Festival fires up the west

Sydney Festival■ Archie Roach
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Archie Roach is celebrated as one of Australia’s most gifted artists. Since his 1990 debut he has released more albums and toured with the likes of Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg and Patti Smith. At the festival, Roach will perform songs from his new album Into The Bloodstream and will be accompanied by a 13-piece music ensemble and a 10-voice Gospel choir. Date: Australia Day, at The Parade Ground at Old King’s. Cost: Free.

■ Briefs

A disorderly line-up of Australia’s finest performers and mischief-makers in a circus-infused variety show for the not-so-faint- hearted. Date: From January 18 to 27 at the Salon Perdu Spiegeltent, in Prince Alfred Park, Parramatta. Cost: $40.

■ Lah-Lah

Lovable characters Buzz the Bandleader, Lola the dancing double bass, Tom Tom the drums, Mister Saxophone and Squeezy Sneezy the accordion join their ring leader Lah-Lah in a musical spectacular that kids will love. Date: Australia Day, January 26, from 7pm, at The Parade Ground at Old King’s. Cost: Free.

■ Leah Flanagan

Leah Flanagan will sing a collection of songs from her latest album Midnight Muses. The album was inspire by poet Sam Wagan Watson’s award-winning work Smoke Encrypted Whispers. Date: January 20 at the Salon Perdu Spiegeltent. Cost: $30.

■ Lianne La Havas

Londoner Lianne La Havas will perform her neo soul teamed with folk-pop hits which feature off her Mercury Prize-nominated album, Is Your Love Big Enough?. Date: January 22 and January 23, at 7pm, at the Salon Perdu Spiegeltent.

Cost: $35.

■ The New Mendicants

Norman Blake and Joe Pernice, who make up The New Mendicants will have you in awe when they perform new material.

Date: January 26 at 7pm and 27 at 5pm, at Salon Perdu Spiegeltent. Cost: $35.

■ Parra Opening Party

The heart of Parramatta will be transformed into an extravaganza. Bring the kids and enjoy an afternoon of music and activities in and around Riverside Theatres. Explore The Megaphone Project along Church Street; listen to a symphony of car stereos by composer Matthew Timmis in Car-Cophony and visit Prince Alfred Park. Date: January 19.

Cost: Free.

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Past graces and haunts historical sites in district

Elizabeth Farm Norine Collins and Trevor Patrick at Hambledon Cottage, Rosehill. Picture: Gene Ramirez
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St Bartholomews Church, Prospect. The church contains the tomb of explorer, William Lawson. Picture: Peter Rae

Elizabeth Farm

WESTERN Sydney is home to many historical sites for residents and tourists to enjoy its heritage, arts and culture in buildings and open spaces.

A great place to start is the Blacktown Arts Centre and the Visitor Information and Heritage Centre in Flushcombe Road.

People are directed to the Alroy Tavern at Rooty Hill Road, Plumpton; the Battle of Vinegar Hill Monument at Windsor Road, Rouse Hill, the Blacksmith Shed at Nurragingy Reserve in Doonside; Minchinbury Place at Great Western Highway in Minchinbury; Prospect Reservoir, Rouse Hill House and Farm in Rouse Hill; St Bartholomew’s Church at Prospect, The Manse at Mt Druitt; and The Royal Cricketers Arms Inn at Prospect.

One of the historical highlights is a hair-raising ghost tour on New Year’s Eve at Blacktown’s historic Saint Bartholomew’s Church from 6pm. A guide will take people through St Bartholomew’s Church graveyard which is home to the graves of many early settlers, most famously William Lawson, one of the first group of Europeans to cross the Blue Mountains, and Thomas Willmot, the first shire president of Blacktown.

The night starts at 6pm and costs $35 a person. Dinner at the church is at 6.30pm, followed by the ghost tour and to finish just before the fireworks at midnight to welcome in the new year.

You can spend a beautiful night out at St Bartholomew’s, and if it’s a clear night, you may see the spectacular fireworks display over Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River.

Ghost tours are conducted by The Guides of St Bartholomew’s. Bookings are essential. For more information or bookings contact 9839 6000.

The best introduction to Parramatta’s heritage sites and stories is at the Heritage Centre at 346A Church Street Parramatta.

You will find information about area’s history explained through photos, stories and artefacts. There is a local studies library, a gallery space, activities, workshops, and a visitor information centre providing maps, guide books and advice.

■Experiment Farm Cottage stands on the site of the first land grant in Australia, made in 1789 by Governor Phillip to James Ruse.

