Sunday Musings On A Sunny Afternoon

The weather has been very ‘English’ this week. We have had sunshine, heavy showers, hailstorms, normal rain, below freezing temperatures, and now it is 13C and sunny.

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Most of you will know by now that although I have still not received my renewed driving licence, I do have written permission from Norfolk Police to drive until it arrives. This meant I was able to do something very normal yesterday, popping out to the supermarket on my own. Not in the least exciting, but nonetheless enjoyable after being ‘grounded’ since the 15th of March. It also means that I can take Ollie to the groomer next week, and Julie doesn’t have to take time off work.

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Panic buying and hoarding of petrol and diesel continues unabated in this area. The only petrol staton stil open for business has huge queues snaking around it. As a result, Julie’s car is very low on petrol. Fortunately my car is almost full of diesel, so she can use that when she needs to.

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Boris Johnson went to Ukraine yesterday, trying to make himself look like a world leader in time of war. He promised untold millions of pounds in aid to Ukraine, including the supply of anti-ship missiles and armoured vehicles. Let’s hope the intolerable buffoon manages not to go too far, and declare war on Russia.

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Not much else has happened worth musing about this week, so I will leave it there, and hope you all had a happy Sunday.

Keeping An Old Car Alive

Regular readers may remember that I was concerned about a squeaking noise coming from my car as I drove along. I was going to get it checked, but it went away. I still needed to have it checked, but what with trips back and forth to the Vet with Ollie, and frenzied decluttering at home taking up so much time, I forgot about it.

On Monday, I was going to the supermarket in my car when a new noise appeared.

This time it was a scraping sound much worse than before, and sounded sinister.

By the time I got home with the shopping, the scraping sound had changed to a grinding noise. Time to phone the repair company.

Although my car is 14 years old in June, it has reasonably low mileage for that age, (78,000) is an economical diesel capable of 50 miles to the gallon, and drives very well still. I cannot afford to replace it with anything newer that is remotely similar, with it’s roomy interior, 7-seat option, and 6-speed automatic gearbox.

So I have to keep it alive, by choking back the cost of constant repairs.

I booked a ‘brake check’ at a local company for Wednesday morning. I was up early, and arrived ten minutes before they opened, so my car would be one of the first to be worked on. I sat and waited while they did the check, to save Julie getting up early to collect me and drive me home.

After 45 minutes, the brake specialist came and got me, and took me to where the car was up on a ramp, all 4 wheels off. He showed me the problems.

A failed brake caliper on the back wheel had caused the disc to warp, which would have made the squeaking sound.
The other back wheel was doing all the rear braking, so the disc on that wheel was worn thin.
One pad had worn away completely on one of the front wheels, causing scarring on the disc.
The pads on the other front wheel were still legal, but worn down low.

He offered me various options.

1) Just enough work to make the car legal for now.
2) Replacement of the warped disc, and broken caliper, leaving the other damaged disc for later attention.
3) He could put all the wheels back on and give me back my car with no work done, and no charge for his time.
4) Replace every worn part with a guarantee to replace any new parts he fitted, should they fail within 12 months.

I went with option 4, and returned to the waiting room to read the hardback book I had brought along.

Almost 4 hours later, I had read all but the last chapter of the book. The caliper was not in stock, so there was a delay until it was delivered by a local company.

Then, work completed, he reversed the car outside the reception room, ready to come in and talk to me. As he did so, the glass in the driver’s door mirror fell out onto the tarmac and smashed. I shook my head, but actually smiled.

You couldn’t make it up.

The price for almost 5 hours of work, new brakes all round, and that expensive caliper? £619. ($840)

Or about half of what I could get for it if I sold the car for cash.

As for the mirror glass, I bought one off Ebay for £5. It arrives next week.

