My weekend in a few words

I drove to the match on Saturday and drove through brilliant sunshine, snow on the verges, hailstone storms, wind, rain and spray so thick fog lights had to be used! I was very surprised by how few fans Fulham brought – I’ve never seen so few (about 1/3 of the lower tier away section only, and none of the top!)

fulham fans

After enjoying the 5-0 win, despite being absolutely freezing cold, I stopped to admire the building work for our new academy which is coming on apace. The white structure is the bridge which will link the academy complex to the stadium.

etihad bridge

Then it was off to mum’s for a wonderful 24-hours of laughs and love. I even managed (at last) to do my naked face selfie for cancer awareness. If you haven’t yet done it girls,I nominate you, and boys, I nominate you to take a selfie with makeup! Regardless, go and check yourselves now for lumps and bumps please – that’s the price I’m charging for seeing my picture! 😛 (Yes. Now. Go on. It will only take you a mo. Girls, check those boobs, chaps that precious tackle!

nomakeupselfie1

Although the weather had been challenging on the drive down, the car’s new radiator (fitted the day before) behaved itself perfectly.Alas, on the way back, the weather behaved and the car didn’t! I drove home with my eyes glued to the temperature guage and had to refill the radiator reservoir several times and buy extra fluid along the way.

cartemp

Thank fully I made I made it home safely having kept the car at 60 mph / 3000 rpm or less – so it was straight to bed for me. I’ve had today off though and have been able to catch up at home with 4 wash loads done, unpacking done, finances sorted, and a lovely relaxing bath before homemade pepperoni pizza to round it off. Wonderful! Can I have a day off every week please? 🙂

Two dramas in one week: Drama 2

The second drama could have cost me my life – though happily, as you can tell, it didn’t. (Or it could have cost Raji and Nel theirs. But it didn’t.)

On the Friday night as soon as Raji got home from work with my car I loaded it up ready for going to mum’s/football for the weekend. As soon as I pulled away I knew something was wrong with the car! It felt like something was dragging on the road and the noise was very loud. Uh-oh! So I pulled over when I had a chance and got out and looked. Nothing! Nothing was hanging or dragging under the car. Weird! I debated what to do but as it was 6.30pm on a Friday, I didn’t really feel anywhere would be open so I decided to carry on but to take it easy and stay alert for any signs that the car was in bad trouble.

I drove down to mum’s doing no more than 65mph and I kept my peripheral awareness extended over the whole car so that I was listening for noises (or worsening of the existing one) and feeling for anything being wrong. There was nothing definite I could put a name to – the car just felt like it wasn’t quite handling right. Fortunately, I made it to mum’s and decided to just relax for the night and forget about it.

The next morning we planned to go to the local shops and I mentioned my concern about the car to mum. I went and had another look but again, couldn’t see anything. I studied the insides of the front wheels, not really knowing what I was looking for, and wondered if there was something rubbing on them – maybe a brake pad or something? Not knowing about cars, I really couldn’t tell. We set off for the shops and immediately we could hear the noise – it really was obvious. Whilst at the shops, we decided to get it checked – my instincts were that something really wasn’t right and that the car wasn’t safe, and mum’s agreed.

So we drove (carefully) to Halfords, parked up and went inside. The man on reception (I’d guess he was the manager judging by his manner) politely asked if he could help and I explained that we’d called in on spec as I was worried about the safety of the car. He said that they were fully booked for the day as it was Saturday and they closed at 4pm. He could tell we were disappointed and I said that I would feel much better of someone could even just take a look and let me know if I was safe to drive home even if I had to continue taking it easy and drive at a snail’s pace. He very clearly understood my position and very kindly said that if we could leave the car with them he’s do his best to find time for someone to take a look, though he made no promises. We accepted and were very grateful.

Knowing that we’d bought bacon before hand I said I’d nip to the car and get it as it was a hot day and it would end up cooking if we left it in the hot car. Mum said not to worry as it would be fine but I insisted, so she gave in. I decided to grab the paper as well so mum could read it and so I proudly informed her as I returned to reception to hand over the car key. She didn’t seem that impressed!

Having given my mobile phone number, we left and I assumed we’d head for the bus stop across the road, but mum said she was fine to walk. It was a fair way home so I asked if she was sure and she insisted she was, though it seemed a long way home to me, what with her bad hip. As we crossed the road, we went passed the bus stop and headed towards town, and mum took the bacon and paper from me and put them in a bag she had with her. We headed towards town but clearly my brain wasn’t quite with it – too busy fearing the worst with the car I think. I was convinced it was going to be very bad news and discussed with mum what sort of price would be worth doing any work and at what point to cut my losses. I’m not a negative person, as anyone who knows me can latest, but my instincts said it was bad, and I was but fed up of always having an old car that couldn’t be relied upon. I just need to wallow for 5 minutes before giving myself a pep talk and then I’d be fine.