■Elizabeth Farm is a rare example of an early Australian colonial bungalow built in 1793 for John and Elizabeth Macarthur, pioneers of the Australian wool industry.

■Hambledon Cottage was built by John Macarthur in 1824 as a second house on his Elizabeth Farm Estate.

Its many early occupants include Sir Edward Macarthur, Archdeacon Thomas Hobbes Scott and Dr Matthew Anderson.

■Step back 190 years in time, to when Governor Lachlan Macquarie was governor and visit historic Lancer Barracks . Lancer Barracks has been home to the 1/15th Royal NSW Lancers for well over 100 years, giving rise to their nickname, he Parramatta Lancers

The Lancers is Australia’s oldest surviving and most decorated regiment.

For more information, call 9635 8149, during business hours or 0416 026 816 after hours .

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Ferry ride secret’s out

Great family outing: Brett Dunne (right) and partner Julie Sloan take their boys Clancy (front) and Sam on a tour of the Parramatta River. Picture: Gene RamirezWORD is starting to spread with tourists that a ride on the Parramatta Ferry is one of Sydney’s best-kept secrets.
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Until recently tourist guide books ignored the Parramatta River service in favour of more popular ferry journeys to Manly or Balmain.

But attitudes towards the Parramatta River are changing thanks to a big clean-up and tourist numbers are growing with people wanting to cross the city in a more leisurely manner.

One family keen to get off the beaten track was Cobar couple Brett Dunne and his partner Julie Sloan.

The pair took their children to Sydney for the first time in December with their youngest son Sam needing an operation at Westmead Children’s Hospital.

Following the advice of a hospital nurse Mr Dunne decided to take a different route on their way back to city.

“It’s a great way to see the city and get away from the busy roads and train lines,” Mr Dunne said.

“Coming from country NSW we enjoy a bit of water because we’re so used to seeing fields of red dirt.”

Hopping on at Parramatta Charles Street interchange, the Dunne family lapped up the warm boating weather on their one and a half hour journey to Circular Quay.

Mr Dunne said the ferry let his family escape the busy crowded streets and sail under the Sydney Harbour Bridge for some essential tourist photos.

“I drive a road-train back home and my partner is a full-time waitress so it’s nice to relax and unwind a bit,” Mr Dunne said. “My boys Sam and Clancy seem to like it.”

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A final cut

Loyal customers wait their turn as Morwell s John Ellingham gets his final in chair service from Gordon Pigott, one of the Valley s longest serving barbers.Morwell’s John Ellingham has never needed to read The Express.
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As a 20-year customer of Morwell barber Gordon Pigott, who is known to work the Valley gossip grapevine as fast as he works his scissors, Mr Ellingham always “knows what’s about to happen”.

“Gordon’s well known by everybody, and he knows everyone, so there’s not much he doesn’t know,” Mr Ellingham said.

After 53 years as a Valley barber, Mr Pigott, 68, said the combination of age and health had finally got the better of him, forcing him into retirement despite a loyal and healthy customer base. Thirty minutes before Gordon’s Gents Hairdressing closed its doors to Church Street for the final time last Thursday, five customers sat waiting for their final trim.

“He’s got a joke book 125 pages long,” one customer said, as Mr Pigott served one-liners to the packed waiting area without a moment’s hesitation.

While his finger joints were still nimble and fit, Mr Pigott said “standing on concrete floors your whole life doesn’t make your feet any softer”.

From the age of eight, Mr Pigott said his lifelong career as a barber was set. Leaving school at the age of 14, he would cut hair for his father’s work mates, before opening his first shop at the age of 20, when the price for a trim cost three shillings and sixpence.

“After all these years, he still doesn’t have an eftpos machine,” Mr Ellingham said.

However fish, raspberries and strawberries have been known to pass for currency at Gordon’s Gents Hairdressing.

With his “home” in Lakes Entrance, and a “holiday house” in Churchill, Mr Pigott is looking forward to spending a little bit more time at “home”.

However a few upcoming house-visits to his former Valley customers could see his scissor bag in tow.

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Windsor to host public meeting in Inverell, and 2NZ is invited

NEW England MP Tony Windsor will hold a public meeting todiscuss the hung parliament and answer questions from the publicin February.
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Mr Windsor has already held similar meetings in Armidale andTamworth and said he was looking forward to a frank discussion with localpeople.

Tony Windsor

In his press released to announce the meeting, Mr Windsorsaid Inverell had punched above its weight for a town its size, in terms of itsinfluence on national policy during this parliament.

