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Thursday / May 30.
HomemitwocentsLiving the Dream

Living the Dream

Even when you’re \living the dream, sometimes things can go horribly wrong

Sadly, I haven’t been out of the country in the past few months but with Australia playing England in the 130-year old cricket rivalry we refer to as The Ashes starting this month, anything is possible. My local café dilettantes have suggested I might get a call up if I lurk around the venues on match days. That, of course, is ridiculous and a reflection of the calibre bar being lower for our national cricket team at the moment, but I have a feeling they will show some serious ticker and national pride and be in the hunt throughout the Five Test series. I generally agree with the café groupies in any case because it usually results in me receiving a gratis latte in recognition of my services to general banter and gossip.

As I leant on the café counter the other week, waiting bleary-eyed and agitated for the morning dose, one of the retiree chatterers, Barry (I have not changed his name to protect him in any shape or form in the hope that he and his cronies will subscribe to mivision, even though he thinks the optometrist is someone who measures how happy we are feeling) recounted the tale of his recent holidays.

Baz had been out of the café scene for over a month and we thought he had either moved to the Sunshine Coast, got locked in his garage or been elected to parliament – the only sign of the latter being the café was somewhat quieter than usual and the House of Assembly louder. All three possibilities were about the same odds.

…the Beamer was chewing up the kilometres like Greg Inglis / Buddy Franklin/ Joe Hockey slicing through opposing defencesHockey slicing through opposing defences

In fact, Barry and the better half (MUCH Better Half) had decided that instead of heading down the NSW south coast for some sea air and the half-price meals at the Narooma RSL they would head overseas. And since the much better half (MBH) had taught French and German in her former school teaching career, obviously Europe was the destination.

Heading Overseas

Baz was informed that he was not allowed take his golf clubs and the TAB phone account would not be accessible in a foreign country (a small fib from the MBH but you can understand her viewpoint and besides, international data roaming rates are outrageous!!) A month away from the golf course is akin to a waterboarding at Guantanamo for Barry but he is a loyal and empathetic husband, so Germany it was.

The adventure began well when the flights landed on time and the brand spanking new hire car appeared shiny and fully-fuelled, ready to hit the autobahn. Baz had always dreamed of driving a new BMW and here he was in the home of the Bavarian Motor Works living the dream and he couldn’t believe how cheap it was to have a loan of one for a month. After the initial confusion of listening to instructions in German from the GPS when he thought he had chosen the “Australian” voice option and got the Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger voice instead (the car speaks to you), and become used to the discomfort of driving on the wrong side of the road and having the MBH translate every street sign, he got into cruise mode. The speed limit on the autobahn is unlimited and the Beamer was chewing up the kilometres like Greg Inglis / Buddy Franklin/ Joe Hockey slicing through opposing defences.

But it wasn’t long before the MBH decided she needed a comfort and strudel stop, so at the first opportunity Baz steered the vehicle to the off ramp and onto a suburban street where, as it would happen anywhere in the motor vehicle controlled world, a traffic light signalled red.

Panic Sets In

The car glided to an imperceptive halt and all Baz could hear coming through the six-way speaker system was Johann Sebastian Bach’s Fugue in G minor – Baz’s favourite tune from the elevator at the supermarket. Unfortunately that was all he could hear because the engine had stopped dead. Panic set in almost immediately. Here he was in a foreign country, in a foreign motorcar that he had driven for only a few hours, having not bothered with the tutorial from the young Teuton at delivery, and having left his paperwork sitting on the counter so excited was he to be driving his dream car.

The traffic built up behind him and horns started sounding with a particular menacing German tone (remember how it feels when you have to wait at a green light for a few seconds when the driver in front has taken their eye off the road to finish their tweet, or it’s you getting tooted at for similar distractions). Baz’s blood pressure shot up, beads of perspiration formed despite the climate controlled in-car environment. Thoughts of the RSL parmigiana and the courtesy bus flashed before his eyes… at the very least this was embarrassing, at the worst they would be stranded forever and buried in a corner of a foreign field.

But Baz was a resourceful Aussie who understood the ANZAC spirit, so undaunted he set about a solution and found the bonnet catch, where upon he soon had his head stuck under the hood searching for a wayward cable or errant wire or burnt out fuse that could be easily reattached and the voyage could continue unabated. Sadly all he could recognise was the bonnet itself. BMWs are a lot more complicated than his
HR Holden, which he could always fix with fencing wire and chewing gum (just kidding, it was the EK you could fix with those materials).

The passers-by offered abuse rather than advice until Baz sat down on the gutter, head in hands wishing for some merciful act such as being hit by a meteorite to put him out of his misery. His car sat in the main traffic lane for over an hour, silent, glistening and mocking, jamming traffic all the way back to Düsseldorf.

The MBH had been using her German language skills to no avail until a helpful local, driving the same model Beamer, recognised the east coast Australian accent and figured the tourists were in a bind.

“Hud Barry tried putting heez furt on zee accelerator to reshtart the car?”

“No,” said Baz, “the motor wasn’t running so why do that?? Do you think I’m stupid??” (skyward raise of the
eyes from the MBH).

“Vell Barry ze vehicle haz zee automatish cut off to save gasoline every time you shtop und all you haav to do ish put your fott down on zee pedal und avay you go… it ish brilliant Sherman idea and engineering” (apologies to all ‘Allo ‘Allo fans).

I cannot print Barry’s response in a respectable publication such as this, but the MBH had to get out a calculator to figure out how many brownie points she now had in the spousal bank.

P.S. I went to the Archibald Prize exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW. One of the most remarkable portraits, among a host of fascinating paintings, was a self-portrait by Guy Morgan entitled ‘Guy Morgan with Peter Pan
after Retinal Detachment’.

He paints a double image, one on top of the other. One image is the view from his eye with the detachment and the other is from his normal eye. Bizarre and instructive at the same time. The exhibition is now over but look it up online.