It finally dawned on me that we were actually walking in to town. For once, mum and I were not thinking the same as I’d assumed we’d be killing the 3 hour wait at home. We actually had a nice mooch in town and went to Tesco for the things we needed too. Being clever, mum had put the lamb in the oven before we left so it was cooking slowly, and we’d had a tea cake with our coffee before taking the car to the garage. So she had the idea of going to Wetherspoons and having a portion of chips between us to keep us going until dinner and as we were waiting for the food, my phone rang. It was the garage and they’d had a chance to look at the car for me and said it was a wheel bearing. The manager said he strongly urged me to get it replaced to which I replied that I understood but where could I get it done as he was fully booked. He said he really couldn’t let me drive it like it was and he would get it done the same day for me. When I asked what the cost would be he said £139 including VAT so gratefully accepted. What a star! I was so relieved to think it could be sorted and glad I’d trusted my instincts.

Before we picked up the car later, we bought a selection pack of biscuits to take in to the garage as a small thank-you to them for helping us. There were a few customers in front of us and as we waited our turn, we had a chance to see what fantastic customer service skills the manager had. He was friendly, professional, polite and informative with everyone. When it came to our turn he said I’d been lucky to get down to mum’s okay the night before and it was probably due to the fact that I’d taken it easy. Apparently I could have lost the wheel or it could have completely locked (not at all good on a motorway!) We paid and handed over the biscuits and once again thanked them for going above and beyond. We were very impressed at how the manager had quickly grasped the situation and then taken it in hand, albeit without making any promises, and then thankfully sorted it out for us. He was so calm and reassuring and gave us confidence in both him and the garage. This man is worth his weight in gold and I hope the company appreciate him.

As we drove home, the difference in the car was immediately apparent – what a huge relief! Once we’d got ourselves settled at home I think hysteria set in as we got uncontrollable giggles about the fact that mum had carried the bacon and her newspaper round town all day! Ooops! 😀 This lasted on and off all evening – with tears literally streaming down my face at times.

It was good relax over roast lamb with a bottle of wine and the knowledge that the car was safe to drive the next day. We had the morning together on Sunday and used it to harvest apples from the tree in the garden and rosehips from the bushes at the front. We had an early lunch complete with birthday cake in early celebration, and then it was time for me to be off to the match.

Thank goodness for mum to keep me sane(r) whilst riding out a drama. Thanks Mum, and thanks Halfords – 10/10 for excellent service.

All by myself: Part 2

For good measure, the good old English weather decided to play ball and we’ve had a heatwave. A real summer! I had actually forgotten what it feels like to wear minimal clothing, feel the warmth of the air on the skin, and to relax in comfort. I’ve walked round barefoot, worn summer dresses and cropped trousers, and I’ve had all the doors and windows open with fresh air wafting through the house. I’ve even got a little bit of colour from taking breaks in mum’s lovely garden; I’d forgotten my skin could do that! Wonderful!

Over Thursday and Friday I finished the decorating, putting 3 coats of paint of the walls and one on the ceiling and was very pleased with how well the damp-damaged wall came out 🙂

I also washed the car – twice! I was sure I’d got some car shampoo at mum’s but couldn’t find it so used washing up liquid to do it as the car was so filthy. But the next day it had more bird mess plus a load of dust and leaves all over it again so I went and bought a proper shampoo with wax and did the job again. This time the difference was very noticeable – it seems there IS a reason we have special stuff for car washing 😉

On the Friday morning I was obviously missing going to the gym and I like being physically active, so decided to walk in to town along the footpath and I thoroughly enjoyed a good walk at a nice strong pace. The weather was already gorgeous at 9am and the route was fairly quiet. I treated myself to an iced coffee at my favourite coffee shop before a wander around town for some souvenirs for colleagues and family and then returning.

Iced coffee at Costa

On Saturday morning my friend Lee was in town to see his parents so he came round for a catch-up and a cold drink in the garden which was lovely. We then went to look at a car he was interested in buying and he helped me pump up the leaky tyres on my car – Oh, OK, I confess. He did it for me while I watched 🙂 (It’s really annoying but the tyres have to be pumped back up to 32 psi every week, having gone down to between 24 and 8 psi!) I also fetched the family meat pack I’d ordered from mum’s butcher as it’s good value (8 family meals for £30, excellent quality meat) Then all I did was sort my stuff out before fetching mum from town when her holiday coach dropped her off in the evening.

