Minor Bloggywork Damage

A few weeks ago, I was involved in a minor road traffic incident on my commute to work, when a lobotomised ape in a van, decided to drive into the side of my car – destroying my wing mirror, and causing additional damage to the side of the car in the process.

At the time, he didn’t request any of my insurance details (because he was clearly at fault), and merely offered me his own, however he has evidently realised there were no witnesses, and is now trying to suggest we were equally to blame. I’m not one to get angry and hold a grudge, as you know, but let’s just say that if he were to now contract a flesh-eating disease on his scrotum, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. I would, however, visit him in hospital, if only to rub salt into the wound.

When faced with such a situation, it’s always comforting to know that you have a competent insurer, accident management company, and repairing garage on your side. Unfortunately, I have no idea what that might feel like, because my insurers have been useless to non-existent; the accident management company have been utterly incompetent, and the repairing garage have made the other two look thoroughly professional.

Since the claim is ongoing, I probably shouldn’t mention who I am insured with (let’s just say there was a battle there in 1066).  I contacted them straight after the accident, because I didn’t think for one second ‘van scumbag’ was going to try and wriggle out of hitting me – he was, after all, in the middle of the road, and not looking where he was going at the time – so I naively thought there would be a prompt admission from his insurers (again, I won’t mention them by name, but it’s a city in Switzerland), and I’d have my car back swiftly.

I never expected there to be a fight on liability, with my no-claims discount compromised, and my premium likely to rocket next year as a result, but above all I didn’t think it would take more than two fucking weeks to fix one wing mirror.  I’m pretty sure I could have had a decent stab at taking the entire car apart, and then re-building it, faster.

To give you some idea of the incompetence I have been dealing with, let me summarise the chronology:

Monday 16th April – van wanker drives into me around 9:05am. Accident reported to insurers an hour later. Hire car delivered early afternoon. So far, so adequate.

Tuesday 17th April – my car is collected late afternoon, from Poynton, by a recovery company in Crewe, to take it to the repairer in Stoke. Genius.

Wednesday 18th April – bugger all happens.

Thursday 19th April – bugger all happens again. I contact my insurers, and the repairing garage, to find out why I haven’t received an estimate yet. The estimate arrives at nearly 6pm, but is only for the wing mirror, not the scratches down the side. They query whether I want the additional damage including. No, it’s fine, I’ll just stick some pretty pictures over that when I get the car back, dickhead.

Friday 20th April – I email back, to explain that, yes, I would like all the damage repairing (please), and to express my dissatisfaction at the delays – pointing out that, had I used my local repair centre, I would almost certainly have my own car back by now. I demand the updated estimate by the end of the day.

I also phone my insurers to complain, who inform me that once the estimate has been corrected, it could take the accident management company a week to authorise the repairs, then another week or so for the garage to order the parts and actually carry out the work. The reason for it taking a week to authorise the repair? They still had a backlog of work since The Beast from the East two months earlier.

Needless to say, I didn’t receive the updated estimate by the end of the day.

Saturday 21st April – or the next day.

Monday 23rd April – or the next.

Tuesday 24th April – still nothing. At this point, I was getting slightly pissed off, so I decided to contact my local repairer, in the hope they could provide a quick estimate my insurers might be satisfied with. They provide the quote very quickly, but it is higher than I expected, so I phone the repairer in Stoke to see if they have bothered to finalise their own quote.

Having got through to ‘Sally No-Stars’ on reception, she places me on hold to check the present position, following which the conversation goes thus:

‘Yes, the repairs have started, and your car will be ready for Friday.’

‘The repairs have started?! And who authorised that?’

‘Erm, hang on, I’ll have to put you on hold.’

[5 minutes later]

‘I’m going to have to get the manager to call you back.’

‘Yes, you do that.’

Ditzy-receptionist-bubble-gum.jpg

Wednesday 25th April – having received no return call, but having had enough of the incompetent bullshit, I send a rather scathing e-mail to my insurers, the accident company, and the repairer, in the hope one of them might actually give me some answers.

My particular gripe, aside from the delays, is the fact the garage have gone ahead and begun repairing the car without my authority. When they finally e-mail back, rather than apologise, they have a go at me, stating that they don’t need my authority, as they get this from the insurers and accident management company, not the customer (typed in such a way as to imply the customer is a repugnant piece of shit). I know this, because that particular sentence begins ‘with all due respect’, which is a term I often use in my own e-mails, to mean ‘listen, scumbag…’

So, despite having no idea how much my repairs will cost (which I argue is important information, in the event my claim is settled 50/50 by the lazy insurers, because I need to know the extent of the claim on my policy), I was at least guaranteed my car would be ready for Friday 27th April.

Friday 27th April – the day doesn’t start well, when I realise the hire car has just under a quarter of a tank left, and since I am obliged to return it with ‘at least a quarter’, this means adding the most meagre of amounts to take the needle above that level.

Having pulled in to Tesco on my way to work, I top the car up with a miserly £5, and set off again. However, as I pull out of the car park, I notice the needle hasn’t moved, and is still below the quarter-mark. Bugger.

I therefore drive around the Tesco complex and back to the petrol station, where I pull up to the same pump and try again to add £5 of fuel, assuming it somehow hasn’t worked. This time, before leaving the forecourt, I start the ignition to check – the needle again hasn’t moved.

Amidst much (uncharacteristic) swearing, I vow to try one final time, and if the needle doesn’t go above a quarter this time, I will keep the receipt as proof, and argue the fuel gauge is knackered when they come to collect the car.

