Travel Fun

I’ve just been travelling. I love visiting new places, seeing new things and particularly experiencing new cultures that challenge my way of thinking. I have been fortunate to visit Nepal, Tanzania and Morocco and each one brought new adventures and challenges and a completely different attitude and approach to doing things. I’ve been to various places in Europe and America and while the culture is general familiar, there are always little characteristics that make a place special. I love that. But there was one common element to each of those trips that I hated. Getting there.

We can fly across the world. It is now possible to fly non-stop to Australia thanks to technology. I can check the weather in the High Atlas, chat to friends over the internet from the top of Kilimanjaro and send electronic postcards almost instantly from Everest Base Camp. But it still takes 6 hours to get to Gatwick, via a bus and I still have to walk several hundred yards to get me and my baggage from bus to check-in. And at the other end, I have to walk the same amount again to get my bag and drag it out of the airport. And lets not talk about airport transfers.

In Nepal, the airport at Kathmandu was an experience I wasn’t keen on repeating. I had to queue for a visa and for the 30 minutes I was there, I was subjecting to the same repeating jingle advertising the Rum Doodle restaurant. It had an annoying jingle followed the the statement “There are two steps – one leads to Everest, the other leads to Rum Doodle”. By the time I had my visa, I had been subtly brainwashed, as had all the trekkers on my trip. We successfully got to base camp, and on our return to Kathmandu, we ate at Rum Doodle.

Outside the airport, we were assaulted by a chaos of Nepali boys and young men all trying to carry our baggage. Fortunately, we were being met by the hotel transfer bus but in the few minutes it took to identify and make contact with the bus driver, several boys had tried to pick my bag up (it was very heavy, so they couldn’t whisk it away) and I’d managed to grab it back from all of them. I loaded my bag and helped load others and still they asked me for tips and money for carrying my bag. And all the while, A Nepalese policeman with a rifle on his back almost as long as he was blew a whistle to try and regain order.

To get to the start of our trek, we had to take an internal flight to Lukla. Google ‘Worlds most dangerous airport’. It’s usually Lukla. The flight was an event in itself and while I wouldn’t quite lump it in with the nightmare of ‘getting there’, it is definitely not for those who dislike flight. The little plane climbs constantly to lift itself over the mountains that surround Kathmandu, and then continues to climb in amongst the lower Himalayan mountains until, weaving through a narrow valley, the pilots line up with an elongated postage stamp of a runway for which there is no ‘go-around’ procedure and land. If the clouds swirl up, obscuring the runway at the last minute, it’s tough. And in many cases, its tough and fiery.

On the way back, if the weather is good, the take-off is only marginally less challenging. As the air heats up during the day, it gets thinner and less able to support aeroplanes, particularly ones loaded with trekkers and heavy trekking gear. At the end of the runway is a steep drop of some 2000 feet. I watched one aircraft, late in the morning, drop off the end of the runway and only reappear 20 seconds later as it struggled to gain height to clear the mountains beyond. And the next flight out was ours.

Flying to Tanzania was via Nairobi airport. Nairobi had been bombed the year before and although security was tight, more than half the airport was closed due tot he damage caused by the bomb and subsequent fire. So transferring, we were crammed into a dark and dingy semi circular corridor that looked as if it had been built in the 70’s and promptly forgotten again, only to be rediscovered when they need ed the space. “What’s behind this door?” “No idea, lets see…”

The flight from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro International airport was via a large twin prop passenger plane. It looked modern and inside the cabin was clean and spacious. But then I watched them loading the luggage – by hand through a door in the side between us and the pilot. The bags were stacked haphazardly behind a curtain in the front bulkhead. I didn’t see my bag being loaded but when I picked it up at the end of the flight, it had been ripped at the seams and was unusable.