We had a lovely evening and she led me astray, treating us to a Dominos pizza which we ate in the garden accompanied by a bottle of wine. We stayed out there until way past 9pm – it was just so pleasant and we were so relaxed we didn’t want to move 🙂

On Sunday we felt we wanted to share the last day of our respective holidays doing something holiday-ish, so we went in to town and walked along the river, and back up through the park. We stopped for coffee at the Blue Moon cafe by the river, but alas, its name was better than its coffee or shortcake.


Blue Moon 🙂

We shared one last lunch in the garden – Schnitzels, salad and jacket potatoes – and then it was time for me to pack the car and head home. I had a really enjoyable drive home in the warmth, just appreciating having my car for the last time for a while. As I got nearer home, I started dreading to think what state the house would be in but tried not to think about it.

The biggest “holiday” of my time away had been enjoying living in a clean and tidy house, clearing up after myself as I went along so that nothing built up into a big job. It’s just so much easier that way and so much less stressful. THIS is how a kitchen sink area should look:

Clean & tidy

NOT this:

Washing up galore 🙁

I was home by mid evening and even managed to park right outside the house which was a pleasant surprise. I had time to unpack and to give everyone their little bits and pieces and then I could settle for the night before diving back headlong in to work again next day. However, I did feel that I’d had a real holiday with precious, heavenly time alone, calm, relaxing surroundings, and glorious weather to top it off. What a contrast to this time last year! Lucky, lucky me 🙂

Bye bye Nissan – Hello Suzuki

After all my car stresses, I finally managed to sell my old heap to a scrap dealer for £160 and it was picked up on a Saturday lunchtime. This left me free to look around for a replacement and I had suggestions and recommendations from friends. One of them bore fruit and local mechanic Paul Robbie had a Suzuki Ignis that might suit me. Never having heard of one, I went hunting on Google and discovered that it looks like this:

I’m not a fan of 3-door cars (because I worry about passengers in the back getting trapped in the event of an accident) but these days I rarely have more than one passenger in the car with me anyway. I AM used to having a lot of boot space, but again, with not having a car full of people, I would be able to put down the back seats for luggage. So after work on the Monday, I went to see it. In the pitch black and pouring rain – so all I could say really was that yes, it was a car! 😉 Paul was brilliant and having pointed out that it was an automatic, showed me how one drives a car with only two pedals – which was somewhat hilarious when I had a blonde moment wondering why I wasn’t moving but had fully taken my foot off the brake! He managed a straight face and no laughs as he advised pressing the accelerator! 😀 The car had been well cared for by its previous lady owner and was in good condition. Just before I left, Paul discovered that far from having the remaining 6 months’ MOT he’d been led to believe, it had only 3 weeks, and he said he wasn’t willing to sell a car with just that so he’d put it in for its MOT next day. We agreed that if it passed, I’d have it as it seemed to fit the bill and was within my meagre price range. (Cars under £1,000 are becoming scarcer in this economic climate as people are not buying new cars and therefore used cars are not filtering down the price ranges as people change their cars according to their budgets.)

The next day I was like an expectant father, waiting to hear if it had passed. Finally, at tea time, I discovered it hadn’t, though it was only front brake pads/discs and Paul was happy to do that for a reasonable price. It passed the next day and so on Thursday night I was able to go and collect it. Paul was brilliant and had put new wiper blades and 6 months tax on it for good measure and given it a wash too. As his “reward” he has now gained another customer, “lucky” man! 😉 Thank you Paul (and L for putting me on to him)

Getting used to an automatic hasn’t been too difficult and whilst I don’t tend to inadvertently move to press the non-existent clutch, I do occasionally put my hand to the gear stick in preparation for a gear change – thankfully the gear stick is completely different to my old one so it reminds me not to move it! The wipers and lights are on opposite sides of the steering wheel to my car of the last 8 years, which has caught me out a couple of times. I need to get used to how much or little acceleration it has and how/when to brake to allow it come through its gears rather than me choosing how to change down, but that will come.

I took the car on its first trip to football and mum’s and it did the job nicely and it’s such a huge relief to be mobile again. It also seems comfortable for mum to get in and out and to sit so I’m pleased about that. I think I have managed to fit in all the stuff I carry out with me in order to be prepared for most situations. Now I just need to replace my tax disc holder with a City one and get some new City stickers.

Oh yes. Sorry, you girls reading this will want to know one last very important thing – green. My first two cars were white, the third (my last car) was black, I would hate to have a red one, but this nice dark green is very acceptable. 🙂

Car Stresses

As I drove down to Chester the day before our home game against Spurs, a light came on on my dashboard. Uh-oh! That didn’t look good! I couldn’t work out what it was – worryingly it looked like a little engine outline.

