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Greetings from a Cold, Wet and Foggy Northern Ireland

Posted by Chalky on Dec 21, 2008 in Driving

I’m away in Northern Ireland over the weekend doing my last bit of work for the Victoria College of Music for 2008. I have been here before during the Summer months. I’m hoping that I will get a bit of time to have a look around this time but we will see how it goes. With the weather being the way it is, I might not want to go out exploring!

 

I travelled down to Nottingham East Midlands Airport on Friday afternoon to catch the 16:20 plane to Belfast City with Ryanair. I quite like East Midlands Airport, it’s certainly much nicer and friendlier than Heathrow, still it doesn’t beat Doncaster which is by far my favourite airport. The journey was fine until we got to Belfast where the weather was awful. Gale-force winds made landing difficult and pilot recieved cheers all round when we landed safely.

Upon landing, I proceeded to the Avis Car Hire Desk to pick up my hire car. I was slightly disappointed when they handed over the keys to a Citroen C3 as I was looking forward to driving something different! Last time I came, I was given a Peugeot 207 which I thoroughly enjoyed driving. However, when I got in the C3 I was pleasantly suprised to see that this 2008 model had been given a makeover since my 2005 spec car and it was interesting to see the differences even though it is the same car. I will probably write a post comparing the two at some point.

I am staying in a Premiere Inn in a place called Carrickfergus. The Premiere Inn is joined to a Brewers Fayre, both of which appear to have only been year a year or so. It’s right on the Harbour edge and you can see all of the boats moored in the harbour. It’s also a stones throw away from Carrickfergus Castle. This Premiere Inn is, so far, the best one I have stayed in. The staff have been extra friendly and helpful during my stay, which is always a good thing! The food has also been good with the staff in the Brewers Fayre, called The Harbour, being equally as pleasant.

Yesterday, I did my work for the Victoria College of Music before returning back to the hotel. It was a miserable day with only a few hours of daylight. The rest of the day was covered with all nasty forms of weather. The only thing I didn’t get was snow and ice! It was certainly the tickets Fog that I had ever driven through and I was glad the C3 I had been given was equipped with both rear and front Fog Lights! I took me over 2 hours to make the, normally 45 minute, journey back to the hotel.

Today, I’m hoping the weather is going to be a bit better and that I will have chance to explore a bit more of Northern Ireland before I make my way back to Belfast City Airport for my flight back to EMA at 5pm.

 
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Good Runnings

Posted by Chalky on Dec 17, 2008 in Driving

I’ve had my 2005 Citroën C3 Desire (named Clarence) for 4 months now and I’ve never really said much about it. The car is holding up very well considering it makes a 100 mile round trip to Scunthorpe every week day. So far I’ve already clocked up 13,000 miles in him:

Odometer

Odometer

A week ago, I drove all the way “down South” with it and have to say that I have been very impressed with it. The car is extremely comfortable and very easy to drive. The steering is feather light, which took some getting used to coming from a car with no Power Steering at all; The steering is as light as the Grande Punto I test drove with the City button turned on.

On the way back, I decided to fill the car up and reset all of the trip/MPG/Average Speed counters and decided to do a little benchmarking. Here are the readouts from the On-Board Computer after the journey:

Trip Counter

Trip Counter

Average Miles Per Gallon

Average Miles Per Gallon

Average Speed

Average Speed

The journey was a mixture of town and Motorway driving, including the queues for the Dartford Tunnel, M25 Roadworks and the two lots of Roadworks on the M1. I had my Dipped Beam on for half of the journey and my side lights on for a quarter of the journey. I didn’t have the Air Conditioning turned on for any part of the journey. I also had my sisters TomTom One v3 and my CD Player on at a moderately loud volume. I mention those because some people say that things like that don’t make much of a difference, which of course they do. The headlights and radio take quite a lot of power, which increases Fuel Consumption.

To show this is context, I switched the engine of my car off and left the CD Player running. I have a power meter in my car which is part of my multi-socket adaptor for the Cigarette Lighter. You can see how quickly the power from the battery is drained by the CD player:

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

You can see that the car will have to work to keep the battery charged. Air Conditioning takes even more power than devices powered by the Cigarette Lighter socket. In my C3, when you turn the Air Conditioning on, you can hear and feel the power been sucked away from the engine. Still, I couldn’t do without it in the summer!

With a 1.4 Litre Petrol engine, the C3 is not exactly designed to be as economic as the smaller engined cars. It’s never going to be as economical as Jill’s Peugeot 107, so I was very happy with this figure because it’s a higher than the 46.3 mpg that is quoted by Citroen themselves. It’s not very often that you find that you can get the Miles Per Gallon that is specified. However, the 57.6 mpg that they quote for Extra-Urban driving is certainly pie in the sky unless you were coasting down a hill the entire time!

