Going Dark

Bah HumbugNow we’re at the end of the Festering Season, and it makes me happy.

With Twelfth Night having just passed, it’s the time I honestly like the most – all the decorative lights are off again, and the streets return to being much darker.

I don’t really know why it makes me happier, but I noticed it again this week, that whole “Oh, this is different, it’s really nice” thing as I drove home.

I know, I’m a grouch and so on – it’s not something I could ever deny, after all.


Into 2020

It’s been interesting (for no good reason other than that this is a year that ends in a zero) to look back at what was going on this time ten years ago.

It’s fair to say that a lot has changed in that time – albeit none of it recently.

Back then I was still in Norfolk, and working in Bury St Edmunds (and I did keep the promise to stick with the one workplace for the full year of 2010)  I’d just had the first (and still only) accident of my driving career, sliding on ice onto a set of concrete fence posts, which did a blinding job of twatting the front nearside.

So in that ten years, I’ve

  • split with Herself, had another shorter-term relationship, and been single now for much longer than either one.
  • moved four times – and been in one place (the current one) for far longer than anywhere else I’ve ever lived since leaving home
  • changed jobs more times than I care to think about (I could work it out, but truly can’t be chuffed) and been doing the current one for far longer than I ever expected
  • been through the whole bankruptcy process, and come out the other side
  • been to more plays and theatre things than I’d ever have thought I’d have been to
  • and the same for restaurants – Michelin-starred and otherwise. This time ten years ago, I’d not been to any Michelin places – that happened in mid-2010, and I wasn’t impressed at the time. Maybe I should go back there, maybe not.
  • changed car twice, and rented a bundle of others as needs directed

There’s a lot of other stuff – it’s interesting to see how a lot of the things I wanted to change then that I still want to change now, for example – and I’ll write more about that elsewhere/elsewhen.

It’s a whole new decade out there (and I can’t be arsed with the argument about whether that’s 2020 or 2021, so don’t bother) and it’ll be interesting to see what happens next.


Multicrunch

In the town where I live, one of the major roads in has a roundabout at the end of it. It’s busy, but that’s generally fine.

Anyway, the weird thing is that in the last week, two cars have come off that roundabout into the verges/ditches. Going in different directions (they’re on opposite sides of the roundabout) but both somehow off the road.

It’s weird because I’ve not seen any other accidents on that roundabout in the seven-plus years I’ve lived here.

The road’s safe – I’ve been over that roundabout at least twice a day every day, and I’ve been using it during the time of these accidents without any problems. It’s just it’s had two accidents in seven days, for some reason.


Sequential

Over the last week, I’ve had two significant (to me) numbers come up on the car’s odometer.  I missed one, and managed to capture the other.

So the one I got was this

And the one I missed was (the even better) 141414 . That’s annoying, because obviously it’ll be another 10,000-ish miles before I even get a chance on that one.

I know these things are silly, but they amuse me along the way.


Smart Motorways, Dumb Drivers

I’m really not surprised that there are now some calls to do a safety review of the “Smart Motorways” concept.  It’s a particular source of interest as I travel on the M1 on a regular basis, and that’s one of the roads that will be looked at.

The concept of Smart Motorways ( flexible speed limits, the ability to make the hard shoulder into a running lane at peak times ) is a decent one, but it also missed out a couple of key factors.

The first – and most important – of those is that a huge number of drivers are fucking idiots, and have no idea how to handle the flexibility of the hard shoulder. I’ve lost count of the number of times I can see the hard shoulder being in use – with signs saying so every quarter-mile or so – and no-one using it. (Admittedly, I tend to then use it and make progress past idiots, but I’d rather see the lane being used correctly)   And of course there’s also a significant number of drivers who won’t even use the inside lane, preferring to stay in the middle one, overtaking fuck-all for mile after mile, which also screws things up.