The transfer from Kili airport to Arusha was an exciting hour along the main road, fairly busy with slow buses and lorries and our minibus, only slightly faster. But the driver insisted on overtaking everything, even if it took 5 minutes. We stopped looking in the end as oncoming traffic got closer and closer. We passed overturned lorries and buses and this should have been enough to warn the driver. But we survived, and turned off the main road to get to the hotel. It was along a track that had never seem any form of tarmac and was, instead, created entirely from potholes creatively linked by ruts.

The transfer from the hotel to the start of the trek was equally adventurous. After leaving the main road, we drove on rough tracks for a while before leaving roads completely and driving along what I could only describe as a muddy river bed. The ruts in the mud, enlarged by flood water which had mercifully drained since, were deep enough the the bus grounded several times on the drive up to the park gate. At one pint, we passed another bus coming the other way and only just avoided rolling down a bank into a field.

In Morocco, I flew in to Marrakech airport and after a mix up with the transfer arrangements, I was taken in a car to the hotel. The driver was clearly under orders to get there and back as quickly as possible and so we shot off at high speed. My attempts at conversation were hampered by my lack of Arabic, my poor schoolboy French and the drivers need to concentrate on the road lest he hit something. Except he didn’t really seem to mind about the impact side of things in his mission to get to the hotel in record time. We sped across pedestrian crossing barely missing people who were already half way across the road. I watched in horror as the face of one man, mouth agape, passed by inches from the side window. We overtook on corners, undertook on other corners, undertook on roundabouts, forced motorcycles out of the way and generally sped through the busy streets to finally arrive outside the hotel. To be fair, we hit nothing, knocked no one over and got to the hotel in half the time it took to transfer back at the end of the trek.

You could argue that these experiences are just part of the fun of travel, and I guess you’d be right. But sometimes, after a long flight crammed in to the seat, dehydrated and tired, arms aching from carrying bags and brain frazzled from trying to understand what the passport checking police man has just asked you, you just want a gentle transfer and to wake up in a comfy bed ready for the adventure. We’ll get there one day.

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Mynydd Garn Fach

Sheep everywhere. Sleeping sheep, eating sheep, staring sheep (they’re the worst because they stare as if they know something we don’t). Some run away, some stand where they are and pee. Others (usually the same ones that stare) will approach us.

We left the car at the entrance to the Brynllefrith plantation (now more like the Brynllefrith tree since they chopped most of the forest down) and started off across Mynydd y Gwair. Despite recent rain, the mainly hot and dry weather had turned the normally marshy and unpleasant moorland into a more enjoyable terrain. It was easy to avoid they persistently lingering patches of mud.

The moor looked like a sheep plantation. Everywhere there were little blobs of white with hints of red, blue and green where paint had been applied to signify ownership. Some of them bleated but most of them had their heads down and were chomping away on the grass, oblivious to our passing. Rufus has long since lost interest in sheep and I wasn’t worried that he’d go off chasing them. My only concern was that we’d walk into a distracted sheep, which would panic, so as we got close to the preoccupied ones, I clapped my hands to announce our presence.

Rufus took this to be a sign that he was due a biscuit and would stare longingly at me. Of course Rufus takes everything to be a sign that he is due a biscuit. A cough, me taking a photo, a leaf falling in the woods several miles away. All of these definitively indicate that a snack is imminent.

The last few times we’ve been here I’ve been heading for the river to get some waterfall photos but today I wanted to see how far we could go beyond the river, up onto Mynydd Garn Fach. The last time we were here it was just after my mate had died and I found a spoon on the walk. I ought to explain why that was significant.

When I was in school with Simon, we created ‘spoonhenge’, a circle of dessert spoons. It took a few weeks of sneaking spoons out of the school canteen and was carefully hidden in the long grass that we knew wasn’t likely to be cut.

Fast forward to earlier this year, just after Simon’s funeral. I was out on Mynydd y Gwair with Rufus and we were off any normal paths. Imagine my surprise to find a dessert spoon exactly where you wouldn’t expect to find one. I took it as a sign. I’m not superstitious as a rule, but this was too much of a co-incidence. I picked it up and used it as foreground interest for some of my photos. In the end, we got to the Bronze Age cairn on the top of Mynydd Garn Fach and I thought it would be fitting to place the spoon in the cairn. Which I did.

