I will catch up with the main events later, but as I promised the story of the tyre change, here it is.
As I said, I noticed one of the tyres was teetering on illegality. What I didn’t tell you (because WordPress is teeming with burglars who look out for such information, is that we were away for a few days).
If we’d been at home I would merely have left the car parked for two days and taken it 400 yards to the garage.
However, we were 150 miles from home, which left me with the choice of changing it in the car park or driving to Lancaster to get it changed. The simplest way seemed to be to change it myself, rather than ringing round and then finding a tyre depot in a strange town.
Imagine, if you will, two elderly figures, bent, limping, rotund and arthritic, but, in their minds, perpetually nineteen. I’ve changed numerous tyres in my life and I had my trusty sidekick with me. What could possibly go wrong.
So, we unpacked the boot, lifted out the spare, the jack and the tyre iron and walked round to the front of the car.
Job one – loosen the bolts. You have to do this before jacking the car up or the wheel will merely rotate as you try to get the bolts out. This was where the trouble started – they were on so tight I couldn’t shift them. This happens when you have them put on at a garage that uses power tools and an idiot to tighten them.
Normally you can shift them by standing on the wrench and pushing hard. This didn’t work. I’m heavy enough to shift them but you need to bounce a bit and my ankles have no bounce these days.
Fortunately a passing member of staff came to the rescue. I reckon he was about 12 stone (168 pounds in American weight, 76 kilos to the rest of the world) and even then he had to actually stand on the tyre iron with both feet and bounce to get them to move.
That wasn’t even the difficult bit.
The next two stages weren’t too bad either. I positioned the jack correctly, even though I had to lie down and wriggle a bit. The jack worked well, the car rose, the bolts unscrewed and the wheel came off.
I bet you’re wondering what the problem was aren’t you. I mean, all I needed to do was bolt a wheel back on and wind the jack down. Yeah.
With Fords, for instance, you have four bolts sticking out of the hub at this point, stick the wheel back on and put the nuts on. Done. With Volkswagens, though, you have five bolts in your hand and the hub has five holes in it. You have to position the wheel and get the bolts through to the holes.
It’s not easy and I’ve never thought of it as a good way of doing things.
I tried, I tried again. I cursed, I swore and I cursed again. Julia told me off for my language, grabbed the wheel to help and dropped it on my hand. It was surprisingly heavy and very effective at straightening out bent arthritic fingers. I wouldn’t want to do it gain, as it’s quite painful.
I was about to do this when it happened again. I will point no fingers. Even if I wanted to I wouldn’t be able to, on account of the pain of the forcible straightening.
Eventually we got it on, and all five bolts tightened. Then I lowered the car and tried to get up. By this time we were covered in black dust from brakes and a variety of debris from the car park.
And I was stuck.
I tried getting up using my walking stick and couldn’t. I tried using the car door handle. The door came open. I tried using help from Julia but she isn’t quite big enough to manage.
Fortunately the driver from a nearby campervan came to the rescue. He was a few years younger than us (who isn’t these days?) and well built, which was handy. With his help, I was soon back on my feet. Meanwhile someone else tightened the bolts for me. He was in his 70s, I estimate, and therefore the only participant in the action who was older than me.
The two tubby oldsters will now fade away, thankful for the help of their Good Samaritans, and ponder on the revelation that they are no longer the nineteen-year-olds they used to be.
Lessons from this – check tyres more regularly, buy a long-handled tyre iron for more leverage, put some cheap gloves in the car. And lose some weight.
The photos are some we took this week. It’s a longish post so I thought I’d break it up a bit.