He then listed local people who he had spoken to duringdiscussions about policy.

“Input from Dan Ryan at Boss Engineering led to the carbonfarming package including a rebate for no-till farming equipment, whilerepresentations made by Keri Brown of Inverell Trucking ensured heavy vehicletransport was excluded from the carbon pricing scheme, ultimately saving thetransport industry $1.6 billion.

“Discussions with Ed Evans, who has commercialised his‘Safer Gates’ design for cattle yards, were followed by an expansion of agovernment safety scheme to help pay for cattle yard safety upgrades.”

Mr Windsor said the National Broadband Network would berolled out to towns and rural areas surrounding Inverell with the delivery offixed wireless services in 2013.

“I will also continue to push the Federal government tocommit funding to the Gonski reforms, which will deliver an historic boost tothe quality of education in country schools,” he added.

But Mr Windsor said Inverell had been let-down badly in thestate political arena by a failure to put forward the Armidale Hospitalredevelopment for a share of the $1.8 billion federal fund he had negotiatedespecially for regional hospitals, which meant Inverell would have to wait evenlonger for a hospital upgrade.

“I will also be discussing this viewpoint that my effortsfollowing the last election to carefully analyse the policies of both majorparties and then determine which one would offer the best deal for local peoplesomehow equates to trashing the so-called ‘Independent brand’,” Mr Windsorsaid.

“Radio Nationals” welcome to attend

Mr Windsor said he was inviting all community members toattend, regardless of their political persuasion and launched a scathing attackon Inverell radio station 2NZ.

“I would particularly welcome questions from RadioNationals, also known as 2NZ,” Mr Windsor said.

“Radio Nationals is the only media outlet in the New Englandthat places more value on political posturing than the interests of its owncommunity.

“A prime example of this is their long-running attacks onthe one piece of infrastructure that can remove the disadvantages of distancefor country people: the NBN.

“I would also welcome any evidence from Radio Nationals ofthis mythical $100 lamb roast that was supposed to be a consequence of pricingcarbon.”

Mr Windsor has previously questioned the impartiality of theradio station.

In 2010 he saidanything the station did needed to be taken with a grain of saltfollowing a poll on the carbon tax.

Richard Torbay, whois ironically now the Nationals candidate for New England, defended the stationat the time saying it had always been fair to him as an independent.

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Health concerns regarding the local water

LONG TERM Esperance residents have expressed health concerns regarding the local water supply.
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Joyce Pearce, a resident for 40 years, and Kayleen Freeman,who has lived in Esperance intermittently for 50 years, said that the vastmajority of residents purchase bottled water or source rainwater instead ofdrinking the local water supply, due to its smell and taste.

“I refuse to drink the town water and source it from Dalyupinstead,” Mrs Pearce said.

“It’s not so much the unpleasant smell and taste that botherme, it’s the fact that chlorine, calgon and fluoride are added to the water andI worry what effect these chemicals could have on my health.

“I believe that fluoride dulls the mind and creates apathy,which is why a former United Kingdom Prime Minister famously suggested addingmore of the chemical to Ireland’s water supply.”

Mrs Freeman completed a Curtin University research studyinto Esperance water in 1999 and said she became ‘alarmed’ at her findings.

“As part of my study, I researched the addition of fluorideto the Esperance water supply with the approval of the Esperance Water SupplyDepartment,” Mrs Freeman said.

Water Corporation Regional Manager Hugh Lavery said that thewater supplied in Esperance meets all health-related criteria set out in theAustralian Drinking Water Guidelines.

“We are required to add fluoride in accordance with theFlouridation of Public Water Supplies Act 1966, which is administered by theDepartment of Health,” Mr Lavery said.

He also said that calgon is added to the water supply toreduce scale build up in hot water systems and electrical appliances, whichoccurs due to the level of hardness of water in the area.

“Due to the hydrogeology of the borefield from which theEsperance drinking water is drawn, there are elevated levels of salinity andhardness which affect the aesthetic characteristics of the water.

“Reducing these levels requires complex and expensive watertreatment, which currently does not form part of the Corporation’s capitalinvestment program … which is prioritised across the state with priority toensuring provisions for growth, drinking water quality and meeting regulatorystandards.”

Minister for Water Bill Marmion released the Esperance WaterReserve drinking water source protection plan on October 31, which he said will“protect the high quality of Esperance drinking water.”

When asked if he had tasted Esperance drinking water,Minister Marmion said that he had drunk the town water on numerous occasions.