The second factor is that they didn’t seem to think about what happens when someone does have a breakdown or an accident, it necessitates at least a full lane closure (because there’s no hard shoulder to get in to) which screws the traffic up worse than it used to.  Yes, there are refuge areas off the main running lanes, but there was a stat (which I can’t find in a story right now) that only something like 30-35% of breakdowns manage to get to the refuge areas rather than stopping in the live lane.

So yes, I’m not surprised that they’ll probably be getting reviewed – I do think they’re a good idea in general, but at the same time I don’t think they’re all that suitable for UK drivers, primarily because of some of their apparently unique behavioural traits.


Environmental

On my post about mileage and so on, BW commented “No environmental conscience chez toi, then, eh? 😉”   And I can’t deny, that annoyed me a fair bit.

So…

    • That weekend, I hired a car that was supposed to have a better Eco-profile than my current car. Sadly, that turned out to not be the case – it got a lot less MpG than mine, and generally wasn’t very good.  But the intentions were there, at least.  Even though I should’ve stuck to my usual car.
    • Where possible – in this case, the run to and from Oxford – I carried friends, rather than everyone driving individually
    • Taking public transport was simply not a realistic option, for a range of reasons, including
      • I’d still have to drive to my nearest station, and (as I understand it) shorter journeys like that are the worst environmentally, as most of the nastys happen on start-up/warm-up, rather than on longer runs
      • The runs to Oxford and Chichester would both have been over three hours each way, and cost more than the fuel for the entire weekend
      • The journey to Kent wouldn’t have been possible at all
    • Also, knowing the mileage etc., I make use of a carbon offset programme – it’s not perfect, but (I hope) it helps
    • The Big Cat Experience in Kent use most of the money from the experience days and so on to go towards ecological and animal protection/preservation projects overseas.

Outside of those things, there’s also the following other little bits

  • I’m still using a car that’s now ten years old (and passes the MoT emissions test with flying colours) rather than using up a load of resources with a new vehicle
  • My domestic waste/rubbish is absolutely minimal – indeed, if I didn’t have cats, I’d be easily able to get away with one domestic waste collection per month – and I recycle far more than most people.
  • I rarely fly anywhere – the last time was two years ago
  • Most of my electric/electronic devices are recharged via a battery bank that charges off a solar panel, rather than via the mains.

There’s probably other stuff as well, but anyway, it’s a pretty good start.

I fully accept that my environmental profile isn’t perfect – my main downsides are electricity and driving. And I balance as much of that as possible. However, I’m also pretty sure that it’s a lot better than that of most people.

Even more importantly, no matter what I do to improve my profile, it’s utterly irrelevant in comparison to other environmental things. For example, if the new phase of advertising on video screens (particularly the stand-alone street-furniture versions) were deactivated/turned off overnight it would save more in a week than I could contribute in a lifetime.

So – do I have an environmental conscience?  I’ll let you decide – although I think the answer is generally yes.


Annual Car Costs

The start of October is expensive when it comes to the car, because it’s the anniversary of when I bought it.

So first there’s the renewal of the vehicle tax, although happily that’s not a big expense at £30 for the year.

Then there’s the insurance renewal, which is always a fun dose of bureaucracy and weirdness. And at least that one is an expense that’s spread through the year – I could do it in one payment, but find I usually can’t be bothered.

And then of course there’s the MoT test. Never fun – even if it passes with no problem, you’ve still spent time beforehand worrying about what’ll happen, and figuring out as many of the financial permutations as possible.

Last year, it passed the MoT OK, with just a couple of advisories – although one of those was about the brakes needing attention next year. So I knew that was going to come up, as well as the MoT and a service – which makes it all already Not Cheap.

Luckily though, that was it. I got one small advisory for this year, but absolutely nothing else to worry about. I suspect the clutch is likely to die sometime this year (although I said that last year too) which’ll be an expense at some point.

But for now, it’s all sorted, and my wallet isn’t as light as it could’ve been, so I’ll take that as a positive…