This week, on the way back from a business trip, my car broke down. It’s now sitting in a garage, waiting to be taken apart and fixed. I missed an important meeting, I had to spend about £250 getting my car towed home, and I haven’t yet found out how Read more…
Something has changed within me. Something small that is also big. Something largely irrelevant yet hugely significant. Apparently I like the BMW Mini. Those of you who know me will appreciate that this is a big deal. I have been an avid enthusiast of the classic Mini since I was Read more…
Yes, dear readers, our car is no more. After many years of successfully avoiding things, our insurance policy is finally being put to use. The Zafira is dead. It was one of those stereotypical nights that would feel right at home in a Hollywood movie – the sky was black, Read more…
I'm home alone right now. I say "alone", technically Samuel is in the house too, but he's blissfully drifting through slumberland right now so I'm not sure that counts. My wife, on the other hand, is out. With another man. Thankfully this isn't an affair I've suddenly unearthed, but it's arguably worse. She's having driving lessons.Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like the idea of Ellie driving - I'm sure she'll be a fantastic driver, and I have no concerns about that whatsoever. I've already taken her out a few times to try to teach her the basics, and she picked it up fairly quickly. In the space of three lessons I had got Ellie to get the car moving, change gear (up to third at one point), stop without stalling, steer around parked cars, negotiate junctions, even do a few hill starts. That, though, was a couple of years ago, and a lot has happened since then to get in the way of her doing any more driving. Now it's become more important, so we've got her some proper driving lessons with a proper instructor in a proper learner's car. And to be perfectly honest, I'm terrified.I completely understand why Ellie wants to drive, and I don't blame her for it at all. It's going to be incredibly useful for all of us if she can drive. She can drive me to work and have the car during the day to go into town, do the shopping, take Samuel to various places, and pick me up in the evening. We can share the driving on long journeys. She can go out for a jaunt if she's in the mood for it, without needing me to come too. She'll have the freedom to go where she wants, when she wants, without inconveniencing me or anyone else. It'll save us money on bus fares. Ellie will be able to ferry me around if I break my leg or something. Eventually we could even get a second car and we could both drive around at the same time. It'll be fantastic.But, all that said, I'm still somewhat nervous about the whole thing. (more…)
My car has been making an odd noise for the last couple of weeks. We first noticed it on the way back from my cousin's wedding (congratulations Mel and Lal!), when we stopped at some traffic lights in Castle Cary and heard a faint ticking noise coming from the engine. My wife described it as being like a leaf caught in a bicycle wheel. My keenly trained ears quickly assessed it to be in sync with the rotational speed of the engine, and experience told me it was probably something running dry. Obviously the engine could do with a top up of oil, and I mentally scolded myself for not checking the level before we left.And then, well, things got in the way. It was raining. We were ill. I was busy. There just wasn't an ideal time to pop out and top up the oil, so I just carried on driving to work and back with that ticking noise in the background, a constant reminder that actually the engine wasn't all that happy, and that I really should do something about it. Finally, this morning, just as we were about to head off to Tesco for the weekly shop, I remembered and checked the oil level. It was indeed low. It wasn't even registering on the dipstick. My bad. So I hunted around in the garage and found the oil, but realised too late that it wasn't nearly enough. So I put what we had into the car and drove to Tesco, where I parked up and walked round the corner to the garage to buy some more.(more…)
[caption id="attachment_954" align="alignright" width="266" caption="This isn't actually the car in question, but it's almost identical."][/caption]Astute readers will recall that on Saturday I went to see a Zafira, which I had decided was the next type of car we needed. It's a logical progression really. The first car I owned was a Ford Fiesta. I wanted a Mini, but I was fresh out of uni and couldn't afford one, so I settled for a Fiesta instead. Then, when business had picked up, I bought a Mini, and thoroughly enjoyed my little pocket rocket. Then I got married, and was suddenly doing a lot of miles, and the Mini started seeming smaller and smaller the more we packed into the boot. And then we decided to have a baby, and a Mini just wasn't practical any more, so we moved into small family saloon territory with a conservative Ford Escort. Now, as an established family and all the baggage that brings with it, we are in need of a 'proper' family car, a seven-seater. Hence the Zafira.After Saturday's disappointment, we were keen to get out there and see something else. If nothing else, it would be good to be able to make a direct comparison. And hope that the car we had dismissed at the weekend didn't turn out to be a bargain. So this afternoon I skipped work and we all drove out to Westbury to see another Zafira. Same listed price as the other one, same 1.6 engine, roughly the same spec, also from a dealership rather than private, but slightly lower mileage. And, as it happens, we rather liked what we saw.(more…)
[caption id="attachment_955" align="alignright" width="300" caption="A Citroen 2CV. Another example of a car I didn't buy today."][/caption]As many of you will probably know, I'm a bit of a Mini fanatic. My darling Lulu, the little red Mini City I learnt to drive in, was an inspiration. Neddy, the little blue Mini Sidewalk, was a joy. Sad was the day when I said good bye to the days of carefree invigorating driving and welcomed in a life of staid normality in the form of a Ford Escort. Yes, it was more practical, but it lacked all the 'fun' qualities I had grown used to. Now, only a year or two later, the time has come for the next step in the process - I'm buying a people carrier.Before I cower behind my desk chair against the onslaught of abuse, allow me to explain the logic behind this overly 'grown-up' proposition. We have a baby. I have lots of instruments. We go places with both. Our trusty Ford Escort, which has a truly monumental boot capacity compared to the Mini, is now on the verge of being too small to cope with our many belongings. It's also beginning to show its age, with rusty patches on some of the exterior panels. The logic says that if we buy a slightly more expensive car (though still second hand) it should last us slightly longer, and buying a 7-seater will give us more space to carry people and stuff around.Our vehicle of choice? The most popular small 7-seater around. The MPV that launched touting the most revolutionary seating system the world had ever seen. The people carrier that has become ubiquitous for small families. The Vauxhall Zafira.(more…)
I was out driving the other day, and someone overtook me in a lovely Porsche 911 Carrera S. I looked across as it glided past, and at the driver at the wheel, and thought "what have you done to deserve that car?" Not in a judgemental way, mind you, but it got me thinking.
In many car racing computer games your entitlement to drive particular classes of car has to be earned through proving your driving skill, rather than just the accumulation of money. It strikes me that actually this is a fair and sensible approach, and one that highlights just how inadequate and antiquated our current system is. At the moment we only have one driving test, which is a simple yes/no answer to the question "did this person meet the minimum requirements on the day of the test". The same driving test entitles someone to drive a rusty old Vauxhall Corsa, or a Bugatti Veyron. There's something wrong there, methinks.
And so, as I drove along in my Ford Escort, I worked out the finer details of my idea to revolutionise driving tests, licences and car manufacture. To my surprise and delight, it looks like it might actually be a good idea!