Olympic Lanes Have A Certain Ring To Them

July 23rd, 2012 by Tim Grimley

Despite being told to bloody well harden up and get a smile on their faces by their buffoonish Mayor, Boris Johnson, one cannot help but notice that the folk of old London town are not all overflowing with Olympic spirit. Rather than hanging out the bunting and welcoming the world with open arms, my fellow countrymen are getting in some last minute practise at the one event which we always lead the world: whinging.

And the source of their ire is this: the 2012 Olympics are turning out to be rather popular. Now you might think that given the build up has not run the smoothest course – British weather has been typically ‘seasonal’, G4S has made a monkey’s breakfast of security and the proletariat are winkling up the cobblestones over the surface to air missiles parked in their window boxes – the locals would be delighted that the sports fans of the world are rolling up in their droves, but no. It seems that having a few extra people knocking around is causing a bit of congestion and this simply will not do.

However it would be wrong to dismiss this as simple Pommie whining, xenophobia or small mindedness. The problem is rather more to do with the way the congestion is being caused – Olympic lanes.

Want priority transport? You should have tried harder at athletics class

Mindful of the potential for a public relations disaster that would be caused if every event was delayed by 30 minutes due to the near gridlock that passes for traffic flow inside the M25, the London Olympic team has decided to set aside 50km of roadway exclusively for the use of those associated with the games. So while a handful of athletes and officials will get a comparatively free ride, the millions who call London home will have to struggle by on buses, trains and 50 km less roadway. All of which causes a bit of offence to the British sense of fair play.

Still the world isn’t fair and the good people of London would do well to remember this, because if the powers that be have any sense the lanes will remain in place long after the games have been forgotten. Everyone talks about the importance of these large events leaving a legacy on their host cities and the presence of a restricted transit option could fund London’s coffers from here to eternity.

The human being is an incredibly resourceful creature and by the time the Olympics are over Londoners will have become more than accustomed to making their way around in spite of the new lanes. So why not simply keep them and charge a select band of very rich people a small fortune to have unfettered access to the capital?
Despite the woes of the banking sector, the City of London still has a pretty high density of incredibly wealthy individuals, many of which would pay handsomely for the promise of rapid, private, luxurious transport. Money which could be pumped back into flash buses, ferries and rolling stock to make life that little bit more pleasant for the rest of the worker ants.

And it’s a plan we could easily adopt here in Auckland by introducing a charging policy on the northern bus lane. It may not take much to convince city bigwigs that a lifestyle block just north of Albany is a sensible move if the infrastructure allowed them to bypass the herd on the way to the office every morning. The big smoke has some big plans when it comes to travel and if using our resources to eek a bit of cash from those that can most afford it will lessen the burden – even a little bit – for the average taxpayer, then it must be an option worth considering?

After all, while we may spend the next few weeks going for gold, with the prospect of a total bill approaching $70 billion, going for gold coin should also be a priority.

Getting Shirty

April 23rd, 2012 by Tim Grimley

Thanks to the demise of the summer season and its entourage of evening sporting activities, my social programme has recently relocated to the pubs and bars of the Auckland region. And being no stranger to the brewer’s craft, this is a situation that sits very comfortably with both me and my rapidly expanding waistline. Given that my circle of friends consists largely of drunks – they would be alcoholics if they could be bothered to go to meetings – I usually have to make little more effort than to sit back and wait for the text message or e-mail that informs me of the time and location of the next bacchanalian extravaganza.

But every so often I find myself facing a slightly perplexing social conundrum. Rather than simply diving into the nearest dive for the purposes of inspecting the bottom of several pint glasses, someone will get delusions of grandeur and insist we visit a flash restaurant or some other achingly fashionable venue where one is compelled to wear a collared shirt.

And being a man in his 30’s, I have absolutely no idea how I should do this.

Untucked I suspect

Not so many years ago, there was only one way to wear a shirt – untucked and with only as many buttons done up as it took to stop my dad beating me into tidying myself up. But now, on the few occasions where pre-social preening is necessary, I sometimes find myself standing in front of a mirror wondering if it wouldn’t look a darn sight more presentable if I stuffed all the excess material into the waistband of my Levi’s.

I accept that this has the potential to be a slippery slope and before too long I won’t be seen in public wearing anything except tweed trousers with a waistband at approximately nipple height, but even this would be better than turning into one of those social retards who desperately cling onto their youth despite it clearly being left behind in years that began with ‘nineteen ninety’.

And because the current Mrs Grimley has started one of her regular pining sessions for a Subaru Impreza WRX, this puts me on difficult ground.