“I understand some of the community are concerned about thetaste of the water,” he said.

“However, I can assure residents that the WaterCorporation places the highest priority on the provision of safe drinking waterand the water supplied in Esperance meets all health-related criteria as setout in Australian Drinking Water Guidelines

ESPERANCE residents Kayleen Freeman and Joyce Pearce are concerned about the level of fluoride in the town water supply and its effect on human health.

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On your marks

(back) Brandon Merrick, Kyle Wilson, Remus Watson and Andrew Gray with (front) Connor McDonald, Adam Gray and Isobella Cameron preparing for the New Year Athletics Carnival at Barden Park. Photo: BELINDA SOOLEORGANISERS of Dubbo’s annual New Year Athletics Carnival are preparing themselves for a late rush of entries as the 2013 event fast approaches.
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The two-day carnival will be held on January 5 to 6 at the Barden Park athletics complex, with events catering for athletes ranging in age from under-6s to over-80s.

Dubbo Athletics Club president David Williams said planning for the carnival is on track, however, with final entries not confirmed just yet the small but enthusiastic organising committee is getting itself ready for the business part of the preparations. “Traditionally our entries come in late. We have a few already but those last few days before the entries close are always the busiest,” Williams, who is also vice-chairman of Dubbo Combined Athletics, said.

“The zone carnival was held at Coonamble on December 8 to 9 then the focus will be on Dubbo.

“Our carnival is a timed event so every event is run at a particular time but we can’t put the program together until we have all the entries so our aim is to have the program complete by Christmas, enjoy some family time and then get going from just after new year with the final part of preparations.”

This year the club attracted 320 entries for the event and Williams said he and his committee were keen to keep that number going in an upward spiral.

“We’ve had a steady increase in competitors over the past two or three years, which has been good,” he said. “Our goal is to at least the 320 we had for the last carnival, if not improve on that number again.”

Meanwhile, a planned upgrade of the Barden Park complex is moving forward with tenders for the design currently being sought.

William said the project is scheduled to start in June of next year.

“From what we’ve been told the timeframe to start is next June and all being well it would be finished by June of 2014 which is very exciting,” he said.

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Truth is out there

John ‘Cooka’ Campbell and his mates with the UFO that adorned their backyard in 1974.’It was definitely a conversation starter,” recalls John ”Cooka” Campbell about his post-high school days when a spaceship took pride of place in the backyard of his Canberra share house.
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”The white flying saucer was there when I moved into 14 Currie Crescent, Kingston, in the early 1970s and still there when I left some six years or so later,” the long-time Canberra resident explains.

”You’d go to parties and people would ask where you lived, and you’d reply ‘oh in the house with a white UFO in the backyard’, and everyone would want to come and see it,” Cooka chuckles.

Regular readers of this column will identify the UFO as a futuro – a prefabricated Finnish-designed building of the late 1960s-early 1970s. The polyester plastic and fibreglass domed structures were initially intended for use as ski lodges in remote locations but due to their quirky appearance ended up being transformed for all sorts of uses, from cafes to brothels. ”Just before I moved in it was used as a real estate office to help sell new developments in the area,” recalls Cooka, who during his six years at Currie Crescent, embraced the striking structure for anything but business. ”It was party central – we had many an all-nighter in the spaceship blaring some Jimi Hendrix and the Doors on our stereo while putting away a few cases of long necks.”

”Those times back in the ’70s were wild, it was party after party – it was the era of living free and easy.”

Although the futuro didn’t belong to them, Cooka and his housemates became quite protective of their out-of-this-world backyard feature. ”One day I came home from work at lunch to find the hatch lowered and a bunch of boys from St Eddies (Edmund’s) drinking and smoking inside,” says Cooka, who promptly told the truant students that if it wasn’t clean in an hour, he’d be ”letting their teachers know”. ”They left it absolutely spotless,” Cooka smirks, adding, ”it was probably the best clean it ever had while it was in our yard.”

Cooka and fellow housemate Walter Shafron believe ”their” flying saucer is the very same futuro that ended up at the Dickson Planetarium and ultimately on the University of Canberra campus near Zierholz Brewery, where this column recently reported (Beam Me Up, UC, September 8) that a number of researchers are trying to determine its pedigree. ”Given its history in Currie Crescent, I guess it’s quite apt that it’s ended up ‘landing’ outside a pub,” Cooka muses.

Leo Vredenbregt, formerly of Perth and now of Ngunnawal, recalls in the 1970s a similarly glossy white futuro located beside the Leach Highway in the Perth suburb of Willetton.

