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! πŸ™‚

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.


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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 Β£200 deposit each time plus the Β£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. πŸ™

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 πŸ˜€ 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 πŸ™‚

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? πŸ™ 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! πŸ˜‰ 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 πŸ˜‰ )

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 Β£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…

Microsoft MASTER!


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Guess who has passed her last Microsoft Office exam!?! Yep! Outlook was my last one. I am now officially a Master πŸ™‚

My journey began in November 2010 when I passed Excel core
Then I passed Word core
Then Word Expert and Excel Expert.
Then Power Point core and finally Outlook core.

I wonder what I will get up to next…..

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Back to work and Power Point

Having arrived home late on the Sunday night, it was straight back to work the next morning – though I had an odd day.

As you know, I am working towards my Microsoft Office Master qualification and it’s always difficult to book my tests on days that the IT team are at this site plus times when I don’t have a clinic to run. This first day back happened to be the first such time in months so I had booked it for my Power Point testing.

I had half an hour in my office to try and find my feet again, catch up on what was left from the previous week and organise the office and my workload ready for how I like to work. Then I went up to the IT training room and did a practise test to see if I thought I was ready for final testing. We decided that I was so I confirmed my booking for the actual test in the afternoon then went back to my office for an hour and a half to try and do some work. Having done just some of the essential work, I then returned and took my test – and a little to my surprise I passed! πŸ™‚

I am now a Power Point Specialist and have just one more bit to do for my Master qualification – that being Outlook. I was really pleased as I wasn’t convinced I’d be able to do it, especially straight after our holiday.

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 πŸ™‚ 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! πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜‰

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 πŸ™‚

Recharging batteries, updating technology and blitzing mould.

Since being poorly (that man-flu bug must’ve mutated to cross the gender barrier I reckon πŸ˜‰ ) I have slowly recovered with the light headedness and low energy persisting for another week. However I managed to work and to do my overtime – the thought of a fortnight off kept me going but I am really pleased to have a two-week break from work now and hope to recharge my batteries πŸ™‚

I have a long list of jobs through which I’m working during my time off – things which have needed doing for ages but I haven’t had the time, and things which will make me feel good knowing they are finally done. These include cleaning, painting (walls/ceilings), and business accounting amongst other things. Already, on day 2, I have done quite a lot even though I’ve felt as though I’ve just been pottering at my own pace.

I’ve finally transferred all the files I want from my old desktop PC to my laptop and then cleaned up and updated the desktop so that it will serve as a family spare in case of dire, ‘cos it’s slower than a slug with a limp need. I’ve backed up my phones and updated the software on my personal mobile – I LOVE this about Nokias – and the update has fixed a bug I had (viewing details of my contacts) and given me lots of new smilies to play with, so look out if you’re someone with whom I exchange texts, ‘cos I have new toys and intend to use them! πŸ˜›

One of the jobs on my list is to deal with the mould starting to grow on the bathroom ceiling and then repaint it, and I happened to see a mould remover spray in Aldi at the weekend, which I didn’t think would do much but at Β£1.59 was worth a dabble. To my amazement, it worked a treat and I ended up hunting down any other mould I could find and zapping it! πŸ˜€ The back door had the worst infestation and one panel was solid black – not any longer. This stuff is brilliant and gets 10/10 – but sadly I’ve run out of black stuff to kill and remove πŸ˜‰

None of my jobs are exciting, I know, but actually I am quite a little home-bird and love nothing more than nesting. I hate that I’ve been working so much and neglecting the home so although my holiday plans may seem like hard work, I’m actually enjoying myself. The beautiful spring weather helps too πŸ™‚

They’ve destroyed Aunty Sport!

As you may know (if you ever click links in my blog posts to neutral match reports) I use the BBC Sports website for these as they are REASONABLY disinterested whereas many other sites’ reports are not. I have also always used the Beeb for all my sports news and visited several times a day to get a good overview of what’s happening across the football world, the Prem, and other domestic leagues.

However, they’ve gone and tried to fix something that ain’t broke and utterly ruined the site. So much so that I can’t use it any more as a) I can’t stand all the hideous yellow and white space and b) I can’t see at a glance and it takes to many clicks to find anything specific. πŸ™ You can read here what the specific changes are. Have a look at all the negative responses they’ve had to it – even from professional web designers! Sadly I doubt they’ll have the courage to admit their mistake and go back to what the people liked. (I’d be interested in their before-and-after viewing statistics once the novelty has worn off.)

