If any alien from a distant galaxy had visited New Zealand on Sunday they would have thought South Canterbury was trapped in some kind of timewarp.
OPINION: Over at Pleasant Point the steam train was merrily ferrying passengers up and down the line; out at Rangitata Island ancient biplanes were doing aerobatics; and here in Timaru a cavalcade of vehicles, most of them at least 50 years old, was wending its way into the countryside.
I know this because I was privileged to be part of the latter occasion, driving a pristine 1955 Ford Zephyr Zodiac.
I was a guest driver because our friends, Jim and Carol, seem to own more vintage vehicles than the Southward Car Museum and they needed a driver for the Zodiac having already taken care of the 1963 Mini, the 1970 Morris Minor truck and the 1951 Morris Minor, the latter of which they themselves were driving.
After collecting the Zephyr we - along with more than 100 fine examples of motoring history - had rendezvoused at the All British Vehicle Day at Caroline Bay.
My day didn't get off to an auspicious start. I was reversing into a parking spot beside Jim's immaculate Morris Minor and being extremely careful. After all, it would be bad enough to prang one of his cars, so I was quite determined I was not going to wreck two at one fell swoop.
Consequently my final park was less than perfect. The car was slightly askew and there was heaps of room on one side and very little on the other. As I got out of the vehicle a woman onlooker came up to me and said: "Thank you, you've made feel much better. You park just like I do."
I don't think it was intended to be a compliment.
In due course we all set off on the journey to a mystery destination for a picnic lunch. Our first halt, however, was a comfort stop at the Pleasant Point railway station.
Just before we arrived there, to my horror, the end of the knob on the Zephyr's column gear change came away in my hand. Hard as it may be to believe, I swear I did nothing to precipitate this turn of events.
So, at Pleasant Point I had the distinctly unpleasant task of breaking the news to Jim that I had already broken his precious Zephyr.
Although I spoke to him in understandably hushed tones, news of my misfortune with the knob quickly spread among the motoring fraternity, who were quickly scoffing good naturedly that I had lost an important bodily appendage.
My excuse that it was due to the brass monkey weather cut little ice, so to speak. In fact, so enduring was the hilarity at my calamity that I uncharitably began to suspect Jim and Carol had deliberately sabotaged the gear lever to provide ongoing merriment for the assembled motorists.
Stoically, with a typically British stiff upper lip, I soldiered on to the next humiliation.
When we arrived at our mystery destination - Rangitata Island Aerodrome - I discovered that a severed knob was only the first of my worries. In my eagerness to drive the Zephyr I had forgotten to transfer the picnic chairs from our car, an oversight that did not impress my wife.
Fortunately our friends were much better organised than I. They even had a spare set of chairs with which we could avail ourselves.
So, after my early misfortunes, we were able to enjoy an idyllic picnic lunch on a perfect winter's day, with a Tiger Moth and a World War I Fokker replica among the aircraft performing for our entertainment in the background.
So absorbing was the aerial display that people finally forgot about my mishap with the gear lever.
At least I know now why they are called a column gear change.
I've managed to get a column out of it.
- The Timaru Herald