My First Musings Of 2022

I’m musing on the wrong day here, but at this time of year I have to look at my calendar to know what day it is. Apparently, it is Saturday. As it is a ‘sort-of’ public holiday here, and most people will not be out and about or back at work until the 4th, it feels like yet another Sunday.
(The 3rd is the official public holiday, because today fell on a weekend.)
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I managed to stay up and awake to see 2022 arrive. In fact I didn’t go to bed until 2am. My perkiness was assisted by only having one glass of wine with my dinner. The Tapas-style buffet we chose to prepare was delicious, and eaten over a decent amount of time as we sat around watching the poor choice of seasonal TV provided.
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I am going to try to be a little more positive about things this year. Here is one example.
It rains too much in Beetley, and that gets on my nerves. So here is a positive slant on that for New Year’s Day.
Too much rain = never having a water shortage.
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My driving licence expires in March. That is because I will be 70 years old. In Britain, that means I have to make a ‘Medical Declaration’ that I am fit to drive, and also supply proof of my identity all over again. It is such a faff to do this. They recommend you do it online, but I have no scanner to scan documents. The paper form requires that I send original documents as proof that I am who I say I am, and it comes with a warning that there is a very long backlog of applications already. I was hoping to win the lottery so that I could just abandon driving and employ a full-time chauffeur.
Sadly, that did not happen.
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Ollie is going to be 10 in February. For his breed, that is a considerable age, close to 80 in human years. His fur is still patchy, and refusing to grow back. Some other dog-walkers seem to be avoiding me recently, as they are convinced his skin condition must be contagious. Covid-19 has made people fear anything unusual.
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I intend to cook a Chinese meal tonight. Duck in hoisin sauce, stir-fried with suitable vegetables and noodles. After days of making do with leftovers or eating huge traditional roast dinners and High Tea, I am yearning for something Asian and spicy.
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The brakes on my car are making a nasty ‘squeaking noise’. When life gets back to normal on the 4th, I fear I am going to have to take it in for examination and repair. No doubt this will be my first financial downturn of 2022, as I can already hear the mechanic’s cash register ringing up a huge bill.
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On the plus side, I am looking forward to reading all your posts in the coming year, and I might even be having my usual moans about bloggers who follow with no link to their site, or others who think that a one-word comment like ‘Nice’ is acceptable. (It isn’t, and you get spammed for it by me)
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The sun is shining brightly. That’s two days in a row. I am taking that as a sign!

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In Praise Of Honest Mechanics, And The NHS

Ten days ago, I wrote about my car failing the MOT test, and needing two new tyres.

Always Something

I didn’t use it after driving it home, and then three days later, Julie used it to take her daughter and grandchildren out for the day. They did a fair few miles, and had an enjoyable day. However, when she returnd home that evening, she said she could hear a ‘rubbing noise’ when turning right. I drove into town and back, and couldn’t hear it.

Last Friday, she cut her hand at work. It was in an awkward place on the edge of her right hand, and bleeding badly. So I drove to collect her, leaving her car in the car park. We had two options then. Either drive the shorter distance to the main Norwich Hospital, and possibly wait for many hours to be seen, or drive up to Cromer on the north coast, where there is a minor injuries unit open from 08:00 until 20:00. That seemed the better option, and off we went.

Arriving close to 7:30pm, we wondered if we were going to be too late. But no. An efficient receptionist booked her in, then asked me to wait in the car park due to Covid-19 restrictions. Less than ten minutes after I got back to the car, Julie appeared, her wound closed with steri-strips, and a dressing covering the injury. When you hear so many complaints about our health service, I think it is only right to balance that with praise for the marvellous service we received last Friday.

Well done the NHS.

On the way home, we used the main relief road to avoid Norwich, and it has many roundabouts. Once negotiating those, I could hear the ‘rubbing noise’ that Julie had spoken about previously.

On Sunday morning, I returned to the car repair dealership I had used for the MOT, service, and tyres, and asked them to investigate the noise. The manager drove the car around the forecourt, and agreed he could hear the noise. However, after some examination of the wheels and steering, he was unable to speculate on what might be causing it. He suggested I leave it there overnight, and he would get a more experienced colleague to examine the car today. (Monday) I agreed, and Julie collected me and took me home. Although this Monday is a public holiday in England, they were open from 10:00 until 16:00.

Me being me, I feared the worst. Major repairs just before our holiday, and yet more eye-watering expense. While I was out walking Ollie, Julie rang them just before 1pm, and they said the car was ready. They had found a loose back plate on a front brake disc, and that was moving enough to cause the rubbing sound on full right lock. As they had worked on the car recently, they said they would not be charging me anything at all, because of the possibility that they may have caused the temporary fault.

When I collected the car, they gave me a Diagnostic Wheel Alignment report, telling me they had additionally checked the alignment to put my mind at rest. This alone usually costs £59, but there was no charge. I think good service like this should also be praised, especially for a large chain of car repairers that doesn’t always have the best reputation here.

So, well done to Dereham branch of Kwik Fit too.

