Friday, June 23, 2017

Romance, Violence, Supercops and Shape Shifting Snakes

I've been a miserable git all week.  Maybe it was the heat.  Maybe it was all the depressing stuff in the news.  Then again it might just have been the sheer shittiness of another week in my job.  Whatever the reason, my posts here have been ill-tempered all week.  So, this time, as it is the end of the week and a forty eight hour wank-a-thon (or, as you may call it, the weekend), beckons (yeah, that's right, I stole that from an incredibly obscure Adam and Joe series they did for Channel Five), I thought I'd instead write about something that, lately, has been bringing unexpected joy into my life.  Thanks to the magic of Freeview, I now have access to no less than three Hindi language TV channels: Rishtey, Rishtey Cineplex and Colors.  Now, despite not speaking a word of Hindi, the programmes these channels show have always fascinated me.  Watching films and TV shows in a language you don't speak is always a fascinating experience, as you try to discern meaning from just the images and intonations of voice.  Watching films and TV shows in a foreign language and set in a completely different culture is an even wilder experience, as all the regular (from a European point of view) cultural references and signifiers are absent. 

Of late, a particular favourite programme of mine has been a drama series running on Colors, in which some characters started turning into other characters and, eventually, turned into giant snakes.  Well, sometimes they were all snake, at other times they were only snakes from the waist down.  There were clearly all sorts of conspiracies going on and it seemed that the snake people were the good guys.  To my eyes, it was all just so amazingly surreal.  The bright colours favoured for both sets and costumes in these Hindi productions just added to the air of unreality.  Some research revealed that what I'd been watching had been a recent, top rated, TV series in India, involving a shape shifting snake ( a creature from Hindu mythology), who was seeking those responsible for her mother's death, in order to take revenge upon them.  As it turned out, some of my confusion over the narrative had stemmed from the fact that I'd seen episodes from both the first and second series (in which the same lead actress plays her character's daughter), without realising it. 

My viewing experience has improved somewhat recently, as some of the movies shown on the three channels have been run with English sub-titles.  That said, in a lot of the films the cast actually speak a mixture of Hindi and English, meaning tat even without the sub-titles, you can often get the gist of what's going on.  Anyway, thanks to these developments I've been able to enjoy several contemporary Hindi romantic comedies.  Actually, to be honest, I've not watched them in their entirety, as shown on TV with commercial breaks, they generally run up to three hours long, but I've seen enough of them to get the general idea of what's going on.  Earlier this evening, for instance, I saw the better part of The Bride of Humpty Sharma (I'm not going to even attempt to type the original Hindi title), a tale of the titular character falling in love with a girl from the country who is betrothed to a doctor an a marriage arranged by her father.  Much hilarity ensues when Hunpty and his friends turn up in her home village and try to persuade her father that he is a more suitable potential son in law.  Actually, for a romantic comedy, there seemed to be a lot of beatings up of the hero and his friends by the girl's male relatives.

Last weekend I caught most of Postmortem on a Romance 2, which was a bit like Men Behaving Badly, with bachelor flat mates all becoming romantically involved (with different girls) but ultimately deciding that they preferred their single lioves and the company of their male mates.  More than a little misogynistic, it was, nonetheless, reasonably entertaining, with all the, to me, alien cultural references, making it fascinating.  It's not all romantic comdies, of course.  The other night I caught part of a non-subtitled epic involving (I think) an Indian army officer battling terrorist incursions in a mountainous border area.  Tonight I've watched parts of what seems to be, in part at least, a parody of  rogue cop-type films, also without sub-titles.  Not that sub-titles were needed to understand what was going on - the hero was some kind of tough unorthodox cop (with a natty Errol Flynn-style pencil moustache), who thinks nothing of taking on entire gangs of heavil armed bank robbers single handed.  All the other cops are buffoons and he emerges from furious and hugely violent fights looking impeccable, not even a hair out of place.  So, there you are, my new fixation: Hindi-language films.  I have to say that, of late, watching them has entertained me immensly.  If you have Freeview, you should give them a try.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Repossess the Palaces