I put a third £5-worth of unleaded into the hire car, get back in, and start the ignition.

At which point the needle goes to a little over half a tank.

Image result for angry driver gif

And this:

Image result for john cleese car gif

Loudly referring to the car as a ‘useless piece of shit’, much to the amusement of neighbouring customers, I drive off and complete my journey to work, reassured that I will at least be driving my own car home that evening.

You can see where this is going.

Having heard nothing by my lunch break, I phoned Useless Fucking Bodywork Repairs Ltd, to enquire about when, precisely, they would be dropping off my car.

‘Oh, the repairs are finished, but you’ll have to come and collect it, as we can’t drop off today.’

Now, in all likelihood, this situation wasn’t directly Julie on reception’s fault, so it was perhaps a little harsh of me to suggest she insert the nearest car part into her anus, but I was becoming more than a little frustrated by this point.

As a compromise (read: me backing down slightly when Julie started to cry), it was agreed that I would drive the hire car to their premises on Saturday morning, pick up my own car, and then the hire company could collect theirs back from Stoke – which, to my amazement, everyone seemed happy with.

All that remained, was for me to use up a quarter tank of unnecessary fuel (to make a point), so I drove the 25 miles home that evening entirely in second gear. With all the windows down. Via Bolton.

Image result for angry driver gif

That evening, I took up my usual residency on the porcelain throne,  and checked my e-mails, whereupon I discovered one from the garage. Assuming it was an apology for the terrible service and constant lies, I opened it with anticipation:

‘The wrong part has been delivered for your car, so it will not now be ready to collect in the morning.’

I nearly shit myself with rage (although, had I done so, I was at least in the right place). My response:

‘So, when you confirmed the repairs were already underway on Tuesday, that was clearly a lie, because even I know you can’t repair a broken wing mirror with the wrong fucking part. You’d better let the hire company know of your incompetence, because they think they’re collecting a car from you tomorrow, and it sure as hell won’t be there, will it?’

I did finally get my car back on Monday (30th April), more than two weeks post-accident, and the repairs have been done to a satisfactory standard – however, I still don’t have the first clue what they cost, where I stand in terms of liability, the damage to my no-claims discount; and whether the other driver has contracted scrotum-plague yet.

Fuck ‘em all.

Thanks for reading x

Standard

AirBlogs As Standard

Seeing as this week’s entry is something of a milestone (Blog #150, for those not keeping count – which I suspect is everyone apart from me), I thought I would treat you all to something a little different – an angry rant (yes, that was sarcasm). This week’s entry, is all about the stress of buying a new car.

Why do salesmen, dealerships and – in particular – car supermarkets, all like to pretend they are all making the purchase of your new motor as stress-free as possible, whilst actually making the process extremely stress-ful? I’m a lawyer, and even I think the constant bullshit they come out with is excessive.

badsalesperson

Along with moving home, changing jobs, and having a child, buying a new car is right up there on the ‘life’s most stressful experiences’ leaderboard. I have moved house and changed jobs a few times, and have gone through the ordeal of childbirth twice (yes, I know women have childbirth slightly worse than men, blah, blah, blah….); but as it is more than ten years since my last house move or job switch, and the chances of us having any more children are remote at best, the most recurrent life-stress in my foreseeable future is going to be changing cars.

Thinking about it, buying a new car is a little like having a baby:

  1. The whole process seems to take about nine months;
  2. When your bundle of joy arrives, you are overcome with love, and want to spend all your time with them;
  3. They smell really nice at first;
  4. After a few weeks, the novelty begins to wear off, they start to smell bad, and you realise how fucking expensive they are to maintain;
  5. It’ll probably be at least a couple of years before you get screwed again.

Having owned my current car for two years, and having witnessed the novelty wear off far sooner than with its predecessors (on account of the fact VWs are largely boring), I planned to upgrade once Christmas was over; but as soon as I started making enquiries, I knew the process was yet again going to be an unhappy one.

First of all, the part-exchange valuations I have been getting are disappointing to say the least (it’s like all the dealerships have met my children, and have – correctly – anticipated the damage they have caused to my car, both inside and out).

I am, however, realistic, and if all of the online valuations had been similar, I would have most likely accepted this, and adjusted my spending limit accordingly. Unfortunately, however, one particularly well-known car supermarket (for reasons which will become clear, I had better not mention Fords of Winsford by name), were quite a bit higher than everyone else, and I stupidly fell for it. What makes this even more irritating, is that it isn’t the first time this particular company have conned me, and I swore last time I would never go back there.

Car-supermarket

Very much as a last resort, because I appeared to be getting nowhere with other car dealers locally, I searched the selection on Fords of Winsford’s website, and to my amazement the prices weren’t as ridiculous as I had found them in the past. I therefore assumed it would be the part-ex valuation for my car which would be the disappointment, but having completed their online form, I was pleasantly surprised – they were seemingly willing to offer around one thousand pounds more than anyone else.

To ensure this was completely accurate, I ‘modified’ the form, to correct some of the assumptions they had made about my VW: in particular, I told them that the bodywork was not perfect (thanks to a devious little bastard of a concrete pillar at Crewe County Court), that the MOT is due within six months, and that I do have a personalised number plate (although why this devalues my car is a mystery). I even over-inflated the current mileage, so that they couldn’t use this against me by the time I had driven the ten miles or so to their premises. In short, not a single bit of information on that form was anything other than accurate, yet the valuation was still coming out at £7,600 – £8,025. I was happy with that.