Always Something

In the UK, once your car is three years old, it legally requires a certificate of roadworthiness, and has to be tested annually. This is known here as the MOT test. (Ministry Of Transport Test)

My car was already five years old when I bought it in 2012. On the first of June 2021, it celebrated (quietly, with no fuss) its fourteenth birthday.

(Not my actual car, but the same year, model, and colour.)

Despite being old by car standards, the mileage of 76,000 is relatively low. Many cars of that age have done twice as many miles, if not more. This is helped by the fact that I rarely drive any great distance. My trips to town or to the supermarket only total an 8-mile return, Ollie’s vet is 12 miles each way, and short trips to take Ollie somewhere different to walk rarely exceed 10 miles. The nearest beach is only 18 miles away, and if I go into Norwich, I usually take the bus.

Other than a long haul to the Lake District, two trips to London, and two holidays in Lincolnshire, my car has an easy life.

But they always found some reason to fail that annual MOT test. Usually things that are hard to argue with. Brake pad wear, exhaust emissions failure, or headlights being unaligned. Most of the time, that doesn’t add a huge amount to the bill. Except for a few years ago when one dealership failed the car on parts in the catalctic converter, and the bill came to £200 more than the car was worth, as well as being off the road for months waiting for the part.

In 2019, I changed testing companies, and it passed first time! I was so relieved, I used that company again in 2020, and to my delight, it passed again. Keen to make it three times lucky, I booked them for this year’s test, and took the car in on Wednesday morning.

It had been in there just over two hours, when I received the ‘dreaded’ phone call. They had failed the car on one tyre. It had a ‘gouge’ out of the rubber, probably caused by a pothole in the rarely-maintained country roads around here. There was also a warning that another tyre had low tread. Not enough to fail it, but a replacement was ‘recommended’. I bit the bullet and authorised two new Yokohama low-profile tyres, at a cost of £130 each.

The bitter pill to swallow was that the tyre with the ‘gouge’ had only been fitted recently, following a puncture on my driveway.

I heard myself saying it again. “Always something”.

What I Don’t Miss About The 1970s

I was 18 years old in 1970, and 25 when I got married in 1977.
By the end of that decade, I was already an EMT in London.
It is easy to look back with fondness at some things from that era.
But I am also reminded of what was not so good in Britain at the time..

The awful sliced white bread.

The Christmas Gifts.

State of the Art portable televisions.

What was on those televisions for most of the day, and after midnight.

Some of the sweets.
(Mostly good)

(Mostly not so good)

The ‘long-bonnet’ British Leyland Mini.

Police Officers getting off the beat, and into silly-looking patrol cars.

Limited options for ‘eating out’.

Fashionable clothing for men.

The 1960s were pretty cool, as well as ‘Swinging’ of course.
But something went badly wrong on the 1st of January, 1970.

Cars: My Life On The Road

Strictly speaking, this is a ‘Thinking Aloud On a Sunday’ post, as I woke up imagining (or dreaming) that I was driving the first car I ever owned.
That prompted a search of my memory for the cars that have marked the stages of my life, and also made me realise I have very few (almost no) photos of me with them.

These photos are not of my own vehicles, and have been sourced online.
But I had the same models.

Six months before I was old enough to drive, my Dad came home with a car he had bought for me. He got a deal on it, and didn’t want to chance leaving it until I got my licence.
It was a 1963 Vauxhall Viva HA, and he bought it in 1968.
I thought it was the best thing ever, and on the day I passed my test, I drove it around Central London all afternoon.

(My one was light green)

Two years later, in 1971, I was working as a salesman for a record company. They replaced the vans we had been using with cars, hoping to improve their image.
I got a new Vauxhall Viva HB free of charge, as a company car. Of course, I didn’t own it, and had to give it back when I left.
But it always felt like ‘my car’.

I changed jobs, and was given another company car. This was what we call an ‘Estate Car’ here, known as a Station Wagon in America.
It was a Ford Cortina 1.6, and was really roomy.

(My one was a burgundy colour)

In December of 1973, I decided to add to my income by working part-time as a taxi driver. I couldn’t use the company car of course, so I bought a brand new car to use at weekends as a taxi. It was a Hillman Hunter 1725, and it took me over three years to pay it off. I enjoyed being a taxi driver, so I resigned from my job and did it full-time.

