My van had its MOT test back in March and all went well as it passed the test. On Monday (18 th) it was the day for E to take her car in for the test too. I had an interrupted night’s sleep and wasn’t feeling that good when I finally came downstairs for breakfast. E had just finished hers. I could have been much earlier in coming down but I had fallen back to sleep after the third time of waking. I really must have been tired but despite my lethargy I remembered that E’s car was due for its test that morning. She had however forgotten! She wasn’t dressed and had forty minutes or so before the car had to be at the service station. I was to follow her to pick her up and having done so decided a short break at Dobbies garden would be a good idea so we drove the short distance and parked up. A nice cup of coffee each didn’t cost us a penny for they were free. I am allowed two cups of coffee each month at no cost because I am a member there. We found a couple of lounge chairs next to the panoramic windows and sat there in comfort chatting. Outside was a guy with a large female Alsatian dog. He had picked up the large drinking bowl set there for dogs and was walking about seemingly looking for a water tap (faucet) with which to fill it. Eventually someone went outside with a jar filled with water and it was poured into the bowl for the dog who immediately drank from it. It must have been an oversight that the bowl hadn’t been filled by the staff though they had probably been too busy. We also noticed the little Robin flying here there and everywhere stamping his mark on his territory. A couple of times he came and sat on the table on the other side of the window and eyed us up too. When we had finished our coffee we went outside and walked around the garden centre browsing the plants but we didn’t purchase anything this time. While walking about we noticed several large plant pots with large plants in them lying about here and there. They must have been blown over during the recent storm over the weekend but no-one had bothered to lift them up. In fact there had been very few members of staff at all outside. We left and sat in the van for a short time while E called the service station to see if her car was ready for collection. Over her phone I could hear the mechanic say that the car had passed its test and we drove there to collect it. Before we returned indoors on arriving home we went next door to visit our neighbour for a while before lunch. I rested up in the afternoon watching more football on tv.
Funny how things in life look different when viewed from a different perspective. I retired from full-time and even part-time occupational work back in April. My tax returns were always easier as I chose to keep my accounting in-line with the UK tax year which begins at the beginning of April. I always hated doing my tax return in the past but now that is one task I will be glad to be rid of. All that aside, life has become far simpler since April. I haven’t driven my van much since then either though for a few months prior to April my workload had dropped significantly anyway. Now it is non-existent except for private domestic work where having a van has proved to be very beneficial. Last year for instance I barely covered 1000 miles between MOT tests! Now, when I go out walking I see things from a new angle and notice things I probably didn’t notice too closely beforehand. Then I was behind the wheel but now I am on foot and see the bad behaviour of many motorists. Yes, there were times, many times, I came across bad drivers and their antics but I get to see far more of them as a pedestrian! As with most towns in the UK there are speed limits to adhere to, 20, 30 mph zones are commonplace and are there for good reason. As a motorist I was and am well aware that speeding motorists are a danger to both motorists and pedestrians alike, even to themselves. It seems however that some motorists don’t think the limits apply to them and regularly flout them. I sometimes walk along the seafront where the speed limit is 30 mph throughout the year, generous in my estimation especially during the warm months when there are always plenty of pedestrians about and the likelihood of accidents are greater. I say accidents but really they are the result of a lack of concentration and usually caused through speeding.
Lately I have taken that walk in the early hours of the morning when it is still dark yet I see motorists speeding along at easily twice the speed limit in some cases, that is 50 to 60 mph! What would they do if suddenly there was a pedestrian crossing the road or a dog running wild? There are many people walking dogs on the beach sometimes and they have to cross the road from the car park to get there. They are madmen, maniac drivers who, instead of setting out earlier find they now need to speed because they are late for work. Not all motorists I see act that way I hasten to add, just a few of them. Each time I go out walking it is usually in the morning and often before the ‘rush hour’, the rat race to get to work but sometimes during that time. The bad driving isn’t limited to car owners either, many large commercial vehicle drivers are just as bad. Yes, things look far different when viewed as a pedestrian and from the perspective of someone who has no need to rush anywhere!
Carrying out business on-line should be easy and straightforward and it is for most of the time. However sometimes that hasn’t always been my experience. I remember the days I used to trudge along to the Post Office to pay the road fund licence for my vehicle and send off the remittance by cheque to the insurance company for my vehicle insurance cover. Not that this was a real inconvenience unless the weather was bad, I was feeling unwell or I simply couldn’t find the time. Now we have the wonderful (?) Internet whereby everything can be done from my armchair, well that is the theory anyway. Last year I paid my road fund licence fee over the Internet and at the same time arranged for the annual fee to be paid by Direct Debit from my main current account so this year and every year I don’t need to do anything unless things at my end change. I won’t know for a few days whether the DVLA have taken the fee so I shall have to wait and see.