Today, I decided that if Rufus was feeling up to it, we’d head up to the cairn. I needn’t have worried about my canine companion, as he was jogging all over the place and was showing no signs of tiredness. So we set off around the coal workings and up to the summit of the hill. The cairn was surrounded by sheep, of course. Some sleeping, some eating and some staring. But they cleared off for us and we spent a few minutes at the cairn, where I found the spoon I’d placed under the stones was still there.

Although losing Simon was sad I have plenty of found memories, most of which bring a smile to my face. I remember when we were starting the first band off, spending evenings in our local pub making plans for world domination. But the smile comes from recalling one evening when we’d had a disagreement in the pub. It wasn’t enough for one of us to storm out but we couldn’t let the argument go. It continued as we walked back to his house from the pub and sort of came to a conclusion outside in the street. Loudly. I don’t remember what we were arguing about but I think both of us would have agreed that if we felt strongly enough about something, it was right to argue.

After I’d replaced the spoon, Rufus and I turned around to make our way through the indifferent sheep back down the hill to the river, where stones were thrown and paddling was had and there was some very strange barking (I reminded Rufus that he was a spaniel not a terrier as some of the barking was distinctly ‘yappy’). Then we set off for the remains of the forest and the car.

On the way I started to collect some rubbish as part of the #2minutelitterpick and #2minutebeachclean I’ve been taking part in. Basically, you spend 2 minutes picking litter up when you’re out. It’s simple, straight forward and makes a difference. Today I managed to collect a lot of tin cans and plastic drinks bottles. They’re all recyclable and it’s such a shame that people can’t be bothered to take their rubbish home with them.

The irony was that we passed the remains of a car that had been dumped in the marshy ground near the forest. It’s been there for more than a year now and it is slowly disintegrating, with bits all over the place. It makes for an interesting photographic subject, but I’d rather it not be there.

Back at the car, Rufus wasn’t ready to go home. I was pleased to see he was still keen on walking around as because of his habit of slowing down when we near the house or car it can be difficult to tell when he’s genuinely tired and when it’s just an act because he doesn’t want to go home.

It turned out we’d walked 3.6 miles in just over two hours.

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Not going out

We’re not going out this weekend. “Too hot,” you say? Well, we tend to venture forth early to avoid the heat of the day, but that’s not the reason. “You have delicate and sensitive skin that you wish to protect from the ravages of the sun,” you ponder? Well, it is true that I was once approached to be the face of Nivea For Men*, but this is not the reason why either.

*Note: This is not actually true.

No. We are not going out today because on Thursday night, some small, sad youth smashed the driver’s side window of my car in order to steal my satellite navigation unit and my mobile phone. Only I don’t have a sat nav and I always carry my mobile phone with me. So instead he stole a pair of binoculars and a portable radio. Total value new, around £50. Total value to him? Probably less than the “four good blood samples and the two sharp fingerprints” he left behind (quote courtesy of the South Wales Police forensics officer).

All he left me was a mess. A small window shatters into several small windows worth of glass; the act of breaking triggers a biological response and each tiny crystal reproduces. And, I am assured by those who have also experienced the joy of a smashed car window, some of those crystals worm their way into the dark corners of the car only to emerge years later. The window is now double glazed with plastic and cardboard and so I can’t leave the car anywhere.

I count myself fortunate. No one of any consequence was injured (the young gentleman who did this deed is of no consequence). There are plenty of people in the world far worse off than me. So I find it easy not to be angry. In reflective moments, I even consider that the person who felt desperate enough to break in to my car probably has a drug or debt problem. But then I also consider that most people with problems do something constructive about them – and that choice of action is a far harder and more difficult thing to do than to hit a pane of glass with a hammer, fumble about in a car and come away with a large, bloody cut and two near worthless items.

