I have not spoken to the editor about how much she wants from me, however I am aware we have just had the AGM, so there will be reports from that and these will take up a few pages. I am also aware that Don has more test drive reports and these will also take up some space so I am assuming I need to make this one shorter. I am going to just type and see what rambles through my mind, time will tell if it is short, or not!
In our immediate sights we should be looking at the Fish and Chip drive to Kaiaua, a good excuse just to get out of the house and drive your Peugeot, or any other vehicle you wish to bring along, either meet us at the “Autobahn” stop just south of Papakura or meet us there. When? 11.30 Saturday September 10.
I know that Don said at the AGM that he would get hold of Nick, after we all discussed it and voted unanimously for it to happen, and see if he would organise the inter-club with Wellington early next year. Well I have pre-empted it, couldn’t help myself, Nick Watson has said yes, so the wheels are rolling, watch this space for further detail as we head towards the end of the year. In my opinion the last one Nick organised was the best interclub I have attended, and by that I take nothing away from those that have been held in Taranaki before and since which were excellent as well as. Looking forward to Taumarunui or some nearby location that Nick will no doubt be organising.
This time last year I was writing about my first driving and pedestrian ‘adventures’ in Sicily. I reread my Ramble for inspiration. It has brought back some very fond memories and can only reiterate that the driving in Sicily is mad, and yet despite this, or maybe even partly because of it, I would return to Sicily at a drop of a hat, it was my favourite location in Europe. Since finishing my work, at least for now, in the Bay of Plenty, I have not left Auckland. I have been no further West than New Lynn, no further North than Okura, no further East than Botany Downs, and no further South than Manukau, so relatively confined. Therefore very little rambling to note.
My parents have recently been overseas and bought back a mix of newspapers from Europe, the Middle East and Australia, these I have let my eyes and mind ramble over instead. I can report the following;
The New York Times international edition is very grey, little colour used and has very few advertisements – I am guessing largely due to the fact it has an international distribution that doesn’t match a lot of companies markets.
The Middle Eastern newspapers, (I have more than one of them) are the most colourful and are printed on a thin glossy paper type. I suspect not as durable as ordinary newspapers if the pages are turned quickly. Some have glossy outside pages with inner pages of ordinary newsprint quality, but still very coloured. The middle- eastern version of the FTWeekend has a strange almost pink aura to the newsprint.
The Italian papers they bought back have to be most colourful papers I have ever seen; pictures often take up more than the text, and the text on some articles has coloured backgrounds, often starting with a relatively dark background at the top of the article (in colours such as green, orange or blue) which fade to the background paper colour by the bottom of the article.
The Times from England was of a small format, many pages and lots of colour, but all dull colour or subdued, no glossiness at all. Although in different languages the Dutch and Australian papers seemed very alike, lots of colour, lots of sport but plenty of other articles too. Somehow they use the same quality newsprint as the Times of England, but their papers seem glossier and brighter. Not sure whether it was because they print their photos in a brighter format or whether they simply have more bright colours in their photos and adverts.
Of interest to those of us not used to the culture of Muslim counties I noted that many of the advertisers, especially in the Gulf News of Dubai, advertise Ramadan specials, though often without mentioning Ramadan itself. They are more subtly worded, talking about “the season” or “the celebration.” Not quite like our blatant Christmas and New Years sales.
Of greatest interest to us Peugeot Club members was what Peugeot in Dubai is offering. They were advertising for the 208, 308, 301 and 508 and a limited time offer for “Generosity that lasts beyond the season” of a 5 year or 1 million(!) km warranty, 3 years/60000km free maintenance, free window tinting, free insurance and free registration.
The next best I could find was 150,000km being offered by KIA.
Right, that’s it.
PS Your $45 subs are now due.
I am tired, not having slept well about 50% of the time over the last couple of weeks. This has been further complicated by the work I have been undertaking inland from Paengaroa, having been working there on and off since April.This work finished this last week and I am feeling like I am more than ready for a few weeks at home. Must say it has been an incredible winter with regards to the rainfall and the ability for my outside job not to get shut down. After many many days in the Bay of Plenty sun I have pronounced sock tan lines. A couple of weekends back, one lady asked where I had been on holiday.