I pulled in to the next services and looked in the car’s handbook – “Engine Malfunction Warning” was the verdict. Eeeek! That sounded BAD! I read on…. the advice was to take the car to a Nissan dealership to have diagnostic tests. However, it said that the car did not need to be towed, but shouldn’t be driven above 70mph, or up steep hills and care should be taken not to accelerate or brake too hard. Hmmmmmm. I decided I SHOULD be OK to drive to mum’s, if I drove like an old granny, and then I would be able to get advice from the web, and my brother.

I drove very carefully in the inside lane, terrified of braking or accelerating too hard, worrying over every new sound… then turning up the music so I couldn’t hear – before panicking that I needed to hear and turning it back down again. I was wrung out by the time I got to mum’s but I made it in one piece. Phew! 🙂

After lunch and a bit of a rest and a chat, I turned to good old Google for advice. It looked like it was probably my timing chain, a known issue on Nissan Almeras – and fairly pricey to fix. That was it! No more money being chucked away on this car – it had to go. It did, however, look like I might be OK to drive it carefully the next day to the match and then home, so that was my plan.

Mum suggested we went for a walk as it was such a beautiful autumn day so we went for the canal-side walk that Billy and I had done in the rain in August.


Photobucket

Mum treated us to a Chinese takeaway accompanied by a bottle of wine in the evening and at last I relaxed – and even forgot about the car for the night. However, the next morning I had to think of it again and I prayed it would see me through without the engine stalling completely on me. I was just beginning to breath a sigh of relief that I’d made it to Manchester when there was a road closure and I had to follow a diversion – which always stresses me as I can get lost in a car park! Eventually I parked in my usual place and tried to calm down before meeting Claire and Simon.

After the game I prayed I’d get home safely and again, I drove in the inside lane at 60mph (would you believe I STILL had to overtake several cars over the course of the journey!? ) As I went I was ticking off progress: “I’ve made if past Manchester/Preston/Lancaster/South Lakes/the M6/Carlisle/Haltwhistle/Haydon Bridge…By the time I arrived home and gave a heartfelt thanks to God for keeping me safe, I was in need of a stiff drink and my bed! At least now I had a couple of weeks before I needed to drive again…..

My plan was to take my car in to a used car dealer for part exchange and hopefully get something smaller and cheaper to run. However, we had another situation that arose at the same time (more on that later) so I looked in to the possibility of hiring a car as and when needed. This seemed as though it MIGHT be do-able – until I found out about the £200 deposit each time plus the £600 excess on the insurance!

On to plan C: I contacted someone to see if they’d take the car for parts. He arranged to call me at the weekend so I duly kept my phone with me at all times and remained on standby, having cleared the car out and filled our hallway with its contents. For nothing! Grrr! I HATE people who don’t do as they say and don’t let you know what’s happening! He’s burned his bridges now and I will find someone else, but I’ve lost a week!

I’m hoping to pick up a cheap run-around if I can can but until I sell this heap of metal I don’t know exactly what I’ve got for a new one. For now I am hating being car-less and feel thoroughly out of control and out of sorts. I need to sort this very soon. 🙁

Not making a drama out of a crisis.

Having driven to mum’s after the match and enjoyed a couple of drinks and a natter until gone midnight, I fell into a coma slept well as soon as my head hit the pillow.

In the morning we decided we would go to Broughton as I wanted to take my faulty boots back and mum was after a couple of bits so after a leisurely breakfast we set off. About half way through the drive, the car started making strange noises. On braking there was a low pitched droning which was quite loud and was accompanied by a dragging sensation. On accelerating there was a repetitive squeaking noise. It didn’t feel right though there was no difficulty with either braking or accelerating. There wasn’t really anywhere convenient to pull over and the roads were fairly busy (lots of people making the most of the extra hour after the clocks changed, presumably) so we carried on to the retail park as planned. After parking up I got down on the ground and had a look under the car and could see a piece of metal dangling underneath though I couldn’t work out what it was. I decided we’d need to call the RAC but we also thought we’d better do the most important things we needed first.

