Friday, 31 August 2012

1000 miles

I'm attempting to keep some kind of record of the car's mileage and mpg and what have you.

In 1000 mile segments.

And so it is that on Saturday afternoon, somewhere a little to the North of Birmingham, the car's mileometer ticked over 1000 miles.

It took 13 days, which means an average of .about 77 miles a day. Slightly over where it should be but that's ok really.

The average fuel consumption was 50.4 miles per gallon. The average speed was 19 miler per hour.

I reset the counters and continued south. I was visiting Dave for a few days. The rest of the trip to Aylesbury was done in around 87 miles per gallon, mainly because I drove frugally along the motorway. I got from Wallasey to Aylesbury, and back to Wallasey one a tank of fuel, easily, with a quarter of a tank left, despite doing some driving while I was down there.

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Thursday, 23 August 2012


I posted a news item about a software company closing. Comments were made about one of their games, "Lemmings". I posted a link to an online browser based version of the game but when I checked back, my link wasn't there. I assumed that I hadn't posted it properly and tried again. Ten minutes later, the link, and all the comments in the thread are gone. Facebook appear to be monitoring and altering my posts.

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Nope. It's just being glitchy by the looks of things.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

struggling a bit here

I'm not good with complexity. When things become complicated I tend to avoid dealing with them, which generally makes life more complicated in the long run.

And so it is right now. Got to deal with insurance and stuff. Writing this post is itself an avoidance activity.

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Saturday, 18 August 2012

25,000 miles

My hire agreement allows me to do 25,000 miles a year. That works out at 70.4 miles a day, or 493 miles a week. I suppose having had it for 5 days, my mileage should be about 350. I think it's actually somewhere around that, but I have been doing quite a lot of extra miles. Getting the car back from Warrington on Monday, and going up to Clitheroe in Lancashire today to pick up my mum in law from her holiday. That's a round trip of about 110 miles. Outwards, I was focussed mainly on getting there at something like the right time, as it's a place I've never been to before. I was a little bit late, but only by about maybe 15 minutes, after getting a bit lost in Clitheroe town centre.

The journey back was more relaxed though, and I had the time and space to work out how to use some of the car's more arcane features. Particularly cruise control. It's the first car I've had that has such a feature, and once I'd worked out what was going on, it turned out to be relatively straightforward. Turn a thing that's a little bit like a mouse wheel to select either "off", "speed limiter" or "cruise", and press a couple of buttons to select the cruise speed you want, and that's it.

It should be a very economical way of driving too. Driving at a constant speed is more efficient and consumes less fuel than changing speed. My fuel consumption, by the way, is a little over 50 miles per gallon. Significantly better than the Fiesta, although I've done quite a lot of motorway driving.

A week today, I will be heading south to see an old friend in Aylesbury. A drive of a little under 200 miles. I reckon that by setting the cruise speed at a nice steady 60, I should be able to get there and back quite easily on a tank of fuel.

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Friday, 17 August 2012

yet more webby/business stuff.

Having got this swanky new tuition vehicle, I want to make it work for me.

I had the idea of handing out business cards outside the 6th form college, when they had their induction day. I looked online and as luck would have it, it was the very next day. I had no lessons that day, so out I went in my swanky new tuition vehicle, and parked outside and tried to hand out some cards.

It wasn't really happening. I managed to offload a few but I got there a little too late, and business cards are not the ideal thing to hand out as advertisements. They contain contact details, but don't really sell the driving school. What I really needed were posters or leaflets. Something bigger, with the introductory offer and all that sort of stuff. So after a fairly short time, I abandoned my attempt.

Thing is, as you can see, the business card is quite dark. It's one of the standard cheap templates offered by a discount online business card printer. As such it's pretty well tailored to the needs of a driving school, but it's not how I want a leaflet or a poster to look. The swanky new tuition vehicle is predominantly white.

So I gave the car a wash, and went out taking photographs of it, in various photogenic nearby locations.

Here are a few of them...

Those large expanses of white may make an effective background for promotional text.