So, on Sunday, I braved the icy sleet and hailstones, and drove to Winsford, despite having more than a sneaking suspicion that it was a wasted trip. You see, I have bought two cars from Fords of Winsford in the past, neither was without its problems, and the few occasions I have been back there since, they have tried to screw me on the part-ex valuation. This time, however, I tried to convince myself that their online calculator was more detailed, and because I had been nothing but honest, there was no way they could fail to honour that bracket. Even if they offered me the lower end of the range, which they surely would (I’m not an idiot), it was still higher than every other company I had contacted.

I didn’t want to get my hopes up by looking at the range of Kugas on offer, and falling in love with one (the one advantage that car buying has over childbirth, is that you get to see what they look like before you commit to the deal), so I decided to make certain of the part-exchange before proceeding.

Having approached Grumpy Old Git at the entrance, and having been re-directed to Disinterested Young Girl at the main reception, I was told the waiting time for valuations was about twenty minutes. True to their word (the one time this happened in the entire visit), in just over fifteen minutes I was approached by Fat Salesman, who directed me to his ‘booth’ so that he could take some of my details down. I obliged, despite having already provided everything online that they needed to value my car, and I again made it clear that I had been very honest on their website, and expected the valuation to be within the quoted bracket.

If anything, I explained, their valuation did not take into account the recent improvements I had paid for (new tyres, cambelt, etc.), nor the Parrot phone system I had installed, and would gladly leave in the car (I neglected to mention that it is the single worst phone system ever invented).

Having gone through the motions, Fat Salesman took me over to my car, and explained we would now need to wait for Fat Engineer to come and give me an ‘exact’ valuation.

After another ten minute wait in the freezing cold, Fat Engineer waddled over, and spent a similar period inspecting my car, noting the scuff at the rear, reading the (full) service history, and laughing with Fat Salesman at the Stockport County sticker in the rear window (despite it being perfectly clear that neither had the first fucking clue about football).

Fat Salesman then pointed out to Fat Engineer that I had already received a valuation via their website (following which, the two shared a knowing smile, which did not go unnoticed), and Fat Engineer grimaced slightly – which I assumed was either his way of indicating I should prepare myself for disappointment, or else it was a build up of potentially fatal cholesterol – before wandering off.

Fat Salesman (who either had no concept of personal space, or was drawing me towards him by some kind of gravitational pull), then lead me back into the main showroom. After another ten minute wait for Fat Engineer to upload his valuation into their system – presumably the delay was down to his massive sausage fingers mistyping everything – Fat Salesman finally broke the news: their actual valuation was almost £1,000 lower than the bottom end of the bracket I had received online

I very politely – and slightly more eloquently – offered a ‘what the fuck?’ reaction, explaining for a third time about my honesty when filling in their online form, but all Fat Salesman could offer by way of an explanation, was that the website calculator was merely a guide, and it was Fat Engineer who provided the final figure.

I questioned whether their website valuation was therefore just made-up bullshit, designed to lure poor unsuspecting bastards to their showroom (presumably in the hope that, once they had travelled all the way there, they would reluctantly accept a sizeable deduction in valuation rather than leave empty-handed), but he had no answer to that. I therefore took his silence to mean ‘yes, that’s precisely what we’re doing, I can’t believe you figured us out’.

I was about to storm out, in anger at yet another wasted trip, but decided it was still worthwhile taking a look at some of their stock, if only to narrow down exactly what I wanted for my new car, even though I had no intention of buying it from them.

Having spent a further twenty minutes looking at a few cars (and making sure I trapped a particularly pungent fart in each and every one of them), I returned the keys to Woman-With-A-Face-Like-A-Bulldog-Chewing-A-Wasp, scribbled something offensive in the Stock List handout they had given me, replaced it on the pile, and then stormed out.

Image result for flipping the bird gif

My anger hadn’t subsided by the time I got home, so I made myself feel better by leaving as many negative reviews as I could muster (how very British), and was slightly comforted by the fact most of their recent online feedback was very similar.

I have since had a response from Fords of Winsford to one of my reviews, explaining (for the benefit of any potential customers reading it), that they have had some ‘teething trouble’ with their new online valuation service, and they regret my wasted trip, as that was certainly not their intention. All of which looks very reasonable to those reading, except for the fact FOW have done this to me twice in the past, long before their ‘new’ system was introduced. To rub salt into the wound, they have also e-mailed me three times since then (in the space of fourteen minutes), with precisely the same valuation. Yes, I get it, you’re lying fuckers, you don’t need to keep reminding me.

So, now I’m back to square one, hoping that somewhere out there I can find a genuine car salesman, who isn’t trying to screw everyone. After all, I’m a genuine lawyer, so I feel certain that – whilst rare – they must exist.

Either that, or I’ll keep this car forever.

Standard

We Blog Any Car.Com

A couple of months ago (entry #29), I posted a rather frustrated account of my recent dealings with Ford. This was prompted by the fact my Kuga has developed an engine management problem which, apparently, even they cannot diagnose – despite being the company who built the damn thing. There are hackers out there who can worm their way into the Pentagon mainframe for Christ’s sake, yet Ford can’t seem to crack a computer of their own design.

So, after a number of visits, and £800 spent on guesswork that might as well have included ‘giving it a good hard kick’ and ‘turning it off and on again’ (actually, no, I tell a lie, they did try that), Ford were none the wiser and seemed to wash their hands of the situation.