What can I tell you? – there is at least one Peugeot in Paengaroa, a 405 that appears to be in excellent condition. Others were spotted but I am unsure if they belonged there or were simply passing through on the state highway.There is a disparately high number of utes, though I think that is common in small town NZ, and the population is made up of a league of nations, fruit pickers from all of the Pacific islands being common, at least at the time of the year I was present. I can also highly recommend “The Trading Post”, a great restaurant with an excellent Crispy Duck Salad amongst many other fantastic meals on the menu, with dishes going on and off the menu once or twice a week. Favourites of mine also included what is the best seafood broth three of us agreed we had ever tasted – and I also was very keen on the crème brulee. The restaurant is so popular that people travel from throughout the BOP and it isn’t unusual for Paul (the owner) to turn away 25 to 40 people on Friday and Saturday nights. If in the area, I highly recommend it, but make sure you book! Tuesdays to Saturdays opening only.
Whilst I have been away, Don has had some serious play, getting to test drive, compliments of Sime Darby, the new 308 GT and 308 GTI – the diesel and petrol hot rods in the Peugeot garage. I was fortunate enough that Don brought the GTI around for me to get a gander at it and a brief urban test drive. All I can say is that I have never driven a car that performs like that, – and that was before Don shifted it into Dynamic Mode that lets loose all of the car’s power. It is a beautiful machine; practical with its 4 doors, comfortable and runs like a skinny hogget. You simply are not going to catch it. I do wonder if the law enforcement agencies – or possibly the manufacturers of speed cameras – helped fund its development. I have never driven a car that is so focused on performance that it can only be designed to lose your license in it! The car is effortless in reaching the speed limit, and I found that if I did make an effort the car accelerated quicker than I could change the gears, something I have never had the difficulty of doing before. I am sure given ownership, or simply just enough time, it could be mastered.
We are rapidly approaching the Bastille Day dinner (after I have written this – prior to you reading it), I look forward to having seen some of you there. Then comes our AGM at the Sime Darby quarters in Mt Wellington- Penrose. I encourage as many of you as possible to make it. Without numbers at the AGM the club ceases to exist. Some new blood in the Committee wouldn’t go out of place either.
Currently I am largely working outside Auckland yet again, spending most of my weeks at the Junction Motel in Paengaroa. What it means is that again I am tired, doing a lot of travelling and having rather short weekends in Auckland, this is scheduled to carry on till mid-July, in the meantime others are doing my car club work load, the Ramble excepted.
Maybe because I have been working so much, or maybe because I haven’t seen much other than Paengaroa and rural Waikato roads (and many of those are night views only), or maybe just because I actually don’t have much to say I think this will be a shorter Ramble than usual.
What you need to know is that the AGM is coming up – and the Don Howarth has been hard at work arranging a different location. This is what you need to know!
The AGM is to be held at the Peugeot Distributors –
Sime Darby at 2pm on the afternoon of Saturday 30 July
32 Vestey Drive
As I type this the final arrangements for timings are yet to be made, but never the less it will be good to have this contact with the distributor. It is my understanding that they will have a video by the Peugeot Group (PSA) showing the highlights of the 2015 year. So come along and have a peek at the distributors. It will be good to see you there and contribute to the AGM, which when you cut to the mustard is the only important meeting for the club each year. Our constitution and survival as an incorporated society depend on it.
On my personal front; had the 505 V6 for a year this month, and have taken it for its second warrant under my ownership. 2nd time lucky – passed it first pop this time, though with a warning about getting low on rubber in the rear. Nevertheless it was a sense of both relief and achievement to get the warrant without repairs required.
That is all I really have to say. If you haven’t already, get your trophies into the committee so that the new caretakers of them can enjoy having their names engraved on them,
This time last year you had a vice-president’s ramble, as my family and I were away vacationing in Europe. Somehow the world seemed a safer place a year ago with fewer refugees. In our euro-centric world view, at least as predominantly presented to most NZers by both traditional media and social media, what has been happening in Europe has caused quite an outcry. The reality is though that even greater atrocities with higher death tolls have been happening in Turkey and Pakistan recently. I suspect many of the everyday killings in Pakistan don’t even make our media forms, but I have no proof of that suspicion and have no intention to follow it up with research.