As for the insurance, I went to my insurance company’s website to make my payment using the information they had sent me through the normal mail. I was told that the information I was submitting was inaccurate yet it was the information I had received from them! Naturally they provide a telephone number by which to communicate with them too and I had to resort to using that method. After a few minutes I had paid the fee using my debit card and it was done. I was offered no explanation as to why I was unable to carry out the transaction over the Internet. Why have a system that doesn’t work when required? I was thinking that the problem lay with their data not being updated before they sent out the proposal form. It was nevertheless a better way to pay my dues.
I had to get up early on Thursday morning in order to take my van to the service depot for its annual MOT test and at the same time give it a birthday present in the form of a full service too. As the odometer only read 26747 miles it hadn’t really been in need of a major service, the last one was when the odometer read something like 15000 miles I suppose but I thought it best to have one done. It is a diesel-engined vehicle and as you can see the mileage is low. I have had it since new and I bought it in 2008 so you can see my annual mileage is low at around 3200 miles. I therefore expected it to pass the test which thankfully it did. I had to get it to the service depot which is around 1.3 miles away, before 8.30. E followed five minutes after and picked me up to return home. I’d eaten breakfast but she hadn’t so I sat with her over a coffee whilst she ate. I made the decision to begin painting the bedroom ceiling and freeze with the partially used container of paint, the same colour we used when redecorating the kitchen a couple of months ago, ‘Victorian Lace’ which is best described as dusty white, a little like mushroom perhaps. You can just about see the colour on the area nearest the windows. ( By the way the magnolia on the walls will be changed when we get the paint to suit the furniture.)We had bought another container of it the day before for we knew what we had wouldn’t be enough for the job. I managed to cover probably just over a third of the area before the opened container was empty. As I write this late in the afternoon I am not sure if the new full container will be enough to complete the area and we may have to purchase another. Here are some more pictures. During my stint up and down the ladder I received a couple of phone calls, one from somebody seeking my electrical skills and one from the service depot. The electrical work was scheduled for the following Wednesday. The service manager told me that the van had failed the test but the minor problems could be easily dealt with and he continued to say that on the previous test last year that they had cured one of the problems very easily so there was nothing to worry about. I had to interrupt him by telling him that this was my first visit to his depot for an MOT test. He then realised that he had called the wrong customer! He apologised and said he would call later regarding my vehicle, which is what he did ten minutes later to inform me that my van had passed the test but that they were proceeding with the servicing and would call again when it was done. He would have saved himself the embarrassment had he spoken to me using my name but he made the assumption I was the one he wanted to speak with. Anyway he called back less than an hour later to tell me the van was ready for collection. It was 11.30 and E drove me there to collect it and make payment. I had just finished painting what I could with the opened container which was now empty as I didn’t want to open the new container so near to lunchtime and knowing I had to go out anyway. The timing had been perfect. So that was another of the tasks before me which has been sorted. I feel as though I am at the top of the hill now ready to go down the other side. I only wish the leaking roof would be sorted soon but nothing has happened so far and we are waiting for our roofing guy to make a move. I left off finishing the ceiling for another day.
On Thursday I got up very early, around five-twenty and by six forty-five I had a shower, got dressed, had breakfast and had hung up the washing I had placed in the machine before my shower. I had an idea I might get some electrical work but none came in during the day. Around eight-thirty I was out in the garden drinking coffee and playing my guitar on what I call my favourite bench in front of the patio. It more or less faces eastward and the sun in the morning, though at that time the sun is hidden behind the large trees growing at the end of the garden. I was bored, not because I was playing the guitar, no that relieves the boredom but having nothing else to do. I struggled toward noon and at that time E had decided to go out. I found out later that she had gone to see her mom but only by chance as I drove past her mom’s house some time later and saw her car on the drive. I had decided to go for a drive, nowhere in particular but it was a nice day, only one of two we expected all week. I like driving but I seldom just go out simply for a drive. I drove out with no idea of where I would go, I just drove. I realised I would pass by E’s mom’s house after driving along the route I had taken but it didn’t matter. I drove around for an hour and surprisingly there was very little traffic about, just one or two idiots who flaunt the rules. The video starts about half-way through my little excursion and shows about one quarter of it. Oh and by the way it isn’t the year 2046 as the video timer indicates. I haven’t been able to reset the time on the camera not thinking it needed doing until now. That’s a job for another day. One guy in a large van looked very impatient as he drove behind me for a couple of miles not being able to overtake. Finally he did overtake but drove over hash markings to do so at about 84 seconds into this video.