”It disappeared, but I just discovered that it’s been rotting in a backyard somewhere in the hills of Perth for the last 20 years or so,” Vredenbregt laments.

”Apparently its now for sale for about $10,000.”

During the week, this column’s bushwalking correspondent, Pastor John Evans, did his best job at impersonating Mr Claus while attempting to scale 16 of Kosciuszko National Park’s highest peaks in just two days. Unfortunately bad weather kept the red suit-clad Evans from accomplishing his feat.

”We got blown, rained and whited-out off the Main Range – got 10, but missed Kosciuszko and the Rams Head Range,” reports a disappointed Evans, who adds, ”the Santa pants ended down around me knees while pounding back the Summit Road to Charlotte Pass.”

Oh dear, I can imagine Mrs Claus blushing at such a sight and more importantly, let’s hope the real Santa doesn’t baulk at delivering the goodies if a bit of bad weather sets in this Monday evening.

Even more common than sightings of the jolly old fella from the North Pole at this time of year are cicadas whose voluminous song this season seems to be more vociferous than in recent years. In fact, Sharyn Payne of Kambah reckons the loudest cicadas hang out in the old trees of Curtin. ”We [my husband and I] were born and bred in Canberra and in our travels, we have not heard such loud cicadas as the ones in Curtin,” Sharyn claims.

During the week, I headed out to Cotter Avenue to check-out the latest summer craze. Just near the new pedestrian bridge across the Cotter River adjacent to the playground in Cotter Avenue is an old weir.

For the ultimate heat-wave cool-off, if you lie on your back in the water just upstream of here, the river will slowly carry you downstream before increasing pace and eventually jettisoning you over the weir and then under the footbridge (duck, or you’ll hit your head)! Soon after the footbridge, the river flow decreases and it’s easy to get out.

During the week, I tracked down one of the few remaining wooden muzzles in the area – belonging to Phyl McKey of Garran.

McKey who fetched the wooden muzzle from a dusty box of family farm memorabilia under her home says, ”My dad first used it on the Monaro in the 1920s but it had been passed onto him, so my best guess is that it dates back to the 1880s.”

So how does the contraption work? ”It was attached to the calf’s nose and its simple design allowed the calf to graze, but when it put its head up to try and suckle from its mother the wooden flap would block the calf’s mouth, thereby preventing it from drinking milk,” McKey explains.

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Lane appeals murder conviction

Keli Lane is appealing her conviction for murdering her baby.Former Australian water polo representative Keli Lane has formally lodged an appeal against her conviction for the 1996 murder of her baby daughter, Tegan.
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And Lane is now set to make an application to be released on bail pending the appeal hearing.

Lane was found guilty by a Supreme Court jury in December 2010 after a four-month trial – a decision which has caused considerable debate within the legal fraternity and the wider community.

Tegan’s body was never found and therefore no cause of death was ever determined.

On Friday Ms Lane’s solicitor, Ben Archbold, formally lodged eight grounds of appeal.

This included the argument that the trial judge, Justice Anthony Whealy, should have instructed the jury that manslaughter and infanticide were alternative charges to consider when deciding on their verdict.

Lane’s defence team, which Mr Archbold said would be led by defence barrister Winston Terracini SC, will also argue that the Crown Prosecutor in the case, Mark Tedeschi, QC, reversed the onus of proof in his closing address by positing a series of questions that he said the defence had to answer.

In criminal trials the prosecution must prove a person’s guilt, rather than the defence proving their innocence.

“Keli’s confident because she hasn’t done anything wrong,” Mr Archbold said.

“She really does maintain her innocence. It’s been a long fight and she’s looking forward to her appeal and she’s excited by it.”

He said the defence team would also lodge an application for bail which they expected to be heard early next year.

“We believe that the grounds of appeal warrant her being on the outside. It’s going to be a lengthy appeal … a person shouldn’t remain languishing in custody.

“There’s been no baby found, there’s been no cause of death – nothing can be ruled out.”

The developments come after the trial’s presiding judge, retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Whealy, QC, revealed to Fairfax he did not personally believe the Crown had proved its case against Lane, and he was unconvinced of her guilt.

Lane, the trial heard, had multiple secret pregnancies in the 1990s, two ending in termination and two in adoption. Tegan was born at Auburn hospital on September 12, 1996, and within hours of her discharge two days later, Lane appeared at a friend’s wedding without the infant. The child has not been seen since.

