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Christopher Pyne: Why My Kids Call Me 'Captain Sparkle'

For children of the 1980s, '9 1/2 Weeks' was a raunchy movie released in 1986 starring Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger.

It revolved around a New York couple engaging in ever more risky sex acts long before Fifty Shades of Grey was a twinkle in its creator’s eye.

In my case, nine and a half weeks is precisely how long I’ve lasted sharing cars with my three teenage children who drive. There’s nothing in the least bit satisfying about it.

Hell would be a better description.

To put this in some context, one of my nicknames in my family is “Captain Sparkle”. We have a modest beach house on the coast in South Australia. Some time ago, my wife and four children asked me to call about half an hour before I arrived from Adelaide. I assumed this was so they could prepare suitably for my arrival like the Von Trapp family from The Sound of Music presenting themselves to their father, Christopher Plummer (the Captain) each evening before dinner.

Evenings in the Pyne household. (Image: 20th Century Fox)

To my consternation, I discovered it was really so they could tidy the house before I walked in the door and they were exposed as living a relaxed holiday lifestyle rather than the Spartan regimen they apparently think I expect!

As my retirement from the House of Representatives approached the inevitable conversations started about how everyone in the family would cope with having me around the house permanently. After they had fired the confetti cannons and constrained their obvious joy, the discussion would turn to practical matters -- like who would drive what vehicle.

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At that point, there were three regular drivers in the household plus me, three serviceable vehicles and one heap of rubbish. My third child would soon qualify for their driver’s license and, including me, there would soon be five drivers in the household. I generously offered to have the heap of rubbish fixed. The crash repairer honestly advised me against this course, but I insisted on spending my money on this folly.

He proved to be much wiser than me. In the first week of having his driver’s license, my much loved second son managed to have three minor accidents. The first I repaired with boiling hot water that miraculously caused the bumper bar to pop back into place again. The second was not fixable but not material, the third compounded the second and mournfully I returned to the delighted crash repairer a week after I had driven out the gate with the recently repaired vehicle.

But that was the least of my problems.

I expect to get into a clean car. I’ve been driving around in Commonwealth Cars for 26 years! I’ve certainly never sat on French Fries that greased my suit pants and caused me to have to change my clothes and get my suit dry-cleaned in a Comcar!

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Who says it's okay to use the recess in the driver’s side door to store mandarin peels and open vials of eye liner? Which particular slave is supposed to remove football shorts and rugby socks or rowing zoot suits from behind the front seats?

How are you supposed to open the automatic front gate if the ‘front gate opening doo flicky’ has been removed from the vehicle and is under piles of clothes in a bedroom of the house that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson would be too scared to enter?

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Can’t any other driver use the pump at a petrol station? How can any self-respecting person return the car with nine kilometres left of fuel in the tank?

These and other great questions broke me in nine and a half weeks.

But I didn’t climb to the top of the greasy pole in Canberra without a modicum of cunning. I have decided to purchase my own vehicle to motor around Adelaide without having to share.

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How do I know I won’t have to share? The curse of Generation Y, that’s how.

I’m going to buy an automobile with a manual transmission. My beautiful brood can sit in the car looking for the “D” for Drive for as long as they like, they’ll never find it!