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Heading up the road in my Cortina

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been casting about for a name for my new band. After much discussion and thought I settled on Bill Morris and the Mark IVs, a reference to the 1978 Ford Cortina I drive.

What’s in a name?  What’s in a car? My first ever car was Ford Cortina, a piece of shit 1979 6 cylinder station wagon that let me down again and again, yet still retained a special place in my heart. I guess that’s what love is.  I love the sweeping lines on a Mk IV Cortina, its low-slung presence that is somehow awkward, but beautiful nonetheless. There is something really New Zealand about the Cortina. A lot of of them were brought into the country; many more were assembled here and we still have a disproportionate amount of them on the road, perhaps due to the less corrosive conditions in our atmosphere and slightly less stringent regulations around road fitness. The Cortina says something about New Zealand that I like – it’s unpretentious, yet has a class all of its own. Of course it’s not totally reliable and you often find yourself having to make running repairs. But because its design is simple and functional, it’s not hard to learn how to keep it ticking along. It’s a car that encourages self-reliance.

OK so maybe that’s all a bit euphemistic. The truth is that since I’ve owned a Cortina I’ve spent quite a bit of time

a) pushing it

b) under the bonnet trying to apply my meagre mechanical knowledge to get it moving again

c) getting towed

d) catching the bus.

But as I’ve already pointed out, true love is unconditional.

And so a month or so ago I took the Cortina on the road for its first big trip, up to Picton, then on to Nelson and back home. It ran pretty sweetly and I even took it on a bit of a gravel detour round Port Underwood, which it handled well.

I love travelling overland in New Zealand; heading out on the state highways and watching the landscape going past, taking hours to get to your destination and just enjoying the journey. Travelling overland, you see the country changing from trip to trip, from season to season, from year to year. Each journey becomes a part of your living experience of this land of ours.

I dislike the era of cheap jet travel that encourages people to fly everywhere. Sterile airports full of expensive food and garish advertising; insulting security checks by shitty-looking customs officers; being crammed into an Air New Zealand seat; being fed plastic crisps and a large thimbleful of water while a Big-Brother-esque screen flashes inane pop quizzes and All Black ads at you. Corporate smarminess. That’s getting from A to B – it’s not travelling. The journey should be as worthwhile as the destination or I’d rather stay at home.

OK, maybe I’m old-fashioned, but then we all know flying is bad for the environment, don’t we? I guess driving my own car up and down the country isn’t the best either, but the options are pretty limited, especially when you need to get to places like Nelson for a gig. Train travel seems to be almost non-existent here now and I’d certainly like to know why the government allows a plane flight to be cheaper than a bus ticket.

Anyway, in a couple of weeks I’m off again, travelling up the West Coast via Fox Glacier and Westport, then playing at the Boathouse in Nelson. I can’t wait. The Cortina might stay at home for this trip, I’ll see. I’m on a tight schedule and, well, no one ever said it was the most reliable of cars…! I think this classic New Zealand music video sort of sums it up…(Thanks for this one Jason)


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