The hash markings show hazardous areas where overtaking is forbidden, at road junctions for instance but it made no difference to him, he simply ignored them. I kept to the local speed limit and was still in a 30 mph zone when he overtook as you can see at speed. Soon after I was in a 40 mph zone and about two miles ahead pulled up behind him as he was stopped in a small queue of traffic at a junction controlled by lights. He need not have driven so carelessly and aggressively, he had gained nothing from it and he might have placed others in danger instead. I had reached the point in my pointless journey where I wanted to turn homeward and so I did. For those who are interested the video starts just before I reach Rufford on the A59 having driven through Halsall, Ormskirk and Burscough. I continue through Rufford until I reach Tarleton at the A565 junction, through Tarleton and on through to Hesketh Bank where the video ends. It was after one o’clock when I got back home and I prepared lunch. E evidently hadn’t stayed out long herself as the gates to her garage drive were closed as I arrived back.
On Wednesday morning I had some small electrical jobs to do in a house in another town nearby. Originally pencilled-in for Friday the job was brought forward because the customer couldn’t get time off from his workplace. He called me on Tuesday evening to ask if I could do the work the next day. Fortunately I had nothing scheduled for Wednesday so I was able to accommodate. I wanted to get the work done as early as possible so arranged to be there around 8.30. The first problem had been attempting to reverse onto his driveway as the house stands right on a busy road junction and directly alongside a mini-roundabout. Opposite is a school for infants and juniors and of course at that time the traffic is very busy. He did warn me that getting on and off his drive was often met with irate drivers with the attitude that anyone doing so shouldn’t be doing so. I despair at the attitude of some people. Anyway I approached the small roundabout and stopped the following traffic and waited for a gap in the traffic approaching from my left. The junction is in the form of the letter ‘Y’ so stopping as I did stopped traffic from two directions. I waited for only a few seconds but I suppose that would seem like an age to some people and was then able to drive across the roundabout onto the extra-wide pavement opposite where I then reversed onto the driveway. Traffic still had to wait whilst I reversed. On the way over to the town I drive across country and take my time. Several vehicles overtook me even though I was driving at 40-45 mph. I thought to myself, ‘Just what is the hurry? Why don’t drivers simple start their journey 5 or 10 minutes earlier?’ In the event I caught up with all of them a mile further down the road when they were stopped at a busy junction. I smiled to myself. So now I was safe on the driveway and soon inside the house.
The work was very simple, change four recessed lights in the ceiling, change the lights beneath the kitchen units and change another ceiling light in the porch but first we had to buy the units having decided on what was needed. I asked the guy to accompany me to the supplier so that he could choose the lights and pay for them. Normally I would buy them and use them at a marked-up price but I thought it wise this time not to. We purchased what we needed and then drove off, though that wasn’t straightforward as some of the lights we required were out of stock and we had to select a different type, a good reason for the guy to be with me. About a half-mile down the road we realised we had forgotten one item so we returned to collect it. I began with the recessed ceiling lights but found the original holes were too small to accommodate the new fittings though they were supposed to be identical in size. No problem for a pad saw. I removed the first light from its sealed box and discovered it was not only a different colour to that we had asked for but it was broken too as if it had been opened before. The guy returned to the supplier whilst I got on with the work. The original four lights had been fed through two transformers and one of those transformers turned out to be part faulty, that is one of the two outputs was faulty which meant it could only supply one light. That meant lifting a floorboard in the room above to gain access to it and install a new transformer to accommodate the fourth light. Fortunately I have spare transformers in my van stock so I fitted one of those. It didn’t work! It was a new transformer in a sealed box and it was faulty! I replaced it and this time the light worked. By this time the guy had returned with a replacement light and I fitted it before installing the new under-unit lights. That part of the work was straightforward though a little awkward. The last part of the job was to replace an old ceiling light with a basic light unit. After sorting out the numerous wires behind the old light I fitted the new unit and found the cover wouldn’t screw on. The real problem was the ceiling itself, it had been coated with rough cast ‘Artex’, an uneven surface. After a few frustrating minutes I finally got it fitted. It was now 12.30. I had been there for four hours when really the work should have only taken perhaps two. One thing that is needed to be an electrician is patience as it can be frustrating work sometimes, I take it all in my stride though.
