American writer P.J O’Rourke, whose wisdom regular readers (should there be such a thing) will note has been borrowed before for the purpose of getting this column finished, once observed that “There’s a part of the human psyche that’s never satisfied with the chunks of an Archduke at Sarajevo and has to have a World War I.” I’d always thought of this as a rather neat quip, but discovered on Monday that there may be more than a little substance behind the style.
After suffering with a cough for the best part of three months, it was deemed that some form of extraction should be fitted in our bathrooms to help rid the house of the Lake Taupo-esque levels of moisture hanging in the air. But due to that bit of human nature that eschews the simple solution in favour of a major engineering project, I decided that rather than just drilling a hole in the wall, taking a hammer and chisel to absolutely everything and starting from scratch would be a much better idea.
A couple of hours later I found myself in a situation where my entire world was covered in a fine veneer of tile chippings and plaster dust, the toilet was in the shower and the current Mrs Grimley was making a noise in my ear like an enraged walrus. It was only then that a little voice started whispering to me – in much the same way it would have done to certain folk around 1914 – that this may not have been such a good idea.
Still, what’s done is done and I’m now set on an unchangeable path to several evenings and weekends of gib-boarding and plumbing to return things to a state of normality. But looking back I can attribute my Franz Ferdinand moment, when the hammer was first unleashed, to last weekend’s trip to Great Barrier Island.
Thanks to the convincing marketing employed by certain daily deal sites, I decided that some cheap flights to Claris International Airport would be just the thing for a relaxing mini-break. While it may only be a short hop from the centre of Auckland, Great Barrier has a permanent population of around 800 spread over an area the size of America’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park and that makes you feel not only a million miles, but also several lifetimes away.
The opportunity that a bit of island time presents for tramping, fishing and casual alcoholism is a positive elixir for the soul and something that I highly recommend to anyone yearning for a brief change of pace. Life is simpler, the attitude more relaxed and this is keenly reflected in the automotive offerings bindling around Aotea.
It seems that Great Barrier Island is the place cars go to when even the less salubrious garages in Otara won’t hand them a WOF any more. The Pajero we were allocated appeared to have had an engine swap with a Masport; its suspension was broken to the point of being both too soft and too hard simultaneously and a full 90° of steering wheel movement could be employed without having any effect on the direction of travel. If it had ever found its way back onto the mainland, not only would it have been denied a WOF, but almost certainly surrounded by a cordon of men in hi-vis jackets in the interests of public safety.
Yet on Great Barrier, this motoring abomination was nothing more than average. Sure there were some very shiny examples of “new money motoring” that were floating Jafa bach owners around in supreme comfort, but in general the cars were only a couple of rolls of cleverly applied duct tape away from the great scrap yard in the sky.
The levels of bodging and boss-hoggery were, in places, epic and I suspect this can-do attitude to promoting automotive longevity was the inspiration for me to roll my sleeves up and convert my en suite into a scale model of one of the less fortunate areas of Christchurch.
Nevertheless things will come right soon enough and life will then return to a state of well-ventilated order. Until September that is when – due to an administrative error – we’re taking our second trip up to the Barrier. I’m loathe to mention it to the current Mrs Grimley, but I was thinking that the kitchen could do with a new extractor too.