After taking back my boots and getting a refund (YAY!) we did the other couple of things and then went back to the car to call the RAC. It took rather a long time to get through as they were busy (oh dear!) but eventually we did and mum was giggling at me trying to imitate the droning noise and the squeaking for the benefit of the poor bloke at the other end of the line. I was just trying to be helpful and give as much information as possible 😀 We were told we may be waiting between 1-3 hours but that the patrol man would call us when he was on the way. I said that was no problem as we were safely parked and could amuse ourselves and then we worked out what to do. Originally we’d planned to have a nice lunch out and although there was a likely looking pub restaurant opposite us, we were a bit concerned that we’d have to rush. In the end we opted to go to the Asda cafe and we had a hot panini and a cuppa. Just as we were finishing, we got the call that our rescue was imminent, so that all worked out well 🙂

Our hero was called Steve, and he immediately saw that the bit of metal dangling underneath the car was the heat shield and he removed it, assuring me it wouldn’t be a problem in the short term. He then got me to drive around the car park to make sure the problem had resolved. Er…… it hadn’t! He stuck his head out of the passenger window so as to locate the noise and when we parked back up he went straight to the front left wheel. On taking it apart he informed me that my brake pad had completely disintegrated, damaging the disc …. and where did we want to be towed? 🙁 I chose to be taken to Kwik Fit in Chester as it was my local Kwik Fit that had fitted new brake pads only last December (and they have a lifetime guarantee and should be on record) and because I knew that it was conveniently located for us to get the bus back home and for me to get the bus in to collect it next day.

I tell you what – Steve played with Lego as a boy, and his favourite cartoon must have been Transformers! 😉 As I stood with mum watching the poor man work, and worrying about whether I’d have to sit in the car and steer as it was towed, he set about turning his van into a transporter – a trick which James Bond would admire!.

It went from this:

to this:

until we were like this:

Seriously impressive! Mum and I hopped (well, maybe not quite “hopped”) into the van and were taken in comfort and safety to the garage (and saw a couple of other cars being towed in similar fashion so it must’ve been the day for it!) Once there we booked the car in with our saviour, Steve, parking the car in a corner of the packed workshop and then we caught the bus back home.

We counted ourselves/me lucky that I hadn’t come a cropper on the motorway (I’d had no problems or symptoms whatsoever on my drive down to the match or over to mum’s) or caused any accident. Also that it hadn’t happened on the way to the match so that I’d have missed it, we hadn’t really been much inconvenienced, not had a dinner cooking (as is often the case when we go out). It was a good job I’d got my RAC cover and that we had been able to be towed to Kwik Fit which was conveniently located and my car’s history would be on their system. Further, having swapped working days with my colleague, I didn’t need to fret about getting home that day. All in all, if it was going to happen, there would definitely have been worse times and places for it to do so. (I do like to be more Pollyanna than Victor Meldrew 😉 )

Mum was up and out early on the Monday as she was booked on a coach trip, and I spent the morning packing, pottering around and passing time – it was quite pleasant to get a bit of time to relax actually. Well, my brain wasn’t QUITE relaxed as I waited for news on the car, and wondered how much it would cost. Eventually I got a call and was told that the front brake pads would need replacing, as would the left disc and the caliper which had been knocked out of alignment as a result of the other problem. Just under £400. Ouch! Fortunately I’d been trying to put some money aside in anticipation of work needed for its MOT in December, and I’d just been paid, so was able to cover it – and in fact when I picked up the car at 3pm, they knocked off the price of the brake pads since I’d already paid for those last December. The mechanic couldn’t say why the problem had occurred and explained that newer cars have a warning light that indicates brake pads are wearing thin, but my car doesn’t, being older.

By 4pm the car was packed and I was on the road home, grateful to the RAC, Kwik Fit, and all in all counting myself rather lucky…

Seized!

After spending Tuesday removing icebergs from defrosting the fridge freezer, Wednesday was supposed to be a usual Wednesday for me – gym, shopping, education meeting. I was just going to add cleaning the oven in the afternoon.

So off I went to the gym and had a good workout. Came home, grabbed what I needed to go shopping and went out the car. I started the engine and pulled away……….. or rather, I didn’t. The car moaned and roared and was dragging along the ground. What on earth….? So I tried again, with the same result. I tried reversing – same again. Agh!

I got out and studied the back passenger side wheel and saw marks on the road where it had dragged. I noted the position of the wheel (by “clocking” the location of a couple of landmarks) and tried again. Nope, still no joy. I got out and looked at the wheel again and could see that the wheel had not turned at all. Oh dear! What to do?

Ah, of course! Google: “seized wheel on car“. Brilliant – obviously a common problem though I’d never heard of it before in all my years of driving.

Back outside I went, explaining to Billy that I was going to loosen the wheel nuts and try moving forward and braking, backward and braking and hoping to loosen the locked brakes that way. Did we have a tool for that then, he wanted to know. Well thanks to my brother, whom I had asked to show me some (very) basics when I got my first car, I knew that we did and that it would be in with the spare wheel in the boot 🙂 Sure enough I found the gadget, removed the hub cap and set to work loosening the nuts. Girly level brute force didn’t work but I found that by sort of rocking back and forth, I could gradually loosen them sufficiently to turn the tool properly and I managed to do two nuts before Billy came out and volunteered to do the other two.