I have looked around and thus far I have been unable to come up with anything remotely near as good as the OLD Aunty Sports site was and am very unhappy about it. I think I am going to have to link to MCFC’s reports in the future – and to be fair they do report fairly and professionally, but obviously they have a Blue bias which is why I’ve chosen neutral ones before.

RIP Aunty Sport πŸ™

Anji in wonderland.

Billy has been needing a new bed in his room/spare room for a long time and we decided it would make sense to put our queen-size (small double) one in there and get ourselves a king-size (large-double) for our room as we do tend to disturb each other in the queen-size one.

I’d found one with a nice deep mattress on e-bay about a year or more ago, at the really good price of Β£139, and added it to my watch-list for when I could afford it. Unfortunately this never happened as we’ve never had the money.

Finally, Billy and I pooled our Christmas money and bought it just in to the New Year. Even better, it was in the post-festive sale so even more of a bargain! πŸ™‚

Homefurnishingsuk, the seller, was brilliant and we got to pick our delivery date – and having expected a wait of a week or two, I was amazed when we could have our bed just 2 days later on a day to suit.

Billy and I spent the morning moving furniture around and making room and just as we had done so, the new bed arrived. Perfect timing and a perfect bed. Soon it was all made up ready for use.

Although I sleep in a king-sized bed at mum’s, I am usually only it literally for sleeping. At home, I tend to snuggle under the duvet and watch DVD’s with Nel for the evening so I am awake and sitting up in the bed more. I feel like Anji in Wonderland – it’s huge! Even Billy commented that I looked small in it, and it’s plenty big enough for both of us to sleep without disturbing each other. πŸ™‚

The one thing to which I’m having to adjust – and which is my own fault as I somehow completely overlooked it – is that it is so much softer than I am used to. I am used to very hard beds as army beds are rock hard and I grew up sleeping in army beds so have just carried on with hard mattresses. I don’t think it’s a BAD thing having a bed I sink into – just weird.

All in all, we’re delighted with our new bed – and we now have a decent spare bed for guests again πŸ™‚ I would recommend this e-bay seller if you’re after one yourself by the way.

My Top 11 of 2011

Well it’s been a horrible year in the main. Every time I think we’ve hit the bottom and can start clawing our way to better – or even simply more stable – times, new depths are revealed. However, in true Pollyanna style, I thought I’d see if I could find some good things from 2011 and here they are:

#11. Nel’s diagnosis This was huge! It gave us a reason for all her little idiosynchracies and an insight into how her mind works differently to other people’s. I wasn’t a bad mother for not being able to work her out, in fact I’d done well over the years to help her cope without either of us knowing just what the difficulties were. Full story here.

#10. Friends’ Wedding An unexpected invitation to be a part of a very special couple’s big day led to a feeling of extra closeness to two lovely people whom I had met through a football web forum – mum’s club, not even mine – and a wonderful trip to London. Football and the internet have brought me some deep and long-lasting friendships and this event brought home to me just how lucky I am to have friends like these. Full story here.

# 9. A very Sick Swan In a horrible year for me personally, City have had a blinding year and have helped give me something to smile about. There have been a lot of highs for my club, but this was one of the best simply for the pure brilliant surreal-ness of beating THEM on THEIR turf, by such a huge margin πŸ™‚ Full story here.

# 8. Being led astray We have a wonderful circle of friends and this night just summed up all that makes them so great. Even though a few were missing on this occasion, there have obviously been other times with different combinations of friends and all of them are special. Full story here.

# 7. An afternoon exploring with Billy For a married couple we really don’t get much quality time together so I really enjoyed this little interlude. Full story here.

# 6. My son becoming a man – I absolutely love spending time with Stephen, even doing mundane things such as on this occasion here and I was both relieved and proud when he got himself a job too (here .)

# 5. Nel’s 18th Family trips are a rarity these days so I really enjoyed this weekend for Nel’s birthday – everything just fell into place nicely and it was well worth Billy and I pooling our Christmas present cash to fund it. Full story here.

# 4. A new laptop You’ll probably remember this as it was so recent, but never having had a brand new computer before this was a big thing for me πŸ™‚ Full story here.

# 3. A Family Christening This was a high for a few reasons – having time with Billy, having a bit of a holiday, and seeing members of the family whom we love to see. Full story here.

# 2. St George’s Day in Eastbourne A fantastic mini summer holiday in a heat wave, family tradition and time with my wonderful mum plus seeing my brother. Full story here and here.

# 1. FA Cup final An absolutely brilliant day – the stuff of dreams, of the whole range of emotions, of pride, tears, joy, friends, loved ones and a sheer sense of being a part of it all. One of the best days in my life for all those reasons and more and it’ll take some beating. Full story here.