Among the points to be argued on the appeal is that the guilty verdict was unsafe, as it cannot be supported by the evidence.

In documents seen by Fairfax Media, it is submitted that the body of Tegan Lane – if she is dead – has never been discovered, or located, meaning that the Crown cannot point to any deliberate act done by Lane to cause her death.

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She says, he says: Nissan GT-R

How much? $170,800 plus on-road and dealer costs
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Vital statistics: 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6; 404kW/628Nm; 6-speed dual clutch automatic transmission; 11.7L/100km and 278g/km CO2

She: I’ve always admired this beast from afar – it cuts a mean Stormtrooper-tough figure on the road, and the designer in me loves those uncompromising, wind-tunnel-derived angles. I spent most of my driving time in awe of the power, and that mechanical whine. Are you as enamoured of Godzilla as I am?

He: I’m not falling over myself to the same extent. But it is a reasonably impressive beast. Beast being the operative word. I agree it looks the part with a menacing demeanour. But it’s the figures and ability that get me drooling more – 404kW, four-wheel-drive and some incredible engineering to make it all work.

She: So true – it wouldn’t be such a “hook in and hold on” power ride without some serious tech under the bonnet. But unlike other performance car manufacturers who sink plenty of time into safeguarding the driver from overzealous out-of-control moments, the GT-R has been known to chew up and spit its drivers, especially on the track. I found the stability control and other interventions fairly harsh and grindy for a $170k vehicle.

He: Yeah they can get aggressive, but that’s because they have to. Even a quick stab of the throttle builds some serious pace, which means you arrive at the next bend carrying genuine speed. At no point does the GT-R feel undernourished when it comes to acceleration. But I do get a bit tired of the performance claims – 2.8 seconds to 100km/h. We couldn’t get close even when using every megabyte of software.

She: Yes, the launch figures are a far cry from our track times. But as a mere mortal pilot, I really like the way this car focuses on driver ergonomics. The whole wheel and instrument bank is adjustable, which really works for shorties like moi, and the paddles are in the perfect spot, with leather edging making them some of the sleekest flippers around. Then again there’s that seat, with its barely upholstered rods pincering each thigh into place. That took a bit of getting used to.

He: Performance aside, one thing I love with the GT-R is that brilliant data centre with all sorts of funky stuff – G-forces, pedal positions and the temperature of just about every component on the car. It gives it a hint of race car feel and brings a bit of PlayStation to the car.

She: I love the instrumentation and the way the graphics mirror the nature of the car. And how is that Bose sound system? The awesome audio is standard for Australia. I also wouldn’t mind the fancier leather offered as an option overseas. I’d also option some legroom in the back if I could.

He: Yeah comfort and practicality are not a GT-R’s forte. My biggest issue is how it behaves on the road. Sure, they’ve made the suspension more compliant, but it’s still very firm and is accompanied by plenty of tyre roar. The gearbox is also a race track special – it blasts through the gears brilliantly when you’re flipping the paddles but is pretty dopey if you stick it in D for drive.

She: It’s a bone-rattling kidney-smasher on unkempt roads and a noisy ride on the highway at speed – perhaps the Bose is there to sweeten that deal. Despite a few daily drive concessions like the reversing camera (which you absolutely need to park this thing), it’s really a car for special occasions and track play. Otherwise it’s a lot of cash for a car that subjects its passengers to a relentlessly loud, bashy drive. Does it tempt you?

He: If I had a (really) big garage and plenty of cash a GT-R would be on my wish list. But I’d struggle to live with it day to day.

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Quick spin: Peugeot 208 Allure Sport

The car: Peugeot 208 Allure Sport
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From: $26,490 plus on-road and dealer costs

Vitals: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo; 115kW/240Nm; 6-sp manual; FWD; 5.8L/100km and 135g/km CO2.

What is it?

Peugeot’s range-topping 208 city hatch model with a performance bent thanks to a turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

What does it say about me?

I’m still loyal to the brand despite the problems I may have had with my fickle old 207.

What doesn’t it say about me?

That I value reliability over style and panache.

Who else is buying it?

Previous Peugeot buyers (they’re a loyal, forgiving bunch) but also younger types who like a bit of style and technology. There will be plenty who are sold on it as soon as they sit in it.

What colours does it come in?

The most eye-catching are a blue, a bright red and a cherry cola-style hue known as black red. We would have that one.

If it were a star, who would it be?

Audrey Tautou, the star of French film Amelie. She’s cute, delightfully playful and a bit cheeky.

