Tag Archives: cars

Random Thoughts III

Ford Escort 1

This looks a lot better than mine ever did. It also has four doors – mine was a two-door version. It might still be available if you fancy it. Try here.

As I said yesterday, a combination of factors led to me writing 400 words of digression. As promised, I have knocked them into shape and here they are, presented as a blog post.

Even as I write this, I am transported back to a time when I had a red Ford Escort (a Mark 1) with 160,000 miles on the clock, dodgy front suspension and side windows at the back which fell out from time to time because they were just glued to the hinges. And they wonder why the Japanese took over the world car market…

We had a metalwork teacher at school who had been a prisoner of the Japanese during the wore and still had the scars from being whipped. We knew this because it cropped up in nearly every lesson. We knew the war was over for him when he turned up in a Datsun – cheaper than a British car, with fabric seats and a radio as standard.

Someone at work bought a Japanese car shortly after that and came back to it one day to find a sticker on the windscreen – I can’t recall the actual wording after all these years but it was about him killing British industry. I had a Morris Ital.  It was supposedly a great British product (a Morris Marina) with a dash of Italian styling flair and more sprightly performance. It didn’t quite work out like that. The performance was achieved by reducing the weight of the bodywork by using something more like a thick foil than metal. The actual engine design was over 30 years old, and the major use of Itals these days, if you can find one, is providing spare parts for Morris Minors.


Mine was this colour and smelt of cigar smoke.

The heater burst in a multi-storey car park one day. It was interesting,  because the car filled with steam. I called out the AA and they connected the heater inlet to the heater outlet, by-passing it completely. There was no steam in the car, and no heat either. I was cold that winter…

Buying a new heater matrix would have definitely qualified as throwing good money after bad.

Whatever reason you put forward for the death of British industry – Japan, Mrs Thatcher or Trade Unions – it was, as I recall, a clear case of suicide. When the Japanese started building factories here we started building some good cars. Then we had Brexit, which probably means a second death for the car industry in the UK.

Meanwhile, back in my Escort, wondering why anyone would try to glue metal to glass (yes, I just can’t let it go), I managed to make it to Sheffield to see Ian Dury and the Blockheads.

The rotor arm shaft was, by this time, badly worn and it was difficult to get the car started. It was OK at home (I was living on a hill in Lincolnshire at the time) as coasting down the hill got it going. Sheffield was OK because it had car parks on slopes, which just about did the trick. But when I visited mum and dad in Peterborough there were no hills. That was a bit trickier.

Eventually I spent the money on getting the distributor replaced and the radiator disintegrated.

Distributor? Rotor arm? All gone the way of the Dodo. They have a box now. It does magic things, and and hardly ever goes wrong, but when it does go wrong you can’t start the car by rolling it down a hill.

I sold the car.

escort van

Mine smelt of mice, having been in a barn for a while. After I spilt a carton of milk in it, I used to yearn for the sweet smell of mice.

Bought an Escort van. I liked Escorts. It needed a bit of work. I did some of that work, which involved setting the electrics on fire one Sunday morning, burning my fingers and crossing a main road with it as I trotted by the side trying to control it.

Lesson number one – don’t use optimism as a substitute for skill, particularly with auto-electrics.

Lesson number two – when your van starts burning, put the brake on before you jump out.

The sub-title for this post is Memoirs of an Idiot.

Tetchy Tuesday

Here goes, let’s see what happens as I embark on my new round of planned posts.

First, traffic. Yesterday there was just a light dusting of traffic on the ring road. Today there were even queues to get on the road. I didn’t immediately think anything of it as traffic can be slow sometimes and it’s not as if there was a choice of roads.The traffic system of Nottingham has never been particularly good and it seems to be getting worse every time they redesign it.

However, after twenty minutes we knew that there was a problem somewhere ahead. You can tell. I did see three accidents by the roadside but I think they were all caused by people queuing and running into each other. A lot of it is caused by impatience.

The hold up appeared to be a problem on one of the roundabouts. There was a large tailback onto the main carriageway and this was blocking one lane, at which point it all backed up for four miles. We’re not America so we only had two lanes to start with.

It took me over an hour to do a twenty minute journey. I then had to stop for fuel (the hire car was due back today) and make my way to work where I was due to swap cars. I was supposed to be there for 9.00 and finally arrived at 9.30. Not that it mattered – the recovery vehicle was stuck in traffic too and we eventually swapped cars at 10.00.