I will not claim to understand what is behind many of these killings. I think it is probably more than religion, especially in Turkey, as some of the killings at least appear to be related to the Kurdish liberation movements rather than ISIS origins, and that is the point where I am lost for words. All I want to say is that I think freedom of travel and freedom to express our thoughts should be the right of all. I believe mass murders, war crimes, bombings and other doings have been common place in most if not all peoples’ histories. Even NZ has not been immune. Our soldiers committed war crimes against the village of Surafend in Palestine immediately after World War 1. Reports vary, but it appears some 200 troops, mostly NZers and a few Australians murdered between 40 and 120 Palestinian men (reports vary on casualties) because a New Zealand soldier had been shot whilst pursuing a thief. Remember that the government in South Africa as well as the freedom fighters both at times killed without mercy. The same happened too to many of the losers in battle in Medieval times; sometimes only the prisoners with ransom value were safe. The IRA was guilty of many disappearances and bombings in Northern Ireland and Britain, but equally the British troops had their own uncalled for shooting sprees. Where I am going with this I am not sure except to say that over time many of these things have healed, the situations settled down and once -warring people have started to live in harmony again. I just hope that many of the world’s current political/religious/humanitarian problems can be sorted sooner rather than later and we can go back to being able to tour the world again without fear – other than that of the common thieves and occasional murderers who likely will always exist in society.
It was never my intention to get onto the above subject, it only came about because I reflected on where I was a year ago, thinking it might add some inspiration into this month’s ramble. I had already decided on a couple or so of things to write about and was looking for a little inspiration on others.
Firstly I have had a pre-ramble chat to the editor. Dennis Lowe has provided an article – that I believe will be published in two parts over the coming months – so thank you Dennis for taking my hints and providing your writing skills and accounts of your experiences.
Secondly Nick Watson has fathered a beautiful baby girl – Lucy. Heartfelt congratulations to you and Wendy.
Thirdly I have decided last month’s magazine didn’t say enough about the Gymkhana. It gave results and an idea of who turned up but little more. Greg and I were first on the scene setting out the courses that Greg’s fruitful mind had conceived. Not long after we were followed by Don who set out flags etc to reassure those who hadn’t previously been to John and Wendy’s farm, where to go. Greg had us all doing slaloms, forward and reverse, throwing articles at a centre stake from our cars, doing goodness knows what manoeuvres with dropping balls into buckets and finally doing an egg and spoon type rave complete with mini speed humps.
The day was sunny – but not too hot. Many arrived, some competed; others sat under our club tent and chatted, took photographs and maybe even watched some competitors. A few of ours came from up north, two in one car, one in a Fiat. David Holmes, I am pleased to say, decided to turn up just to earn the club points and watch – and ended up working as a marshal.
I ended up marshalling the slalom, ran the stop watches, had a course long enough to take a few photos and made a few observations and have come up with the following awards.
Taking my traditional title of The Driver that Created the Most Dust – Neale Batchelor in his Fiat. In the Citroen magazine Paul Absolum referred to Neale as ploughing the field.
The Most Frustrated at Road Works Award goes to Robert Morgan who hit so many of the road cones it must have been a revenge act.
The Julie Andrews Sound of Music Award – because it seemed nothing could faze him goes to Martin Burton. He seemed to happily cruise through all of the events.
The He Should Have Been a 3rd World Dictator Award to Greg Winkley who was by far the strictest of the marshals, “do it his way or the highway!”
The Brought to You by the Sponsors Product Award goes to Paul Absolum who somehow had his 2CV staying upright = yet looked like he or it had had a tipple with the lean he got it on in some of the corners.
The Bell Puller Award (aka the Hunchback of Notre Dame) is given to David Holmes who spent a lot of time bent over bending his back to measure accurate and inaccurate object throwing.
The Just Has My Admiration Award goes to David Jones whom I thought drove his long and bloated CX ambulance brilliantly in reverse at a fine mettle of speed. Having competed in a 505 wagon in the past, I know how difficult it can be to drive long wheel base vehicles at speed – especially in reverse. David it did it well and came home as the first member for the Citroen Club. Well deserved.
The Mother Teresa Award for Humility was won by Shayne Mathieson who put up with a lot of comments and redrafts based upon various scenarios of her publication of the results spreadsheets. All apparently without too many expletives being aimed at the email writers (mostly me).
And lastly the Dai Henwood Award For Comedy I’ll give to myself, as I quite like the humour I have put into the Gymkhana awards.
Others deserved awards and mention too, but I have said enough, thank you to all whom participated and attended. Hope you are chuckling, despite my serious start to the ramble.