I will also be revamping the website. I'd originally wanted to get  the 150+ pictures I'd taken down to perhaps 4 or 5. One per page. But then I thought of using some kind of randon background image selection program. A quick search of the internet found a free and simple one quickly enough. So I'm not limited to just 4 or 5. If I have say 12 really nice pictures, they can be faded back a little, and used as a backdrop either to the page, or a table within the page.

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Abusive relationships

I've been in an online correspondance with a Democrat. It could just as easily have been with a New Labour Supporter, or for that matter, a Republican.

The touchstone for this correspondance was me posting an article by a woman called Donna Smith, called "Dead Woman Walking"

My correspondant liked the article, and thanked me for posting it, but made further comments thanking God that the Republicans hadn't won both parts of the house.

The article challenged the usual tribal status quo by stating that:

"It was a slow and torturous death, my American dream. And for millions of others, I am guessing it is the same. Nothing this current round of politicos is planning to do can restore it."


"This piece is not about who will or will not be our president or vice president, as after voting in every election since the 1970s, I am pretty sure what I need and want isn’t coming from any of them."

So I challenged her to specify how the Democrats had made a difference.

She responded with two messages. The first was that things would be different this time. The second was that because of the internet, she could sign petitions and stuff, and that would make a difference.

I wished her luck. But then it struck me.

We have an abusive relationship with our politicians.

What abusive partner hasn't come crawling back, claiming to have changed? And how often do those poor abused idiots stay with the relationship, in the mistaken belief that they can somehow change things?
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Tuesday, 14 August 2012

fast cars

Well, I've done a post about cars. Here's one about fasting.

Fasting is where you deliberately eat less than your daily requirement. Some doctor bloke on the telly has been going on about it, and it seems to be an effective way, not just of losing weight, but of getting the levels of certain bad things in your body down to healthier levels. He tried eating only 600 calories one day, and eating normally the next. Repeat ad nauseum. But this was a bit too much, so he went on a routine of two 600 calorie days in every five.

And that's what me and Bren are trying too.

I have today eaten nothing beyond a few tomatoes and pickled onions, and a handful of walnuts.

I have two plates of salad waiting in the fridge for Bren to return home.

Mmmm. It looks lovely, and even with 4 slices of quorn ham, a hard boiled egg and a little squirt of salad cream, it's only a couple of hundred calories.

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Driving School stuff.

Bye bye old fiesta. Hello new DS3.

The DS3 is a far better car. It would cost about £15,000 if I wanted to buy it, as opposed to about £11,000 if I'd wanted to buy a new Fiesta of the same spec that I've been using. This shows in the quality of the seats, the host of gadgets and features, and the overall finish and feel. It's faster, more frugal, and in the long term, will reduce my overheads, while potentially helping to recruit new pupils. It's a real head turner of a car. Distinctively styled, with a contrasting roof panel, and diamond cut alloy wheels. The back of the car is an expanse of tinted glass. This makes reversing easier than it was in the Fiesta, with it's rather stingy back windows. So far the reaction of those pupils that have had a chance to drive it has been overwhelmingly positive.

It's also meant a significant change of direction on a number of fronts. Sourcing the DS3 from the supplier of my fiesta would have meant an increase in my monthly payments. I shopped around, and dealt directly with Citroen, and will be paying slightly less each month for the DS3 than I did for the Fiesta.

I paid around £720 to insure the fiesta for the last 12 months. The year before, I was charged over £900 to insure the fiesta. Somehow, when I told the insurer that I'd had a better offer, they were somehow able to knock £250 off the price for me. this year though, I got a quote that was significantly cheaper than what I'd been paying. I contacted my existing insurer, but they were unable to offer a quote more than a month before my previous years insurance had ended. They let it be known that the DS3 is a group 15 insurance car, as opposed to the group 7 Fiesta, and that my premium was likely to rise significantly. They phoned me today, now that it's less than a month until my current deal ends, and were not happy to find I've signed up with someone else. Positively angry they were not to get a chance to offer me a quote.