(Mine was dark green)

In 1976, I moved with my Mum to South-West London, where we bought a shop.
Although I didn’t make much money as a shopkeeper, I discovered that we could run a car through the business.
So in 1977, I traded in my old taxi for a 1974 Volvo.
It was a top-of the range model, the 164 TE, with a three-litre engine, an automatic gearbox, and a luxurious leather interior.
I loved that big white car.

As the Volvo got older, it started to cost a small fortune to run.
I had already joined the Ambulance Service by then, and didn’t have much disposable income.
I was using a motorcycle to commute to work, so in 1982, we bought one car to share between us.
It was a six-month old VW Golf. It was white, and dressed up to look like the GTi model in this photo.
Except our one was a cheaper ‘special edition’ that only had the 1300 cc engine.
In the autumn of 1984, the car was destroyed in a motorway accident that almost killed my first wife, and left me with broken fingers.
(She was driving at the time)

With the insurance money from the accident, I let my wife choose the replacement car, and I bought a better motorcycle.
She chose a two-tone Ford Capri 1.6, known as a ‘Cabaret Edition’. It was a pre-registered car that had never been owned, and we got a good deal as it was already one year old.
This was the exact colour of the one we had.

After a hard winter that year, I had decided that I had enough of motorcycles.
So I sold the one I had, and went out to buy a cheap used car for cash.
I came home with a Citroen GS Estate, in the same blue as this photo.
It was the most comfortable car I have ever owned.

When we split up in 1985, my wife kept the Ford. I was having numerous electrical problems with the Citroen by then and decided to change it.
I bought a recent Austin Metro, a very basic car that was cheap to run, with a small 1.0 litre engine. It was red, like the one in the photo.
But I hated that car with a vengeance. It had little power for motorway driving, and was very noisy too.

I still yearned for the ease of an automatic transmission, and a return to a quiet, comfortable car.
Then I found a good deal on a Fiat Regata 1.6 saloon. It was the top model, with an expensive radio/cassette player, a three-speed auto gearbox, and tinted windows.
I loved it.
But then I discovered why it was a good deal. It gave me nothing but trouble.
Electrical issues, bulbs blowing, and then a disastrous water leak. It had to go.

I swallowed my pride, and traded the Fiat in for another Citroen. The new Visa model. Low mileage, in red like the photo, and only the small 1,000cc engine.
But that turned out to be a good decision, as it was a great car.
I drove it across Belgium and France, and used it every day for work too.
I loved it, and it never once let me down.

But London traffic was driving me insane with so many gear changes, and I still hankered after an automatic.
I found a Ford Fiesta 1300 in black, with an early version of their CVT ‘Easydrive’ auto gearbox.
I had a lump in my throat as I waved goodbye to the Citroen.
I should have kept it.
The Fiesta gearbox was indeed smooth, and made life a lot easier for me.
Trouble was, the car still used the unreliable carburetor from the old model, and it constantly broke down.
I found myself taking the thing apart at the roadside on a rainy night in North London, and made the decision to get shot of it.

That went in part-exchange for a brand new Fiat Punto. That had a 1.4 engine, a 5-speed manual shift, and was very light and nippy in traffic.
Despite the issues with the earlier Fiat, this one proved to be really reliable, and I kept it for some time.

(Mine was green)

Then I moved away to the edge of North London, and had to start driving a longer distance into work.
I wanted a more powerful car, and one with an automatic gearbox too.
I discovered an American car that was being imported into the UK, the Chrysler Neon.
This had a powerful two-litre engine, a smooth auto gearbox, and very light power steering.
I found a dark green one for sale in a London dealership. It was out of my price range though.
So I arranged a deal where the Fiat went as the deposit, and I made low payments for 36 months.
At the end of the payment period, I had to pay a lump sum to own the car.
It was a very nice car indeed, though it used a frightening amount of petrol, with around 20 mpg at best.
I still had it when I moved back to Camden, and kept it until Julie moved in. With no need for two cars, and plans to move to Norfolk, it was sold to a friend for cash.

For three years, I used public transport to get to work, or walked. We had Julie’s car if we had to go further afield.
In March 2012, I moved up here, and we got Ollie. I wanted a car with plenty of room for the dog, and was determined to get one with an automatic gearbox too.
So I bought a low-mileage Vauxhall Zafira 1.9 turbo-diesel in silver, with a six-speed auto box. It was already five years old though.
It was the SRi Sport model, well-equipped, and with a huge area at the back for Ollie. It also had an option to use as a 7-seater.