PS Paul Paice talking to us at Southern Autos.
From Auckland: Greg Winkley, Brent Druskovich, Don and Wynne Howarth.
From Northland: Anne and Ray Cotterill, Neale and Michelle Batchelor, Steve and Jenny Cornwall, Peter Vuletich and Oksana, Robert Morgan and Bronwyn, Mary Pullman.
On what the weather forecast to be a wet weekend (but turned out to be beautiful) Don and I left home about 9.30am to meet Greg at the Kaukapakapa Tavern at 10.30am. We were the only ones meeting him there, so got our instructions and left on the first touring stage. We made a stop at the Gibb’s Farm gate – we could see only one sculpture as the gate was locked – then headed on to West Coast Rd. From here we did a “Targa” stage to Kaipara Flats Rd, round large (though some tight) sweeping corners past very green paddocks with some lovely rural views. We arrived at Kaipara Flats Rd, but with my stomach protesting at the curves, made the decision to join Highway One here, and proceed to Kaiwaka. This left Greg – who had done all the plotting- to continue on the course by himself. He said he enjoyed driving the back roads, so we left him to it.
To the Brynderwyns through the roadworks (where we had been warned to watch our speed as cops and cameras were active) to Kaiwaka where we met up with the Whangarei contingent for lunch at the Bakery, then on through 3 more touring and Targa-type stages (which included driving down Dr’s Hill Rd ) to end up at
Maungatapere for our tour of the Packard and Pioneer Museum. At this point Robert Morgan joined the group, and proudly showed off his very recently purchased new RCZ Type R coupe, a very impressive and much admired car. Don, for one, was green with envy!
This museum is fascinating, with a large number of Packard models – I understand this is the largest collection outside the USA – but also a big collection of motorbikes, scooters, memorabilia, 47 potato mashers!!!,WW2 trucks, jeeps, and army motorbikes including the mini Flying Flea as well as old earthmoving equipment. Many of the exhibits have been restored, and many are still waiting….
We left from here to go to our motels for a rest and a brush up, then met again at Mary Pullman’s house for her 70th birthday party, with a specialty of toheroa fritters, gathered the day before in bitterly cold and windy conditions! This was a family and car club gathering with a BBQ and pot luck meal, so was a friendly and social event.
Next morning was a double stage of a Targa rally route, run locally, but Don and I decided to miss this and went instead to the yacht basin in the middle of Whangarei and browsed those craft shops. I found a birthday and a Christmas gift, so was very pleased.
Then on to the Batchelor’s home where we met up with the rest of the group for a pleasant home-cooked morning tea and chat, and the men admired Neale’s extensive model collection.
Next we set off towards Whangarei Heads, going through one touring
stage, then drove over Mt Tiger
(interesting) ending up at the Parua Bay Tavern for a surprise birthday lunch for Mary. This was organised by family and friends, who had booked the top floor room, which on a sunny day would have had a spectacular view of the bay, but was still pleasant even though grey and windy. We had a lovely meal, lots of talk with different people, (Mary was delighted when she was delivered by her son), and we finally left for home about 4pm, deciding to miss the trip to see Peter Vuletich’s collection!
Altogether a very pleasant and good friendship weekend, although it was a shame there was such a small response from the Auckland members. Greg put in a lot of work on planning the driving stages of the rally and had written excellent notes. Using our cars in out of town situations is one of the perks of coming on a weekend like this, and the men did enjoy putting the foot down when they had the chance!
I am sure Mary Pullman will remember this birthday for quite a while.
Since I last wrote to you I have attended a trip up north, a fabulous time for those that attended. Thank you to Mary for hosting us on Saturday evening for dinner, Michelle and Neal for Sunday morning tea, and Peter for showing a few of us his collection of fine automobiles. Also I really appreciated Ray babysitting me through some of the trials that Gregg had set by making sure he didn’t lose me; I was tail end Charlie for much of it by having the slowest car in the convoy, especially on Sunday morning. Also to Oksana and Peter for the brief rest at your house on Sunday afternoon. Then there was Robert delighting us with the sights and sounds of his new RCZ-R, very nice to have one in the club. Not to mention the company of Anne and Bronwyn. Plus of course Greg, Don and Wynne as well as myself who made the trip north. And then last but not least Jenny and Steve made the trip south from the Bay of Islands complete with very much younger relatives egging them on from the back seat. I had a wonderful weekend and you all made up special parts of it.
