Cars

Why I love the A303

I like to think of myself as a Driver.  Not just someone who happens to drive, mind you, an actual Driver.  With a capital D.  I see a car not as an object or a tool to be controlled, but as an extension of my own body.  The wheels are my limbs, gripping to the road and telling me all about the road surface.  The engine is a muscle, delivering power when and how I determine, and which needs rest and exercise to operate properly.  And the driver's seat, the steering wheel, the pedals, the gear stick, are all part of my central nervous system, delivering the impulses from my brain to the respective parts of the extended body.  Driving, for me, is not about getting from A to B - it's about living life in an augmented reality.

And the A303 is a fantastic road to experience that reality.  I've been driving on it a lot recently, and each journey has built upon the last my love and appreciation for what, for many, is just a road.  You see, the A303 isn't like a motorway.  It's slower, certainly, but it's more scenic, more interesting to drive, and requires more skill to navigate effectively.  Now, I'm not saying that you have to be a qualified driver to make it all the way down the road, it's not exactly precarious, but being a Driver means I can appreciate and embrace all the twists and turns, the adverse cambers, the ever-changing gradients, the varying speed limits, the wavering lane widths, the unpredictable surface quality.  For someone trying to get from A to B, the A303 is an inefficient pain in the neck that urgently needs resurfacing and making dual-carriageway the entire length of it.  And that's why I love it so.

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By Matthew, ago
Cars

Road rage

I've been doing a lot of driving recently.  This past week I drove from Somerset to Essex for a meeting in Chelmsford, and then back again.  The previous week I did almost the same journey for a meeting in Maldon.  Both times I went up the night before and stayed overnight in Colchester with some friends (thank you again, Phill and Phil, the accommodation and ironing service was much appreciated).  In case you've never done that journey before, at best it's a 4 hour drive in each direction.  If there's traffic on the M25 or A12 it can be a lot longer.Now, I see myself as a very level-headed person.  I don't get stressed, I don't get angry, I don't judge people.  Until I get into a car, apparently.  While on the roads recently I've noticed just how much I judge the other road users, mentally criticising their driving abilities and in some cases even their choice of car.  It came as a bit of a surprise, actually, that I would so easily fall into this habit of judgement.  So I thought I'd share with you what form this judgement takes.(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Cars

Counting the cost of cheapness

Escort GhiaXAbout a year ago I bought a new car.  Well, not new exactly.  Considerably second hand, to be exact.  Still, it looked to be in very good condition, despite the mileage, and I couldn't fault it for the price.  £850 for a small family saloon.  Bargain.Following that purchase the Escort became our daily runner, and the Mini was sold prior to us moving house - the sale of the Mini paid for the removals van and some of the white goods we bought when we moved in.  And the Escort has continued to drive beautifully without problems, and we have certainly appreciated the air conditioning a few times too.However, it did come as a considerable worry when I checked the car over the day before we went to camp (which I still have yet to write about - sorry!).  The oil level was fine, if a bit dirty, and everything else in the engine bay looked fine, but I was aware that the exhaust had been rattling.  Closer inspection showed that it was just loose, and securing it properly would fix that no problem.  What I hadn't expected to see was a large amount of rust on the rear subframe.  Not good.(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Cars

Apparently Stig

F is for Fast Ferrari but also for Falsity

It has been said that the internet is one of the greatest inventions of the modern age, having transformed the way we live our lives from communication to business.  It allows us to book train tickets, purchase computers, and communicate with friends and family, all without having to reach across and pick up the phone.  It allows spotty teenagers to express their ill-founded opinions, it enables friendless bedroom-bound loners to socialise in multiplayer online games, and encourages us all to befriend all sorts of people to make our Facebook page look more impressive.Okay, maybe I'm being a little too negative, but then it is the first paragraph, and it's always good to grab your audience by the throat from the outset and say something to catch people's attention.  It's a well-used PR technique too, which leads me nicely onto the subject matter I'm tiptoeing around in this blog post.  The cat is out of the bag - we know who the Stig is.(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Cars

The learning process

Escort GhiaXE is for Ejector Seat

I am a firm believer in learning something new every day.  It keeps the mind alert and fresh, and is a constant lesson in humility, reminding me that there is always something I don't know, eagerly awaiting discovery round the next bend.  Today I managed to exceed my quota, and learned two things, both of them car-related.Firstly, I sat down in front of my laptop this morning and watched some YouTube clips over breakfast, finally learning what "heel and toe" means.  I've heard the phrase bandied around for some time, usually on Top Gear where they're talking about the position of the pedals.  I've always assumed it meant that the pedals were close enough together for you to be able to quickly and easily switch between accelerator and brake by pivotting your foot on your heel.  Makes sense.  But no, apparently it's more complex than that, and all to do with down-shifting.(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Cars

How to drive someone up the wall

Actually, that's a little harsh, it wasn't quite that bad.  And second time around was much less stressful.  Not to mention gentler on the upholstery.Oh, sorry, you'll be wanting some context.  Ahem.  Allow me to back up and start again.I now have a second person on my insurance policy, and much to my wife's disappointment it's not her.  My friend Sarah has another driving test coming up next week and wanted to get as much practice as possible before zero-hour, so I put her on my insurance for a week as an additional named driver.  Of course, that's meant that I've had to actually take her out in the car, which was pretty scary, for both of us.(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Cars

The Transporter

Some of you may have seen (or at least heard of) the film The Transporter, featuring Jason Statham as an executive delivery boy for the rich and infamous.  The first film in the trilogy (the third of which is in cinemas soon, apparently) starts with a hooter of a car chase, with a rather sporty and well kitted-out Beamer.  Unfortunately I've not actually seen more than the first 15 minutes of the film, so that puts an end to my review.The reason for that introduction stems from my experience in the last half an hour, where I had to pick Sarah up from work and deliver her to the university campus where she was catching a coach, as fast as possible.  Not because Sarah was late, but because I forgot.  She had organised this with me several days ago, and yesterday evening I went round to her house so she could put a bag in my boot to save her worrying about it today.  And yet, somehow, I completely forgot about it until 10 minutes after I was supposed to have picked her up.  Grrr.(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Cars

The garage is a dangerous place for a car

As many of you will know, I am trying to sell my beloved Mini.  Some may say that this is the wrong time to be selling a classic car, what with the economic state of the country - the credit crunch means people don’t have much spare money, and petrol prices are so high that an additional car probably won’t be high on people’s agendas.  Still, I can’t really justify (or afford) to have two cars, especially if one of them is just sitting not doing anything.  So it’s for sale.Unfortunately, having a Ford Escort as well now as my daily runner, the Mini has been left neglected in the garage.  Now, normally this would be a good thing; the garage is dry and safe, so in that sense it’s the best place for it.  What I forgot to do was disconnect the battery.  As a result, the month and a half it’s been sat stationary has drained the battery almost to its limits, the consequence being that the car won’t start.  Ordinarily, not the end of the world.  But it was supposed to be going in for its MOT today, so that’s had to be postponed until I can get the car running again.(more…)

By Matthew, ago