The first three months of my year is all about spending. It is all to do with my business transport, my van. First off is the annual fee for emergency breakdown service with the AA (Automobile Association) who offer different levels of cover. I pay the fee automatically by a direct debit but I am always wary of the fact that one year the subscription wasn’t debited from my account and I hadn’t noticed so I make sure each year that it has in fact been paid. Because the fee wasn’t paid, or taken, my membership lapsed for they thought I had cancelled. Most companies would follow-up on that you might expect but this time they didn’t. It wasn’t a problem until I needed their services and realised I wasn’t covered. I paid for the service and then had to reapply for membership. That was about twelve years ago. My next outgoing payments are the road fund license fee, the insurance and the MOT test which are all due before the end of February.
At the moment of writing this I have yet to receive the insurance proposal notification but I have already arranged payments for the road fund license and the MOT test. I have set up a direct debit to be automatically paid each year for the road fund license fee so I will no longer have to sort that out each year either by making a one-off payment through the Internet or by queuing at a Post Office. I have paid in advance using the Internet for my MOT test which the van will get on the 20th of this month. My little van is now seven years old having been first registered in March 2008 so this will be its fourth test. I hope there are no problems for that will mean more spending but if that is necessary then that is how it will be. In those seven years the van has only clocked up a mere 23,000 miles but it is usually only used for my business needs, rarely for anything else. That distance represents a rough mileage of only 3500 a year! No wonder my insurance premium is quite low! The van runs on diesel fuel and for diesel engines that mileage means it is barely ‘run-in’. With the implementation of new methods by the Government for collecting fees and the necessity for displaying tax disks mo longer necessary it makes the system far easier and robust. Payment evasion has become more difficult for those who try to avoid it. Checks are automatically carried out to ensure every vehicle that uses the roads are insured, taxed and tested were it is necessary. Police these days are equipped for checking on these things if you drive by a check point or are ‘seen’ by equipment in their vehicles. I will be a happy bunny if I get to March with no problems to sort out.
Whilst out driving recently E told me a really funny but true story concerning her late father. We had been talking about driving conditions and I had mentioned an experience I’d had a day earlier when driving eastward from home to a job earlier in the morning. The morning sun was full in my face which made driving difficult and dangerous too. She told me about the time her father had been driving in thick fog in the depths of winter and how at every turn he seemed to have a tail of vehicles following his. All of those followers peeled off to go elsewhere except for one who persisted in following him. Eventually her father stopped his vehicle, got out and walked back to the car which had followed him for miles in the fog. As he approached a window was wound down and the lady driver inside asked him why he had stopped where he had. He replied, ‘I live here’! She had followed him all the way home and even onto his driveway! Well I couldn’t stop laughing at that. Keeping with her family I was reminded of the time many years ago when her mother was out driving in the fog too. She had come upon a large roundabout and according to her passenger had driven around it several times in the wrong direction trying to find the exit! You’ve got to laugh about it but it was a very dangerous thing to have done. It is bad enough driving in the fog but to do it driving in the opposing direction to all other road users could be disastrous. Fortunately on this occasion every other driver had stayed indoors! The first of these two short stories was more funny that it was dangerous but the second was more dangerous than it was funny I am thinking. They were only ‘one offs’ so to speak but many people I imagine drive like that all of the time.