I have not sold a car on Trademe before (though I did once have my 505 GTI wagon on Trade me but sold it to Kevin “offsite” about a day or two after I had listed it), but my 505 GTI is now listed, by the time you read this the auction will have closed and it will be either sold or relisted. What I can’t get over, as I am a frequent but not full time trader on said website, is the popularity of the car. After 9 days listed it has been viewed 778 times and has 41 watchers, I’ve never had an auction like it. Granted I know very well that some of you who are reading this are some of the watchers and clearly are just being nosey and have no intention to purchase, so I won’t keep my hopes up over it.
Yesterday (that is the day before I wrote this) we had the annual Pride of Ownership or Show’n’Shine as I have also heard it referred to as. Reasonable turnout, 11 cars competed if I remember correctly, clear winners in the ’07 and ’03 awards, not so for the ’05 and ’06 awards, and no competitors in the ’04 award. It was a reasonable day with the sun shining with an occasional light spit going overhead. I entered my new 505 V6 and Mandy the 505 GTI (the one that I hopefully no longer own – dependent upon the Trademe results); we were also joined by Walter Dean who bought along his 505GR. I can’t remember the last occasion where we had 3 505s turn up to an event, and even if I could, I am certain that we didn’t have 3 different versions of the model. For a 505 eccentric member such as myself this was a wonderful occasion.
Even more wonderful for me was having Jasmine with me, we had a good father daughter relationship going on marking competitors cars under the bonnet, boot and left rear wheel arch. By working with Jasmine we had a very unique marking system, and this might be just as well, as her system is probably what separated some of the results in the end, more conventional systems may not have achieved it. Also a word to anyone coming in future years, if I have Jasmine back as a judge again make sure you have removed all spiders, dead or alive, from your engine bay, she hates them, consequently two competitors cars got marked rather hard on the cleanliness of the engine bay for spider reasons alone. Just glad I didn’t have one, because I hadn’t checked first myself!
By running the event in Cornwall Park we had a few interested onlookers as well, I don’t think we managed to sign anyone up to the club, but despite that I think from a public relations point of view we could still call it a success.
I believe the results won’t be in this issue of the magazine, and I do not intend to break the news of the results early, you will have to wait. What I can conclude however is that I must be doing something wrong in my position as President. If I was running this club like Sepp Blatter I would have won!
I am now looking forward to the next event, just next month, the Navigation Trial. Please see if a few more of you can make it. As much as I enjoy being President, we have never won the Tricolour Trophy with me at the helm, numbers at events in recent years is what has separated us from the other club, see what you can do to make my life that much more pleasant in being able to lift the trophy from them! And don’t forget the Gymkhana which will be held in Karaka in February 2016.
That is it; the editor tells me there isn’t much room this month for one of my more epic rambles. In case you are interested, it is a couple of days later from when I started writing the Ramble; Trademe now tells me 863 views and 45 watchers.
A 1972 two owner 404 for sale – only 72,8000 miles; cream with brown upholstery; current WoF & Rego; runs well – in regular use. $3000 ono.
Ph Paul Sweeney, PO Box 319 Maunganui, N. Auckland, 22 Richmond Rd, Maunganui. Ph 021-1119801.
Remember the annual Pride of Ownership event has changed both time and venue. It will be this coming SATURDAY 10th October at 1pm in the carparking area on the southern side of Cornwall Park – accessible from either of the roundabouts in Campbell Rd.
This year is my 5th as President, and this year I am going to break from my tradition of highlighting a club member and what they do for the club. This year I instead would like to point out to you that we are breaking tradition by being here today. As a committee we have listened to you and what you had to say at the last AGM and hence as far as I know this is the first ever Saturday AGM, not the traditional Sunday, later in the year our show and shine will also be held on a Saturday.
In another break from my tradition instead this year I would like to talk about our “commercial” partners and relationships. During the last week Don and I visited the Peugeot dealerships in Auckland to attempt to foster a closer relationship with them, something that our club has been missing in the last couple of years or so. Talks between us and them are still ongoing, therefore I cannot reveal anything more than what I am about to tell you.
• Both Andrew Craw of Southern Autos in Manukau and Craig Baylis of Continental Car Services in Greenlane were supportive and encouraging of fostering a closer relationship.