Why would I buy it?

Because you like the look of the standard five-door version, but the combination of automatic gearbox and non-turbo engine is just too slow for you.

Does it cost too much?

Probably. The fact it is pretty close to the same money as the Volkswagen Polo GTI – which is a more powerful and more focused hot-hatch – means there’s not a whole heap of room above it for the 208 GTI.

Will I get a deal?

Nope. It’s brand-spanking new, and they aren’t likely to be selling them in bulk. Peugeot does have fixed-price servicing on this car, so don’t let the salesperson make you think they are giving you a good deal by lining that up for you.

Any gadgets I can brag about?

The big seven-inch touch-screen media system, which takes the place of the humble CD player and replaces it with an interface for Bluetooth or USB audio players. Stupidly, though, the high-res screen isn’t used as a reversing-camera monitor. It should be, because rear vision is terrible in this thing.

Will it let me down?

Some French cars have a history of problems with electrics, and this one’s high-tech digital media system does push the boundaries a bit.

Is it safe?

Mostly. It has six airbags, reversing sensors and stability control, but misses out on the seemingly simple addition of a reversing camera.

Will it get me noticed?

We certainly got a few glances – probably because not many people have seen a 208 on the road before. But it’s not quite as eye-catching as, say, the Citroen DS3 D-Sport.

Will I get carjacked in it?

Carjackers don’t generally go for a pretty little French car as a getaway vehicle.

How’s the cabin ambience?

The interior is one of the best in its class, with stylish finishes and a smart dash layout that puts the instrument cluster above the steering wheel, so you look over it rather than through it. It can be noisy inside over coarse chip surfaces, though.

What’s the stereo like?

Rubbish if you like listening to CDs – there’s no disc slot. But overall it was easy to use on most counts.

Does it go?

Sure does. The 1.6-litre turbo engine is the same unit seen in the Citroen DS3 D-Sport, Mini Cooper and BMW 1-Series (albeit in a different state of tune). It’s not a thumper, but it builds speed without fuss and sounds great.

Does it like corners?

Indeed. It holds on nicely through the bends, and Peugeot’s innovative mini steering wheel makes piloting the Pug through them quite simple. Parking’s a cinch, too.

What about bumps?

It’s not the most sophisticated when it comes to dealing with a mid-corner bump, but overall the ride is quite good.

What about service stations?

We saw decent consumption on our 900-kilometre trip to the country. In fact, it did just over 700 kilometres on about 45 litres (averaging 6.5L/100km). But it does have a thirst for premium fuel.

Would you buy one?

No, I’d buy the Citroen DS3 D-Sport. It’s a bit more focused and its appearance lights my fire more than the Pug does.

The spin

“The Peugeot 208 is a true ‘re-generation’ in car design on all levels; architecturally, stylistically, technologically, ergonomically, and environmentally speaking.”

The translation

It’s nothing like the 207, we promise.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Head to head: Ford Mondeo v Opel Insignia

Ford Mondeo Titanium Wagon: From $48,490 plus on-road and dealer costs; 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel; 120kW/340Nm; six-speed dual-clutch automatic; FWD; 6.2L/100km and 165g/km CO2.
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Opel Insignia Select Sports Tourer: From $48,990 plus on-road and dealer costs; 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel; 118kW/350Nm; six-speed automatic; FWD; 6.0L/100km and 157g/km CO2.Value

Ford

Slightly cheaper, with standard gear including sunroof, blind-spot warning system, lane departure warning system, radar cruise control, cornering headlights with automatic high-beam, foglights, daytime running lights, body kit, sports suspension, 18-inch wheels, smart key with push-button start, leather trim, heated front seats, front and rear parking sensors, electric driver’s seat adjustment. Seven airbags. No rear camera.

Opel

$500 more. Matches most equipment of Mondeo, but adds bigger 19-inch wheels, sports seats, electric park brake, bi-xenon headlights with cornering function and satellite navigation as standard. Misses out on the high-tech safety warning systems and radar cruise control. No rear camera. No sunroof or smart key, no electric seat adjustment. Six airbags.

Winner: FordInside

Ford

An ageing interior but still practical and comfortable. Lots of storage and heaps of space in the rear seat make it a viable family wagon. Huge boot space of 542 litres. Some may find the interior design dull.

Opel

A nicer looking interior with a lot more bling at first glance, but the buttons can be confusing and there are some highly reflective surfaces that can reflect sun into the driver’s eyes. Significantly less space in the back seat. Smaller (but still reasonable) 500-litre boot and smallish boot opening.