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S’no balls

The thing about snow balls is, well, when you try to catch them they are very cold and when they land in snow, you can’t find them. Dave loves throwing snowballs for me and I love trying to get them, but they’re never where I think they are. Dave laughs a lot. I think he knows something I don’t.

Snow is like a magnet for Dave. He gets all excited and does a little jig when he knows there is snow about. Inevitably, after the white stuff falls, we will go out. I know the signs. Apart from the little jig, he starts to fiddle about with his back pack. It gets stuffed full of things but as far as I can see, they are very light things that only make the pack look heavy. Then he starts to mutter about cameras.

You may have picked up from these blogs that Dave is keen on photography. He thinks he’s good at it and who am I to burst his bubble. Regardless of his talent, it’s very entertaining to watch him decide which camera (often, cameras). It usually starts the night before when he charges up some batteries. I’ve learnt to identify which camera will be going with us by the battery alone. Then he starts sorting through the lenses. Often, he will change his mind about the camera at this point. It becomes quite tedious and if I could be bothered to stay awake, I’m sure the boredom would be unbearable. By the time I’ve woken up, I can tell whether we’re in for a long walk or a short one by the relative sizes of the back pack and camera bag.

Today, the back pack was large and the camera bag was small. Long walk. I watched Dave fill the treat bag and that was quite full too. I like long walks, so I wagged my tail to let Dave know he’d made the right choice. We set off in the cold and dark but the car was soon cosy and warm. I’ve had my hair cut recently, and it was much more comfortable on the back seat. I dozed while Dave drove. Driving is not really my thing.

When I jumped out of the car, everything was white. Snow! I love it, except when it balls up between my paws. But we weren’t in our normal spot to climb the mountain and Dave explained that the road was too slippery. Last year, he had a bigger car and snow never bothered him but ever since he got rid of it for the hair dressers car he has now (I told him at the time but he wouldn’t listen) he’s been more careful where he goes and where he parks.

We set off along the river and once the sun had come up, it wasn’t too cold. In fact it was lovely, although I didn’t go in the river as I usually do because that would have been foolish with snow everywhere. Instead I jumped, bounded, jogged, walked and ran through the snow while Dave huffed and puffed behind me. I tried to help by offering to empty the treat bag but Dave was a little stubborn about that.

Then came the snowball thing. We must have spent ages playing snowballs. I tried to catch them in mid air – much easier than jumping for stones. I chased them until they disappeared. I barked at them, and at Dave when he was distracted with his camera. Great fun was had by everyone. We headed back to the car and I had a feeling that this wasn’t the end of it. Sure enough, we drove in the opposite direction to home and after a few minutes, parked at the side of the road. There was a fence and a stile and I was just about to demonstrate my stile style when Dave pointed out a gap in the fence. I went through that while Dave, too big to fit, climbed the stile.

We followed a level strip of ground on the slope of the hill. Dave went on about disused railway lines and quarrying but I wasn’t really listening as there were far too many interesting aromas under the snow. My nose got cold through all the snuffling and sniffing I had to do. There were sheep around – I could smell them. But Dave kept missing them as they were camouflaged against the snow. I didn’t bother with them (they’re so boring. No conversation and no sense of adventure).

By the time we got back to the car it was getting cold. Clouds were coming in and we’d been walking for more than 2 hours all together. Dave driedf between my toes (he’s kind like that) and while I dozed, he drove us home.

I’d still like to know what happens to the snowballs though.

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Rufus and Dave’s Fortnight of Fun part 3: Back to the hills.

“Rufus, I’ve got a new car. Look, it’s red and shiny.”

Dave, it’s a car. Like other cars, it has four wheels and a comfy seat for me to recline on while you drive me. It’s only purpose is to transport me to rivers and other bodies of water so I can paddle and swim. Get over it.

