Good To The Last Drop

Good To The Last Drop

When I look at New Zealand functioning on a daily basis, it strikes me as nothing more than a minor miracle in action. There are – give or take – about 4.4 million of us knocking around the various islands that make up the nation and of this merry band about 500,000 are enjoying retirement, a further 900,000 are under working age, 285,000 are currently between jobs and 7,000 are experiencing a temporary loss of liberty at the pleasure of our judicial system.

Employing some very basic man maths, this leaves 2,708,000 people to ensure that everything requires doing in the 268,670 square kilometres of Aotearoa gets done. And the miracle is that – once Auckland’s trains are taken out of the equation – by and large, it works.

The farming community maintains a strong enough breeding programme to see we don’t fall short of milk and beef, enough people learn to wear suits to fill the corridors of Wellington, multiple generations of baristas keep Jafaland in lattés and there are still enough Kiwi grafters are left over to ensure the important stuff – cleaning streets, maintaining utilities, automotive journalism and so forth – gets done.

The countdown for petrol has begun

But there are some areas where it is always good to have a little help from time to time and one of these is Chartered Accountancy. Thanks to more people needing boxes ticked at certain times of year, the current Mrs Grimley’s firm – and I suspect others like it – fly in support staff from the various corners of the globe to pick up our bean counting shortfall.

The latest – a pair of South Africa’s finest which have been trained to answer to the names ‘Albertus’ and ‘Claire’ – arrived seven months ago and slotted rather neatly into our lives. In our short time together we’ve had numerous days out, a romantic weekend on Great Barrier Island and even managed to share the joys of the Rugby World Cup. And now they’re going.

My life has been made so much richer by my new friends that I’d simply convinced myself that they would be around forever. And the sudden, crushing realisation that this is not going to be the case is shaping to leave a hole that, until the old miracle healer Time works his magic, will be a huge scar on my landscape.

In many ways it is similar to the feeling of impending loss I get when walking around the streets of Auckland and finding my ears assaulted by the aural vacuum emanating from the herds of Toyota Prius’ that serve as a cornerstone of the taxi fleet. The silence each time one passes by sounds as a clear – if still somewhat distant – death knell for the age of petrol.

Despite substantial evidence to the contrary, I’m not an idiot. Fossil fuels have had their chips in the long run and it is only right and proper that we do everything in our power to work with ecologically sound initiatives to preserve the planet for future generations. But despite this I’ll still miss my old hydrocarbon buddy when the time comes for the axe to fall.

There is a nostalgia associated with petrol that you cannot image will exist in the future for today’s upcoming brands of eco-power. The internal combustion engine harks back to an era where it was man and not machinery that littered the shop floors of car factories the world over. No matter how advanced the petrol engine may become, the noise that comes with every prod of the accelerator is a reminder that the beast you are dealing with is a very direct descendant of those first hewn from the blood, sweat and tears of mechanical pioneers.

This has encouraged me to build a relationship with cars, to love them for the masterpieces of Man’s ingenuity that they are, to grab tools and interact with them; even if that does now mean I have several permanent scars, a random collection of sockets and at least one ‘0’ less that I should on the end of my bank balance. These are the things that fond memories – if not secure financial planning – are made of and I suspect may be strangely absent from the i-Cars of tomorrow.

Of course, there are still plenty of gallons to go and so my focus is now on the much fewer pints left to share before my friends head back from whence they came. They will go with all my love and best wishes – just so long as their bloody rugby team isn’t taking the World Cup with them.

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