So, either Prince William or Harry, (it's no good expecting me to tell which one is which, to me they are like Ant and Dec in that respect: they seem entirely interchangeable and I fail to understand their appeal), has been saying that no member of the Royal Family actually wants to be King or Queen.  Good, you can all fuck off then.  It's no good playing the 'we do out of a sense of duty for the greater good' card with me - it cuts no ice.  They are utterly irrelevant, serving only to legitimise an outmoded class system.  They are the living embodiment of the kind of privilege and entitlement which continues to blight this country.  So, while there's still the whiff of revolution in the air, let's get rid of the bastards.  Repossess the palaces - they could use them to house all those ordinary people who can't afford to live in London any more.  Or maybe they could use them to rehouse the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire.

I go through these phases of republicanism.  Most of the time I'm quite indifferent toward the Royal Family.  I tolerate them as an irrelevant anachronism because, I reason, they have no real power.  But every so often I see some nonsense like the Trooping of the Colour or the State Opening of Parliament, and my blood starts to boil over what they represent.  Then there are these puff pieces in the press, which try to convince us that the younger Royals aren't a bunch of profligate playboys and wastrels, but, in fact, are just like 'us'.  Except that they aren't and can't ever be like us.  They are born into a world of privilege and can never truly grasp what life is like for us peasants.  which brings me to the point which emphasises the sheer ludicrousness of their very existence in twenty first century Britain: the fact that their only qualification for the job is birthright.  How on earth can any rational person accept the concept, let alone the reality, of a hereditary ruling class?  It is, quite literally, a medieval concept.  I know that they are only a constitutional monarchy nowadays, but the amount of deference they are accorded, when they only hold their positions because they were born to them, is astounding.  And now it turns out that none of them even want the job (has anyone told Prince Charles that?).  So what's the point of them?  Get rid of the idle bastards.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Blighting Summer

Apparently this year's Glastonbury Festival starts on Friday.  Which means that it must be Summer.  There have been other clues, (apart from the sunny weather, but that means nothing these days, we have heat waves in Spring and Autumn on a regular basis now - but there's no global warming, Trump tells us), such as increasing amounts of tennis cluttering up the TV schedules.  Indeed, with the Queens tournament in full flow in London, it can only be a couple of weeks at most before the curse of Wimbledon falls upon us.  At least there's no Olympics, World cup or European Championship this year to further disrupt the TV schedules.  I know, I know, I'm sounding like a real old curmudgeon, aren't I?  Resenting the preponderance of sports and festivals during the Summer months because they disrupt my attempts to ignore the good weather and sit inside watching the TV instead. 

Not that I watch any more TV in the Summer than I do at any other time of year - I just resent being deprived of the opportunity of watching TV by these events, which inevitably overrun and make it impossible to watch stuff when it is convenient to me.  There's nothing worse than sitting down in front of the TV in expectation of being able to watch something, only to find that it isn't on because of sport or festivals.  Or worse, that it was scheduled to be on, but has been delayed due to Wimbledon or whatever, overruning.  Meaning that you constantly have to be checking to see whether it has started yet, thereby exposing oneself to the tennis or whatever else it is that you have no interest in watching.

The other reason that I have such a downer on music festivals like Glastonbury is that they just encourage other people to try staging similar, more local, events.  Obviously, these don't boast the saving grace of the bigger festivals of actually featuring acts that you might have heard of and, more importantly, might be musically competent.  Instead, we get abominations like Crapchester Shite, sorry, Crapchester Live, which is due to blight a weekend for me somewhen in the next month or so, featuring local self styled musicians, who are uniformly awful.  That said, it isn't just the fact that, for those of us with the misfortune to live close by the venue have to put up with two solid days of having our ears assaulted by what sounds like people moronically shouting over some atonal cacophony, which annoys me the most. 