Perhaps I am being slightly unfair here. They did manage to stop the car from revving uncontrollably, even when I wasn’t touching the accelerator, but the unfortunate side-effect of whatever they did appears to be the engine occasionally cutting out.

I don’t even know why I was surprised when the Kuga started playing up, as car trouble is something I am all-too-familiar with, and my motoring history has been somewhat chequered to say the least.

Let me take you back to 2002, when it all began…

Ford Fiesta (2002 – slightly later in 2002)

My first ever car: a G-reg Ford Fiesta in white. It’s not the one in the picture, as I didn’t own mine long enough to get a photo processed by Truprint, but it looked a lot like it.

I bought it from a garage near Altrincham. I best not mention the name of the garage, for reasons which will become clear, but I would advise anyone to steer clear of Navigation Road when purchasing a new vehicle, in case you stumble upon the same place.

I was at Law School when I got it, and although I only paid around £600 (which, in student terms, is roughly a year’s worth of food and drink), I had hoped it would last me slightly longer than a few months. Sadly, it did not, and in terms of the mileage I got in return, I would have been better off financially if I had just taken taxis everywhere.

In short, there were a number of problems with the car, culminating in a failed trip from Poynton to Norwich, which ended roughly four miles into a trip of nearly two hundred.

Having had the car assessed by an engineer, it turned out that I had been sold a duff and, more importantly, the garage would have known this when they took my money. I shouldn’t have complained really, as I had essentially been sold two cars for the price of one (such was the mix-and-match job that had been done to it), but I decided to ask for my money back.

The garage failed to respond to various letters and calls, however, so I started Court proceedings against them to recover my money. When they ignored the Court papers as well, I got Judgment against them and the bailiffs were sent round. It was only at this point, around six months after I first complained, that the owner took notice and applied to the Court to have my Judgment overturned.

I remember sitting in front of an ancient District Judge at Altrincham County Court (who, again, I best not name, even though I suspect/hope he is no longer breathing), and to my shock he overturned the Judgment, pointing out that reputable businesses have better things to do than come along to Court to fight frivolous cases like mine. He laughed along with the owner of the garage as he said this.

To make matters worse, the garage owner waited for me outside the Court, along with the hired muscle he had brought with him (not that I was a physical threat, as I must have weight ten stone soaking wet at the time), and they followed me back to my car. On the way, they kept reminding me that they had my address, and if I didn’t want my family to come to any harm, I best drop the case. In the end, I had no choice.

Rover Metro (2002 – 2004)

The next car I owned was a red J-reg Metro, which I bought off a friend’s sister. Again, the photo isn’t of the exact car, but it’s close enough – except mine had cool rally-style fog lamps on the front.

The one incident I remember from driving the Metro, again involves a trip to Norwich (which, unlike the Fiesta, it managed to complete). Basically, a few days before we were due to go, my mum’s next door neighbour had reversed off her drive and into the front of the car. Fortunately, she was going so slowly that there appeared to be no damage.

However, later that week, as we travelled along a deserted, unlit, and eerily misty stretch of the A47 near Swaffham, I put the full beam fog lamps on… and realised that they had been bent backwards. With nowhere to pull over, I drove for several miles with two beams of light pointing up into the night sky, like I was trying to get a message to Batman.

Needless to say, the combination of my ‘search lights’ in the sky, the weird ghostly fog, and the fact we were near Swaffham (where inbreeding appears to be something of a local sport), led to numerous reports of alien-sightings in the local press.

Vauxhall Corsa (2004 – 2006)

Next up was my Corsa, and the reason I would now buy a camel for transportation before I would ever go back to Vauxhall. It was, in a word, shit.

Again, I don’t seem to have a picture of it, but this one is almost spot on (including the colour), save for the fact it is a year older, as mine was an R-reg. Not that this made it any better, you understand.

I encountered that many problems with the engine management system on this car, and it broke down so many times, that I ended up getting a letter from the RAC to advise that my membership would only allow me to be towed once more before my renewal (which was still months away). I didn’t even know the RAC placed a limit on how many times you could be rescued, cold and crying, from the side of the road. Heartless bastards.

Volkswagen Golf (2006 – 2009)

Probably my favourite of all the cars I have owned, but again it had some issues. I am almost certain I have a photo somewhere, as I kept this car for a few years, but I can’t be arsed searching for it – so this picture will do. The colour and year of registration are both correct, so the only difference is that mine was usually more horizontal.

It did break down once or twice, but by this point I was starting to believe that I was the problem rather than the cars, so I never resented the Golf as I had done its predecessors.

Compared to the 1.0 litre Corsa, which had a 0-60 time comparable to myself after a large meal, the Golf was a sporty 1.6 litre, which I know isn’t much, but it seemed fast at the time. It was also the first car I owned which had a CD player (which I had admittedly fitted myself, since the 2003 Golf still came with a cassette player as standard) and I was genuinely sad to see it go.

Volkswagen Golf Plus (2009 – 2013)

Since I liked the Golf so much, it was no surprise when we replaced it with another, newer Volkswagen – only one with extra room for my gangly limbs. Sadly, where my first experience of owning a VW had been very good, this car had the opposite effect and, yet again, it was the jinxed journey to Norwich which was its downfall.

This time, we broke down on the A50 just outside Derby. There was an almighty bang and the car started decelerating, even though my foot was to the floor.