Yesterday, while Dave was drooling over… it.. I had my hair cut, which not only made me look good again, but really cooled me off. Cool and cool. So today, I was ready to go for a long walk. I stepped in to the back of the car – it really is easier to get into than that big monstrosity he used to drive – and settled down for what I expected to be a long, drawn out drive to Gower. But I was proved wrong. It was a long drive, I can’t think why, and I’m sure Dave grinned the whole time. When I stepped out, we were at an old favourite spot; Gareg Lwyd.

The last few times we’ve been here, it’s been misty and neither of us has been able to see much. Dave was training for his African hill walk last year and regardless of the weather, he would insist we went on. Last time we were here, he got lost and nearly walked over the edge of the nearby quarry. How I laughed. But today was nice, with a cooling breeze (not that I needed it) and fairly good visibility. We set off up the side of the hill. Dave kept looking back at his car and I sensed he didn’t want to leave, but I dragged him on past the sheep and before long, we were out of sight of the car park. It’s very rocky underfoot and I have to be careful not to go too fast in case Dave slips and twists an ankle trying to keep up.

On the very top is a huge pile of stones that Dave keeps calling a cairn. He also once told me that from a certain angle it looks like a woman’s breast, complete with nipple, and now he giggles a lot every time we walk past it. I can’t see it myself. Today, the conditions were ideal to extend the stroll down the other side of the hill and up on to Foel Fraith. We’ve done that one a few times too, and I know the way. So with Dave hesitating to stray further from his new acquisition, I charged down the hill and onto the flat valley floor. He had no choice but to follow me.

On Foel Fraith, it was very hazy and we could barely see the other hills we’d climbed in the past. I found our favourite resting spot – a collection of limestone boulders – and waited for Dave to catch up. To be fair, he’s good with all the food and drink and so I had a small feast while we sat and contemplated the world. But I could tell Dave was distracted, and soon we set off back to the car.

I had a nice surprise as when I stepped out of the car again, we were at my former owner’s house. I got to see all my friends again and have a wander around the new (to me) house. I always like going there. By the time we finally got home, it was late and we were both tired and it wasn’t long before we were both sleeping.

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Rufus and Dave’s Fortnight of Fun Part 2b: Changes.

I dropped Rufus off at the hairdresser looking like a shaggy black mop. I know when it’s time for him to have a haircut because he pants a lot. In fact, he sounds like a little steam engine. He’s good as gold when we go there; it must be strange for him with all the other dogs there but he’s been going there for most of his life so it’s as familiar is it can be.

Then I set off for the garage and the paperwork-fest that is exchanging cars. It was fairly straight forward. I had packed all the stuff from my car into a small back pack and with Rufus’ blankets and seat protection, it looked like I was going on a trek. The salesman was great, once again, and the process went smoothly. Sinclairs have a preparation room where your car sits waiting for you. I walked straight past it without spotting my car. After all, it’s a fairly non-descript red.

I was just about to drive off when the salesman said ‘have you got enough fuel’? When I checked, they’d brimmed the tank. A nice little touch that I hadn’t asked for and which, in days gone by, formed part of the final haggling over price. My experience of buying a car from Sinclairs has, once again, been excellent.

Of course, the A3 is worlds apart from the Freelander. I drove off hesitantly, conscious that everyone knew I was in a new (to me) car. But I quickly got the hang of the clutch and the fact that I didn’t need to use as much accelerator to get it moving. And it was nice not to see the fuel gauge needle moving as I drove. As I drove through town I found myself looking up at all the traffic around me, and even up at some of the kerbs.

I went back to pick Rufus up, now looking slick and feeling a lot cooler with his new haircut. He couldn’t fail to notice the bright redness of it, but he was more interested in having a wee after his styling, and when I opened the door there was a moment’s hesitation before he stepped in. It’s lower than the Freelander, and where before he would normally take a run and jump, now he could climb in easily.