No.  It's the fact that the cretins who attend it seem to think that they can use my back garden as some kind of short cut to the venue (it actually isn't, quite apart from the fact that it isn't a public right of way in the first place), and their friends seem to think they can use the alleyway running behind this terrace of houses as a urinal.  Year in, year out I have to put up with this, but every time I try to complain about it, I'm shouted down as some kind of kill joy.  I suppose what I should do is follow some of these bastards home and shit in their gardens whilst playing loud music and throwing empty beer cans all over the place.  See how they like that. 


Monday, June 19, 2017

White Van Terror

It just never ends, does it?  On top of everything else, we now have actual white van men driving their vehicles into groups of Muslims.  But don't worry, he won't be a terrorist, he'll just be mentally ill.  I must admit that I heaved a sigh of relief when I finally saw the pictures of the idiot who was driving the van in last night's incident at Finsbury Park: I didn't know him.  For a moment, when the first details of the attack were emerging, I feared that it might have been someone I'd had the misfortune to encounter on election night.  I'm sure we've all had similar encounters - that drunk who crashes the conversation, derails it completely and just won't go away.  Or worse, as in the case of this guy, going away but keep coming back to derail the conversation again, after he'd been given short shrift by other groups of drinkers.  Anyway, the last time I saw him he was wandering off (having finally got the message that, despite our politeness, the group I was with really wanted him to piss off and stay pissed off) declaring how, the next day, he was going to go out and stab some Muslims, (this, don't forget. was only a few days after the London Bridge business).

Now, I know that there are undoubtedly a lot of drunken racists out there and, like this guy, many of them are also builders who probably have white vans, there was just something about this guy that worried me.  So, when I saw those reports last night, unable to sleep in the sweltering heat, I feared the worst.  It's a sad reflection of the current state of our society that not only do there seem to be large numbers of these reactionary idiots out there, but now we seriously suspect that they are actually capable of carry out their drunken threats.  To digress, have you noticed that every time one of these incidents occur, they are accompanied by the death of a much loved family entertainer?  Manchester bombing: Sir Roger Moore dies.  London Bridge attack: Peter Sallis dies.  Grenfell Tower fire: Anita Pallenberg dies.  Finsbury Park attack: Brian Cant dies.  It surely can't be coincidence, can it?  Is there a conspiracy at work here?  Is somebody offing celebrities from my childhood and using the aftermath of tragedies as a cover, so that nobody notices?  Even worse, is somebody staging these tragedies so as to 'bury the bad news' about the demise of these public figures?  Anything seems possible these days.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Things Come Apart

It never ceases to amaze me how fast things can unravel.  One minute a situation seems stable and you just can't see how it will ever change, then suddenly it is in complete chaos and seemingly tottering on the verge of collapse.  Only a couple of weeks ago, for instance, Theresa May seemed to be heading for an election victory, presaging decades of unchallenged Tory political hegemony - now, she's struggling to form a government and is beset on all sides with problems.  It is almost unbelievable how things have turned around: Corbyn suddenly appears competent and statesman like, while May cuts a forlorn, shambolic figure, incapable of articulating her message to her own party, let alone the electorate.  It's like we've strayed into a parallel universe.  (Actually, if we have, there are few things in my life I'd like turned around - but that's another story altogether).  Of course, as is often the way, as May tries desperately to cling to power, events seem to conspire to push her closer to the edge.

The thing about tragedies like the Grenfell Tower fire is that it requires leading politicians, particularly the Prime Minister, to set the tone for the nation's emotional response.  This generally involves showing compassion toward the victims and their families.  Unfortunately, as the election campaign showed, May is clearly not comfortable mingling with the masses, she obviously finds it difficult to make an emotional connection with strangers.  Which makes her seem unsympathetic and uncaring in the aftermath of the fire.  It doesn't mean that she actually doesn't care - I can't believe that anyone would be left unmoved by the terrible events in Kensington - it is just that she clearly cannot express these feelings.  Sadly, in modern politics, appearances are crucial and when Corbyn and Sadiq Khan have both visited the area and, visibly moved, have spoken to those affected, it leaves May looking distant and disconnected.  Just like she did during the election campaign. 