….E and I did go for that afternoon meal to a place i haven’t been to for well over twelve months though E goes there usually once every month. It is the venue her group uses for their monthly meeting. They serve good food and we have never been disappointed. This time they had an open fire burning coal and logs in the room we chose to dine and whilst they have more than one fireplace I didn’t know if they had all been lit. We realised however that after a while the room was beginning to smell rather smokey and it didn’t improve though by the time we were served our dessert it had become more of a nuisance. The problem was, and we told the staff the reason was due to a lack of ventilation, indicating that they should open a window or a door to let in some fresh air and to aid and encourage a good draught up the chimney but they didn’t take the advice. Still it was a pleasant afternoon and a fine meal. We chose not to return home by the more direct route knowing that there would be delays at the north end of the town due to some major road works going on for the next couple of weeks. We drove down the motorway to make a detour through Parbold, a village in and around the highest hill in the area giving views over vast areas of the countryside. Southport, Liverpool and the hills and mountains of North Wales can easily be seen from its peak, where many stop to admire it. The road passes over it. The view by night is akin to that seen from an aircraft at low altitude and quite amazing. Some of the drivers using the motorway must have a death wish as many of them were driving far too close to the vehicle in front of them for the speed at which they were driving. I said to E that they must think they have only a minute left to live and adding that driving as they were perhaps they would have only a minute left! Anyway we drove to the other side and on to Burscough (pronounced Bursco) and on toward Southport but that part of the journey was fraught with danger caused by the poor driving standards of other motorists along the way. One driver pulled so far out of a side road we had to stop for there was no way to drive around him due to oncoming traffic, then there was another driver who also pulled out of a side road and continued to the left ahead of us which caused E to slam on her brakes. These people must think they are the only ones on the road! At one point E had to slam on the brakes again because of a dog which threatened to run out in front of us. Its owner appeared from around the small bend in the road with another dog on a leash and stared at us as if to say ‘What’s the problem’? Isn’t there something in the Highway Code that says all dogs should be kept under control at all times, especially near traffic? Obviously the rules don’t apply to that guy. A little further on found us behind a female learner driver and for a while she was doing well, until we reached a small roundabout where she seemingly had problems with her clutch control causing her to stay put for some time. When gaps appeared in the traffic coming from the right (we drive on the left here) she missed the opportunity to move on but eventually she got there and we were able to continue too. As we approached the next roundabout a driver on our left was driving so fast we didn’t think he would stop in time as we turned right but fortunately he did. The road ahead was now restricted to 20 mph and we duly kept to that speed. A few hundred metres along we saw three police vehicles and an ambulance parked at the side of the road and the police appeared to be holding several young children for questioning. We didn’t know why but suspected there may have been an accident. Finally we reached home in one piece. The setting sun was shining in our faces for much of the journey home which made driving more difficult and potentially dangerous. I feel certain that as Winter approaches we will hear reports of more accidents involving drivers not taking more care. If we have encountered bad driving when conditions are good what is it going to be like when conditions deteriorate?
On Saturday I felt like going for a drive somewhere, anywhere, just to get out of the house. I don’t do that very often and usually decide on the spur of the moment. I would have gone earlier but our youngest son had stayed the night again and I wasn’t able to get my vehicle out of the garage for he had parked his car in front of it! I hadn’t an appointment so I wasn’t in any hurry. Had I been so I would have done something about it. As it was I finally managed to drive off just after 12.30. He seems to be spending more time here than he does at his own place but at least we get to see him. E had driven off somewhere too, about a half-hour earlier but she had been able to get her car out of the garage! We have two garages but anyone calling tend to leave their cars on the driveway in front of the garage I use. That is probably because the driveway is a little wider I suppose. I drove off in the direction of Liverpool. I seem to be drawn there a lot these days. My old town, well it is a city, has changed immensely since I left there back in 1974 and not least of all in the layout of the roads. Those on the outskirts of the city centre haven’t changed much other than being upgraded and tidied up to make them more presentable but the ones in and around the centre can be a bit of a nightmare to negotiate if going from ‘A’ to ‘B’ within the centre itself unless one is used to the new layout. I have to say at this point that I am quite familiar with most of the roads but certain ones I have yet to get to grips with. Isn’t it always the way that when negotiating a chosen route slowly in case a turn is missed other drivers become impatient? I am sure they have been in similar situations where they have been on unfamiliar routes and have had to slow down too. Actually I was simply driving through with no particular place to go though I wanted to remain driving in the right direction nevertheless. It wouldn’t have made much difference had I missed a turn or two as I was only out for a drive. As it happened I had no such problems in the route I had taken but I did slow down on one or two occasions. I had no idea where I would end up on the other side of the city, that is I hadn’t selected anywhere in particular. I ended up driving eastward and away from the city. I enjoy driving, I always have, especially in the twilight hours or at night but even during the day I find it pleasurable. After driving for a couple of hours my tummy decided that it wanted something in it but I found myself in open country with no prospect of finding a decent eating house! Eventually I found somewhere, a pub/restaurant, parked up and went inside for a meal. It used to be that whenever I ate alone I got some strange looks from some of the other diners as if I should have been in company. Some people are odd aren’t they? If I am alone and I am hungry I eat! Sometimes when eating alone or drinking alone, not that I drink (alcohol) anymore, I get to chat with people. Maybe they think I need someone to chat with, who knows? I pushed the boat out a bit and treated myself to a good meal with all the trimmings for a change, never mind the cost. I spent almost two hours in there by which time the afternoon was all but over and I headed off homeward. E had returned whilst I had been out and was tapping away at her keyboard, probably entering more competitions as is her want. I think she spends far too much time on her computer but that is her choice. I prefer to go for a drive or a walk or for a train ride!