I like having my own car back. It may be unfashionable, boring, chugging, unpopular and battered but it suits me. I can’t see that a SEAT Ibiza would ever suit me. Apart from the size and build quality the name Ibiza just sets me on edge. And I couldn’t find Radio 4 Extra, Five Live or the World Service on the radio either. It did, to be fair, have Radio 4, but that can be a bit funereal at times and Women’s Hour on Saturday is so miserable it beggars belief.

I paid my £400 excess, muttering about car insurance and set to work.

Later, the owner got a letter. It was from the man who had popped by to give him a quote for a roller shutter last weekend. While he was doing the quote he did a bit of work to make the front more secure. He also left quite a bit of clutter, including screws and a broken drill bit on the front where we park our cars.

Despite coming out to give us a quote he has sent a bill for £120 call-out fee and £70 for an hour’s work. This proves beyond doubt my feeling that not every robbing bastard wears a mask or works at night.

Julia has just been watching the news – she says the cause of the traffic problems was a gas leak that caused a road closure. They still haven’t found the leak so it looks like my trip to hospital tomorrow will be fun and even Thursday could be a problem. On the other hand, forewarned, I may just pack a picnic and enjoy the delay.

Not sure about that header picture – a bear sniffing flowers in the sun is altogether too upbeat.


Bear in a tree

Modern Life and Poor TV

Over the years the British TV industry has made a lot of great TV. So has the American TV industry. Sadly, the people who plan what programmes to play have decided not to use any of that output tonight. Julia has gone to bed, as we are up at 5.00 tomorrow morning, and after washing up, making her sandwiches and having a snack, I’m at a loose end.

I could go to bed, but if I spend too much time there my back begins to play up, so I’m resisting the idea for a few more hours. This is probably a sign that we need a new mattress. It’s also a sign that I could spend a little money and make my life more comfortable. That’s not something I’ve thought of before. It’s probably a sign of the wisdom that supposedly comes with age, but it’s been a long time coming.

I could also do some work, as I have a number of things tasks piling up, but you know how it is.  Sloth and procrastination, even in the company of poor TV, are preferable to work, even if that work is only googling stuff and making lists. It’s like sugar and fat – you know lentils and carrots are better for you, put you still reach for a biscuit in preference to salad. Or is that just me?

Inanimate objects, meanwhile, continue to make my life complicated.

My shoes have decided to express solidarity with my trousers and make my life a misery. The right shoe has started leaking. I’m hopeful that if the snow goes soon I may get another nine months out of them.

The problem with shoes is that my left foot is nearly a size larger than the other. In order to achieve a decent fit I have to stretch the left shoe a little, then wear it in. Sometimes this takes several months, and can be quite uncomfortable on account of the bunion that is starting to develop. By the time I have everything as I like it the shoes start to wear out.

I’ve tried getting round it by buying bigger shoes, but it’s hard to find size 13 in the shops, and it can be difficult walking when your right foot is rattling about in a massive shoe.

As if this isn’t enough, the car warning lights have started winking at me again. The left sidelight is devoting itself to inducing an intermittent fault. I’m not even sure why I need a sidelight with all the others, but it seems important enough to warrant a warning light of its own.

This is one of the complexities of modern life. In the old days bulbs just used to blow and you replaced them at MOT time or when a policeman pulled you over.

Volkswagens Ain’t What They Used To Be…

I had a Passat once before. It was a year old and had 104,000 miles on the clock. It had been used by a rep in Scotland and had been serviced roughly every six weeks. I had it six more years and added 143,000 miles, much of it full with either stock or tools. Apart from regular servicing, the engine was trouble free with only a leaking water pump to report in all that time, though we did have to replace the brake pipes and fix the central locking with a piece of insulating tape (a basic bodge).

Apart from that, the window opening mechanisms were the main source of trouble and were, in the end, the reason I got rid of the car. When you are using it for work there are only so many times you can put up with losing a day because the windows need attention.

The new one I bought a couple of years ago has not impressed me. It doesn’t pull as well as the old one, it has too many electrical fripperies and it has just cost me money for engine parts. I was shocked. In thirty years of running diesels I’ve only ever had to replace one set of glowplugs before and I’ve never had to replace engine parts at 50,000 miles. I’ve always believed that each car should be an improvement on the last, but this seems not to be the case.

I’ve also always believed that Volkswagens rate highly for reliability and longevity, but looking at the internet these days seems to suggest differently.

Modern life can be quite a let-down.