Car Woes, and Blogging.

I went to the supermarket today to pick up just a few bits, like fresh bread and some milk. Unfortunately, the gear selector of my automatic car jammed solid as I parked in the car park. I eventually had to call out the breakdown service we subscribe to, and wait 90 minutes for them to come out. I couldn’t even go and get what I needed inside the supermarket, as the key could not be removed because the car ‘thought’ it was in Drive.

The repair main connected my car to a computer, and diagnosed the fault as the gear selector switch solenoid. He then fiddled around with the lever, and managed to get the car started, and into Drive. I knew better than to chance leaving it at that, and drove to the local main dealer for my model of car. They booked it in for Tuesday, said I could leave it with them, and ordered a taxi to get me home.

As a result, I am not long inside the house, have just cooked dinner and put it in the oven, and will have no time to comment on everyone’s blogs.

I may well be without my car for some time, as the dealership reported great difficulties in finding the right parts at the moment. Fortunately, Julie has a car, and it is much newer than mine. So at least we are not stranded. I have been trying to nurse my old car for some time now. It has done relatively low mileage, but is showing its age in other ways.

Just another thing to ‘happen’. On top of the heating boiler repairs, and everything else that piles on at once.

Ain’t life grand when you are old, your dog is old, and so is your car? 🙂

Not Only Food

We all know that prices are going up. Fuel, Gas, Electricity, nothing ever seems to go down. Those same price increases are beginning to impact on food prices too, as anyone who has recently done a ‘big shop’ at a supermarket will tell you.

On the 21st of March, we went to get our regular weekly shop at the huge branch of Tesco in Dereham, the supermarket we use the most. Julie came with me on that occasion, as I am still unable to drive. I had my list ready, and didn’t buy any ‘extras’, or anything on impulse. I was also only shopping for six days, not seven, as we had something in the freezer for one meal that week.

After packing everything away at the checkout, the total bill came to £97. ($128) Bearing in mind there are only two of us, that seemed a lot. On the way home, Julie remarked how much it had gone up from the previous week, and that we might have to start thinking seriously about reducing our bill by buying cheaper things.

When I got home, I decided to check the till receipt in detail, and realised that a large percentage of what we had bought was not food at all. The breakdown was something like this.

Antibacterial Spray. £1.50
Bin liners. £2.40
Liquid hand soap. £1.50
Shower/bath gel. £2.00
Toilet Rolls.
(9-pack) £5.00
Kitchen Roll.
(2-pack) £3.50
Bleach. £0.50
Toothpaste. £2.60
Deodorant Can. £1.70

Total £20.70 ($28)

That brought the shopping bill down to £76.30. ($100.50) Of course, I don’t have to buy everything on that list every week. Some of those items will last longer than seven days.

Then there was Ollie to consider, if you have a pet.

Bag of dog food pellets. £4.00
Box of Bonio Biscuits. £1.60
Treats. £2.00
Fresh chicken for his dinners. £4.50

Total £12.10 ($16)

Take that off the shopping bill, and we were left with a new total of £64.20. ($85) That is a little over £10 ($13.16) a day for food for six days for two people.
Seen like that, it is actually not that bad.

Streaming Confusion

At one time, not too long ago in the dim and distant past, if I wanted to watch a film that I had missed at the cinema, there was a straightforward option.

I could buy the DVD.

Not only from Amazon, but from many other DVD sellers around the UK. Even if the film was a Region 1 release that only played in North America, there was a 95% chance that I could find a Region 2 copy, released for the European market. I have bought over 700 films on DVD since they first launched the concept, and killed off VHS in the process.

Then everything changed.

Netflix released its own films.
Amazon Prime released its own films.
Apple TV released its own films.
And Disney put many of its better releases onto Disney+.
Then came Hulu, HBO, HBO Max. SKY Films, and many more…

So now, buying a DVD is often a very difficult prospect, and sometimes impossible.

Yes, I can rent a DVD on Amazon, or watch some films free on Prime. But that means watching it on a computer for me.

I can see a Netflix film on the streaming service, but that costs money, and we currently have access via my stepson’s account. I cannot buy a Netflix film to keep on DVD though.

As for Disney+, most of their output is not to my taste, so I am unlikely to pay a monthly fee to watch just an occasional film.

I get recommendations from blogging friends. I think “Ooh, I would like to see that”. Only to find it is on SKY Cinema, Hulu, HBO Max, or Paramount. If those services are available in Britain, I am not aware of them, except for SKY. Even if they are, they probably cost close to £10 a month each or more, so I cannot justify another £30-£50 a month outlay just to watch a few films during the year.

My conclusion is that DVD will soon be dead.

It is currently in the Intensive Care Department, struggling to live. But it has enemies, and those enemies are the ever-growing army of streaming service providers who want to kill it off completely. The shiny discs will soon be a thing of the past, along with the players that we can watch them on.

Thing of the past? Yes I know.

A lot like me.

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”.

Tech Nostalgia

I am old enough to remember when Tech stuff just worked, and never went wrong.
The days before ‘planned obsolescence’ made sure we had to throw it away and keep buying new things.

