Belated Sunday Musings On A Wednesday

I have only just realised that I didn’t post any Sunday musings on the 23rd. I must be slipping! So here are some midweek ones instead.


Having just got used to our newer car and starting to enjoy it, a sudden crop of warning signals appeared on the dashboard as Julie was driving to work one morning. This naturally alarmed her, seeing a large orange spanner, an orange exclamation mark, and text advising of some kind of pollution problem. So she rang the dealership. They said it was safe to drive, as the warnings were orange, not red. Then they booked it in for the next morning for diagnostic inspection. As Julie had to go to work, she took her old car, and I drove the newer car to get it checked. They examined it while I waited, and declared that it needed a part in the exhaust sytem that controlled the exhaust emissions pollution. They could fit one in thirty minutes. Fortunately, the car is still within its short warranty period, or the bill would have been almost £350. As it is a parts-only warranty, I still had to pay £44 (plus tax) for labour. We have only had the car for seven weeks, so I am hoping we don’t see any more orange lights for a very long time.


Talking of cars, Ollie is now starting to use the folding steps to get into the back. On a trip to the Vet yesterday, he ran up without too much coaxing. But we still have to stand either side of him, or he will leap off the steps sideways. But no amount of cajoling will make him use them to exit the car, He still insists on jumping down.


The Vet pronounced that Ollie’s ear wax problem is greatly improved. One more week of ear-wash, and she doesn’t need to see him again for this issue. As it was a ‘return visit’ with no presciption necessary, we got a ‘discount’ on the fee. It still cost us £30 for her to tell us that though.


I hope you are all having a good Wednesday, wherever you are.


Easter Sunday Musings

Trying out Ollie’s new folding ‘dog stairs’ didn’t go well. As anyone who read my post yesterday will know, we decided to take him to Thetford Forest. Ollie cannot differentiate between different types of cars, so once the hatchback was open on the new car, he wanted to get in. Even with Julie and I standing each side of his new dog steps, he wasn’t convinced. So I put his lead on, and made him try the stairs. He scrambled up in such a panic, he managed to gouge out two nasty scratches with his claws. Our otherwise pristine new car is now slightly damaged, but we cannot really be angry with our dog. We had to get a towel for the second attempt, and laid that over the paintwork. After much encouragement, he took the steps two at a time, and finally settled into the back with no more damage.
When we got to the forest car park, he flatly refused to use the stairs to get out of the car, and jumped down instead.
Ollie’s expensive car stairs remain a work in progress.


Otherwise, it has been a quiet week. The Easter holiday required a change of plans for my shopping trips, but other than many closures today, the main shops are open, albeit with reduced hours.


Ollie has to go for his booster jabs next week, but I have yet to make a Vet’s appointment because of Easter closures. While he is there, I am going to get his ears looked at again, as he is ‘dragging’ his left ear. And on one occasion this week he refused to eat any dinner, a sure sign he is not feeling well. The Vet has told me in the past that his options are limited for those ear infections. He is too old for surgery, and the antibiotics have been so numerous they are beginning not to take effect. I hope something can be done, but I am not hopeful. Seeing Ollie in pain breaks my heart. Julie got him two new soft toys as an Easter gift. He now has a small lamb and a rabbit, and has enjoyed playing with them.


The weather is set to change tonight. Rain from the West coming in, and a wet Monday is forecast, as is the rest of next week. That is very traditional in England. The weather at Easter is notoriously bad, whatever date it falls on.


I hope you are all having a happy Easter, wherever you are.


Bubble Car Memories

From the mid 1950s through to the late 1960s, small two-seater three-wheeled cars known as Bubble Cars were very popular in London. One attraction was that with only three wheels, they could be driven on a motorcycle licence. Also that they were easy to park in a congested city, and cheap to run. But the novelty soon wore off amid safety concerns, and lack of models to buy. Here are some that I remember well, and some more modern ones that are trying to make a comeback.

The Italian-designed Isetta bubble car. This was made in many other countries, most famously by BMW in Germany.

A BMW Isetta.

The Messerschmitt KR 200 was based on a fighter-plane canopy, and that had to be lifted to enter the car.