The fact is that people expect an emotional response to something like the Grenfell Tower fire - people should be angry about it.  And boy, are they angry - we've got people demonstrating on the streets, besieging Kensington and Chelsea Council's offices and marching on Downing Street.  I note, however, that the media have been trying to characterise the recent events as a 'storming' of the council offices, trying to put an aggressive spin out, trying to turn a protest into a mob and implying that these people have no right to be angry.  They are still trying to tow an establishment line, but they are increasingly out of touch with the public mood, just as they were during the election campaign.  I remember when all those riots broke out early in Cameron's premiership and Britain's cities were burning night after night, the authorities apparently unable to impose law and order, I hoped that maybe something was changing in Britain, that established orders could be toppled.  But, in the end, nothing came of it.  The 'natural' order was restored.  This time feels different, perhaps the world finally is turning against the greed and selfishness which seems to have prevailed over our society for too many years now.  It's just a pity that people had to die to start it all off. 


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Burning Red Tape

We seem to be beset with tragedies right now - if it isn't another terror attack then it is a tower block transformed into an inferno.  I always feel uneasy about making political points in the wake of such tragedies - it feels like exploiting the grief of the bereaved for partisan political advantage.  But, let's face it, the terrible fire in Kensington was the culmination of years of government cost-cutting and out sourcing of essential public sector work to contractors who are only interested in taking the money and doing the absolute minimum in return.  I'm not saying that this exactly what happened at Grenfell tower, or that it was the primary cause of the horrendous loss of life - that's for the official investigations to establish.  But we all know that the pressure on local authorities to cut costs and the obsession with cutting 'red tape' creates a dangerous environment for the poor and disadvantaged.  It's not as if we've not had enough warnings of the consequences of cutting that 'red tape': how many examples have we seen in recent years of fires in Far Eastern sweat shops which kill hundreds of workers, because there were no adequate fire safety measures in place?  And now something similar has happened here.

Because all that 'red tape' that business wants cut is, in the main, legislation put in place to protect us, both in our workplaces and our homes.  But the rich bastards resent having to pay for the 'red tape' because it cuts into their profits.  That's why they like to bang on about how we need to be more like one of those Far Eastern economies, with their 'light touch' regulations - so that they can exploit us more and put us at risk.  They want to take us back to the dark days of the industrial revolution, when health and safety in the newly mechanised workplace was non-existent, and the life expectancy of workers was frequently measured in hours, as they ended up mangled by the machinery.  So, next time you hear some moron going on about 'health and safety gone mad', just remember those pictures of that tower block on fire.  Just remember the pictures of its burnt out skeleton, because that's the inevitable consequence of subverting safety in favour of convenience.  You know, I never thought that I'd wake up one morning to find scenes of a residential tower block in the UK burning like a candle dominating the news.  Yet here we are.  We really should be ashamed that we've allowed it to happen.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Flesh and Blood Show (1972)

Pete Walker's first foray into horror after years of knocking out sex movies, The Flesh and Blood Show is, structurally at least, surprisingly conventional.  Unlike his later efforts, such as House of Whipcord, Frightmare and House of Mortal Sin, The Flesh and Blood Show doesn't mount an all out assault upon the conventions of the genre, using it as a vehicle to satirise and critique the hypocrisy of contemporary moral standards.  Instead, Walker presents us with a relatively conventional 'old dark house' type of movie, except that the main venue is a deserted end-of-the-pier theatre, rather than a mouldering country pile.  Which isn't to say that it isn't without interest or lacking in many characteristic Walker touches.  The most obvious of these is the amount of naked flesh on display (both male and female), which was still unusual in horror films of the era, (Hammer and various independent producers were showing a few bared breasts and bums, but Walker gives us much more, including some brief full frontal male nudity). 

The plot is pretty straightforward: a group of young performers are brought to the pier theatre by an unseen producer to rehearse a new show (the titular 'Flesh and Blood Show'), due to a lack of money and local accommodation, they are also forced to sleep there but quickly find that their numbers are being rapidly reduced by an unseen killer.  The murders aren't shown in any detail and there certainly isn't any gore (perhaps surprisingly, bearing in mind the movie's title).  Walker instead aims at building atmosphere and suspense, greatly aided in the former by the empty theatre's sense of desolation and isolation.  The plot unravels slowly, with red herrings galore and even a vanishing body thrown in, but eventually builds to a flash back centred denouement (this sequence was originally shown in 3D).