We set off for Cefn Bryn and the second part of our walk and yes, maybe I did take the long way around to get there. But I have to learn to drive my new toy!

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Red sports car

Selling is a game. The trick is not to let on it’s a game and, if possible, not to let on you’re selling. A good salesman will let you do the work while subtly guiding you in the right direction. In the past two weeks I’ve been visiting car dealers looking for my next car and I’ve come across several salesmen with varying degrees of skill. If I (an amateur car buyer) can see their techniques, then they aren’t working. It’s like a good film or TV programme – if you notice the camera work then the camera work isn’t good; it should never intrude on the experience.

The first salesman passed me on to the sales junior despite me having made an appointment to see him. That made me feel so important that I was fairly certain I wasn’t going to buy from that garage. I took the test drive because I wanted to see what the car was like. It was very nice, not quite my perfect car but part of the game of changing cars is the compromises you are willing to make. The junior salesman was quite good, actually (I only use the word junior to indicate he was less experienced) but he kept asking questions about how the car felt to drive, how comfortable it was etc. This is done to try and get a positive response from the customer to start the process of wanting the car. It weakens the bargaining stance later in the buying process – you have already said you like it and those positive connections have been made.

Having been driving a Freelander for two years, my response was genuine:  “It’s very different – the visibility isn’t as good”. The salesman went quite and I ended up having to make the conversation.

In the showroom, I was left to wait while they went off to get a price. Now to my mind, the original salesman should have been doing that while I was out in the car. And, of course, he was. I was left to sit and wait while they sat and waited in the office, letting me reflect and worry a little. It should have softened me up. But the waiting area was in the sun and I was cooking. The only reason I didn’t walk out was because they had my keys. When they did come over, it was junior that gave me the figures. They had added the cost of protective coating to the price (easily removed to drop the price) but it was still way over what I was prepared to pay. Part of the reason was I’d over estimated the value of my car but that garage had a strange way of pricing their vehicles too, which worked in their favour (of course). In Swansea, my car had a value. In their dealership elsewhere, it might be more or less. But rather than having a fixed value for exchange, it was based on local prices. Swansea is quite cheap for Freelanders; If you want the best prices, go to Scotland where they are around £2k more. That’s what would have happened to mine.

When I questioned the valuation, the senior salesman waded in and quoted all sorts of reasons why that was an unrealistic price. But it is a game at the end of the day, so we smiled, shook hands and I walked out, sweaty and a bit disappointed.

Fast forward to the weekend. I went to another dealer, this time one independent from  both the make I was selling and the make I was buying. To be fair, the salesman was on his own and had been busy. While he was showing me around the car he was on the phone to someone explaining how he’d made 5 sales that day, “including the Fiat 500 which we’ve finally got rid of…”. Once again, I felt special and valued. I took it for a test drive and, comparing with the the previous one (same model) it just didn’t feel as good. It might have been the high mileage, about which I had my doubts. In the office, the valuation of my car was laughable. He asked me if I’d had another offer and when I told him what the valuation from the main Landrover dealer was, he said “they’re wrong”. I laughed out loud. He then started to show me all sorts of figures from the valuation site. But he’d had his quota of sales for the day and what little effort he’d made at the beginning stopped; he didn’t even take my contact details, which any half decent salesman would have done.

Fast forward once more to yesterday. I went to the dealer I’ve been buying cars from for a while. I’d seen one I was vaguely interested in and I’d done a lot of research. I kept coming back to this one car. On a whim, I called in and spoke to one of several salesmen there. Immediately, I felt as if I mattered. The game was being played well. This was the Premiership after me experiences in the lower leagues. The guy took the time to talk me through what I wanted, and more time to go through the cars that were due in but not yet on the website. We even explored different models and the options available. The test drive was relaxed and at no time did I feel I was being ‘sold’ the car. The language was friendly but to the point, It took a couple of minutes to figure out the prices, another couple to come to a final price we were both happy with and suddenly, I had bought a new car!