A German-made Heinkel bubble car.

The only British-made bubble car, a Peel Trident.

Modern city driving and the reaction to climate change has made some manufacturers look again at the idea of the bubble car. Using electric power, new versions are beginning to appear.

The Swiss Microlino.

The Renault Twizy. This one has four wheels though, so requires a full licence in the UK.

Sunday Musings In The First Week In April

Hard to believe it is Spring. Despite the evenings staying lighter for longer, the weather has been dismal. We have had three times more rain than is normal for March in Norfolk, and everything feels damp and cold. The mud is back with a vengeance too, and making it very slippery on my walks with Ollie. At least we have not had the lethal tornadoes reported from America. They must be terrifying to encounter.


Ollie has stayed perky, and been very active on his walks. He has paid for that later though, often sleeping 12-14 hours a night. He has to go to the Vet for his booster injection soon, so we will get to try out the new folding ‘Dog Stairs’ we bought. The new car is so much higher off the ground than the one that ‘died’, he would never be able to jump into the back like he used to.

(This is why there was no serial episode on Friday)

On Friday, I experienced some very frustrating Déjà vu. Julie uses the newer car for her trips to work, and I use her old one to run around to the shops, or anything else that doesn’t involve Ollie. So on Friday afternoon, I drove to the supermarket to buy fresh bread, a chocolate Easter Egg for Julie, and some cakes. It’s a journey of only four miles each way, and I am usually home with my shopping within thirty minutes, including time spent at the checkout.

As it was raining incredibly hard, I ran back to the car with my one bag of shopping, and prepared to start it up ready to go home. Except it didn’t start. There was no electrical power at all. There had been no indication of any potential problems. It is a 2015 car, with below-average mileage, and had been fine on the way to the shop. But after a dozen tries, I knew I was stuck. The irony was enhanced by the fact that I was in the same supermarket car park where I broke down in my old car in February. Then doubly-enhanced when I realised I was actually in the very same parking spot.

Luckily, I had remembered to take my mobile phone, but was alarmed to discover that the battery on that was below 20%. I telephoned the breakdown service provided by our bank account, and went through the numerous repetitive questions required before they transferred me to the AA. (Not Alcoholcs Anonymous, the Automobile Association.) Then I had to turn the Internet on my phone to ‘On’, to receive updates. The update told me that a mechanic would be with me by 16:45. As it wasn’t even 15:00 yet, I knew I had a long wait. Unwilling to stand outside in torrential rain, I was stuck in the small car until I received a phone call 75 minutes later from the mechanic, who was just around the corner.

As he arrived in his yellow van, the rain stopped. He did his diagnostic tests, and we chatted. It turned out he was also a Londoner, and had moved up to Norfolk three years ago. Then another coincidence was that he had also worked for the Metropolitan Police, but in his case as a car mechanic. The battery was dead. No output, and not taking on any charge once he connected the booster battery. He said it was probably because we don’t drive very far, and not very often.

The only solution was a new battery. He said he could fit one, but it would be expensive. So he gave me the option of taking my battery to a trade dealer, and buying one slightly cheaper there. Of course, I wasn’t about to lug a heavy battery almost two miles, then return with a new one after having had to buy the tools to fit it. (Mine were in my large toolbox at home.)

So I told him to go ahead. Now we have a very nice top-quality Bosch (read very expensive) battery in Julie’s old car. A heavy-duty model, guaranteed for five years. And hopefully no more car problems in the near future.


I hope you have a wonderful Sunday, free from any car breakdowns.


In-Car Entertainment?

When we went out looking to buy a different car recently, it soon became clear that very few cars made after 2017 came with a CD player built in. During the test drive of the one we eventually bought, I asked the young salesman if it had a CD player incorporated into the impressive ‘Entertainment System’.

He smiled.

Then looking at me as if I had asked if it came with an Edison Phonograph fixed to the dashboard, he told me, “No, nobody uses those anymore. Nobody wants them in a car. They use their phones, or memory sticks. You know, Spotify, streaming, stuff like that”.

As far as I am concerned, he was wrong to say ‘Nobody’.