Not surprisingly, the killer's motivation lies in the past of the theatre - a cuckolded Shakespearean star reliving his earlier murder of his unfaithful wife and her lover (also his co-stars in a wartime production of Othello).  In this respect, the film is superficially similar to another British horror movie released the following year: Theatre of Blood, in which Vincent Price's long assumed dead Shakespearean ham takes his revenge upon the critics who slated him, murdering them in methods derived from the bard's plays.  Coincidentally, both films also feature the deranged thespian being assisted by a daughter.  The Flesh and Blood Show, however, is shot on a much lower budget and lacks the Vincent Price movie's flamboyant sadism and black humour. 

Despite the conventional horror movie structure, some of the themes which would come to dominate later Walker horror projects do begin to emerge here.  Most notable of these are the inability of the authorities to effectively deal with, let alone acknowledge, anything which lies outside of their narrow parameters of 'normality, and the exploitation of the young by older 'establishment' figures in order to satisfy their own repressed perverted desires.  What's missing is the overt attack on the supposed 'moral superiority' of the exploiters: whereas in later films these figures would take the form of judges, priests and family patriarchs, here the role is given to a broken down and clearly insane actor - not an authority figure in any conventional sense.

The film features a semi-'name' cast, from whom Walker elicits, in the main, decent performances.  The nominal lead is Ray Brooks, playing the revue's director, and the cast also includes Jenny Hanley (who takes her clothes off - or rather a body double does, judging by the way the scene is shot), Luan Peters (who spends a large part of the film naked, without the aid of a body double) and  Candace Glendenning, an actress who briefly seemed to have a promising career ahead of her, but quickly found herself specialising in stripping off in low budget horror flicks.  Also present is Robin Askwith, in his pre Confessions days (he played straight roles in quite a few horror flicks in the early seventies, most notably the magnificently barmy Horror Hospital) and Judy Matheson, an actress who seemed to spend a lot of the early seventies being victimised in various horror films.  No wonder she later became a continuity announcer for TVS, my local ITV franchise.  Patrick Barr, as the murderous actor, gives good value and became something of a Walker favourite.

All-in-all, The Flesh and Blood Show is a reasonably entertaining horror flick - it flags somewhat in the middle, but picks up toward the end.  It makes good use of its locations and features decent performances from its cast.  But there is nothing really outstanding about it.  Indeed, the most interesting thing about it is the fact that it was directed by Pete Walker as, to those who have only seen his later horror films, it is so conventional.  Of course, Walker's subsequent directorial career would eventually come full circle, with his last - to date - film being 1983's House of Long Shadows, another conventional 'old dark house' movie, albeit featuring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Vincent Price and John Carradine, made for Cannon. 


Monday, June 12, 2017

On the Rails

I'm absolutely exhausted by all the fall out from last week's election - and it isn't over by a long chalk yet.  Mind you, I didn't help my energy levels any by sitting up to all hours on Saturday night/Sunday morning, drinking beer and watching The French Connection for the hundredth time on Film Four in an attempt to wind down after all the politics.  Anyway, I think we all need a break from politics, at least here on Sleaze Diary.  So, a quick update on my model railway.  The track for the main running lines is in place, but not ballasted or fixed down.  Right now, I'm engaged in the labourious task of running, by hand, my most pernickity and sensitive rolling stock to try and find any problem areas where they derail.  My 'problem' rolling stock are several Mainline Mk1 coaches and the older of my two Wrenn CCTs - these all fall off of the track at the slightest excuse.  There's also a mainline ex-LMS luggage van with similar propensities.  My old Hornby Mk1 coaches are generally better behaved - unless they are coupled to their Mainline equivalents.  Old Lima coaches, I've found, are pretty much bullet proof and will run over even the worst laid track without problems.