I then tried driving back and forth but the wheel was still seized tight, much to my frustration. So I went inside and called the friendly Kwikfit chappies and was asked technical questions which scotched any notions I may have that I know my way round a car as I hadn’t a clue (brake discs or drum? What?) I’d been doing the right thing apparently, though since I hadn’t used the car for a couple of weeks and the weather had been damp which can affect the brakes, it might be that a tap or two with a soft ended hammer might help things along. Back to the car with hammer in hand….

Nope, still no joy. Agh! OK, one more thought occurred to me and with nothing else to try, I went with my instincts and crawled under the car and squirted everything attached to the wheel with good old WD-40. I left it for a bit and then went out to try again. Although I didn’t get the loud click/crack I was expecting, I suddenly realised the car was moving freely. Hallelujah! 🙂

I tightened the nuts again, but as I have motorway driving to do wasn’t going to chance anything so I drove slowly down to Kwikfit and got the helpful people there to tighten them for me. YAY! Job done! (Mind you, I don’t think all that did the tyre any good! Fortunately it’s a new enough tyre that it should be OK for a bit.) Running short of time, I decided to nip over to Aldi for a few bits of shopping, return home and then go to the meeting before going back out to Tesco for the rest of the shopping later.

All this meant the day flew by without me cleaning the oven – but since I was proud of sorting the car almost by myself, I decided to let myself off the hook 😉

In fact, I rewarded myself by watching the England v Holland friendly and enjoyed it. I was interested to see what Stuart Pearce did with the team and tactics and to see how the players performed. A win would be nice but it wasn’t the be-all-and-end-all. I did actually get engrossed in the game and was pleased to see some passion and pride from the players. Holland were extremely tough opponents but to manage to get 2 goals back showed heart, though I couldn’t argue that the late Holland winner wasn’t deserved. A nice way to spend the evening after a strange sort of day 🙂

To Chester and back.

I managed to finish work at 4.00pm on Friday and raced home to fetch Nel as I was taking her to Chester where she was staying for a week. I wanted to try and get ahead of the bank holiday traffic but feared it was already too late. Happily, the roads were fairly clear until the last part of the M56 and even that was still moving, just congested. We drove through alternating patches of sunshine and downpours – but I didn’t mind as I was just pleased to have my car back on the road, and I enjoyed driving again. (The car has had its 4 new tyres as well as all the other recent work so hopefully I will have trouble free motoring for a while now.)

It was dry as we arrived in Chester and as it was 8.15pm and we’d planned to have takeaway for tea, we stopped at the shop on our way in, so we could arrive at Mum’s with the food ready to eat. Just as we parked in Mum’s drive, it started to rain quite heavily so I quickly unloaded the car and then we thankfully locked the weather out and settled down for the evening. It was so good to see Mum again as I hadn’t seen her since the end of June and I’ve missed her. We had a pleasant evening which flew past and before we knew it it was bed time. The storm which had been building since the rain started, was now directly overhead with bright white lightning and very loud thunder which was quite fun. Happily all of us enjoy a good storm and it was very nice to lay warm and cosy in bed listening to it – though I was so tired, I drifted off before it quite finished.

The next day, I was returning home, but before I did so, I’d arranged to meet L and A who had driven to Chester specially so we could meet and I could spend some time with Callum, my adorable little Godson, whom I hadn’t seen since last November. I felt a bit bad that they had had to travel though really appreciated them doing so and they said it was no bother. We met up at the retail park and one of Callum’s brothers had come along for the ride too. We went to Frankie & Benny’s where they had a special breakfast offer – two breakfasts for £10 – and what a feed we had! We all had the full English apart from Callum who picked his items individually – the staff were brilliant with him and were very obliging with sterilising his cutlery for him, nothing was too much trouble. I would highly recommend them to anyone wanting a really good breakfast out – both the food and the service were top class.

I loved catching up with Callum and the family, hearing their news, having a laugh, finding out how Callum’s treatment is going. (He’s now on a year’s maintenance course of chemo, he’s put on some weight at last, and his hair is growing back 🙂 ) I also enjoyed getting to know M, Callum’s brother, a really nice lad, and got on well with him. After we’d eaten, we looked in a couple of the shops and then the boys wanted to go to Toys R Us – which was entertaining in their company. Our couple of hours just flew past and all too soon it was time for us to return to our respective homes – but hopefully we’ll meet up again soon.

I really enjoyed my drive home, despite the heavy rain, and it was just lovely to be back on the road, and to have a little time out just being me for a few hours. I’m even looking forward to going back for Nel next weekend 🙂

Wednesday waiting.