I have no interest in Spotify, or messing about compiling playlists from online sources onto memory sticks. I make no criticism of those who do, but I enjoy listening to my favourite CDs on a long journey. I already have those CDs, a large collection of them accumulated over many years, and stored in a special cabinet. Before any long-distance journey, I would select some favourites (including some of Julie’s choice) and we would play them as we drove along.

Now car manufacturers have decided that I should no longer be able to do that. They have predicted that none of their buyers will use one in the car, so they can save themselves the incredibly small amount of money it cost them to include a small slot in the ‘Entertainment System’ to play them.

Before you tell me about ‘Progress’, I know. Young people do not buy CDs. They do not buy DVD films. Most of them no longer watch conventional TV shows when they are broadcast, preferring to stream and binge-watch.

But many of them do not buy expensive cars. Some of them don’t even bother to learn to drive. Those that do usually have to buy an old model because of the cost of motoring and insurance. Their old car (like my previous car) will have a CD player fitted. Yes they will never use it, but it does no harm just sitting there, waiting to be used.

For the benefit of this rant, let’s assume that ‘young people’ are those under 65 years of age. So what about us oldies, those over 65? There are over 11,000,000 people in England and Wales over the age of 65. And that number is growing. By 2026, it will almost certainly reach a total of 20% of the population, if not more.

‘The population of England and Wales has continued to age, with Census 2021 results confirming there are more people than ever before in older age groups. Over 11 million people – 18.6% of the total population – were aged 65 years or older, compared with 16.4% at the time of the previous census in 2011’

According to the salesman who sold us the car, “The majority of our customers are elderly people, most of them are retired. They are the people with the money or savings to buy cars”. From the horse’s mouth.

But God forbid we should be able to play our CDs in them.

Thoughts On The Month Of March

Today is the 1st of March. It is my birthday on the 16th, so this month always has meaning for me. We are also collecting a car today, so fingers crossed that it all goes well. I had to insure it yesterday, and the telephone renewal went very smoothly indeed.

I take heart from that. These days, I take heart from anything remotely positive.

On my birthday, Julie has to work. So not much chance of a day out, especially with the possibility of snow that is predicted now. (Though that might not happen.) But in the evening we are going to a local Turkish restaurant to celebrate, and I am very much looking forward to the food there.

71 is not a ‘celebratory’ year, as it does not end in a 0. But I am celebrating living this long, something I never expected to happen after a life in very stressful jobs, a bad diet, and heavy smoking until I was 60.

March this year is also when the clocks go forward, near the end of the month. When that happens, it starts to really feel like Spring is here, and Summer is around the corner. I begin to anticipate those longer evenings. Daylight until 9pm, and hopefully much warmer temperatures too.

For many years, I have seen my birthday as the start of the year, rather than January the first. It is when I become another year older, and potentially another year wiser. It is also another year closer to the end of my life of course. But that holds no fear for me, as everything must end eventually.

Welcome, March. ‘In like a lion, out like a lamb’, so legend has it.

Sunday Musings At The End Of February

Something of a ‘Groundhog Day’ week for me, with every day much the same. I am not complaining, as I find routine comforting, and having no dramas or stress about anything is always to be welcomed.


My only break from routine was to empty out my old car in preparation for handing it over when we collect the replacement next week. It is strange to discover what you can accumulate inside a car during ten years. I found sunglasses I hadn’t seen for at least five years, and numerous expired entrance tickets for car parks. Two umbrellas stored in the back in case of rain, and a first aid kit I had previously searched the house for.


Ollie is doing well, but we await his Spring moult. This not only covers the house in his fur, but usually signals the onset of one skin condition or another. I am hoping he gets away with that this year, as we have only just got on top of his last ear infection.


I finally took a camera out and photographed the new bridge to Hoe Rough. The photos appear in a separate post today.


Weather-wise, it went back to being very cold. Hovering around freezing in the mornings, and a couple of days of rain too. That rain felt icy when it fell on you, and the North-Easterly winds made my face ache. But the sun is out this morning, and I can hardly see the keyboard for sunshine reflecting on it.