Having pulled over, I once again phoned my trusty friends at the RAC (by now we were on first name terms and had swapped mobile numbers) and they promised to get to us as soon as possible. Unfortunately, despite having a baby in the car (Ollie), we were not considered to be a priority, as we were safely parked up in a lay-by, so it was over an hour before they arrived.

Once the mechanic had looked under the bonnet, and I had done my best ‘manly man’ impression of nodding and frowning at what I felt were the right points of the conversation, he determined that we were, to coin a technical phrase, fucked.

Now, due to my unreliable car history, I had wisely opted for the best cover RAC offer, and one of the benefits of my policy was that I could be towed to any destination. Imagine his surprise when we asked to go to Norwich, pretty please.

Not surprisingly, he wasn’t that keen to tow us a few hundred miles, so he contacted a company from Derby to do it instead. Although we had to wait for another hour to be collected, and didn’t arrive in Norwich until around 3am, we did eventually get there in one piece.

The car, it transpired, was in a bad way, as the turbo had exploded in spectacular fashion and it ended up costing me over £1,500 to repair. Even then, the car was never the same, and we changed it shortly afterwards for…

Ford Kuga (2013 -)

Our current transportation. I have gone to great lengths in my previous blog entry to express my frustration with Ford, but I do actually like this car (when it works), and I haven’t been put off perhaps having another Kuga in the future.   For now, though, I cannot face going back to Ford again, so I need to think carefully when I come to buy something new early next year.

2016 – ?

Here’s the problem, though.  For one reason or another, I will probably be avoiding all of the car manufacturers I have experienced to date – partly because I fancy a change, partly because they don’t exist anymore (Rover, I’m looking at you – not that you were a contender anyway), but mostly because I no longer trust any of them. Even reliable old VW have been caught with their pants down recently with this emissions scandal.

However, when you add in my various prejudices and irrational quirks, my choice is rather restricted:

Mercedes – I’m not over 40.

Toyota – I’m not a taxi driver either.

Nissan – The only car in their fleet which isn’t pig-ugly is the Qashqai, and I’m not driving around in something Wayne Rooney (who is pig-ugly) might name one of his children.

Audi – Nice, attractive, seemingly well-built cars, but we would have to sell one (or both) of the children to afford a decent one. Tempting, but I fear it would be ethically questionable.

BMW – I’m not a complete dickhead, and I have this nasty habit of indicating occasionally.

Peugeot – I don’t trust anything French, unless it’s wine.

Hyundai – The ix35 is ok, I guess, but it sounds like either a ground-to-air missile, or something Clive Sinclair might have built in the ‘80s.

Citroen – See Peugeot. Besides, I once had a C3 as a courtesy car, and it broke after 32 miles (and by that, I mean it was brand new and had done 32 miles in total).

Mini – Disqualified, since I don’t have girl parts.

Renault – See Peugeot and Citroen. Bloody French.

Skoda – Well built, from what I hear, but they don’t really do an SUV, and they all have daft names. Can you imagine telling someone you drive a Yeti?

Volvo – See Audi.

Honda – Apart from the Civic Type R, which is for boy-racers with large speakers and small genitalia, the entire Honda range is reserved to those not long for this world, who drive everywhere at 18mph.

I know there are others, but I would have equally valid (well, valid to me) reasons for dismissing them all. Well, all except for one.

So, expect a Kia-based rant in around two years’ time….

Standard

Once Upon A Blog…

Are we sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin….

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (depending on where you live), there was a prince called Prince Sandbach of Chatter, although everyone called him Sandy. He was tall, dark and…. well, he was tall and dark, let’s leave it at that.

Sandy was married to a beautiful princess – the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk – and together they had two children, Princes Oliver and Isaac, who were always up to no good. They all lived in a barn with the unfittingly grandiose title of ‘Sandbach Towers’, deep within the Kingdom of Cheshiravia.

‘Sandbach Towers’ had once been a fine palace, fit for the prince and princess, but soon after they wed they took in a dog named Bexley, and then a few years later Oliver and Isaac had been born. As the family grew, the palace had slowly fallen into disrepair. Where once stood a proud castle, there was now a barn, with many hidden hazards and stains, and the odour of wet canine.

Shortly before the beautiful princess had delivered forth Prince Isaac to the family, they had saved what little gold they had, and had purchased a new steed called ‘Kuga’.

734677_10151463865716350_1218815664_n

Kuga was a fine, noble steed, and the family were very fond of her. She would transport them around the country, even as far as the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, where Prince Sandy and his family would oft visit in the summer months and at Yuletide. Kuga was capable of carrying many bags, together with the family and Bexley the dog, and had never once complained of the burden, no matter how great.

Then, in the month of May, in the year of our Lord 2015, Kuga began to exhibit strange behavioural characteristics, which caused Prince Sandy some concern. For no reason, Kuga would make a deep grumbling noise, and then lurch forwards without Prince Sandy requesting this of her. Some of the village folk believed this to be the ancient ‘curse of the engine malfunction’, but Prince Sandy was fond of his steed and did not wish to take her to be examined, for fear she would be taken from him.

However, the problem worsened, and when the local blacksmith was unable to discover why Kuga would act in such a way, despite his supposedly clever equipment, Prince Sandy was given the news that he had dreaded: the only way to discover what was wrong with Kuga, was to take her to ‘King Ford. Prince Sandy had heard evil stories of ‘King Ford, and was wary of being robbed of what little gold he had, yet he loved Kuga dearly and she was part of the family, so he had no choice.

