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Archive for the category “Driving”


This weekend I’m off seeing friends Oop Norf, and because of working from home, opted for the easier option, leaving home early, stopping off at a services most of the way to where I’ll be, and working from there for a few hours.

It actually worked out pretty well – surprisingly so, in some ways – and meant I didn’t get stuck in tons of shitty traffic.

The surprising bit was that where I stopped, up at Hartshead Moor services, my phone had a full 4G data service – surprising, because Hartshead is pretty much the bum-end of nowhere. But still, 4G.   That meant I could connect from laptop to iPhone using WiFi, which then gave me data via 4G, without having to pay a penny to the on-site extortionists of BTOpenzone et al.

That, to me, is a complete win. I’ve got unlimited 4G data through my phone contract (I know, it’ll still have a ‘fair-use’ limitation or whatever, but I’m well within that anyway) so it’s saved me the money of a connection through BTOpenzone, and won’t even hit my phone bill.

There are some bits of this modern life that I really quite like…

MOT – Loan Car

While the Saab was getting its MOT yesterday, I got a courtesy car/loan car from the garage. Weirdly, for a Saab garage, it was a Renault.   In this case, a Renault Clio Pzaz (don’t blame me for the fucking stupid name) which I can only describe as a hateful piece of shit.

I’m sure it’s fine for urban driving and commutes where you’re not travelling on fast roads or motorways – but on those roads, it’s a scary, underpowered piece of crap.  I know, I’m spoiled by being used to driving cars with a 2L turbo engine – but I do drive primarily on motorways and fast roads.  If I were doing that while driving something like the Pzaz, I’d be one scared driver – even getting up to 70mph was a struggle for it, and meant the motor was buzzing around the 4,500rpm mark, which is more than double the rpm the Saab uses for the same speeds and more.

Interestingly, I felt the same about the last Renault I drove – way back in Feb 2013.  Obviously both were base-models, and thus the lowest of the low, but still, they’ve not been at all fun.  I’m sort of surprised, because a couple of the car magazines I read recommend the higher-spec and better-performance Renaults. I haven’t played with any of those, so can’t comment – but I’m definitely unimpressed with the lower-spec base-models.

Thankfully, I only had it for a few hours. With luck, I won’t have to drive one again.

MOT – Passed

The car passed it MOT with no problem at all. Needless to say, I am very happy with this news.

I had been getting a bit stressed about it, as I hadn’t heard anything from the garage by 4pm. In fairness, they’re normally pretty good about letting me know if something’s going to be expensive, so I knew it was likely to be OK – but all the same, it was a bit worrying.

Anyway, I called them just after 4, to find out what was happening. And all was well – it was just that the garage had forgotten to call me. Bit annoying, but far better than “Oh yeah, we had to do a load of work, here’s the bill”

As it turned out, it passed with flying colours. One advisory (an out-of-balance parking brake, of all things) and that’s it.  I’m quite surprised by this – it’s a Y-reg with 125,000 on the clock, after all – but pleased.  And considerably better off than I was expecting…


Among other things today, the car’s getting its MOT done.

I’m hoping that it won’t need much. I’ve already sorted most of the known issues already, including new tyres, new wiper-blades, and a replaced headlamp bulb a couple of weeks back.  Of course, the inverse of that is that anything that does need doing is likely to be expensive.

Still, we’ll see. But for now, fingers crossed.


As I said yesterday, I had to get two new tyres for the car again.

On Monday I drove back from the new contract in Leicestershire, through what could only be described as a deluge. Dire visibility (and of course plenty of dickwhistles with no lights) coupled with heavy rain and heavy traffic – and I could feel that all was Not Right with the back-end of the car. It wasn’t dangerous, wasn’t uncontrolled or anything – but it’s fair to say, there was less grip than I was happy with, and I could feel a bit of movement when it hit low-traction spots.

Safe enough to get home, but also enough to focus the attention somewhat.

I’ve known that the tyres were due for being replaced – they’ve been on a while, I’ve done a lot of mileage etc. – but I also know they were still legal.  But in my experience, once I’ve lost the trust/confidence in them, it’s time to change and get it sorted.

So once I got home, I went online and got it all ordered for being fitted the next day. It’s sorted now, and I’m much happier. As it turned out, the tyres would’ve passed the MOT, but only just – and I’m far happier with “absolutely fine” than “only just”.


Financially, January for me is always a bit of an odd one – mainly through being slightly disorganised, but slightly through the whole ‘working as a contractor’ thing.

For a number of reasons, January has a number of extra expenses in it that are a pain in the arse. High among those extras is the car MOT/service, and car-tax/road-tax renewal, which come in as well as the usual monthly bills.  Additionally, a couple of utility bills come in within that time as well – quarterly billing being the shit-head bastard it is – which also adds to it.

And of course December is always a short month (i.e. I don’t work the full month, because it’s got a bundle of Bank Holidays and so on around the Festering Season) so unless I work the bit between Christmas and New Year, it all becomes a bit tight anyway.

All combines, it just makes January a bit interesting. Doable, but interesting.

The car MOT is booked in for this time next week. I’ve already had to buy two new tyres – I know they’re borderline OK, but that means it’s time to replace them, I’m not risking an MOT fail and having to buy them from the garage! – and also a new headlight bulb, as that went while I was driving last week.

So yeah, it’s all a bit interesting, but still fine and dandy. Life could be worse, frankly.

Travel Costs

Currently, I’m in a dilemma about a bit of travelling I’m doing in April. (See, told you I was feeling all organised)

Come the end of the next contract in mid-April, I’m treating myself to a weekend up in Edinburgh. It’s not a proper ‘holiday’ as such – but it’s a break, and it’s something I want to do. I haven’t been up there since the days pre-D4D™ and I want to go back.

The dilemma is about the method of travel. Looking on Google Maps, it’s about a six hour drive – on a good day, with no jams etc. A Friday afternoon/evening is not going to be a good day.  So I’ve also looked at train times/costs – and they actually pretty much balance out.

The full journey will be pretty much two refills of the fuel tank, which’ll be around the £65 mark each time. The train, looking at current prices, will be £120.  It’s close enough in price to make no real difference – even less so when I also factor in car-park costs – and the timing is much the same for a direct run.

I haven’t done a long train journey in ages – really not since doing the regular run between Manchester and Bracknell – so it’s pretty tempting.  Plus it’ll give me the opportunity to look out the window and appreciate the views without the hassles of driving – and perhaps even the chance to write more.

It’s just that whole “Paying the train company to do it”. I don’t know why it’s an issue in my head, but it is. I’ll figure it out and make a decision, it’s just annoying at the moment.

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