There only disappointment was the price that Windscreen Wipers are for it! Whilst down in Surrey, I decided it was high time, especially with the bitter weather, to replace the Wipers. I’m pretty sure the Bosch Wipers that were on the car are the original Wipers that were on the car when it was brand new. They’ve been causing a little bit of grief as of late, especially in the morning when the Windscreen has been cold. So, I decided to pop in Halfords and get them replaced. I was shocked when the Grand Total for my Wiper Blades came to £31.97 and that didn’t include fitting! £16.49 for the Driver’s Side, £8.49 for the Passenger Side and £6.99 for the Rear Wiper Blade. It knocked me back a bit considering a set of 2 Front Wiper Blades for my Mk.1 FIAT Punto was only £16.99! I suppose the consolation was that I could get the full set of Blades from Halfords, whereas I could only get a rear Wiper Blade for the Punto from a FIAT Dealer.

Whilst on the subject of cars, I’d like to take a moment to remember my first car, Pipsqueak that tragically died on the 13th December 2007 whilst attached to a lampost:

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Not So Premier Hand Car Wash

Posted by Chalky on Nov 6, 2008 in Bad Luck, Driving, Rants

If, like me, you’re too lazy to wash your car properly yourself you’ll probably take your car to your local car wash. I’ve always been told not to use a mechanical car wash that uses brushes and I’ve heard a tale or two about the consequences. Now I have my own story!

For the past year I’ve been using the Premier Hand Car Wash on Queens Road next to Halfords. I’ve taken all 3 of my cars (Pipsqueak the Seicento, Percy the Punto and now Clarence the C3) as well as my friend’s Daihatsu Terios and not really had any problems… until now (and they certainly made up for it)!

I took my car in this afternoon because it was well overdue for a wash, I think I must have left it a couple of months and with the recent bad weather it was looking a right state. So I popped down to Queens Road and got my car washed. Everything appeared to be OK, but I noticed they seemed to be taking an extraordinarily long time to clean my car and kept blasting it with the pressure washer. I just assumed this was because my car was extremely dirty. 

However, once I got home and got out of the car, I realised the real reasoning for the extra time spent:

 

Front-Right Door

Front-Right Door

 

Rear-Right Door

Rear-Right Door

 

Between Right Doors

Between Right Doors

 

Aerial

Aerial

It’s pretty much the same on the other side too. Suffice to say, I wasn’t best pleased so I went straight back down to Queens Road. To be fair, they were very apologetic and did take full responsibility, but that doesn’t stop my car looking a complete wreck.

It turns out that they’d managed to spray the Acid that they use on wheels (to loosen dirt) all over my car and that they had realised which was why they kept spraying my car… Nice of them to tell me first time round! They’ve arrange for their bodyshop man to come and sort my car out next week. I’m a bit miffed that I’m going to have to drive the car for nearly a week in the state that it is in but I suppose there’s nothing I can really do. I certainly won’t be settling for anything less than the handles looking in perfect condition as they were pre-washing. If not, they’re going to have to pay for them to be replaced.

Whilst they’ve assured my that this won’t damage the paint work on my car, I’m not really convinced so I’m going to get my Uncle Nigel to check the whole car over. He’s hoping it will be OK but he says I’ll find out by Sunday if it’s not going to be (by the very fact that the paint will start to come off)!

So, the moral of the story is don’t be lazy and wash your car yourself! But, if you are still far to lazy to wash it yourself, you might want to think more carefully about where you take it!

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Clarence in Disgrace

Posted by Chalky on Oct 9, 2008 in Bad Luck, Driving, Scunthorpe, Work

 

Clarence, a literal shadow of his former self

Clarence, a literal shadow of his former self

On Monday, I took the extremely long way home, via Recovery Truck! I 

Whilst on the M180, I began to smell a funny smell. I’m almost certain it wasn’t actually my car that was causing the smell but by this time, I was so paranoid about the whole thing that I didn’t really want to carry on. I pulled onto the Hard Shoulder and called the AA. They said that I would be placed on the High Priority list seeing as I was stranded on the Motorway rather than being in a safer location. An hour later, a Recovery Truck pulled up behind me.

The Recovery Man was a very friendly man and had lots of interesting things to talk about. He had been a roofer for 22 years and then one day, a voice inside him said that he couldn’t do it anymore and explained that a few of his friends had had similar experiences, ignored them and then died a few weeks later from accidents at work. He decided to follow the voice in his head and gave up in favour of his current job.

We also talked about the current drinking culture in the UK and about Christmas and the New Year. It certainly made the journey a lot easier as I had visions of sitting in silence for the whole one and a half hour journey. 

After arriving just across the road from my house, we un-loaded the stricken Clarence and, after directing him to the local KFC, limped the C3 the rest of the way home. 

I’m currently using Percy, my Mk. 1 FIAT Punto to get me to and from work. Thank heavens I hadn’t got round to selling it yet! Looks like I’ll need to call in a few favours with my Uncle when he gets back of holiday! 