After I’d got back from Mum’s when I’d had all the problems with the battery, I took the car down to KwikFit to get it sorted out once and for all. I only just managed to get there as the car had no power and I had to limp down there in 1st gear with foot flat to the floor – traveling less than 20mph! (Good job it’s only a 2 minute drive!) They tested the battery and alternator and found them to be fine. This was a bit bemusing as in the 2 years we’ve been having this battery problem, we’ve been convinced that it must be the alternator if not the battery itself. (Logic tells us that either something is draining all the power from the battery or the battery isn’t charging.) They said it could be an electric fault (which would explain the intermittent nature of the problem) and we’d need an auto-electrician to check it out. As we were talking, the mechanic tested the battery and alternator again and now the alternator was only ticking over at 11v (instead of 15). He said that if it had been like that first time round, he’d have said it was the alternator, and that although it still could be, he’d rather I had the chance to get a 2nd opinion in case it was still an electrical problem – in which case I’d have paid for a new alternator for nothing. This made sense and I appreciated his honesty so limped the car back home. It then sat (dead) on the road opposite the house for 3 weeks as we had to first locate an auto-electrician (none in this town despite the plethora of garages!) then find a day when we were not working to take it in, remove the battery and charge it indoors, and then refit it.

So… Wednesday was the day the car was finally booked in to the auto-technician’s in a town about 20 minutes drive away. Billy was coming with me for moral support and to help me find the place and we left the house at just gone 9am after reconnecting the battery. As we pulled off, though, we had the same problem I’d had previously – no power and minimum revs. ARGH! We weren’t going to make it! We really needed somewhere to park up safely so turned down the industrial estate but as this had double yellow lines all down it we had to turn in to one of the businesses there – so chose KwikFit on the off chance they could do anything. They said not as they felt it was all part of the same electrical problem so we called the AA (having worked out that we were more than 1/4 of a mile from home since I have roadside only.) They said they were busy but would get someone to us as when they could so we sat in the car to wait.

A couple of updates, a Tesco bought picnic and 3 hours later, the AA man arrived!

Poor man, he’d had a busy morning in the pouring rain, but nonetheless he was very nice and he tested the battery and alternator. The alternator was now chucking out 17v of charge! Far too much, and very dangerous. When we turned on all the lights and heating, it settled back to a normal rate, so previously, far from helping matters by turning all such things off to save battery power, I’d been making things worse. He said he’d only seen it a couple of times and on the last occasion, the battery had blown up whilst the car moving – yikes! The sort-of-good news was that this was “simply” a case of needing a new alternator. Since we had been parked in KwikFit for 3 hours (with their kind permission – and a bag of doughnuts in thanks) they may as well do the job for me – this would also save moving the car. The AA man came inside to tell them his diagnosis and they phoned their parts people for a price. I was expecting around £200, so my jaw dropped when it turned out to be £465! (There were a couple of other customers int here at the time, and theirs did too!) On investigation, it seems that Nissan and Toyota alternators are more expensive than others. (Hm, the cynic in me wonders if this is because they are a known weak point so will need replacing? 😉 ) The AA man said there was a company down the A1 that could repair alternators – but this would still leave the problem of getting there, and to be honest, I think I prefer to know the part is new. He also suggested I try other garages to see if they could do better, but again I’d have to get there and it would take time to compare prices and then take the car in. I decided, despite the sinking feeling in my stomach, I wanted to just get the job done by KwikFit. Billy reckoned we could just about scrape together the extra £250 above the money I’d put aside for this repair, and we did feel that the alternator had been the problem all along (for a few years) so we agreed to go for it.

We arranged to collect the car on Friday as that was when we could get the money – but later that evening the garage called and advised that all four tyres were badly in need of replacing and were only just legal – and risky given the heavy rain, especially any long journeys down to Chester/Manchester. However this would cost another £200 or so and there was no way we could get that together for this week so we said to leave it for now. We’ve discussed it and will make sure I get the tyres changed in the next week or so before I go back down to Chester. So, we’ll have spent another £700 on the car then! The AA man reckoned it was worth around £1100 though so there is no way we could spend less than £700 and still get a basically reliable car. I reckon I’ll soon have a brand new car anyway – built piece by piece! 😉

So, a 3 week wait for an auto electrician when we didn’t actually need one, and a 3 hour wait in the pouring rain for the AA when we didn’t really need to have called them! On the plus side, Billy and I spent more time together that day than for quite a while, and we did rather enjoy each other’s company so the wait wasn’t as grim as it might have been. (Just rather ironic given that we could have walked the 10 minutes home and come back, had we known.)

