Tuesday, 26 November 2013

You leave me bent and broken by the roadside

As I've probably mentioned before, I drive to work.  I don't mean that I open the car door, sit down, start the engine and get to work before the heater's had time to get hot... I work in Coventry, but live in Derby.  So every day it's a 100 mile round trip, up to a couple of hours each way.  So I need a car.  I mean, I could walk, I've extolled the virtues of walking before, but I wouldn't want to do it all the time.

Keeping that in mind, imagine the sinking feeling that your friendly neighbourhood Pangolin wrangler gets when he notices a new noise coming from the Dandymobile.  Especially when that noise is that of a Briggs & Stratton powered rotary lawnmower.

'Aha!' I remember thinking, 'it seems that there is some kind of mechanical failure in the Flux Capacitor.' For I am a whiz with the old infernal combustion engine, and can identify the cause of many major failures using only my sense of smell and a bucket of goat entrails. After nursing the stricken vehicle to work and back (and noticing that the rate of petrol consumption had increased alarmingly).  I took a look under the bonnet and caressed my full and manly beard, for I have seen this done by professional engine gazers just before they have that Eureka moment.

I waited long enough for my supper to have gone cold, but nothing sprang to mind, so I returned to the warmth of my drawing room for a chocolate coated cigar and a glass of hand-squeezed weasel sherry, momentarily beaten.

I traveled to and from work for the rest of the week in a comedic 'poppety-bangity yes of course I can mow your lawn sir,' fashion until I could get to my local car spares emporium at the weekend (during the week I leave home before they are open, and get home after the inconsiderate buggers have closed you see) and requested of them a new set of sparking plugs, an air filter and some high-tension leads - Which as you know are my electrical nemesis.  The stout yeoman in the brown storekeeper's coat behind the counter asked me for my registration so that he could supply the correct parts, then tapped away at his keyboard and announced that I could have the plugs and filter now, but he'd have to order the leads and they would not be delivered until the Monday.  I sighed in resignation, took the parts I could and went home to fit them.

Problemo numero uno: The spark plugs for this particular car are the same as those used in matchbox cars, and as such require a special (for special, please substitute the words 'comically bloody tiny') spanner for their replacement, which of course I did not own.

So off we went, 'poppety-bangity-'poppety-bangity-'poppety-bangity down the road to my local purveyor of ironmongery.  Who did not carry the item.  I went to a professional seller of automotive toolery, who was out of stock, and I briefly considered going to Halfords, but I had run out of surplus internal organs to sell to raise the required money.  Eventually I remembered that there was a tool shop physically next door to where I had bought the parts... who, bless their little Chrome-Molybdenium hearts, had exactly the tool I needed, for the princely sum of £2.70.  I declared my undying love for the lady behind the counter, drove home and proceeded to change the spark plugs.

Now, luckily for me, I live less than two miles from the car-spares shop and there is pretty much one, long, straight road between them and the bijou mock-medieval mansion that is Dandy Towers... Bonus! I hear you cry.  However, there is a large, 135 year old, railway bridge on that road that is currently undergoing replacement - This is what it looks like:

Meaning that every time I need to buy a tool, or some parts, I need to go at least a mile out of my way, right past a police station driving a car that sounds like Satan's handblender and loses power going up even the mildest of inclines.

So, plugs replaced, there was no appreciable difference, but I had noticed that one was a different colour to the rest.  Three were a lovely, health brown colour and one was black and sooty and not quite right.

'Aha!' I thought again, 'that's the bugger right there.' Looking at the HT lead, I noticed a small crack. 'Hahaha! I have found the problem - I am a mechanical genius!' I declared to the Gods... (and to the bemused unwashed urchin who happened to be wandering past at the time - I shooed him away with an accurately thrown screwdriver) and made myself a celebratory mug of strong tea, as I believe is popular with the lower classes... Well, I say 'made myself', I actually requested the item from the Mehmsahib, I am still confused by the inner workings of the cookhouse, even after the extended time I campaigned in the Sudan and Rhodesia.

On the Tuesday evening, the car made another interesting noise on the way home.  I was just leaving the A50 dual carriageway when there was something of a 'clatter' I looked in the rear-view mirror, but could see nothing.  The clattering continued and I noticed bright flashes of light pluming from my rear end, much like the below picture.

As you can probably gather, my exhaust had become disconnected by all the chugging from the misfiring engine.  I secured the errant tubing with a selection of cable ties and booked it in to have it fixed.  I had the next day off work, whilst the garage fitted a new exhaust and then drove the car (still poppety-bangitying) all the way around the houses to the spares shop.

'I've come to pick up my leads.' I said to a different stout yeoman, and showed him my receipt.  He wandered around for a little while, went upstairs, then back down, then into the office, then asked everyone else if they'd seen them and came back out.

'I think we've sold them by accident.' He said - having the decency to look faintly sorry, and was not completely surprised when I slapped him across the face with my leather gloves, suggested that he re-order them and walked out without saying a further word, leaving the outside door open on purpose to reinforce my feeling of displeasure.

On the Saturday I called in twice, the first time them could not find the part still, but 'according to the computer' it was in stock... Somewhere.  Unfortunately on this occasion I had forgotten my gloves, so I had to console myself by pointing at them and suggesting that they buck their ideas up or face a sound thrashing.

The second time, I was presented with the leads in question and an apology, which I accepted in good grace.  Until I got home to find that they had supplied the wrong ones.  To say that I was upset may be an understatement.  Some of the words that I used are banned even by Somali Pirates and I managed to turn one of the birdfeeders in the garden inside-out purely by the ungentlemanly nature of my outburst.

A WEEK LATER, after 500 miles of poppety-bangity-poppety-bangity-poppety-bangity travel up and down the M42 I managed to secure the correct leads which, when fitted, seemed to cure the 'bangity' part, but left me with a surfeit of 'poppety' noises still, along with using 25% more petrol than normal.

I steeled myself and resolved to have the car looked at by an oily professional upon my next pay-day... But then a wonderful thing happened.

One of my headlights popped.  Now, I know to the untrained eye, that may seem like a bad thing, but no... In this particular case it was the golden syrup dripping down the cleavage of an unconscious burlesque dancer, the shiny rollerskates on my suede cloak wearing, yodeling, greyhound.  Whilst I was beavering away under the bonnet to try and see how easy (or otherwise) the bulbs were to change, I moved the induction hose (the tinfoil looking affair that takes fresh-air from the dual superchargers into the air filter) and realised that not only was it not connected at either end, but it had split in the middle.  A quick application of most of a £2 roll of Asda's own-brand duct tape and normal service was (sort of) restored.

All that was required now was replacement bulbs,  I drove the three miles to the spares shop, slowing down as I drove past the police station so that I could rev my engine with impunity in their general direction.  Quoted my registration number to the very professional looking gentleman who gave me the bulbs.

They were the wrong bulbs...

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