Saturday, 21 January 2012

Devon Downsizing Dash

Made a quick foray from N Wales to Devon this week for an overnight stay with parents-in-law, who moved on Monday from a 5-bedroomed house to a 2-bedroomed bungalow on the edge of Dartmoor.  This is downsizing on a grand scale, and various family members have been helping with packing and re-homing items of furniture over recent weeks.  I volunteered to arrive on the evening of the actual move to do some of the multitude of jobs which always arise in the immediate aftermath.

I'd been tipped off about the need for shelves in the utility room and bedroom, an extra rail in a wardrobe, a sticky handle assembly on the garage door, and the need for some safety rails around the property.  I always find the business of loading the necessary tools and bits and pieces into the car to be a tense (and time-consuming) affair - difficult to remember/imagine every item you're going to need in a day's work.

At last the car was packed and, rattling a bit, I headed off on my 6-hours drive, fortunately able to take a break near Crewe to visit an old school friend who, coincidentally, is also preparing for a move to smaller accommodation and kindly offering lots of his old books to school. Given the state of the car, I had to make alternative arrangements for the actual removal of the books, but we enjoyed looking through them.

The following morning the jobs started before full light and went on through to dusk.  Numerous holes were drilled, plugged and screwed, fittings were lubricated, many items fixed to walls.  The up-and-over garage door was a bit of a problem. It turned out that the handle assembly was broken, but in any event offered hardly enough grip to allow the locking mechanism to be turned.  In the end, I fixed a mole wrench onto the spindle to provide additional leverage.  Not an aesthetically pleasing solution but, for the time being, one which works.  And luckily I have more than one mole wrench 'in stock', so it was no great hardship to leave one behind when everything else went back in the car.

As darkness fell I said my farewells and headed north.  By good fortune, I was able to break my journey north near Kidderminster to pick up a significant load of recycled cast iron guttering bought the previous week on Ebay.  It will all need stripping and re-painting before it can be fitted to our cottage and outbuildings to continue my program of replacing the plastic rain water goods wrongheadedly installed here over the years.  So ...  some stock items were left in Devon (I almost ran out of the rawlplugs I'd seen fit to take) but new ones came home with me as I arrived just before midnight.  Glad to see my bed!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

How many miles do you drive?

I realise that these days it's politically very incorrect to celebrate any kind of driving milestone, but I took guilty pleasure this afternoon from seeing the odometer on our Subaru reach 100K. Just a number, I know, but an elegant one.

We have had the Subaru since shortly after we came to live in N Wales, as you can hardly expect your neighbours to be sympathetic to your being snowed-in up your hill unless you have some form of 4WD vehicle.  We chose the Forester in spite of its modest fuel efficiency, hoping that it would be a comfortable workhorse.  And so it has proved, and after a first year of gearbox and alternator problems which cost a great deal to put right, it has been extemely reliable and has cost little more than routine servicing, expertly carried out at Prosport in Stockport.  It had 25,500 miles on the clock when we bought it, so we've averaged 12.5K a year.  It's now ten years old.  Over roughly the same period (and please bear in mind that from late 2005 until mid-2010 I was commuting daily to Manchester and - before he came to live with us a year ago - regularly visiting my father in Rochdale) we put 135K miles onto a diesel-engined Golf which we traded in last summer for a newer model.

So it's easy to see where a big chunk of our disposable income has gone during this time.  Since I took early semi-retirement I've been doing a lot less mileage, and I don't think that use of my motorcycle really counts at all, though its engine is of a size to use more fuel per mile than our Golf.  It does 3-4K per annum.

For many years L and I had a succession of comfortable Saabs - again not very fuel-efficient but well-used and well-maintained and therefore not an environmental disaster?  All these things are relative, I guess.  I started my motoring career 45 years ago with a 150cc Lambretta scooter, and then a 948cc 1965-built Mini Clubman. I still enjoy driving and have always believed in working vehicles hard, carrying passengers and goods, using roof-racks, pulling trailers.  I treasure the independence that being a driver and rider has given me.  My future vehicles probably won't see 100K - and the environment will breathe a sigh of relief.

Is driving for you a pleasure or a necessary evil?