The obvious question is, "If you're able to offer a quote on a much higher group car, for far less than you've charged me for this lower group one, why were you charging me so much for the lower group car in the first place, especially two years ago." They get as much as they can in return for as little as possible. Hurrah for capitalism.

Finally, the Fiesta was averaging in the low 40's for Miles per Gallon. The fiesta I had before that, the 1.6 Zetec S, had a larger engine, but was consistently more miserly with the fuel. Typically 47-48 MPG rather than the 41-42 I got with the 1.4 new shape fiesta. The DS3 lists it's MPG as up in the 70 MPG+  range, but that's a load of old bollocks.

It does have certain hybrid elements to it's powerplant. Some of the energy from braking is used to provide the power for much of the car's electrical and electronic systems for example. Also, as soon as you stop, take the car out of gear, and declutch, the engine switches itself off. It should remain off until such time as you press the clutch down again. This should save fuel that would otherwise be burned while we sit and talk about stuff. More advanced pupils will be able to use this feature at traffic lights too, if they feel confident enough to get themselves ready to go quickly enough.

So I'm anticipating a fuel consumption of perhaps slightly over 50 MPG. That's a 20% improvement, or to put it another way, my weekly fuel costs may go from perhaps £80 to as low as £60.

So in the longer term, we should be less vulnerable to lean times. For now, we're having to spend a lot of money. I had to pay a deposit and a couple of months hire charges in advance. That's close to £900. To get the insurance so cheaply, I'm paying it pretty much all at once. That's £600. Finally, there are costs to be borne from the return of the Fiesta. It had taken a few bumps and bangs while in my custody, and the cost of repair will be charged to me in due course. I have no idea how much this is likely to be, but I'm assuming as much as £1,000.

So there you go. I like this new car a lot. I will be casually parking it outside the 6th form college in early september and handing out my cards.

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Saturday, 11 August 2012


I tried using a supermarket brand blackcurrent cordial to do some brewing.

The result leaves something to be desired tastewise. If you have a sugary drink, and you turn the sugar in the drink into something else, what's left is an unsweetened version of it. I'm told that adding yeast to coca cola does indeed produce an alcoholic beverage, but with the sugar converted, the resultant chemical stew is vile beyond the scope of words to express.

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Wednesday, 8 August 2012

small print

The lease on my current vehicle, a ford Fiesta, expires on the 12th of this month. This coming sunday in fact.

For the last five years, I've hired my vehicles from a company called GoInstruct, with few problems. There were a few minor gripes, such as them stating on their website that if a vehicle wasn't listed in their stocklist, contact them and they'd do their best to get one, when the answer, at least for the vehicles I asked them to supply was always, "no." but overall, I seemed to have a good business relationship with them.

The first car I got from them was a Ford Fiesta Zetec S. It was lovely car both to drive and to teach in, and I extended the lease on it for a year. Then, two years ago, I replaced it with another Fiesta. Just a standard model. Perfectly adequate, but lacking some of the little touches that made the Zetec S stand out.

That was OK. I didn't need anything special. At the time I was paying someone to provide me with pupils, and I didn't need a car that stood out, in the hope of it generating work. But I never really liked it that much. So I was looking to change to a different car, and I asked them to supply a Citroen DS3.

The DS3 is a distinctive car. It turns heads. It also goes a long way on a gallon of diesel. After weighing up several different cars, I decided that this was the one for me. GoInstruct were happy to provide me with one, for £370 a month including servicing and VAT. A bit more than I currently pay form my existing car, but then, it's a higher spec vehicle. However the colour turned into a sticking point. I was after a particular colour but communications became confused. There are two levels of trim available on the particular type I wanted. Surprisingly, the higher spec car has a far narrower range of colour options. Eventually, we got on the same wavelength regarding car, varient, colour, and availability, only for them to inform me that Citroen had discontinued the colour I was after.