Once I've identified and dealt with the problem areas, the underlay will go under the track and it will be lightly fixed down.  I'll then have to temporarily connect each loop in turn to a controller and repeat the tests with my most 'sensitive' locomotives, to check that there aren't any areas of track that they 'object' to negotiating without derailment.  Then I can think about fixing the main loops down properly and turn my attention to laying the track for the various sidings.  Here's a quick view of the layout under construction, looking toward the non-station side (I know it's a mess, but it is a work in progress):

The area in the top left hand corner will eventually be the site of a small goods yard with a couple of sidings.  In the top right hand corner there will be a small locomotive shed and facilities.  The area below the main lines currently covered in unused track and points will eventually be a marshalling yard where the stock will be shunted together into trains, (a fuller explanation of this will come when the layout is more advanced.

This shot shows part of what will be the station area (you can see some of the Hornby platform sections I've been using to align the track).  Also visible are some of the rolling stock I'm using for testing purposes.  The troublesome Mainline luggage van is on the inner loop, coupled to a well behaved Lima Siphon van.  The equally troublesome Wrenn CCT is the uncoupled van beind them, at the bottom of the picture.  The Mainline Mk1s are out of shot, but are part of the formation which includes the Hornby CK and Lima BGseen at the top right of the photo. 

So there you have it, photographic proof that my model railway layout does exist and isn't just a figment of my imagination!


Friday, June 09, 2017

Post Election Musings

OK, I've calmed down since the early hours, when I was in a state ecstasy over the election results rolling in.  Since then, Theresa May has, incredibly, clung on to power, despite losing her majority, by doing some kind of deal with a bunch of sectarian extremists from Northern Ireland (I thought Corbyn was meant to be the one who pandered to extremists).  It will all end in tears, mark my words.  The sheer arrogance of May is breathtaking: announcing that she was going to carry on with a minority government, she failed to acknowledge the fact tat she had just lost her parliamentary majority in an election she hadn't needed to call.  Most significantly, she failed to address the fact that she had justified calling said election on the basis that she was asking the electorate to give her a mandate to negotiate a 'hard Brexit' ('no deal is better than a bad deal') and that they had patently refused to grant her such a mandate.

Anyway, I thought I'd offer some final thoughts on the election, particular with regard to the opinion polls.  It is now clear that most of them were overestimating Tory support.  Or rather, they underestimated badly the turnout of Labour voters, particularly young Labour voters. The only polling organisation which consistently got it right, even correctly predicting a hung parliament, was YouGov, yet they were vilified throughout the campaign, with accusations that their methodology was wrong.  We now know that it wasn't.   It's obvious that mobilising the youth vote was key to Labour's unexpectedly good showing in the election.  Without taking anything away from Corbyn's role in this, I'm sure that the youth turnout was in large part down to lingering anger over the EU referendum, where the 'Leave' vote was fueled by older voters, much to the chagrin of predominantly 'Remain' younger voters.  What's essential now is that Labour continues to engage these voters and try to harness their support to try and further improve their electoral standing.  The high youth turnout can't be allowed to be a one off.

OK, that's it for now.  I'm sure I'll return to this subject, but for now, I'm exhausted from staying up too late reveling over the results.  I'm going to make myself a toasted cheese and bacon sandwich and doze through some bad TV.

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"The Rich C**ts are Shitting Themselves"

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!  OK, I know it's early days, but that exit poll did me a power of good!  Best of all, it looks like it is, more or less, panning out.  Even if we don't get a hung parliament then, at the very least, the Tory bastards should only get, at the best, a small majority, which should hobble them somewhat and undermine May's standing in the party.  I was in the pub when the headline came up on our smartphones that the pound was falling on the international markets on the basis of that exit poll.  My friend Bob's reaction was: "The rich cunts are shitting themselves that all those fucking tax loopholes and tax havens are going to get shut down."  I'd dearly love to see that as a headline in the Financial Times.  But it sums up what this election has really been about: whether the country is run for the benefit of everyone, or just for the benefit of a wealthy minority, be they individuals or corporations.  If the exit poll is in any way accurate, then it seems opinion is swinging toward the former idea.  It also indicates that Labour can gain ground by campaigning on a centre left platform, rather than by trying to out do the Tories in terms of economic austerity.