When I was a kid, I always told people I wanted a red sports car. I’m still a kid at heart, and I now have a red car. It’s not a sports car in the true sense, but the trim level is ‘Sport’ and that’s good enough for me.

Fun week

Rufus has come to stay for a week while his owner moves house. This poses a few problems. The main ones being, who owns the sausages in the fridge and who owns the sofa? Actually, there is no problem on the latter, as Rufus owns the sofa and I merely have use of it when he isn’t here. I may be allowed to sit on the floor, leaning against the sofa, as a concession.

My garden has never been completely secure from intruders – I’ve talked about the fox here before. In anticipation of Rufus’ arrival, and to avoid a re-enactment of ‘The Great Escape’, I spent the last week or so putting up new fencing around the garden. I wanted to make sure that while Rufus is here he has free reign over the garden without being tempted by the wider world. Most of the fencing is done but there are a few areas which are difficult to get to and the dim light of dusk made seeing what I was doing hard. I managed to spear myself in the ear with a small branch and several times I knocked my glasses off. So this morning I tackled the awkward bits in full daylight.

I was watched by the boss the whole time, except when he had to go and lie down. He checked out every link and made sure there was no slacking of effort. Then he claimed the sofa for himself once again.

I expect there will be some negotiation over the time and frequency of walks. It may go something like:

“I want to go out now.”

“But it’s 5am.”

“Yes, time to go out.”

“But I need my sleep so I’m can be an effective work unit.”

“Yes, but it’s time to go out now.”

Then there is the little matter of the sausages. I expect it will be similar to the sofa in that it will turn out that I don’t own any of the contents of my fridge. Toast for tea, then!

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It’s official

Just been to see the doctor and he has prescribed a month of rest for my poor knee. If you’re reading this, gather at my house for I think I may need waiter/waitress service!

So after seeing him, I went for a chilled stroll through the botanical garden at Singleton Park. I never really knew what exactly was in there but it was beautiful. Lots of colourful flowers and plants and a squirrel, sort of hiding in a bush. But he just couldn’t contain his curiosity and kept poking his head out to see what iw as doing. Of course, I was poking my camera in to take his portrait.

Then, walking back tot he car, I was confronted by a road accident that had only just happened. A Ford Ka was across the road with it’s bumper ripped off and front tyres deflated. Being an ex-first aider, I started to get twitchy but there were no casualties – in fact it seems as if the two youths in the car had run away. I felt sorry for the woman who had just walked back to her parked car to find it part of the mayhem – the Ka had hit it before bouncing into the middle of the road. My car was only two vehicles away from the one they hit. I overheard a witness telling the woman that the youths had been speeding and had swerved to avoid a dog. Nothing for me to do, so I managed to do a three point turn and drive away from the chaos.

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One of those days

Grrrrrnnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeeeechhhh!

The sound of my back brakes every time I slowed or stopped. Even I, a mechanical dunce, knew something was wrong. So the Freelander got booked in to the garage and this morning they went to work. When I collected it this afternoon, I found that they’d had to replace the back discs (as the Grrrrrnnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeeeechhhh! was actually the sound of the brake pad bases lathing lovely symmetrical grooves in the surface of the discs). As an aside, the mechanic said I needed a new tyre as well.

Looking up tyre prices online, I found that it was highly recommended to replace all four tyres at the same time on any vehicle with full time 4 wheel drive. Something to do with the traction sensors not coping with the different diameters of worn and new tyres. Applying a bit of logic, I decided that as the rear tyres were fairly new and the front tyres were both worn (with one being right on the limit of legality and the other a tiny bit better), I’d replace both fronts and trust that the rear tyre diameter wouldn’t be that different. I guess I’d find out if the computers in the car suddenly crashed shortly before I did.

Funnily enough,  Grrrrrnnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeeeechhhh! was also the noise I made as I looked back on the receipts for all the work I’d had done today.