• Both have said that they will let all new and used car purchasers from their dealerships know of our club and how to join. Continental are currently doing this for the Citroen Club and I have a copy of the flyer here for people to have a look at and hopefully comment on as well as.
• Both have shown interest in advertising in the magazine.
• Continental Cars will continue to offer a 15% discount in their service department on parts and service.
• Andrew at Southern Autos has indicated that they too will offer a discount to club members; however he needs to discuss the figures with his workshop manager to come up with a percentage.
As far as I am concerned the above relationships that we are starting to develop with the Peugeot Dealerships is the best news that this club has had in some time.
As well as the dealers we have also been in contact with Greg Kent Automotive in Glenfield and Euroline Parts Connection in Drury. Both have already paid their advertising and both are also offering a 15% discount to members. Thankyou to you both as long standing advertisers and supporters of our club.
As yet none of us have talked to Auto France, in Wiri, but again a thankyou is due for they also have been long standing advertisers in the magazine.
As club members I can only ask of you that you show your support for these companies that are good enough to support us by being their customers ahead of others that may also offer you the same goods and services. Please put your hands together for a quick round of appreciation to these people who support our club.
Again I ask anyone who is present today please consider yourself for the committee, more are always welcome. In particular we are looking for a new Vice President, Don has done his time, the role is not gruelling, and essentially all you need to do is turn up to committee meetings and pretend you are President when I am not available. I would also like to thank the committee for working with me over the last 12 months and for again all of them offering to stand again including Don who is looking to stand down to a “common” committee member as well as keep his position as Sime Darby Test Pilot when new Peugeot models are released.
Whilst you are pondering how quickly you are going to put your hand up to be the new Vice-President or a new committee member I would like this opportunity to thank Craig Baylis of Continental Cars one more time, he donated some Peugeot gifts for the club to use on our members, these are included today as five extra prizes in the raffle, so if you haven’t bought your tickets, do so now.
Thank you for listening,
There were many concerns about the new Health & Safety legislation and its effect on clubs etc. Last minute revisions should have removed clubs and voluntary associations from compliance with the more onerous responsibilities imposed by the original draft legislation.
The new subclause differentiates ‘volunteer workers’ from ‘casual volunteers’ who will now be excluded from the category of ‘worker’ when they are undertaking specified voluntary activities;-
• Participating in fund-raising activities.
• Assisting an educational institute, sports club or recreation club with sports or recreation.
• Assisting with activities for an educational institute outside its premises.
• Caring for another person in the volunteer’s home.
Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking – PCBUs – will still have a duty to look out for the welfare of other people affected by the conduct of its business or undertaking.
The AGM has been and gone and I am still typing this up, so nothing has changed, even the attempt to get rid of the old vice-president didn’t work, he is still by my side and I am glad of it. Though he did announce to all who listened that he will be resigning from both the vice-presidents role and the committee next year. In many ways nothing has changed, the committee is the same, we all re-stood, the various officers’ positions are occupied by all the same people and the sun still shines .
To carry on from last month, I didn’t make the Bastille Day dinner; decided I was too contagious, my throat still playing up, and on that I must admit to being grateful to Jeanette for delivering my President’s Report at the AGM. I was feeling all the speaking. For those that weren’t there you can read that report elsewhere in the magazine.
The event I want you to think about now is next month, a weekend away in Whangarei – unless of course like many of you – it is actually home. The AGM, like many of our events was supported by members from the North, some to pick up trophies, others to make numbers and reacquaint the social ties and interests that bind us together. Frankly other than the committee the Whangarei members are the most active, and those of us that organise, write articles and produce the magazine appreciate you. Therefore it is only appropriate we can go to you as well as. Details – of which other than the date I know almost nothing for a trip to see you Sept 12 are elsewhere in the magazine. For those of us not from those parts, do try and join us, should be a good weekend away.
Also a special note to Buster, who is seen almost yearly at the AGM. I appreciated the fact you told me you have been enjoying my rambles. Now I meant what I said at the AGM. How about you write an article about your motorcycles and what goes on in that club to give us others an insight into something a little different but related to cars?
Now to continue with my rambling, we first landed in Italy in Catania, the largest city under the shadow of Mt Etna. This is a large, dirty and lively city, many people are poor and have been hit hard by the recession. Into this mix arrived the seven of us travelling complete with luggage to make do for 6 and a half weeks. The only way to go was by minivan, not people mover as they don’t have the luggage space. In hindsight I am glad that I was given some advice by a friend before I went and that I took it up. He said when you travel to a country where they drive on the opposite side always hire an Automatic, so at least whilst you are trying to get your head around that you aren’t trying to change gears as well. We therefore duly hired a Mercedes Vito van from Avis.