As a petite, attractive, blonde lady-creature, this choice of vehicle holds absolutely no problems for her – pretty women in fast cars are essentially wheeled Viagra – but for me it’s the stuff of nightmares. The WRX Impreza should have been one of the great working man’s heroes; it has a devastating combination of power, pace and handling all of which comes wrapped up in a package that won’t give your bank manager angina. But thanks to a good proportion of the owners being people who are unsure how to operate a baseball cap and still follow their mothers’ edict of buying clothes to grow in to, it is essentially a car for tossers.

Clearly if you’re young you can get away with this – if you aren’t dressing or acting in some way like a victim of an overenthusiastic lobotomy then there is something wrong with you – but by what stage does this get out of jail expire? I’d love to have a WRX as a plaything and weekend driving tool, but ideally I don’t want to end up looking like a tool as well.

If anyone has an answer to this dilemma, I’d love to hear from you. The only solution I’ve come up with so far is to simply sell up and relocate to west Auckland where the culture is much more accepting of gentlemen with a penchant for performance. Although on the plus side it should sort out the shirt issue too. ‘In’ or ‘out’ really doesn’t matter; anything goes as long as it appears to have been stolen from a lumberjack.

Would You Like A Service With Your WOF?

March 19th, 2012 by Tim Grimley

If you cast your memory back through the cloudy haze that has purported to be our summer, you may remember a bit of a to-do around a certain poster erected by St Matthews in the City Church, Auckland at Christmas. Depicting a rather shocked looking Virgin Mary holding a pregnancy test, it caused such outrage amongst the more fanatical and narrow minded God-botherers in the community that it led them to vandalise it.

But in this modern age of iPads and interwebbery, is it any wonder that a church has to turn to a bit of lateral thinking in order to draw in the punters? While it could be argued that God should well be above passing fads and fashions, the ecumenical desire to hang on to the rites and rituals of millennia past does rather put it out of touch with your average 21st century Jack and Jill. It sometimes comes as a bit of a surprise that the dress code for church attendees doesn’t specifically mention the need for a ruffed collar and cloak.

So while – no pun intended – old habits die hard, it seems that if these institutions do want to continue to be relevant to the modern world then perhaps they should make some concession to the fact that their target audience no longer dwell in huts made from wattle and daub and fall quaking at the first mention of fire and brimstone. But if they want to have some real impact, then posters – no matter how clever and inflammatory – are really not the way to go. Experience tells us that people are never more likely to turn to God than in the moments of greatest terror and peril and with that in mind churches should perhaps consider selling up the acres of prime real estate they currently occupy and setting up branches in locations where they can seize on these moments of human frailty: VTNZ.

You need tyres and an exhaustcism

For those of you who schlep around in shiny new motors then the yearly trip to pass your WOF is likely to be no more taxing than spending a quiet night in with Stana Katic and a bottle of baby oil. However, for those of us who make our daily commute in what is essentially a wheeled skip with most of the rubbish removed, every six months we get the privilege of a day so stressful that it could turn you to religion.

It’s bad enough when you arrive knowing full well that your tyres are shot and at least one major panel is being held on by spray adhesive and duct-tape, but as a series of neatly attired men poke and prod around your dilapidated steed, there is the terrible foreboding that they are going to walk back in with a sheet full of other, horribly expensive issues that need to be remedied.

I know this because the Mercedes went through this last Sunday and the whole process was a nightmarish ordeal; I kept throwing nervous glances into the inspection bay and quickly returning my head to my hands and offering silent prayers to the Gods of internal combustion. Any religious organisation – and I mean any – that had sidled up at that moment, offered to help me during this difficult time and promised to support me through the afternoon of misery fixing the minor power steering leak would have been up a member on the spot.

Although upon returning later in the day – a matted mess of power steering fluid and blood – and presenting my bodged remedy for re-test I was informed that my hours of toil and swearing were pretty much time wasted. According to the very helpful attendant it would have been just as easy to unleash a can of engine degreaser and quickly wipe up the mess with an old rag. Any leak would have been undetectable enough to sweep through the WOF with no problems at all.

God, it seems, is all very well, but it never pays to forget that the Devil is in the detailing.

Bring The Hot Hatch Back

January 28th, 2012 by Tim Grimley

There has been an ever-so-slight outpouring of media brouhaha this week over a survey which revealed that buying a house in New Zealand – particularly Auckland – is a tough ask. Because our earning power is comparatively low when compared to the rest of the developed world, it now takes around 6 times the average household income to put a roof over your head.