Verily it came to pass, that one day late in the month of June, Prince Sandy took Kuga to see ‘King Ford on his way to work. He was told that he would have to leave Kuga there for her to be thoroughly examined, but he explained that he needed transportation to complete his journey, as he was an advocate and there were many people in the district who had suffered minor ailments and who needed someone to shout at.

‘King Ford listened to Prince Sandy’s pleas, and eventually granted him the use of one of their lesser steeds, ‘Fiesta’. Fiesta was much smaller than Kuga, and nowhere near as powerful, but Prince Sandy was desperate and so he accepted their offer. He waved goodbye to Kuga, hoping he would see her again soon.

Whereas Kuga was a proud, black beast, Fiesta was in comparison small and white. Prince Sandy was not fond of white steeds, and indeed had recently written about his dislike for such transportation, so he questioned whether ‘King Ford had read his musings and provided him with Fiesta as a cruel joke. Nevertheless, he mounted Fiesta and set off to complete his journey to work.

It was immediately clear that Fiesta was not a fast steed. Whereas Kuga would set off from a starting position with some pace, Fiesta struggled to achieve any acceleration at all. Indeed, Fiesta was so slow, that Prince Sandy doubted she had ever recorded a 0-60 time in any jousting competition, and even if she had, he feared it would have exceeded two hours. He mused to himself that Baroness Susan of Boyle would surely out-pace Fiesta in a straight sprint.

Eventually, however, Fiesta delivered Prince Sandy to his place of work.

Later that morning, Prince Sandy received word from a messenger that ‘King Ford could not locate the reason for Kuga’s behaviour, as she was not displaying any unusual characteristics at the time, so he should collect her that evening and return to ‘King Ford if the behaviour occurred again.

Despite not being able to locate the source of the problem, ‘King Ford still levied a fee of 78 gold coins on Prince Sandy, and advised that there were other issues with Kuga which required prompt attention. Prince Sandy was not impressed, and told ‘King Ford he would address any such issues at a later time. He prayed that, since ‘King Ford had not located any real defect with Kuga, perhaps the behaviour would now stop.

His prayers were not answered.

The very next morning, having delivered Prince Oliver to his House of Education, Prince Sandy mounted Kuga, only for the behaviour to commence once more. As he had been instructed by ‘King Ford, Prince Sandy at once communicated to them (via the ‘Tooth of Blue’, should any Sheriffs be reading this), and gave advance warning that he would bring the ailing steed straight to them.

He arrived within one half of an hour, to discover that Squire Dominic (who had tended to his needs the day before) was away on an errand, and so poor Prince Sandy had to explain the situation to Squiress Dee instead. Squiress Dee was a pleasant wench, but bereft of any technical knowledge. Worse, whilst Fiesta had been a poor replacement for Kuga the day before, even Fiesta was away on other business, and so Prince Sandy had to call his Mother, Lady Jill of Poyntonia, to collect him. Lady Jill was a reliable mother, and arrived shortly afterwards to deliver Prince Sandy to his place of work, (in another breed of Fiesta, as it happens).

Prince Sandy received word later that day that the problem with Kuga was still undetermined; however Ian, the Dark Baron of Engineerdom, believed a change to the filter of fuel stood a good chance of rectifying the issue. Reluctantly, Prince Sandy agreed to part with further gold coins to carry out this work, and decided for the sake of his family to also replace Kuga’s front two hooves, (which had apparently worn thin with years of heavy labour) together with both front coils. Whatever the frig they are.

The total cost was to be 650 gold coins, but the prince consoled himself in the knowledge that at least his beloved Kuga would then be restored to her former glory, ready to commence battle and conquer the terrains of Goostrey, The Edge of Alderley and the Holmes of Chapel once more.

In light of the restorative work that would be required, Kuga was to remain with ‘King Ford for another day, and so again Prince Sandy complained that he required transportation. As ‘luck’ would have it, Fiesta was again available, and so it was agreed that Prince Sandy would collect her later that evening.

Having struggled to coerce Fiesta the full distance to Sandbach Towers, which at one point involved passing around another traveller – a manoeuvre which Fiesta made an unnecessary meal out of (due to apparently suffering with chronic asthma) even though it was only a slow-moving tractor, Prince Sandy arrived safely and collected Prince Oliver to take him home.

Bizarrely, Prince Oliver fell in love with Fiesta, and decided that he in fact preferred her to Kuga, news that upset Prince Sandy greatly. He indicated to Prince Oliver that Fiesta was much smaller than Kuga, and could not carry as heavy a burden, making a trip to the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk a nigh impossibility, but Prince Oliver was not swayed. Even indicating that Fiesta had a small storage compartment, meaning that Bexley the family dog would need to leave the kingdom, did not deter the young prince, who promptly announced that he would happily cast poor Bexley out, were it to mean the family could keep Fiesta as their steed.

Nevertheless, retaining Fiesta was not an option, and the following day it sluggishly transported Prince Sandy to his place of work for the final time, to be returned to ‘King Ford before sunset.

However, when Prince Sandy returned Fiesta to ‘King Ford that evening, Kuga was not present, as Ian the Dark Baron was still testing her around the Dean of Handforth.

Having waited for many an hour, Ian eventually returned and presented devastating news – Kuga was still unwell, despite the expensive alterations which had been carried out. Prince Sandy was upset, but was assured by the Dark Baron that the ailment may be minor and, indeed, may not occur again. He was keen for Prince Sandy to retain Fiesta over the weekend and leave Kuga there, but Prince Sandy was at his tether’s end, and just wanted Kuga returned to his family. It was agreed that Prince Sandy would take Kuga home, under the hope that she would display no more unusual behaviour in the future.