Winner: FordUnder the bonnet

Ford

A great diesel engine with excellent flexibility and a top-notch six-speed dual-clutch auto that hardly ever makes a mistake. Quieter at idle with little vibration through the seat, and isn’t as vocal when the revs rise. Fuel consumption is marginally worse but not enough to sway us to choose the Opel.

Opel

A strong engine with linear power delivery that makes for comfortable motoring. Strong pulling power from low in the rev range. Six-speed auto does a good job of choosing gears in most instances. Very good fuel consumption for a family hauler. Can be noisy under heavy throttle and there is some noticeable diesel grumble at idle.

Winner: FordHow it drives

Ford

A sporty drive, but more liveable in everyday urban situations than the Opel. It finds the ideal mix of cornering ability and comfort, with superior road-holding and on-road refinement, decent steering feel and a good ride at low speeds despite its 18-inch wheels.

Opel

More focused on fun than family. Big wheels and sports suspension mean the ride isn’t great over lumpy sections, and can pitter-patter from side to side. It does offer a commendable experience through corners, though, with the body sitting flat and the steering offering good weight and feel.

Winner: FordStyling

Ford

Due for a revamp next year, but to our eye it still looks contemporary enough. Nowhere near as eye-catching as the Opel, though.

Opel

A very nice looking station wagon, with smooth lines and sleek finishes. It has been around since 2009 in Europe, but still looks very fresh.

Winner: OpelVerdict

Ford

An oldie but a goodie. Still offers excellent value as a family car, and oodles of practicality too.

Opel

Newcomer’s good looks and reasonable equipment list aren’t enough to get it across the line against the stalwart Ford.

Winner: Ford

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Star and car: Geoff Lawson

Former Australian fast-bowler Geoff Lawson and his Ford Mondeo.The low-down: A lively paced swing bowler and qualified optometrist from Wagga Wagga, Lawson was once regarded as Australia’s leading quick.
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Career Highlights: International debut in 1980-81; 180 test wickets for Australia; part of the 1989 Ashes-winning tour; coach of Pakistan in 2007, leadiing the team to the ICC World Twenty20 final.

Memorable moments: “Bouncing” Geoff Boycott; having his jaw broken by Curtly Ambrose; receiving an Order of Australia in 1990 for services to cricket.

Current gigs: Involved with online coaching site www.centrewicket南京夜网; cricket pundit for Sky Sports and commentator for ABC Radio.

What was your first car?

It was a two-tone pink Holden EK, cost $100. My old man owned a garage and we were able to piece it together and keep it on the road with fencing wire and Paddle Pop sticks, as you do. I had it from the time I was in fifth form in high school until I played Sheffield Shield cricket. When I got into the state cricket squad, Tooheys were our sponsors and I used to put Tooheys stickers all over the rust spots, just to cover them up.

What happened to it in the end?

I took a year off uni to go to England to play league cricket and I left the car with my mates. We did the rego transfer into their name – $4 it cost – and it broke down the next day, never to go again.

What are you driving now?

A European model Ford Mondeo. I was at a race day with my son at a track outside Goulburn and [race driver] Andrew Miedecke was there and we were having a chat. I ended up buying the car from him, even though his dealership was in Port Macquarie. But it’s a good car. It’s got the essentials: a boot big enough to put two or three sets of golf sticks and/or the cricket gear. And I fit in it, which is my major criteria for buying cars. You’ve got to be able to fit in when you’re six-foot-four with a dodgy back.

What’s your ideal car?

I did have a drive of a Rolls Royce last year. We played this charity cricket game in the Barossa, and one of the sponsors drove a couple of them over. He let me drive one from Adelaide Airport up to the Barossa. I think it retailed in Australia for $996,000. It was the most nervous hour-and-a-half drive I’ve ever had, but it was so smooth. You hardly knew you were moving. There was no engine noise, no vibrations from the road. It was like you were floating. It was a superb vehicle to drive. I can see why they cost that much when they drive that well.

What’s your favourite drive?

Port Elizabeth to Cape Town via the Garden Route is especially spectacular. I’ve done it about four times. If you want to stop at a beachside resort town, you can do it. Or if you turn inland you end up in the dry, arid interior within about 10 Ks. Then from 50 Ks out you can see Table Mountain in the background and you just drive straight towards it. It’s quite unique.

Vital statistics

3: the number of years I’ve had my Mondeo.

3: the number of Honda Accords I’ve owned.

Car lover gauge – 2

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.