This makes me quite apoplectic with rage.

Not about the house prices themselves I hasten to add as these are pretty much governed by the laws of supply and demand. Decent housing stock in the better, more accessible areas of our main cities is a finite commodity and as such can command serious premiums. And like all luxury commodities available to capitalist man, there will be some fortunate, hard-working, affluent souls who can afford it and the rest of us who cannot. If this offends your sense of justice, then why not pop off to North Korea and let me know how Communism works out for you.

Arm and a leg

No, I take decidedly more umbrage with the fact the survey was even conducted in the first place. I don’t know how much time, effort and expense went into this, but producing an end result that tells you little more that it’s a bit of a stretch to fork out for a pad in Remuera isn’t exactly breaking new ground. One can only assume that when they aren’t collating this particular tome the good folk at Demographia – the company behind the study – content themselves with unravelling such mysteries as the Catholicism of Popes and whether bears lean towards defecation in heavily treed areas.

It is no secret that more and more people have to make money stretch a lot further nowadays and it is inevitable that sacrifices will have to be made. And short of selling children into slavery and changing diets to consist entirely of Budget brand margarine, the single easiest target in any household is the family steed. In times of plenty having a plaything in the garage or a V8 as the regular runabout is a wonderful thing indeed, but in this dark fiscal age it seems we’re all destined to abandon fun forever, buy a Prius and wait to die.

If only there was a way we could afford some motoring pleasure in our lives whilst staying within the constraints of our increasingly meagre budgets. All our problems would be solved if someone – anyone – could sit down and come up with a vehicle that went like the toilet door on curry night, but cost about the same as a plate of poppadoms.

Oh, hang on a moment – they have. The hot hatchback.

The hot hatch was very much a child of the 1980s. This was the decade of excess, where greed was good and vast herds of investment bankers roamed free in their ubiquitous Porsche 911s. And that made hot hatches quite a lesson in irony. Because while they were designed to be the working man’s entry into the performance car club, they were also frugal, inexpensive to buy and were every bit as user friendly as the cooking models on which they were based.

Heart and soul

Sadly in recent times mainstream hot hatches have become decidedly more tepid affairs and the performance oriented options like MINI’s Cooper S and the fabulous Abarth 500 have shifted into the airy and expensive realm of the fashionable. This is all very well, but for the budget conscious buyer of today, things need stripping back to the roots; take a very cheap hatchback and tart it up with bucket seats, a trick camshaft, alloy wheels and a body kit. The brand is immaterial – up to the point their 205 GTi stole the hot hatch title from Volkswagen’s Golf, Peugeot’s level of street cred was shared with those knitted things your grandmother used for covering spare toilet rolls – but the end product must be uncompromisingly fun to drive whilst still be capable of accommodating a couple of sprogs and half of Pak ‘n Save.

I can only surmise it will be the Chinese – currently the default white knights of the motor industry – who will eventually pick up this particular baton and run with it. Acquiring companies such as MG Rover and Volvo has handed them a historical knowledge base into which they can tap and they can rest assured that a proper, old-fashioned hot hatch would do wonders for the worldwide brand credibility of anyone who makes a decent fist of it.

Besides, Geely GTi has a certain ring to it don’t you think?

A Bridge Too Far (+video)

December 17th, 2011 by Tim Grimley

Despite prodigious temptation to the contrary I have, so far, managed to avoid devoting an entire week’s article to the subject of the Victoria Park Tunnel. Yes, there may have the odd snipe about the intellectual capacity of the average Jafa motorist not being up to the distinctly un-taxing concept of subterranean motoring, but by and large I have left the subject well alone.

One driving factor behind this decision was the sheer volume of work devoted to the matter already. And there are only so many ways the motoring press can articulate their frustrations about the mush-brained, oxygen thieving, wastes of space who navigate a certain section of State Highway 1 without a degree of monotony setting in.

What NZTA says you'll see (NZTA graphic)

But even more importantly, the tunnel really isn’t the big news. Yes, it may be irksome now that every afternoon the main arterial road of the country is slowed to a crawl by people apparently on the lookout for Taniwha, but trust me this will be a drop in the ocean compared to the chaos that will be caused on 9th January.

The more observant amongst you may have noticed that this is the date on which the new dual flyover arrangement taking southbound traffic over Victoria Park opens; splitting traffic going to the CBD, State Highway 16 and continuing on State Highway 1.