Thanks to Nitesh for suggesting my car should by called The Giddy-me-up to KFC Chariot instead of Clarence… He knows me so well!

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Poor Clarence :(

Posted by Chalky on Aug 25, 2008 in Bad Luck, Driving

Today, I woke up to the wonderful news that my car has been broken into. They got in through the passenger-side window and stole my TomTom and iPod out of the Glovebox. It’ll be a while before I can afford to replace them but I suppose a lesson has been learned.

On a more positive note, I have to say I am very impressed with the way that Admiral has dealt with everything. The phone was answered immediately by a UK call centre and the representative was both helpful and polite. I’ve decided to just claim for the Window to be replaced rather than putting in a full Theft Claim as I’d lose my (already none-existant) No Claims Bonus and they’d only give me £100 for the lot so it was hardly worth it.

Anyway, National Windscreens (who I’m also pretty chuffed with) should be here at 1:30 so we’ll see what’s what.

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Day Five (Wednesday 20th August)

Posted by Chalky on Aug 21, 2008 in Driving, Holiday

Today, I took the Mother and the Sister out to where Faith works so that they could go off and do yet more shopping, cue sigh. I’d decided that I’d already endured more than enough shopping for one holiday so I was just happy to drop them off. However, this did mean that I was left with the task of entertaining Colin for the rest of the day. Whilst I was taking Mum and Jill to meet Faith, I’d left him shooting targets, birds and cans on Wii Play on Jill’s Wii. On the way back, I had the brainwave that maybe I should treat him to taking him somewhere. When I got back to the house, I told Colin to get ready because I was taking him somewhere, but I didn’t elude as to where we were going. In the car, Colin kept asking me where we were going, he isn’t a lover of surprises so I enjoyed the fact that I wasn’t going to tell him. I was in fact on my way to the Seaton Tramway Fleet Air Arm Museum Haynes Motor Museum.

Read more…

 
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Keep off the Roads, Pipsqueak is coming through!

Posted by Chalky on Nov 13, 2007 in Driving

I couldn’t wait any longer, today I went to pick up my first car!
It’s a 1999 (T Reg) Fiat Seicento CityMatic. With an amazing(!) 899CC engine, I’m sure I’ll be getting my boy racer gear and burning some rubber… At least it’ll get me to uni and back and should only cost £30 to fill up.

No A/C but I have got Electric Windows, Sunroof and an MP3/CD Player and it is fun to drive, like driving a go-kart!

Whilst not being the most manliest of cars, with it being in Insurance Group 1, it will hopefully not cost me the earth to insure!

He’s been named Pipsqueak as he is so small and has a little squeak when he’s cold and wet. I’m going against all conventions that say that all vehicles are female.

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I Passed!

Posted by Chalky on Oct 20, 2007 in Driving, Scunthorpe

Today I ventured to Scunthorpe for the day of reckoning! Today was the day of my driving test. As you can tell from the title, I passed my driving test with flying colours!

I recieved 3 minor faults for my steering, apparently I don’t follow the curve of junctions and just turn at 90 degree angles… Neither me or my driving instructor have noticed it before… Oh well!

 
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Theory Test Blues

Posted by Chalky on Jun 29, 2007 in Driving

Those who know me well, and probably those who don’t, will know that I am terribly unlucky. I don’t know what I’ve done wrong in my life to deserve this amount of bad luck but there we are.

Three weeks ago, I had my wallet stolen. I had to cancel all of my cards and re-order all of them. This, unfortunately also included the Photocard part of my Provisional License.

As soon as I had realised my wallet had gone missing, I immediately rang BSM to let them know as they were in the process off booking my Theory Test for me. They said they would hold of booking my Theory Test incase my Driver Number changed as a result of having to order a new license.

I then rang the DVLA to let them know that my wallet had been stolen with the Photocard in to find out what I should do to proceed. They told me that my Driver Number would stay the same and that I could stil go ahead and book my Theory Test dispite no longer having my Photocard. I rang BSM back and told them to go ahead and book my Theory Test for me.

2 weeks ago I recieved notification of my Theory Test date from BSM for Thursday 28th June. Several days later I got a notification from the Driving Standards Agency confirming my test date. I booked the day off work in order to prepare for the test. On Monday, I had a read through the letter to double check the timing and location of the test. When I reached the bottom of the letter it stated that you must bring your Photocard and paper counterpart in order to take the test.

I rung the DSA to double-check whether it would be OK for me to bring the paper counterpart and my Passport. They said this was not possible and that I could not take the test on Thursday. I explained that I had been told by the DVLA that I would still be able to take the test but they just told me that simply wasn’t the case.

So now here I am, £40-odd poorer (£20 for the wasted Theory Test and £20 for a new Provisional License) and I’m still no better of. It also pretty much ruins my hopes of getting a Full Driving License before I leave Scunthorpe and go back to Sheffield.

Oh well, such is life! Well, certainly my life anyway!