm just driving up to see my girlfriend. In Napier! I don't know if he made it.

The third car I bought was a 1962 Hillman Super Minx.

 It cost $500 and was a great car that I kept for 5 years. I drove it up and down the country - North and south Island and it just kept going (pretty fast too). It never really gave me much problem but good friend Mike, who was about as good with cars and things mechanical as Britney Spiers is with quantum physics, managed to mangle the bonnet and burn out the brakes on two separate occasions.

The fourth car I bought was another Hillman Super Minx. This was a 1965 model station wagon.

 I bought this in 1977 while still owning the 1964 Super Minx. Gasp! Two cars although admittedly the other had stopped working by then. I still sold it for $200 though. This is a reflection of the times where import quotas and high tariffs meant that cars were hard to import. The newer model cost me a whopping $600. It was a good car and served me well. It got severely smashed up in Adelaide Road outside Murray Roberts when hit by a truck but good old State Insurance fixed it up again. they very rarely wrote off cars back then.

In 1979 I bought my fifth car. This was a 1971 Ford Escort. It was flash (well flash for me) and cost a thousand bucks.

 I had no problems with this car and sold it in Auckland in 1981 when I got my first company car.

I didn't buy another car until 2008 being my sixth car (we had bought cars for The Old Girl) who on seeing this brand new 2008 Peugeot 206 sports version immediately appropriated it and gave me her Rover.

I didn't mind really as the Rover 620ti was a superb car.

 I'd had it from new in 1998 as a company car and drove it for 3 years until the company, as per the car replacement policy of the time, gave me a new Passat. Two years later we saw it advertised for sale and bought it. We sold it last year before going to Canada.

Now, the Toyota IST will be the seventh car I've bought for myself. It's hardly the Maserati I'd always promised myself but, for cheap running around up North it'll do. I'll be getting a new company car next week for Auckland so can't complain.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


We are negotiating to buy another property in Auckland.

We need it.

It is essential and there really isn't an alternative.

It's pretty small - about 8 square metres.

This is it.

It's going to cost us $48,000.

Yes, you read that $48,000. For a carpark. In the basement below where we live.
Believe it or not this is a good deal as similar parks are going for over $60k in the same area. If we were living down country there are some places where $48,000 could get us a quarter acre and a 140 square metre house!

Maybe we can put a wee shack on it and either rent it out or live in it ourselves.


Being exhausted after working for two weeks I needed a break.
Hey, I'm sounding like a schoolteacher.

We went up North with some friends.

Our house is still rented out and will be for at least another year but I wanted to catch up with the tenants (nice people), check on the new roof and also check up on my cat. All of importance in the reverse order.

Willow my cat is happy and healthy.
The roof looks really good ( some kind of zinc) and the house and garden are in tip-top condition.
Alan, the friend who drove us up had the cheek to say " these people keep things better than the previous tenants". Cheeky sod.

We used my sister's holiday bach which is a few bays along from our house. She gave me the keys and said to use it whenever I like so I think I'll do that every other weekend over the next year.

The 'Bach' is pretty nice. They built it about 10 years ago.

Everything is set up and it's just a matter of arriving and turning the hot water on.

The view is pretty good being a different side of Mount Manaia which we see from our house

The weather wasn't too bad for winter. Admittedly we've just come from minus 20 to 39 degrees Toronto winter but, it was still warm enough to use the outdoor pizza oven.

Interestingly the shower in the bathroom isn't working even though the bath is.

Luckily there is an outdoor shower. I can't imagine Richard using it though. He'd be worried about the  cows in the fields seeing his willy.

The indoor toilet is functional though.

I'm buying a small car from the tenants which I'll leave in a carpark in Whangarei. I can then hop on a bus for the weekends when I want to go up North.

I'd like to say everything is hunky dory but firstly The Old Girl is off back to Toronto on Saturday for another year and secondly today she learnt that her cousin in Napier was a hit by a truck while cycling. She has two broken legs and a broken pelvis. The Old Girl is off to spend time with her before she heads off for Canada.

Life huh!