We hadn’t gotten far from the airport before I was wondering what had happened. I said to Mandy, “What’s the speed limit?” I was convinced our GPS had it wrong for the road we were on, because of the rate we were being passed by all and sundry. This was a very rapid introduction to the concept that speed limits are flexible in Sicily. Not long after that the route plotted by the GPS had us going through the outskirts of the older part of the city and smooth tarmac was replaced by raucous cobblestoned streets. The roads were narrower, cars were parked on the footpath to allow enough room for other vehicles to get by, and naturally the roads were full of pedestrians because the footpaths were blocked, scooters buzzing in and out and around you through gaps that seemed too small and cars slipping in and out and around. Usually indicators were used, but sometimes after the change in direction had taken place, and everything is done at speed. One way roads are one way – except it would appear for scooters and bicycles which can approach you from any direction and on odd occasions you wonder how both you and the oncoming vehicle are going to fit, only at the last moment the motor scooter will pop in between parked cars or even mount the footpath -where some isn’t parked on- to avoid you. On the odd occasion they seem to take the prerogative and force you to stop or hit them head on; first to the gap wins.
Through the town and back onto modern streets, we came to a merge situation where I had to give way, complete with a Give Way sign. Boy oh Boy did I make a mistake there. I stopped because of fast moving oncoming traffic; you should have heard the horns coming from behind! I think a couple of scooters got close to being attached to the back of the van or alternatively the front of the car behind them.
The next day I didn’t drive, not because I didn’t want to, but because we were being picked up for a guided tour on Mt Etna. This involved me sitting sideways in the back of a Landrover Defender with not quite enough headroom, with two of the children – Jessica and Joshua. As well as looking at the fabulous scenery, the different ways that people live – their houses are not like ours, and the vast areas where past lava flows had etched their way, I also made a point of observing how Sicilians drive. Mandy pointed out to our guide that the verges and traffic islands had long unkempt grass and during Spring when we visited some also had a multitude of wildflowers on them. She asked why they weren’t cut? The reply was that they don’t have the money to do it since the global financial crisis. We drove through another neighbourhood where they were cut; the reply was that people have money here.
Anyway, after observing for a while, I decided the best and politest way of describing the way to drive is – pro-actively and decisively. Decide where you are going and go for it! From what I could make out, you were then respected by the other motorists whom then made room for you. I observed that this was also the best way to cross the road. Make a decision when a gap arrives, often far smaller than a pedestrian would ever contemplate in NZ, and go for it. The cars then slow down for you and let you across. This takes a lot of courage and hope the first couple of times you try it, and you do have to continue to look at the drivers’ faces to check they have actually seen you. Before long I was crossing like a local. Some of the other family members weren’t as convinced and I occasionally had to cross a road three times to go back and get the rest of the family when they hadn’t joined me the first time. Having said this I saw what I suspect were illegal immigrants from Africa crossing in Palermo totally unrealistically. It was like a death wish, they just walked out, less than 5m from a red lighted pedestrian crossing in front of traffic that had just started to get speed up with a newly turned green light. I didn’t need to understand Italian to realise what a lot of the shouted language coming from more than one party, including those making the crossing, was about. Horns were tooting, arms and hands waving, including with an upraised middle finger and voices raised. All this whilst we sat down and enjoyed our Gelato – added to the show.
One thing that seems to be an almost constant background noise in both Catania and Palermo is the sound of sirens, mostly Ambulances from those that I saw, but also Police and Fire. Perhaps, despite my new found confidence and ability to drive and cross roads like a Sicilian, not everybody, including the locals, is as lucky.