My first ever cassette player. Never let me down once.
Then they stopped making cassettes.

The wonderful Ferguson Videostar VHS player/recorder.
Always reliable, and never once failed to work.
Then they stopped making VHS tapes.

My first CD payer. It cost the equivalent of a month’s wages at the time, and I could only afford to buy six CDs the first year.
It never let me down, but it was so big that when I moved I had to get a ‘mini-system’. I gave it away, still working.

You can buy a DVD player for £20 now, but when I bought my first one, there wasn’t much change from £500.
It was a monster machine, and always worked well. It is in a box somewhere now, as the size became an issue.

From the 1960s until the year 2000, those products served me well, and never once failed to work.

Shame we can’t say the same about the Tech that’s around today.

Thinking About: Clothes

My dad always used to tell me, “You get what you pay for”.

I was thinking about that statement a few days ago, as I was ironing some shirts. One of those on the ironing pile was a shirt I bought in 1999. It is a ‘pullover’ style, with twin front pockets and a short zipped entrance for the neck. Made of strong cotton/canvas, I bought it in the chain store ‘Next’, for almost £40. Back then, £40 was a lot of money to pay for a shirt, believe me. You could buy a two-piece suit for that money, in a ‘cheap shop’.

But here I was over twenty years later, ironing a shirt that looked as good as the day I brought it home.

In the 2014 photo on my ‘About’ page, I am wearing a lightweight jacket with a Tintin logo. That was bought from a shop in London that used to sell official Tintin merchandise. It was an impulse buy, as it had been reduced from an eye-wateringly ridiculous £199, to just £90. But that was in 1990, when £90 was around the total disposable income we had in any given week after bills. Other than some fraying inside the pockets, that coat is also as good as new. I wore it out with Ollie recently, before the weather turned warm.

Thirty years old, and still going strong. It has cost me just £3 a year to own that jacket, and I am sure it will last for another ten years. If I live that long.

When I moved to Norfolk in 2012, I bought some items of clothing I had never previously owned. They included a pair of warm corduroy trousers purchased from Marks and Spencer. Not cheap even then, at £39.99, they are still like brand new, despite being worn and washed numerous times.

One of the benefits of getting older, and being male, is that you tend to care less about fashion. You don’t get rid of things just because trends change, or certain colours become supposedly unacceptable. Most of the styles in my wardrobe I would class as ‘timeless’. I no longer own any jackets with enormously wide lapels, trousers with substantial turn-ups, (cuffs) or shirts with collars as big as the wings on a light aircraft. Those things went the way of fashion trends, when I was still young and foolish enough to have bought them.

I also don’t own any ‘skinny’ ties anymore, or knitted ones, for that matter. You see sense, you buy conventional, and you no longer read magazine articles about what is ‘In’, or ‘Out’. If you are still falling victim to that, I understand why. And I feel sorry for you.

But one day, you will ‘get what you pay for’, and be very happy that you did.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

A woman on The Moon.

This month sees the 50th anniversary of The Moon landings, in 1969. When I woke up today, I was thinking about that, and the sheer scale of Space, as we understand it. And that’s the second time this year I have done that, and been prompted to write about it here.

I was seventeen years old at the time, and watched it on television, along with everyone else on Earth who had access to a TV set. To be honest, I was unimpressed. I didn’t think it looked much like The Moon as I imagined it, and the limited walkabouts gave me no impression of size, or any vast landscape to admire the strangeness of.

Maybe that sounds churlish, to not be impressed by what so many believe to be mankind’s greatest achievement? Sorry if it does, but I wasn’t, and I am still indifferent to it. Even as a teenager, I just could’t see the point of it. All that time, and a huge amount of money, just spent to land some men on an uninhabitable rock. Science and exploration were the reasons given at the time. We would learn so much, discover wonders, and change the future for the better.

I didn’t buy that. It was just about who got there first, and which flag was raised before any other.

It wasn’t too long before I happily joined in with the conspiracy theorists. Did they actually go? Was it all possibly filmed on a secret film set, tucked away in some remote part of America? The footage sent back was ‘limited’ at best. It could certainly have been a set, there was no doubt about that. But although I still have some nagging doubts, I was captivated by later views of The Earth from space, and on balance, I believe they did go.

But I still believe it was ultimately pointless, and that so much more could have been done with the vast amounts of money spent on what was ultimately a ‘vanity project’.

Like most people, I am rather fascinated by the size of the Universe. The stars are amazing, and the incomprehensible distances involved are impossible to imagine. Fifty years later, and we have satellite technology, space junk floating around, and talk of a new mission, Artemis, in 2024. This time, they want to put a woman on The Moon. I am all for equal opportunities, but I think that a country with a health care crisis, unresolved environmental issues, and a propensity to invade any other country they don’t like could find a better use for the (at least) $30 BILLION it will cost.

But it will be a woman on The Moon. And an American woman, of course.

I’m no scientist, but it seems to me that fifty years later, they have learned nothing.