I hope your Sunday is what you want it to be, whether peaceful or hectic.


Sunday Musings On The 19th Of February

As most of you will have read, we bought a car on Monday to replace my dying Zafira. It will be collected on the 1st of March. If you didn’t see the post, this is the car.

We Did The Deal


Spring has sprung this week. We had an unseasonal increase in temperatures, especially overnight. The Spring bulbs are flowering everywhere, and I have even seen clouds of small insects flying around near the riverbank. The downside was the return of some rain, though it was fortunately not heavy enough to sour my mood.


Ollie seems to have been affected by the Spring feeling too, and has been unusually lively. Not only on his walks, but also around the house, where he has returned to long periods of wanting to play with his toys. After all his medical issues, it is heartwarming to see him like that again, though he suffers for it later, with very stiff legs.


Otherwise, it has been a very peaceful week. The kids have had the half-term break, so traffic has been light, and there is no noise in the mornings as they wait for the school bus to collect them from outside our house. Back to normal tomorrow.


February often feels like a month when I am just waiting for things to improve in March, and anticipate my birthday in that month. But for once it has been an enjoyable month so far, and has not flown by as fast as it usually does.


This will be the last post from me today, as I am not feeling so good, and might be going back to bed.


I hope you all have a very enjoyable Sunday, and send everyone my best wishes.


Sunday Musings On Ollie’s Birthday

I have posted separately about the ‘Birthday boy’ today. It is impossible to imagine life without Ollie being a part of it.


After the numerous car troubles lately, we are going to test drive a much newer used car on Monday. It is what they like to call an SUV, with optional 4-wheel drive that can be useful when you live in the countryside. If we like it, and ‘do the deal’, I will update you soon.


Another wonderful example of living in a village, and an honest tradesman. A very near-neighbour and fellow dog walker is a builder by trade. I recently asked him if he knew any roofers who could look at the small leak in our roof. He replied that he would look at it on Saturday, and see if he could fix it. Sure enough, he turned up yesterday in his van, got his ladder up the side of the house, and said that as far as he could tell, it was just a case of some rubber sealant coming away from the base of the chimney. He went back up with some black mastic sealer, and did the job.

Then he was reluctant to take any money. Saying, “I didn’t do much”. When pressed to take something he said, “Just give me £10 then”.

I gave him £20.


The weather has warmed up after a frosty start to the week. 10 C feels much more civilised, and we no longer have to scrape the windscreens on our cars.


The recent short story I published showed that some readers really liked the main character, Mabel. So she will feature in my next fiction serial, which I will not start until March.


Whatever you are doing this Sunday, try to do it with a smile on your face.


A Busy Wednesday

Yesterday was a big break in routine for me.

Julie had to renew her passport. She had asked about a postal renewal, and was told it would take ten weeks at least. As she is travelling abroad in March, her only option was to go to the main Passport Office for the East of England. That is 65 miles each way from Beetley in the city of Peterborough, around 90 minutes each way by car.

I offered to drive her there in her car in case of parking issues, so I was up much earlier than usual, and took Ollie out while it was still below freezing, and very frosty. As it turned out, we parked easily, and were also early for her pre-booked appointment. It all went smoothly inside, (I was not allowed in, so waited ih the car) But even with that ‘personal appearance’, she was still unable to return home with a new passport. They will send it by insured courier within seven days.

The journey home was even easier, and I was back in plenty of time to give Ollie his favourite dinner of cold chicken.

Forty minutes later, the car dealership phoned to say my car was ready for collection. Out we went again, just 4 miles each way this time. I was told that the mechanic was able to remove the magnet and electrical connection that was stopping the gear selector going into and out of park, but he also had to rig a small cable below the selector in case the ‘override’ happened again for any reason. Just pull it, and the selector moves easily. I would have preferred a new part, but had already been told it was no longer available.

Then the mechanic showing me how to operate the cable-pull informed me that if the very small part had been available, it would have cost me a staggering £500! Add to that the fitting charge of well-over £200, and I would not have been a happy bunny.

The final bill was £198, intead of around £740 had they fitted a new part. As I drove home, I had never been so grateful for a part no longer being in stock.