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It was a very sad day in our house the day we had to retire Ken.

English: Barbie Portrait

English: Barbie Portrait (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ken had been with us for nearly five years and for the first four years he had done a fantastic job. Although his position in the family was beneath the Spoodle Princess in the family pecking order (at her insistence), he was nevertheless a well-loved and respected member of our family.

We had a lot of laughs with Ken. Like the time he was trying to take us home from the Central Coast and thought we could somehow swim across the ocean or that time where he completely freaked out in Parramatta and we were all concerned for our lives.

Everyone has bad days.

But then he started to get older, to slow down, to lose his faculties. Ken became middle-aged. He would take longer to wake up in the morning, to be ready for work on time, and you could easily find yourself heading to the opposite end of the country before Ken realised.

Ken was our first GPS.

I remember the first day Ken came to us and we hadn’t realised at that point that we could actually choose the personality of our GPS, rather like picking the sex of your child. So being the risk-takers that we’re not, we obviously opted for the safe option of the British voice. It was only when we realized that we couldn’t understand a bloody word that he said that we switched to good old Aussie, Ken – it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made as a family. Ken made us realize that we had truly settled into Australian life.

And Ken never let us down. No matter how often I tried to confuse him by ignoring his instructions or disorientated him, he always got me back on track and ultimately home.

We forgave him his mistakes. You could never stay angry with Ken for long – even the times when he adamantly insisted on taking us over the Harbour Bridge (incurring a $4 charge each time), when we could have come off much earlier to get home.

He could make some frankly ridiculous suggestions in times of stress, just to get himself out of trouble. I could be in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel for instance and he would suddenly tell me to ‘turn around where possible’ in that calm voice of his, while I would be hyperventilating behind the wheel.

The problems really started when we moved to the city. I hadn’t realised how much Ken obviously loved the slower pace of life on the Northern Beaches – I didn’t know that he was such a ‘suburban GPS’ until we moved.  He never got flustered in the generous, wide streets of our old suburb, where you could park anywhere, but when we introduced Ken to rush-hour city traffic, he just couldn’t cope. He started stuttering and repeating himself –  basically he had a minor breakdown – the stress of city life was just too much for his mild-mannered, middle-aged temperament.

Ken was simply too old to cope with change.

But while it was glaringly obvious that he couldn’t cope, we let him stay on out of love and respect. It was only when he directed me to Canberra one day when I had set his destination as Canberra Street that I understood that we would have to replace him. I needed someone I could rely on, after all, having the navigational sense of a blind person behind the wheel.

And so Barbie joined the family.

We have told Ken that he is now in a 2IC position and have retired him to the glove compartment, where he is happy. He really liked the watch. He will remain there just in case I get truly f*cked navigationally, (if Barbie gets her period or something).

My decision to hire Barbie has nothing to do with my new feminism, but in terms of quotas, it just felt right. Despite her name, Barbie is more Lady Penelope than brassy poster-girl teen. She is posher than the Queen if that’s possible, and she has the most ridiculous pronunciation for Australian suburbs and roads that I have ever heard. When we went to Pymble the other day, she kept talking about Pimeball and we kept re-routing her, thinking her settings were wrong.

Judgment is still out on Barbie. Her skill-set is a little more advanced than Ken’s and the changes have taken some getting used to, especially when you’re behind the wheel of the car and trying to eat, drink, argue and manage fights all at the same time as interpreting her ridiculous accent. I sense she’s not as patient as Ken and I am obviously wondering how PMS will affect her.

We’ve told her she’s on a three-month probationary period but if she successfully gets us to Thredbo this week without us throwing one of the teens out of the car en route, she will have earned her place in the family.

The dysfunctional family is heading off for a week of arguments and mayhem in the mountains this week. None of us want to go – obviously. I won’t be able to blog due to the wine consumption necessary to stay sane in the mountains but if you want to keep up with our shenanigans, make sure you like my Facebook page here