It's the enduring memory of growing up West.
Slamming the orange Austin Maxi into first gear to make it up the steep Simons St drive; being greeted by the smell of engine grease and the crackling of old 78 records belting from the cavernous hobby engineering shed.
Grandpa - Doug or nickname Dagwood (he's comfortable with both) West - buckled over his 1954 cream Rover, tinkering under the hood, or in the pit beneath its hulking frame - cursing at every little mishap along the way.
Doug doesn't have time for fools, you see, and a slippery piece of oiled machinery not doing what it's told is no exception. And heaven help any neighbour who attempts to complain about the goings-on in the less-than-ordinary plot next door. They'll get a mouthful too.
The octogenarian doesn't give a stuff what others think of him - never has.
He does care, however, for a certain group of people - his regulars at New Plymouth's weekly Saturday market.
After almost 14 years of setting up shop before the sun rises in the council carpark below The Mill, Doug has decided to give his weary, 85-year-old frame a rest.
A lifetime of physical jobs has taken its toll. His last fulltime job was in the boiler room at Taranaki Base Hospital but before that he had turned his hand to everything, from cheese making to painting toys for Fun Ho, working on farms to driving steam engines.
'I was going to keep going at the market for another 12 months but I don't move too fast these days. The legs aren't too good.' He's had both hips replaced since he started at the markets.
'It's the people you meet I'll miss the most. There are a few silly ones but you meet a hell of a lot of good ones too.
"Some are really struggling.'
There have been times when his competitors have berated him for selling vegetable seedlings 'too cheap'.
But if it helped the financially strapped, he didn't care. 'If they said anything, I'd tell them to shut-up and mind your own bloody business.'
Until 18 months ago, Doug sold his self- propagated pottles of plants from the back of his trusty Rover, back seats missing and racks fitted to hold all his plants.
Sales were made to the sounds of his youth - the likes of Tiptoe through the Tulips, Underneath the Mellow Moon and Painting Clouds with Sunshine - belting out from the car's cassette player.
The lyrics of old didn't stop when he got rid of the Rover. He adapted the cassette system to two speakers so the tunes were still there when he pulled up on his mobility scooter - complete with self- fashioned trailer and five trays packed with plants. 'I had always fixed my own cars. I stopped using the Rover . . . my strength was buggered, so I thought I was best off out of it. I gave up the car and got the scooter straight away. I told the [scooter] guy that I wanted the biggest, fastest and strongest one he had.
"I can go from here to Fitzroy and back on it.'
Leaving his Paritutu home of more than 50 years by 5.30am, beanie-topped Doug takes the scenic route along the coastal walkway into town, in time to park up at the market by 6am.
Doug's market jaunts may never have started if it hadn't been for some tiny passionfruit saplings growing beneath his adult vine. After nearly ruthlessly tugging them out, wrongly thinking they were weeds, Doug divided them up, stuck them in some potting mix and tried his luck at selling them.
The success of those early trips prompted Doug to cultivate a string of vege varieties, even the odd flower and the ever-popular swan plant. It wasn't long before Doug's front yard was littered with shadecloth fences, lined with tiny sprouting seedlings, ready for their turn on the market run.
There are no nicely manicured lawns at the entranceway to 'West Haven' - the name emblazoned on the towering concrete wall marking Doug's kingdom of more than half a century.
'What do I need grass for? Cows eat grass and I don't give milk,' Doug quips.
While his wife of more than 50 years, Alma, may have dismayed at Doug's antics on their fifth-of-an-acre hillside section, she never showed it. She had her small border of roses.
Wearing an all-seasons uniform of summer-weight frock, cardy and pinny with giant pockets to fit everything she needed, Alma would come out into the sun's warmth to greet visitors at the back door before retreating back inside to her favourite armchair. The roses are gone now and so is Grandma Alma. She died in 2009 but lives on in photos on the living-room wall.
A narrow set of concrete steps lead to Doug's top garden with sweeping views of the mountain. It is from this earth that Doug has kept himself in a steady supply of potatoes, carrots, corn and brassicas for decades - in soil some argued would never grow anything. Not only was the section thick with clay, but it was within throwing distance of Ivon Watkins-Dow, where until the late 1980s the herbicide 2,4,5-T was produced.
In 2004, Doug discovered, through Ministry of Health testing, that he had four times the national average of dangerous dioxin, a byproduct of the herbicide's manufacture, in his blood - but he wasn't fazed then and isn't now. And he certainly doesn't believe it has affected his vegetable production during the years.
'I have had a good garden from day one, because I treated the soil right.'
With the assistance of another homemade contraption - a motorised pulley system up the stairs - Doug transformed his hill-top clay plot into productive soil. His garden began life with a half-tonne of bone flour and then the annual digging-in of oats he grew on site.
Protecting his crops from strong prevailing winds was also vital, he says.
With a crab-like hobble and laboured breath, Doug explains he is also giving up his top garden.
'What used to take me a day, is now taking two to three. It's too damn hard to get up and down from there.'
Instead, he'll sow pumpkins, which will mostly look after themselves and keep Doug in good supply of one of his favourite vegetables. Lettuces and tomatoes grown in a sunny spot outside the back door where Alma's roses used to flourish, will add green and red to his diet of pumpkin orange.
'I've had a bloody good run with the garden. If you get a good feed and a warm bed, what else do you need out of life?' As well as tips on a good life, Doug isn't backward on giving advice to other home gardeners.
These include squashing snails and throwing them to the birds, and boiling up lettuce leaves and regularly spraying the liquid on cabbages to keep the white butterfly at bay.
As Doug contemplates eventually living in a rest home, he is absolute it will include regular jaunts on his mobility scooter, from which the red flags of the Labour Party flutter.
He's never been a member of any political party but he has always voted Labour, primarily due to the housing policy that got him into his first home.
'Walter Nash was the best minister of finance this country has ever had.
"Not like some of those rich bastards like Key and his mates.'
It's no surprise then that this straight- shooter is not planning to spend the rest of his retirement snoozing in an armchair. 'I shall go to town and annoy people,' he says with a mock posh accent and a smirk.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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