Thursday, 24 July 2014


Following on from the last post NOT THIS but THIS, I thought I'd better balance it out by griping about some of the things that have pissed me off.

Beggars and panhandlers

I accept that in any society and in any country/city there will be people who fall between the cracks and that they need to be supported. Even in Toronto which has an excellent health and welfare support system there are a few souls who for whatever reason end up not having a roof over their heads and need food and shelter.
There are a hell of a lot of bastards who take advantage of the good nature of Canadians and make a living out of begging (or panhandling as it's known here). On every street corner there is a chancer with a sign, a cup or a cap out asking for money

The variations are endless with claims of needing money for family, for food, for medical expenses (Ontario health system is free) or made-up stories like "I'm stranded and can't get home because...".
It's all bullshit. I watched a video made by a newspaper with a reporter 'panhandling' for a week undercover on the streets of Toronto. In his secretly recorded chats with real beggars they told him they were pulling in from $150 to $750 a day. One bastard who made himself up to be older and more infirm than he was carried a (unplayed) guitar and had a dog (for sympathy) said he 'worked' three days a week, playing golf and attending gym/martial arts classes the other two - weekends he kept separate. This guy said he averaged between $500 and $100 a day with his best day being $2300! To me c***s like this are taking money away from those who deserve it.

Additional taxes

When buying anything in Toronto (except for grocery items and wine) the price you see advertised does not include GST and Provincial tax. This is so fucking annoying. Even when buying a cup of coffee the $3.50 advertised becomes $ 3.99 or something when you pay at the counter. It is archaic and smacks of petulance on the part of the business owner .."hey it's not us charging you this extra it's the government ..". Get over it. In New Zealand we had the same issues in 1985. We sucked it up. OK?


What the fuck this is about I can never understand nor get anyone to properly explain it to me. You are expected to tip in restaurants, in taxis, getting a bloody haircut etc. Why? Can't the management or sole trader work out their pricing properly?
In a restaurant or bar it is bloody galling. You order a meal or a drink based on an advertised price and when the bill comes it has this price plus GST and a Provincial tax and then you are expected to tip on top of all that. 15% is seen as mean apparently and 18% is the new norm with 20% seen as 'caring' Well fuck me, I'll be glad to get back to New Zealand where good service is part of the job not a grovelling for a bit extra.


It's crap. Sure there are 'boutique' cheeses, mostly European imports that are OK but they are hellishly expensive. The 'domestic commercial' cheese is a rubbery and strange coloured concoction that has no taste other than the artificial additions they inject (smoke, caraway, salmon etc). It doesn't grate properly, congeals instead of melts and basically ruins any dish it's added to. To add insult to injury it's not even packaged sensibly. Instead of the nice and user friendly blocks we get at home some marketing wanker has decided that it's best that this stuff is packaged in thin slabs so that when you cut a slice it is about an inch high (maybe they know it tastes like shit and don't want anyone discovering this by eating too big a chunk)

I'm looking forward to getting back to good old Mainland 'Colby' and other styles.


It's pretty hard to find good potatoes in Toronto. Whichever type is bought the result whether mashed, boiled, roasted, baked or 'chipped' is a pale imitation of what can be made at home using the valiant Agria potato (note spelling Dan). Potatoe?

Wine choice

Canada has a state-controlled liquor system and Ontario's version is named LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). It's like the old Licensing Trusts system in New Zealand (where only a pocket of them remain). The theory is that the state can control liquor consumption (health benefits) and return profits to the community (social benefits). The reality is a great and unwieldy monopoly system. As the single biggest liquor retailer in the world the LCBO can put great pressure on suppliers and can arbitrarily choose what wines it wants to stock. No real consumer choice here. If a supplier (read multi-national producer like Diageo, Constellation, Pernod Ricard etc) can stump up enough cash (sorry 'marketing support') then their brands/products can be reasonably continually available. If a smaller supplier has a good product (that the consumer likes) it has to go through a submission process (twice yearly) to be accepted. If the brand/product sells through in a year or 6 months that is no guarantee of further acceptance. The submission process has to be gone through again. This is why a consumer, on finding something he likes has no guarantee that it will be available the next time he/she visits the store. By the way the only liquor stores in Ontario are LCBO ones or wine shops owned by Constellation (which only stock Constellation's Canadian brands). Some choice huh?