On our way out of Catania on our Tiki-tour through parts of Sicily I had to drive on one of the main roads. It was busy, and 3 lanes wide, so I drove in the slow lane whilst hopefully the GPS gives instructions with enough warning. Everything going fine, then an intersection with traffic lights. Should be easy you might think, but no, the Sicilians have a way of complicating matters. Three lanes, all painted and with appropriate arrows for straight ahead or turning, fortunately we weren’t at the front of the queue and I had a brief chance to observe and make my decisive decision as is required in Catania. The dilemma you ask? It may have been a three lane road, it may have had three lanes marked, but somehow the locals managed to fit six lanes of traffic within those three. My dilemma that I had to make the quick decision about was, which of the three lanes do I go in, and once having decided that how much of the lane do I take up? Not an easy decision to make when the van you are driving is wider than the multitude of Lancia, Fiat, and I am glad to say, Peugeot cars as well as assorted others. Was my van wide enough to try and take on truck status and take up a lane by myself, or not?
Not long after we reached the motorway. Everything was orderly here; smooth beautiful roads on our way to Enna to see a large Norman and earlier period castle – Castello di Lombardia –I use the wording earlier because most fortifications in Sicily seem to have many periods of occupation, often wiped out by later periods or added on to. This particular castle had its first fortifications onsite prior to the Romans, but what is visible now apparently dates to the Norman period of occupation (Yes the French were here too!). However once again “Mandy what is the speed limit?” No our GPS isn’t wrong. Now more than ever, once on motorways and provincial highways, did I learn that the speed limit is pretty much what you want to make of it. I sat at about the speed limit because the guides (Lonely Planet, Fodors etc.) say that some Sicilian police apparently target tourists for instant fines, and it is strongly suggested that the fines never make it into the Police Department coffers. However the number of vehicles that passed us at speeds that made us seem pedestrian was remarkable. Others still much to my surprise were occasionally caught by us too. I presume they weren’t stunned tourists trying to make out how to drive. Another thing we noticed was the variation in rails at the side of the motorway; in places they were high, others low, sometimes with mesh, sometimes without, no real standard, but the roads themselves were good.
What really brought home the disregard for rules in Sicily was a minor event in Marsala, a town I would like to go back to and explore more. One day we arrived in Marsala to have a look at the shops and whatever else we could find. From memory it was about 2pm, when most of the population have abandoned their occupations and education to head home for the afternoon rest. Apparently necessary in Summer, it was very warm in early Spring when we where there. Anyway we were trying to find parking, preferably free parking as we were money conscious Kiwis who understand the meaning of free.
We were in an area near the railway and while I could tell that there were signs with parking rules, unfortunately they were beyond my grasp of Italian, which was the best of the seven of us. Also, my understanding had a very strong slanting towards understanding Menus, what is on offer at bakeries and Gelato flavours rather than parking regulations. I said to the family to ask a young lady (I am guessing about 25) who was there at the side of the road. They refused, said it was a waste of time as no-one knew how to speak English, which was very much our experience of Sicily so far (the Mt Etna guide an exception and our host in Catania had a limited grasp and we had found ways to communicate).
So I parked the van and got out and asked her myself. She spoke close to perfect English, the family still want
to know how I knew, my response is that “I knew, I just knew”.
She explained it was indeed pay parking, its hours of operation and how to purchase a parking ticket. She then went on to explain that it was a waste of money paying for it now as the parking wardens will be at home having their rest as well as, at this time of day nobody pays and it is rare you ever get a ticket. My response to her was “That was just like the speed limit then?” Yes she said, she explained to me she was home for Easter to visit family and that she had to keep reminding herself when in Belgium where she now lives not to do 80km/h in the 50km/h city streets. The limits on the motorways and country roads of Sicily are typically 130 or 110 km/h, she told me as long as you aren’t doing something ridiculous like 200km/h you will never get a ticket in Sicily.
We took her advice on the parking but decided, as she also advised that all of the shops will also be closed, to not park there. Instead we scoped out some free parking nearby and returned at 4pm, when the town changed from being dead and quiet, to being vibrant and humming with all of the shops open and many pedestrians strolling the shopping precinct, as well as the ubiquitous bicycles approaching the traffic head on in the one way streets!
I’m going to stop here, more stories in the next Ramble, please come for a jaunt to Whangarei.
2pm Saturday July 25
Epsom Community Centre
President’s and Treasurer’s Reports
Presentation of Trophies & Certificates
Election of Officers
– setting of fees
– appointing auditor
– discussing 2015-6 programme
Drawing of the raffle
NOTE – Although all the present club officers are prepared to stand again for election, we need a Vice-President and would welcome new members. Nominations may be made on the day or in advance by contacting the Secretary.
If you would like any matter added to the Agenda, please contact the Secretary ASAP.
Ph 534 7265