The roadway planners must clearly have thought they were onto a good thing. Traffic heading onto the harbour bridge would have plenty of time to position itself correctly, thus ensuring three orderly flows of vehicles can dissolve one of the most problematic bottlenecks in Auckland.

Sadly, the roadway planners were wrong. Anyone travelling south from the North Shore will be all too aware that before their first early morning latté it is a minor miracle if the average Auckland motorist is aware enough to get changed out of their pyjamas before leaving the house, never mind make a conscious decision about which is the correct lane to be in. Even now, when the option is much more limited, there is a constant concertina of braking cars as someone remembers at entirely the wrong moment that their journey plans for the day involve Hamilton and not Queen Street.

What Jafas see

With this choice soon to be multiplied, it wouldn’t surprise me if some become so confused – this is happening on what will be the first hazy day back after Christmas for many – that they simply abandon their cars and start walking. And from what we have learnt from the tunnel, even those who manage to get their heads around the concept of following road signs are likely to slow down to the speed of a tree sloth in particularly uncomfortable shoes in order to really appreciate the new set up. For bloody weeks on end.

Given the contempt Aucklanders are treated with by much of the nation it pains me to admit it but, when it comes to motoring at least, we’re simply too stupid to cope with this level of change.

Although on the upside, it should stop everyone moaning about the tunnel for a while. That is until they open the third lane anyway.

Thinking Outside Of The Box. And The Tunnel

November 17th, 2011 by Tim Grimley

As the fervour surrounding the Rugby World Cup has died away, the subsequent vacuum created in the national press has been slowly filled with a matter of secondary excitement, although almost certainly greater consequence; the forthcoming general election. So it saddened me greatly this week to find that the nation is not particularly engaged with who is best set to take care of our finances, who will bring food to the mouths of the ‘underclass’ or who can ensure our education system pumps out young minds that can take on the world. No, instead we’re all focussed on what the Prime Minister and his Epsom crony John Banks gossiped about in a café.

Thanks to judicious stirring from the press and opposing political forces, people now seem to think that because of a bit of idle banter we will somehow see John Key in an entirely new light. Well unless he admitted to popping out for a night of dwarf tossing with the Pommie rugby squad or decided to confess his long term desire to open up Otago for the Iranians to test their fledgling nuclear programme then I doubt it.

Why dig up Queen Street......

Yes it might be mildly embarrassing if it turns out our esteemed leader said some less than complimentary things about Don Brash or the coffin dodging element of society, but to be honest, so have the rest of us at one point or other and if that is the criteria on which you judge someone’s fitness to govern then frankly you need your head looking at. In reality, when it comes to placing your tick in the box, you should be concentrating on the policies on which the contestants are basing their campaigns.

And one policy is piquing my interest more than most; the proposed Auckland rail loop which is set to cost the nation a cool $2.4 billion. Having recently had my bathroom redeveloped – which is about the same size of a shoe box – I’m fully aware that $2.4 billion doesn’t go all that far these days when tradesmen get involved. Nevertheless it is still a fair old whack and what I find absolutely terrifying is the lack of apparent discussion on alternatives.

It seems that the main drive behind the project – unless you count the Green party who are happy to lump their slight weight behind anything that cocks a snook at the evil deity of motoring – is the desire of Labour to stop Len Brown’s ridiculous pre-election pledge coming back to crush his ego into powder form and throw it in the Waitemata. And it seems a silly idea to devote billions of dollars and the upheaval of the nation’s biggest city just to stop our idiot mayor getting a downer on himself before at least eying up some other options.

As I’m neither a civil engineer or transport planner it would be pointless for me to make suggestions about infrastructure alternatives such as multiple rail termini, trams and new ferry options – the logic and science behind them would be thinner than a politician’s promise – but I can do some basic maths and I think it would be entirely possible for us to have a system which could transform the Auckland transport nightmare almost overnight and at a fraction of the cost.

Firstly, we need to take a lead from other major world cities and introduce a congestion charge for the area encased between the sea and state highways 1 and 16 during the hours of 7-5, Monday to Friday. And not one of the pathetic $10 per day ones that people moan about, but still begrudgingly pay – I’m talking about a prohibitive fee that only the very rich heads of business can afford. $100 per day would be an absolute minimum. This would serve to make the rich people very happy, as wafting around the city in their flash cars would allow the rest of us to see just how rich they are – which is pretty much the only point of being rich as far as I can tell.

The rest of us would then have one of two choices; either get on the existing public transport or – and this is the genius of the plan – apply for a low cost government-leased scooter.

......when you can dig being part of the scooter revolution?