(to be continued)


I'm leaving Toronto tomorrow to return home.
It's been  a good 12 months experience but now I'm ready to go.

There have been many good things and bad things about living in a different city. Here are some of the things I'll miss.


The Toronto Transit Company with its integrated subway, tram and bus system. This is a great way of getting around the city and stations also link with non TTC bus and train systems like GO. For $3 ( less if you buy bulk tokens or passes) you can travel for miles. A bus or tram ride is included in the payment when exiting the subway. This is a great system and one which New Zealand cities should have created years ago.

Pedestrian crossings

All controlled intersections (and that is nearly all intersections) have pedestrian countdown timers that can be relied on. When waiting to cross you can view the countdown of the cross-traffic and know exactly when you can cross.
At non-light controlled crossings almost every car simply stops and gives way to pedestrians. This is great when you are on foot but must be frustrating for drivers.

In New Zealand the average driver would just plough on through.

Health system

Simply brilliant.
When you have a health card - applied for showing permanent or temporary residency, you can go to doctors fro free. Drugs are also free with a small charge paid to the dispensing chemist. Specialists and consultants are also free and there is not a long delay in getting appointments. In NZ we have paid for Southern Cross Ultra Care in order to get what is provided here for free. In NZ we were paying something like $10k a year.

Size matters

Toronto is a large city. While a lot of it suffers from 'sameness' I know that when I return to Auckland I'll view it as being a bit provincial. I know, I know, this shouldn't matter as most of the time we only go from A to B and stay in a close area around our homes and our workplaces but, like London, New York and other big cities there is a feeling of excitement about 'possibilities' or things that might be there if we bothered to seek them out.

The condominium

We own an Auckland apartment in the CBD which is very nice and conveniently located but the 'condo' we are renting here is a cut above. The building is a bit swanky with residents theatre, BBQ area, gym, pools and saunas, 'party room', 24 hour concierge, snooker room etc. I'll miss it.

Yonge and Eglinton

The area we live in which is a hub formed by the intersection of two major streets - Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue. This is just north of the CBD area and therefore a bit quieter but still close to the 'action'. It kind of reminds me of Ponsonby- cross- Parnell in Auckland or Oriental Bay-cross- Mount Victoria in Wellington where a lot of the younger set (young to me anyway as they seem to be in their 30's and 40's) - what used to be Yuppies. We've christianed them Young and Eagers which at least makes me laugh.


Toronto is a very clean city. This is very surprising given the size of the place and the very, very diverse population made up of many ethnicities.
Sure the council provides a great many sensible and comprehensive litter bins (separating rubbish, recyclable and green and generally foot-pedal activated) but I like to believe that Torontians actually care more than most people.


Canadians are polite. They are into the 'sorry' thing, queueing, holding doors etc and are famous for it. The politeness apparently doesn't apply to other drivers when driving but they do seem to give way a lot to pedestrians - even stopping when some idiot ambles across a busy road. This of course might be due to a fear of being sued.

Entertainment choices

A bigger population means that there is a lot more going on with a lot more choices. Almost every weekend there is some sort of festival happening ( not in the prolonged winter however).
We've been to lots of opera, concerts, art exhibitions, sports event and, if The Old Girl hadn't been working and had time on her hands like me we would have done a lot more. The proximity to NYC has been great as well and we've made a few trips there going to - opera, concerts, art exhibitions.....

The big outdoors

 Canada is a big country with some dramatic scenery. We've hardly scratched the surface of this but enjoyed Niagara Falls and the St Lawrence River. It'd take a lifetime to really see this country.

Odds and sods and weirdness

Big machines waiting to start on yet another Toronto condominium

Chap just sitting around in downtown Toronto

Colourful chappie in the local library

Shop that sold nothing but wooden willies in Montreal

Filming event downtown Toronto