I still have that car. It is now 12 years old, and starting to cost serious money to keep running.
But I do love it still, and have no plans to change it.

Let me know about some of your car memories, in the comments.

50 Years Behind The Wheel

It just occurred to me that I have been driving for fifty years this year. I passed my driving test at the second attempt, in March 1969. At the time, I had a 1963 car, bought for me by my Dad, and I was insured on his policy. I stayed on at school just long enough to drive into the car park a few times, after a fifteen-mile commute in heavy traffic. I could buy three gallons of petrol for less than ten shillings, (50p) and finally take my girlfriend out in a car, after two years on buses and trains.

The car represented freedom to me, and I would drive anywhere, anytime, just to experience the thrill of not being dependent on timetables and bus arrivals.

Over the following decades, I drove just about anything that went on a road. Heavy trucks, vans of all types and sizes, motorcycles, mopeds, and small scooters. I owned all sorts of cars too, everything from unreliable rat-traps, to brand new luxury saloons. I towed trailers, used 4-wheel drive vehicles off road, and managed to drive a few amazing sports cars too. I was a driver, in every sense, oblivious to traffic, with an inbuilt sense of direction, and no fear of any road conditions. I drove in France, Belgium, and Greece, using hired left-hand drive vehicles, or my own right hand drive car, carried across The Channel on a car ferry. I could drive from breakfast to darkness, and think nothing of it.

I was used to ancient cars with non-syncromesh gearboxes, right up to the latest smooth-as-silk automatic transmissions. I had cars without heaters, and cars with air-conditioning. Some with sunroofs, and others with steering as heavy as a cart. I didn’t care, as long as I had access to something to drive, whether on four wheels or two. In some jobs, I was lucky to be given company cars. The latest models, changed every two years, all costs met by the company providing it for me. Going back to paying my own car bills in 1979 came as something of a shock after that.

Then I joined the Ambulance Service in London, as an EMT. I got specialist training, which I enjoyed, and very soon was out on the streets of the capital, rushing around at comparatively high speeds, with blue lights flashing, and sirens blaring. Most of the time, this was achieved on the wrong side of the road, to avoid the usually static traffic jams all over that city. I used elderly ambulances that still had electronic bells on the front, then progressed to the V8-powered vehicles that were introduced before I left, in 2001. Every other day, for almost twenty-two years, I pushed that ambulance around central London, oblivious to any personal danger, and driving as if it was second nature to me.

But driving in London can never really be described as a ‘pleasure’. As anyone who lives there can tell you, you have to learn a special way of driving there. The first thing is to become very skilled at parking. You usually have no more space than the actual size of your car to get into. And you have to be quick too, or lose the spot to someone behind. Once on the move, you must learn to be ruthless. Never hesitate at roundabouts or road junctions, or you will still be waiting to pull out at bedtime. Let anyone out, and they will be followed by a tidal flow of vehicles that leave you almost back where you started. Selfish driving is the only thing that works, in that vast city.

Fast forward to 2012, and I move to Norfolk. No traffic jams, polite drivers, (in the main) and roads that are often empty, away from the tourist season. I had to learn to drive all over again, at the age of 60. I don’t have to worry about parking anymore, as our driveway has enough room for three cars. I had to learn to be patient behind slow-moving farm machinery, and to be careful on the many small roads where the speed limit is far in excess of anything you can do in London. And I no longer enjoy driving, especially at night, when the oncoming car lights leave you dazzled, on the unlit country roads.

So after those fifty years, what are my conclusions?

Get a car with an automatic gearbox. Changing gear is tiring, and boring too.
Pay into a breakdown service. It is essential, with the electronic systems in modern cars.
Never forget to have enough fuel, especially if you live over five miles from the nearest petrol station.
Unless you live in a field, 4-wheel drive is unnecessary.
If you can afford it, sell the car, and get taxis.
Even better, if you are wealthy, employ a driver to drive your own car.

I have now got to the age where I actually look forward to the day when I won’t be driving at all.

But I have never forgotten the excitement of that first car, aged just 17.

Ollie gets his car back.

In May, my eleven year-old car was due to have the annual government inspection, and a full service. Despite its age, it was running well, and has only done 66,000 miles from new. I don’t use it that much, but living in Beetley with one car is not really an option, as long as Julie is still working. I transferred the money into my current account to pay for the work, and dropped off the car at the dealership as arranged that morning. It was a nice day, so I walked the almost four miles back to the house.