If you scour the pages of Trademe, you will find that it is possible to buy a brand new scooter for $1000, which means that if we bought one for every man, woman and child in Auckland we could have around a billion dollars left compared to the rail loop. In reality, the number of people who commute into the centre of the city is closer to 200,000, so even if all of these suddenly wanted a moped, we’d still have a spare $2.2 billion compared to letting Len play fat controller. And if we wanted to get really eco-conscious, we could splash out a bit more for the flash electric ones and then watch the value of our power companies soar prior to the big National-led sell-off as everyone plugged in at night.

And there would be no problems putting the low-powered peds on the motorway either – thanks to rush hour this morning, it took me a full hour and seven minutes to do the 23 km commute from North Shore to Mt Wellington today, which means an average speed of under 21kph. Even if that was doubled, the scooters could happily keep up.

OK, so I will admit that mopeds aren’t the most fun form of transport when it’s wet, but a decent set of waterproofs would be small beans compared to the commuting savings and it really wouldn’t be such a big deal rocking up at the office suffering from the dreaded helmet hair if you knew everyone else was going to be in the same boat. And let’s face it; these are small prices to pay for what has the potential to be an overnight revolution in the way central Auckland operates.

In fact I would encourage Len to put this one out to the Auckland public, because if they go for it then he could lay claim to instigating an idea that genuinely transformed the city. And if a bit of bad hair and damp weather does prove enough to put everyone off, then it would be all the proof needed that people’s hearts really aren’t that into change. In which case, he should just be a good boy and get on with building some decent roads as and when the coffers allow.

Because while playing trains and tunnels may seem a jolly nice idea, having Len run out of office and leave us holding a $2.4 billion dollar baby is a consequence I’m not all that interested in.

Used Car Buying Is Hit and Myth

June 12th, 2011 by Tim Grimley

As a Pom who had not experienced the joys of living in Godzone during the construction of the Waikato Expressway, I was bemused to hear my Kiwi colleagues spend much of this week ranting about a ‘Taniwha’. Although I’ve made a point of learning some basic Maori phraseology so that I don’t become completed befuddled by the bilingual nature of some conversations – I now know that when I come home in the evening my wahine is expecting kai – this was entirely new ground.

When pressed, the rantee’s couldn’t exactly define what a Taniwha was – common consensus placed it somewhere between a tribal guardian and a monster and firmly in the realm of mythology – but their ire was raised by the fact that it was threatening to bugger up the proposed Auckland CBD rail tunnel.

For sale - One careful Taniwha owner

The Taniwha in question – this one is called Horotiu and even has a Twitter account – apparently dwells in a subterranean stream somewhere in the region of Queen Street and should someone thoughtlessly build a train line through its home will cause all kinds of mischief with public transport. At least that is what Glenn Wilcox, a member of the Auckland Maori Advisory Board, tells us.

I suspect Mr Wilcox is not to be believed.

Let’s be honest, once the rail tunnel is built Horotiu will have no chance of competing against ARTA who, by that stage, will have a full two decades of hands-on experience in buggering up public transport. And I also suspect he’ll still be having far too much fun messing with the heads of used car purchasers. Continue reading “Used Car Buying Is Hit and Myth” »

All Ford Day on next month in Auckland

March 24th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

The annual Auckland All Ford Day is back for 2010 giving Ford enthusiasts a chance to come and celebrate all things Ford. The 2010 event will mark the 10th year of the All Ford Day so it is sure to be a special occasion.

All Ford vehicles and Ford-powered vehicles are welcome to enter the event.

The Auckland All Ford Day will be held at North Harbour Stadium in Albany again. For this event the carpark area available will be expanded to accomodate more Ford vehicle entries as last year saw over 500 vehicles entered, many on the day itself.

The three Auckland Ford dealers (John Andrew, North Harbour and South Auckland) are sponsoring the event and are working with the AAFD committee comprised of the five founding Ford Clubs; the FPV/Tickford Club, Ford Anglia Owners Club, GT Falcon Club of NZ, RS Owners Club and the Auckland Mustang Owners Club.

The All Ford Day will have family activities, spot prizes and category prizes. Last year over $23,000 in prizes was given away. So get out to Albany on Sunday and check it out.

When: Sun 11 Apr, 10:00am—3:00pm

Where: North Harbour Stadium, Stadium Dr, Albany Show map

How much:

  • General Admission (Public): $5.00
  • Driver & Vehicle (Display Ford vehicle in the event): $0.00
  • Children under 13 accompanied by an adult: $0.00
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