So I looked directly into what Citroen had to offer, and found that their driving instructor programme could offer me a higher spec model for substantially less than what GoIstruct were advertising. Citroen put me in touch with a garage in Warrington, (why? there's a perfectly good Citroen dealer in Wallasey - If I'd been more on the ball, I could have saved myself a lot of unnecessary travelling) and after looking at the figures, I paid a deposit and committed to dealing with them. I then contacted GoInstruct, telling them I'd had a better offer, and thanking them for their business over the past five years.

They responded by asking if they could match the price, but when I told them I'd signed a contract with the Citroen dealer they said basically "OK Thanks". And that was that.

A fortnight passed. No further communication took place.

And so yesterday, I enquired about arrangements regarding returning the Fiesta. And in due course, a reply arrived asking if I'd given notice?

What? To my mind, the lease was ending, and I was going to give the car back.

I felt a flush spreading up my neck. Something similar happened to me once before. My first flat. I'd signed a 12 month tenancy agreement, and the landlord kept my deposit because at the end of that time I hadn't given a months notice that I was vacating.

I couldn't do much at the time because I was down at Bren's Shop, but when I got home I dug out the hire agreement, and there it was. Half way down page three.

Unless terminated under clause 5.01, this agreement will terminate only after the minimum term period has expired and you have given 30 days written notice of your intention to end the hire period
It's my own fault of course. I should have read through carefully. this sort of stuff really isn't my strongest suit. I'm a teacher, not a businessman.

They're quite within their rights of course, although informing me of my obligations under the contract would have been a more customer friendly approach. The silence was oddly uncharacteristic. Anyway, that oversight will cost me several hundred pounds, for hiring a vehicle I have no need for and which I will be returning to them.

Still they've burned their bridges with me. It's possible that once this new 2 year hire with a Citroen main dealer expires, I might have gone back to GoInstruct, but that's not going to happen now.

One glint of sunlight is that looking back through the correspondance, I informed Goinstruct of my intentions on the 24th July.

"when my current leasing arrangement with Go Instruct ends on the 12th of August, I shall be returning my current vehicle to you but not continuing with a leasing arrangement with you. "
This is important because this only takes me to the end of August, and not into September. They will only get £311 instead of £622.

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Tuesday, 7 August 2012


I've been flying over the surface of Mars in the Google Earth Flight Simulator in honour of the landing of Mars Rover, Curiosity.

Google Earth appears to use the exact centre of the planet to work out altitude, or something. It keeps the same parameters for Google Moon and Google Mars, so when you're at the surface of these other planets, it reckons you're several thousand feet lower.

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bye bye allotment?

news came to us today that vandals set our shed on fire.

actually, it sounds like they set next door's shed on fire, and the fire spread to our metal clad shed. There were a spate of arson attacks on the site a couple of years back. I believe they found the prick responsible then. Perhaps he's now out of the nick.

The tin shed is the one with all our tools in. We can't really afford to replace them, and Bren, who used to do the bulk of the work there, no longer has the time to put in the effort required for a full plot.

We were thinking of going down to just a half plot, but this just might be the final straw.

Will go down and have a look at the damage a bit later.

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Thursday, 2 August 2012

The harder I try, the worse I become.

Golf today, but not at my usual municipal course. I got a daily deal voucher thing for a small course called Moss Valley, near Wrexham.

It's only 9 holes, but has two tee-ing points on each hole, so you go round twice, the second time from a slightly different perspective.

It's a hilly, challenging course, and there's no way my Dad could have done it on foot, but the deal included the hire of a golf buggy.

I've now been going out playing golf once or twice a month for perhaps a year or so now, but today I felt like I'd lost every improvement I'd acquired. I gave up keeping score after about 14 holes. I lost count of the number of golf balls I lost in the undergrowth too.

My Dad, it turns out, collects scorecards. Usually but not only from courses that he's actually played.

Moss Valley did not come highly recommended. One mf my Dad's friends has played it and didn't like it. The one google review was pretty scathing, so we were expecting it to be a frustrating round. In fact the course was picturesque, the staff were friendly, the other golfers we encountered were courteous. The lunch they provided as part of the deal was tasty too.

We'll be going again in a week or two to use up the other voucher, since my Dad's mate decided not to go.

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