Anyway, here's the bit where I admit that I was clearly wrong about Jeremy Corbyn.  I'm still not a supporter, I still have very real doubts about his leadership but, fair's fair, he's fought a good campaign and it seems to have paid dividends.  I said in an earlier post  that if Labour managed to force a hung parliament in this election, I'd take my hat off to Corbyn.  Well, the hung parliament still might not happen but, I'm prepared to give him a hat tip right now.  So, here's my hat, actually several of my hats, not on my head, but hung up on my coat hooks - I've taken them all off for Corbyn tonight:

Ah well, I think I'll go to bed now - the BBC are still trying to find some kind of evidence of Tory swings to contradict their own exit poll, but I think it's still safe to get some sleep.  I think that the rich cunts are still shitting themselves.

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Thursday, June 08, 2017

Car Troubles

I can't help but feel that I'm heading toward the end of my relationship with my current car.  I'd always maintained that it only had to last until the mortgage was paid off, then I'd think about replacing it with something that didn't have so many niggling problems.  Well, this week it did its best to fulfill this prophecy on its own account.  Yesterday it went in for what should have been a simple service. I didn't get it back again until lunchtime today, accompanied by a huge garage bill.  To be frank, I could have bought a new car with the amount I had to fork out today.  I'm really not happy.  That's another chunk of the windfall I got from my mortgage endowment policy pay out down the drain barely two months after receiving it.  Of course, I've had all the usual smart arses telling me that I should have bought a new car instead of having the work done. 

Well, it is easy to be wise after the event.  The fact is that, when I took the car to the garage, I had no idea they were going to come up with the list of urgent remedial action needed that they did.  (I have to say, I'm more than mildly surprised that none of this came up as advisories at the time of the last MoT in October).  Moreover, I have to have a car in order to do my job - being off the road yesterday caused havoc - and buying a new one takes time.  Just finding one I might want to buy takes an age.  So, I really had no choice but to have the current one repaired, regardless of the expense.  An expense which could get higher - I only had the essential work done on the car, there's a whole list of other stuff which allegedly needs doing if it is to get through another MoT.  However, I'm afraid that, on top of the expense of replacing the clutch last year, this latest episode has left me feeling that I just want to cut my losses.  I really don't want to put it through the MoT again when I know that will incur yet more huge expense. 

All my instincts are telling me to run the bloody thing for the next few months so as to get some value from the money it has eaten up, then replace it before the MoT in October.  The trouble is that the money I spent keeping the car on the road this week constitutes a large chunk of the money I'd been planning to spend on its replacement.  Consequently, I'm inclined to follow my late Uncle Charlie's advice (he was in the motor trade for many years after the war), which was to buy something cheaply, provided it had a long MoT and just run it - no proper services, just change the oil and filters - until that was close to expiry. He'd then get it checked over to see what was needed to get it through the MoT: if it was minor stuff, he'd get it  MoT'd for another year, if it was likely to be expensive, he got rid of it and started again.  Likewise, if it suffered a major fault between MoTs, he got rid of it and started again.  He reckoned that, selected wisely, a cheap old car could safely be relied upon for two or three years service at minimal expense.

In fact, I've already been doing some looking and found some interesting potential bargains, particularly amongst the cars taken as part exchanges by dealers.  These are often in decent nick and need little done to them.  The only proviso is that they are often older, larger cars with bigger engines, which not only potentially increases running costs (lower mpg) but also attracts a higher rate of road tax and insurance.  But it's all swings and roundabouts: you can get a lot of car for a low price.  My other main worry about buying older vehicles is durability - the fact is that the mileages I have to put in for work and, most significantly, the sorts of roads I'm also forced to use, are what have damn near killed my current car.  I'm slightly worried that buying something with an already high mileage might be tempting fate,  We'll see.