Despite having to part with 650 gold coins, Prince Sandy was happy to be reunited with his steed again. She seemed renewed, even mightier than before, but no sooner had Prince Sandy set her on the road home, she announced that she required refreshments. It appeared that ‘King Ford had depleted her fuel supplies to such an extent in testing her, she was in urgent need of nourishment. Prince Sandy was again distraught, but had no choice other than to part with further gold coins in order to refill Kuga’s belly at the market place of Shell.

Nevertheless, in spite of all the trauma of that week, Kuga returned home triumphant. She sat resplendent outside Sandbach Towers, having been cleaned thoroughly by ‘King Ford (which was the least the robbing highwaymen could offer in the circumstances) and the following day Prince Sandy took great delight in riding her on a number of errands around the township.

And the family Sandy lived happily ever after….

 

 

… for one day.

On the last Sunday of that month of June, Prince Sandy and the young Prince Oliver mounted Kuga early in the morning to travel to the local water baths, only for Kuga to fail to move at all. She would come to life, briefly, but would then immediately collapse with a wheeze. This angered Prince Sandy, as he had paid ‘King Ford over 700 gold coins, and now Kuga was worse than she had been before. At least prior to visiting ‘King Ford she had been willing to run, albeit unusually, whereas now she would not leave the stable at all.

Eventually, having feasted on a luncheon of meat and eggs, Prince Sandy was able to coax Kuga into moving, and she managed to transport the family to the People’s Republic of Crewe, but this still left Prince Sandy with a battle on his hands.

A number of messages were sent to ‘King Ford, outlining Prince Sandy’s displeasure at the treatment Kuga had received at great personal expense, however no messages were returned. ‘King Ford remain silent to this day.

**********

Prince Sandy was so angered by the turn of events, he set forth penning the whole episode onto parchment, in order to share his woe with the masses, and warn them against visiting ‘King Ford with their own steed-related issues. He commenced writing the tale on that Sunday eve, having consumed almost a full flagon of mead, which might explain the unusual style he adopted. Either that, or the distressing situation had caused him to suffer some form of ailment to the head.

**********

Over the following days, having sobered and reflected on the events, Prince Sandy was unsure whether the tale would gain favour with those reading it, and he worried that the masses might find the style (and consequently him), rather strange.

However, it dawned on Prince Sandy that, in his drunken, angered, state, he had penned close to 2,000 words on that Sunday eve, and he was fuck’d if he was starting again and writing anything else.

Standard

Road Blog

In May 2012, the firm that I work for branched out and opened a second ‘satellite’ office in Sandbach. You may have noticed that I happen to live in Sandbach, and will not therefore be surprised to learn that I had a small part to play in choosing the location – which happened to be just down the road from our house. Winner.

So, after six years of working at our main office in Poynton – which is the village where I grew up on the other side of Cheshire – I suddenly found myself with a five minute walk to work, compared to the one hour drive (each way), with which I had become accustomed.

I didn’t mind the commute from Sandbach to Poynton, as it can be quite a nice drive, and I had spent four years with my previous firm having to suffer the M6 every day, so any journey is preferable to that. The M6, particularly the stretch between Sandbach and Knutsford (junctions 17-19 for you motorway buffs out there), is just about the most soul-destroying and treacherous journey anyone can ever take. People have been known to complete the Pan-American Highway faster, and would certainly encounter fewer accidents along the way.

In contrast, the best route from Sandbach to Poynton takes in winding country roads, some moderately-beautiful scenery, a large boat moored in someone’s back garden, and a massive satellite dish in the form of the Lovell telescope at Jodrell Bank. What more can a commuter ask for?

No matter how pleasant a drive is, though, it will never be better than a five minute walk to work, even if the scenery on that walk, in contrast, happens to be a dodgy car garage and several overflowing skips. This is especially true when you have young children, as I was now able to spend a bit longer having breakfast with them before leaving the house in the morning, and would be home in time to enjoy a family dinner, bath-time (them, not me) and a story before bed.

I spent three years at the Sandbach office, before I was informed earlier this year that it would have to close. I won’t go into the reasons behind the decision, suffice to say I understood why it had been made, and why I would have to return to working in Poynton.  I wasn’t happy, and losing the independence and responsibility of running an office certainly felt like a considerable step backwards in my career (it still does), but there wasn’t much I could do about it.

So, a few months ago, I packed up my belongings, took the pictures of my family and – more importantly – Edgeley Park off the wall, waved goodbye to ‘Audrey II’ (our ever-expanding plant, which had by now taken over a quarter of the office, and had started feeding on small rodents and unsuspecting children), and moved everything back to Poynton.

I knew the car journey each day would be bearable, as I had done it for six years previously, and I was actually quite excited to rediscover some long-forgotten CDs – instead of having to suffer Justin Fletcher’s Nursery Rhymes or the Frozen Soundtrack – but after a few months of rush-hour driving again, I can safely say that the novelty has well and truly worn off. This is mostly due to the fact that one important factor has changed since the last time I was part of the Cheshire commute: me.

At first, I thought it was everyone else who was suddenly the problem, and that driving standards had inexplicably and dramatically dropped in my absence, but it turns out that it is in fact me, and my complete intolerance of other drivers, which has got worse. And I wasn’t that tolerant before.

