I’M WRITING this month’s column painfully in longhand. You see, I have this new bug. It’s called Guillain-Barré Syndrome. It only hits four out of 100,000 people, and the medicos
Idon’t know if mine is caused by a virus or bacteria. So I’m mostly horizontal now in a really beaut hospital, where the nurses are great and the food is hot and healthy. But I don’t know exactly when I can manage to escape from here.
They lock all the doors and windows every night, and they’re muttering about chaining me into the bed if I don’t behave.
All of this began when my hands went numb – and no, I did not bash my knuckles with a ball-peen hammer; I’m too old and smart like the cunning red fox to do that anymore. Then my feet turned into lead boots, followed by my lower legs, which just had to get into this act. Suddenly, massive pain hit me and my legs turned into jelly. I could only stagger upright for a few steps before grabbing a hand-hold, and if I missed that, it was an instant faceplant into the floor.
After six of these, I looked like my old dog Flatnose, who got this way from chasing parked cars. So about then I figured I had best do something about this weird situation, and get my old body to my regular GP. He diagnosed Guillain-Barré and said: “You are going straight to hospital.” Which is a pleasant fix-it place if your system is buggered, although I’ll be here for a while yet. Apparently this damn thing is incurable and the medicos cannot tell me when I will go into remission. It may be a year or more down the track. So there you are.
I heard a strange story from my old mate Kevin, who said a guy he knows bought a shiny new aftermarket alloy rocker cover to drop onto his six-pot engine. So he installed this, and sometime later he had maintenance to do, so he ran the mill until it was hot and carefully lifted the new rocker cover off with rags, ’cos it was a tad warm and heavy and he didn’t want to scratch it. Put it on the bench to cool and dropped out the sump oil, which was past the use-by date.
Then he bolted the flash rocker box back on and got a tub of Castrol Edge to refill the sump. But as he was still dribbling this into the filler hole it was pouring out the back of the rocker cover and flooding down over the slushbox.
Bloody gasket, he said to himself, and went and bought a new one. Sorted that, sure he had fixed the problem. So then he began to pour in more oil and there was another Edge avalanche at exactly the same rocker-box end.
Bugger! Ripped the cover off yet again, sat it on the bench and it wouldn’t sit flat. Bloody new shiny cover had warped heaps, just from being pulled off hot!
Thinking of slushboxes – auto transmissions, for the uneducated – I once drove a 1950s English-built Invicta Black Prince sedan, which a guy found in South Africa and shipped across to Australia. The engine was a two-litre twin-cam six by Meadows, and the designers of this strange car had the brilliant idea of bolting a Brockhouse transmission behind the alloy engine, probably because it was the only one available. This thing was really weird – no gears, just eight torque converters in line inside.
The poor little Meadows engine really struggled to move the Invicta along. From a standing start, with the right foot smashed on the go-pedal, this proper English carriage would move gently off, and run through the eight converter stages in eerie silence, until cruising speed was reached. Then it would move happily along.
But this pukka people-carrier had one major flaw. Reverse gear was achieved by levers and rods shifting a sprag piece inside the gearbox, which locked into an epicyclic gear, so the output shaft turned backwards. Okay on the flat, but if you pulled reverse to run backwards down a sloping driveway, stuffed up the approach and then tried to go forward again, the slushbox stayed locked in reverse. So you needed five fit blokes or a Fergie tractor to heave the car into a forward direction. This took the load off the reverse-lock sprag and brought sanity back into this incredible situation!
So after filling four-and-a-half A4 writingpad pages with barely readable words, I have managed to achieve the almost impossible with my crippled hands. But I’m a determined bastard, even to the stage of doubling up on my physio exercises when the instructors aren’t looking so they won’t yell at me. I’ll eventually make my escape from this hospital haven, as fast as I can make my body behave. But I have not had a can of lunatic soup in 21 days, so it is a real cruel life in here! s