Got there in the end!

Last week I took a much needed break from all the overtime I’ve been doing so that I could go to Mum’s for the weekend, partly to help her with some jobs and partly for us both to have a bit of R&R from our everyday stresses. (And we’ve both had a LOT of stress lately!)

I drove down on Thursday afternoon, in beautiful sunshine and arrived in the evening ready for us to have 3 full days together (Mum had taken the Friday off work and I’d taken the Monday off for traveling home.)

On Friday we had to wait for delivery of the book-shelves mum had ordered, and they could be arriving any time between 7am an 6pm! Mum suggested I move the car a little to allow room for the packages, but when I went to do so, the car was dead. Again! Grrrr! Since I didn’t have a charger with me, mum volunteered to pop into town on the bus (since she has a free bus pass) to buy one, and I stayed in for the delivery, and decided to do a little weeding in the front garden while I waited. When mum got back, I put the car battery on to charge, and the book shelves arrived at about 3.30pm, so I made a start.

They were quite big and heavy, with less-than-clear instructions so it took me a while to get going. Then it started raining, so I had to take the battery charger in, but was at least able to use the central locking now. We wanted to go out next day so I planned to charge the car for a few hours first and then we’d hopefully be OK.

On Saturday morning, the battery was completely dead again, and I duly put it on to charge and carried on with the bookshelves. A while later I checked progress of the car and found that one of the croc clips had come loose so it hadn’t been chargingGrrr! I put that right and left it again whilst we had lunch and afterwards found that once again, the car just had enough to work the central locking but no more. So we gave up and took the bus in to town for a good old mooch, an afternoon cuppa and a bit of down-time. We were on a couple of missions, including trying to find a new mirror for mum’s newly decorated living room, and some garden furniture for the little paved spot in her garden. We didn’t find either – but we did find me a pair of shoes that were just what I had been looking for 🙂 Mum treated us to a Dominos pizza in the evening, accompanied by a bottle of wine, a bit of TV and lots of laughs.

On Sunday morning we both felt it had been a bit of a frustrating weekend so far – we didn’t feel we’d achieved as much as we’d hoped and though I put the car back on to charge, I wasn’t certain how well it would work. Since the shops wouldn’t open until 11am in any case, I did the drawers for the first two bookshelves, at which point we discovered that the runners for said drawers were on incorrectly (since the instructions had not been specific) and I had to remove and replace them which was fiddly, but possible. I also assembled the main part of the third – leaving just the 2 drawers to do (the relatively easy bit.)

I checked on the car and all was well so we went and got ready for our expedition and then did a fantastic impression of the activity in an F1 pit-stop! We removed the charger, and wires, shut the window, jumped in the car and went. 🙂 We parked at Halford’s (with my jump leads safely out of the boot and inside the car) in case we had trouble later, and then walked around the retail park from there. At last, we had a day that went our way! 🙂

We found some bargains in Aldi (and the car even let us unlock it so we could deposit them in it whilst we walked around the shops) and a perfect mirror for the wall in TKMax. We had lunch in Costa before mooching round the rest of the shops and then decided we’d found everything else we wanted in Tesco Home & Wear so decided to chance trying to bring the car round for ease of loading. The car started like a dream so we bought lots of bargains, including a complete set of garden furniture, parasol, base, and cushions, and after putting down the back seats, got them all in the car – which started first time for the trip home. Brilliant!

Once home, after a cup of tea and unloading the car, we pottered doing our own jobs and mum cooked dinner. I finished off the last two drawers to complete the shelves and we maneuvered them into the desired space – which they fit perfectly, to a centimetre!


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Then I decided I really wanted to put up the garden furniture, though mum didn’t expect it – but I wanted her to be able to use it if we had 30 minutes of sunshine this “summer” 😉 When I was doing this, Lee popped round and it was nice to catch up with him while I worked. Mum and I were really pleased with the finished result (though I did have to nip back next day and get the top piece of the parasol pole which was not in the box.)


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We even had time (just) to put up the new mirror – though it took a couple of goes to get it straight since we made the oh-so-very-wrong assumption that the D-rings on the back were level with each other! As we’d thought in the shop, it was perfect 🙂


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By the time we sat down to relax in the evening, we were congratulating ourselves on jobs well done and delighted to have finally had a positive day in which progress was made. I love helping mum buy things and doing little things round the house – we jokingly call them “ours” as it’s my second home, and it’s fun sharing the pleasure – I get the best of it though as it’s mum that does the spending 😉

It had been a bit of a frustrating time at first, but happily, we got there in the end. (And for anyone that wondered – the car started first time, no problems, on Monday morning for my return drive.)