Of course, most people are angered by idiotic and dangerous drivers (apart from the idiotic and dangerous drivers themselves), but the list of misdemeanours that now regularly piss me off, has mutated faster than Audrey II and her all-encompassing, child-scoffing, foliage.

For example, I am infuriated by drivers who:

  • don’t indicate;
  • leave their indicators on for miles and miles, no doubt curiously wondering what that repetitive ticking sound in their ears might be (an unexploded bomb on the back seat perhaps?);
  • don’t say thank you when you let them out;
  • would rather block your path than let you out, despite being in a queue of slow moving traffic and going nowhere;
  • overtake/undertake dangerously;
  • drive too slowly and cause tailbacks –e.g. all Honda Civic or Toyota Yaris drivers;
  • drive over, or the wrong way around, mini-roundabouts, just because they can and because it will save them 0.005 seconds;
  • go past a queue of traffic at speed, and then cut in at the last minute…

Now, I know that a number of people reading this, will not only agree with the above list, but will also regard it as relatively common and widely-accepted amongst the sensible driving community. However, don’t be fooled into thinking my list stops there. That’s only the start, and my recent additions seem to go beyond what would be considered by most drivers to be ‘normal’.

For example, I am increasingly uneasy about the number of white cars on the roads of Cheshire. This is not an irrational form of racism on my part, but I just don’t understand why anyone would want to buy a white car, especially when they will be driving it around country roads which are, by their very nature, an endless supply of mud, road-kill and shit. Perhaps all white car owners just love to constantly clean them – as I can only assume they need to do this at least twice a week – because other than that, I cannot see the attraction.

Even worse, I tend to associate different makes and models of cars with certain stereotypes, and have now started to convince myself that the owners of white versions of these cars represent the extreme end of the spectrum. For instance, we all know that drivers of BMWs and Audis – particularly those of the saloon variety – are dangerous morons, but those in white ones seem to be even worse. I swear all white BMWs and Audis must now come with complimentary sunglasses when you buy them, because every single driver I see in one of these cars is wearing them. Even at night. I can only assume this is to help make the balding middle-manager / estate agent who is driving, feel even sexier as he overtakes someone at 85mph on a blind bend. Either that or it’s some kind of BMW/Audi-driving alien invasion.

I have often wondered whether, as a man, if you go into a BMW or Audi dealership you are immediately invited to have your genitals measured. I imagine it’s a bit like that machine you put your foot into at Clarks, when you’re buying shoes as a kid. “Good morning Sir. Yes, I’d be happy to show you our range of M3s, but if you could just step over here and flop your old chap into our willy-measurer first, please?”

Presumably, only those with extraordinarily large penises are then allowed to actually buy a BMW or Audi, because all men seen driving them appear to be extremely pleased with how well-endowed they are. Indeed, they are often so large of trouser, that this is classed as a disability, and enables them to park in a disabled space or, in extreme cases, across two of them diagonally.

Then, there are Range Rovers. Since my commute to and from work takes me through Alderley Edge, and particularly past a posh school for the children of footballers and those of inherited wealth, I am forever having to be wary of Range Rovers suddenly pulling out of gated driveways at speed, intent on travelling the 50 yards from their house to the school as fast as possible, before parking at an angle on the nearest available grass verge or child. Make that Range Rover white, and you can now almost guarantee that the artificially-chested peroxide blonde struggling to control it, is in hugely inappropriate heels ready for her daily shopping trip and spray tan. Either that, or it’s the maid driving.

I could go on and deal with the drivers of other white cars, such as sporty hatchbacks (hairdressers), or Porsches (tosspots), but I feel I have adequately made my point. Sadly, though, my irrationality doesn’t end with the drivers of white cars.

Despite having a personalised number plate myself, which is primarily made up of my initials and the year I was born, I can’t abide owners of supposedly ‘funny’ number plates. It’s bad enough when some stupid tart has a number plate like ‘LOOCY XX’, or ‘SHAZ 4EVA’, but I’m seeing more and more number plates where the driver is presumably still chuckling to himself/herself months after purchase.  A recent example that I have genuinely seen is ‘53 BUS’….. on a Volvo. Why? You might as well go for ‘D1CK 3D’ or ‘4RS3 H0L3’, because it’ll send the same message to the rest of us.

I like to think of myself, generally, as a relatively upbeat and chipper individual, who lets life’s little annoyances calmly wash over him, and hopefully you have gleaned this about me from the 23 preceding blog entries. However for two hours a day, five days a week, I am in my car and I become an irrational monster – with a fuse so short, it makes my woefully inadequate non-BMW genitals look long.

In short (no pun intended), I think the commute is starting to take its toll on my sanity, and I’m beginning to lose it a little. I’ve started talking to myself while driving, and answering the presenters on the radio. I even really liked a song by the girl group ‘Little Mix’ this week and sang along. I know, that can’t be right. But, weirder than all of that, I recently drove along a country road and, whilst passing a herd of cows, I mooed at them. I FUCKING MOOED AT THEM. Loudly, too. What, on God’s green earth, would possess a rational human being to do that, when no one is around to hear them? I genuinely fear for my mental well-being.

I have no doubt though, that my irrational madness is entirely the fault of all the other drivers in Cheshire. They may be nice people when you meet them in the street, or at a party, but when they get into their cars between the hours of 7.30-9am and 5-6pm, they are insufferable cretins who should all be shot immediately.

And don’t even get me started on cyclists.

Standard