Car maintenance, changing tyres and my younger sister. As my father was cursed/blessed with two daughters, it was a given that cars were going to be part of our lives no matter what. I was a somewhat willing victim. However, my younger sister refused at all costs to even lift a bonnet. I am older of us two, and being older by nine years, this was never going to be easy on our father. Plus the fact my sister could wrap him around her little finger, this was always going to be a spectator sport for the rest of the family. By this stage he has given up on our mother. Somewhere, something had gone wrong, and our mother possessed the same driving qualities as her mother-in-law. She once casually mentioned that one bridge leading to Brisbane truly frighted her, so she solved the problem by closing her eyes when she drove across it. If I remember correctly, it had taken us about a fortnight to scrape my father off the ceiling. I think he fed her car keys through the garbage compactor.
My first proper car was a MGB. My truly first car was a Fiat, purchased at the old Homebush Auctions. The backronym of Fix It Again Tony was spot on! I got to be so good at changing fan belts I could do it at a set of lights and be off again by the time they changed to green, once to the applause of two truckies on Parramatta Road outside Sydney Uni. The MGB was a burned out shell. I think it is illegal now, but it was not then. I had to sand it back to metal by myself, and for each undercoat repeat the performance until the beautiful British racing green as the final colour was to my father’s satisfaction. Not that he and his mates would let me have a go with the spray gun. I was just the slave labour who did the horrible stuff, and they criticised. Often!
However, when it came my sister’s turn for her first serious car, all of the hard work was done by our father, with my sister occasionally blessing him with her presence and a sweet smile to tell him how thrilled she was about her new car. But she did not escape the “intensive” course he made both of us do on how to change a tyre, check oil, check brake fluid, and what to do if the car over-heated. Needless to say she breezed through and promptly put all the information into the “I will never use any of this” file.
Some 12-18 months later, our father was returning home from a business trip when on the side of the road he spied a car exactly like my sister’s, with a large group of assorted males surrounding it. With some concern, he pulled over, only to be confronted by a bevy of males busying themselves fixing an obviously flat tyre. My sister was reclining on a makeshift banana chair with one male fanning her down and another peeling her a grape, and a police officer was directing traffic. This was the version that my father told us much, much later, when he had finally calmed down sufficiently and my sister had made sufficient overtones for him to forgive her. Ensuring that my sister was perfectly OK, father’s temper reached the point of explosion that has been known to set off earthquakes on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. The entire male contingency quickly guessed that this was one father not to be trifled with and quickly departed! Father then sat in the comfort of his air-conditioned car and made my sister finish the tyre-changing exercise by herself. Let’s just say it was very strained and tense in the M household for a few weeks.