Whenever I go further afield with Ollie, he loves to get in the car. It is a spacious 7-seat MPV, (I think you call them mini-vans in America) and he has his own bed in a large area at the back. I only have to say the word ‘car’, and he runs to wait expectantly for the tailgate to be raised, before jumping in. There is no doubting that he thinks it is his car, reserved for those special trips to dog-walking pastures new.

Late that afternoon, the service manager called me. His funereal tone didn’t bode well, and the news he imparted confirmed my worst fears. It seemed that my (perfectly running) car had fallen foul of the new stricter emission laws introduced just three weeks earlier. It had not only failed the inspection, but would need a great many new parts if it was to ever pass. On top of that, those new laws forbade me driving the car away, to seek other estimates, or even to dispose of it by driving it off a cliff. No inspection certificate meant the insurance was not valid, so it was either agree to the work, or employ a recovery company to trailer my car somewhere else.

The cost of the parts and work required exceeded the resale value of the car by over £100. But the alternative was to arrange for someone to scrap the vehicle, and the costs of getting it trailered to the scrap yard would wipe out anything I would be due in return. Besides, it would leave me with no car, and just enough funds to only be able to replace it with something almost as old, and decidedly inferior. I bit the bullet, and agreed to the huge price.

Thus began the saga that will henceforth be known as ‘The Summer Of The Car’. One week later, I was contacted to be informed that they were unable to get a crucial part. This was called a DPF, something I had never heard of, and that alone cost £900. I did some research, and discovered this was a Diesel Particulate Filter, an integral and important part of the catalytic converter and exhaust system. In one afternoon with Google, I increased my knowledge about car engines by 100%. I found a suitable part on Ebay, from a supplier with good feedback. It was much cheaper too, less than £600. That cheered me up, and I resolved to contact the service manager the next day, with the good news.

That phone call was met with yet more gloomy tones. They could not guarantee the work, if they used a part supplied by anyone other than their own company. In fact, they would not even consider putting it into my car, even if I bought it, and walked to the workshops with the small parcel. It was their way, or the highway, and of course, I could always pay someone to trailer it somewhere else, if that was my choice. I reluctantly agreed to let them carry on, as I didn’t want to spend so much money, without a 12-month guarantee on the work.

Twenty-one days later, and they still couldn’t get the part. They cited problems with the supplier, and a national shortage of the elusive DPF, due to the very changes in the law that had caused my car to fail in the first place. I looked up the issue on online forums, and discovered they were right. Many owners all over the UK were in exactly the same boat. The day after, they rang to inform me that they had ‘no onward delivery date’ for the part, and that my car could potentially be in their car park for the foreseeable future. I suggested that they might as well fit some wings to it while they had it, as flying cars would be the thing, by the time it was repaired. They offered to lend me a car in the meantime, as a ‘gesture of goodwill’, because I was a valued customer of long-standing.

Julie dropped me off the next day, to collect my ‘loan car’. It was one of their new range of tiny hatchbacks, with an engine similar to that found in a food-mixer. The manual gear-shift was a shock, after six years using an automatic, and the driving position so low, I felt as if I was sitting on the floor. Once I got going, the sensation was something akin to being on a large roller skate, that just happened to have windows. And of course, once they had given me what passed as replacement transport, I dropped off their ‘waiting customer’ radar.

Using the car, I soon found it to be the vehicular equivalent of a chocolate teapot. The boot could take three carrier bags at a pinch, and certainly not a good-sized Shar-Pei dog. Performance was acceptable, when compared to a hairdryer, but the finish and quality of this Indian-built impostor left much to be desired. So it sat on the driveway, unable to be used for anything dog-related. My weekly supermarket trip necessitated using all the seats to store the shopping bags, and the one comfort I could glean from having it, was that the air-conditioning worked well, during that very hot summer.

Fast-forward, to cut a very long story short. Almost four months pass, and I have come close to forgetting I ever owned a car. Numerous phone calls, some acrimonious and heated to say the least, and eventual threats on my part. The job was finally done, and I drove their excuse for a car back, and handed it over with pleasure. I paid a bill in excess of what most people earn in a good month, and was handed the keys to my car, which sat washed (by them) and shiny in their car park.

Ollie is very glad to have his car back.