Friday, November 27

S1X AH five years on

Almost five years ago my car was stolen and I have trying ever since to get the registration S1X AH back.

Last week I trundled down to the local DVLA office, having finally gathered the various documents they needed, and paid some money to the helpful guy behand the screen to keep it on retention until I get a car I can put in on. It had been one of those jobs on my to-do list that had been transferred from diary to diary since 2004, always needing something from someone like insurance companies, finance companies and DVLA themselves but finally all was in place.

Then, today I get a letter saying that they're terribly sorry but I can't put the number on retention - I have to transfer it to a vehicle! They'll retain my money until then and waive some fee as they advised me incorrectly but that doesn't help much. My present car is about 2 months too old to take that registration so I've got to sell that and buy something else. This old BMW's been great and even with 140,000 miles on the clock seems to leave most other stuff standing on my travels (apart from Dunstable where we're all more or less stationary anyway!) and does nearly 40mpg even with my driving. It's not worth much and selling can take ages unless I find someone prepared to do a part exchange. Trouble is, garages add on a good £500 - £1000 which almost doubles the price of a cheap car and I'll probably get an effectively miniscule amount for mine. I may finish up having to park it in the paddock and having two cars until someone comes along with a reasonable offer.

I cannot see any logic in DVLA's insistence that the plate has to go on a vehicle. No chance of changing them though as there's bound to be rules and regulations so . . . if anyone wants a really good BMW 323iSE for a very modest price, let me know. I wonder how long DVLA will give me to find something else? Hmmm. Watch this space.

Russell's adventures

Russell's been having some adventures recently. It all started when his camper van overheated at the start of a tour with Jeremy Warmsley, fortunately on their way from Oxford to Derby which sort of brought them in the direction of the village. Having paid a fortune to have something similar attended to by a garage in Fort William he wasn't too keen to have to pay again when the village garage confirmed that it was an expensive head gasket problem. So, desperate to make Derby before the audience started throwing tomatoes or beer cans at the warm-up act doing a fourth unrequested encore, a very rapid dash to pick up a hire car in Northampton was needed. Achieved that with seconds to spare and licence intact and they went on their way.

Being the brilliant journey planners that they were, Bristol followed Derby then Manchester and Harrogate then Plymouth and Norwich before Aberdeen and probably several more figures of eight on the GB Atlas before returning the car 3000 miles later.

Tour done, Russell now needed some transport. There had been a Nissan estate sitting in the paddock for best part of the year which the Chairman's son, Pete was going to get round to getting back on the road one day. He agreed to letting Russell have it and we had some fun getting it started and out of the mud, including a great drive along a track I didn't even realise existed across the field to get it used to moving and stopping again. Dropped it off at the village garage and it actually cost less to get through an MOT than my own car!

Russell had some extraordinarily generous breakdown insurance that would get him transported home in the event of the camper van breakdown. So, after transferring most of the stuff from van to car he set off for Fort William in the van. I think he made it a few miles up the A5 and from there got a piggy back on various breakdown trucks for the other 600 miles. Long, long bus ride back to the village and all that was needed was some tax for the car. Now, that should have been pretty straightforward - you can do that on-line these days and he was doing it on behalf of Pete so no complicated owner changes. All he needed was a registration document reference number. Pete said he'd dig the papers out and let him have that at the weekend.

Russell stayed with me and we waited breathlessly for the magic number. He'd arranged a quite complicated series of visits to people before setting off to chase some girl in Holland and timing was quite important. Pete's normally reliable but on this occasion had had a pretty intense Friday night drinking session and, according to his partner, had stayed the night somewhere else and set off for a shooting event early morning. Things like DVLA reference numbers, understandably, had slipped his mind. Now, normally a quick call would have enabled his dad to rummage around his house for the missing item and pass it to us. No phone signal wherever he was. There was no way to contact Pete. We'd have to wait until he got back home that evening. As it happened, Matti had a birthday party going on in MK so Russell made a star guest appearance which made the 8-year-old's day and probably made the delay worthwhile after all.

Got back to the village and, at last, the magic number, clutched by an embarrassed Pete, arrived. Russell dived on to the DVLA web site and bashed away at keys and all was looking good. Although he hadn't actually got the disc, he had paid for it and thought it wouldn't be too disastrous to set off on his travels and I'd post the disc on when it arrived.

That would have been fine. I not waved fond farewell, did the manly hug thing and then found he'd left a razor and a much beloved skateboard behind. Posting a skateboard would have cost as much as the petrol to wherever might have been a suitable meeting point so another hello goodbye session followed yesterday when the tax disc arrived and finally the lad is off, legal, well-fed and watered. Next stop Holland and, hopefully some teaching work there and a bit of luck with the girl.

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Room at the top

I quite like Cornetto ice cream things and get through a packet in a week, usually but not always, assisted by Matti. This week I bought what I thought were the same things at the local supermarket. The box size is identical, as is the size of the wrapping round the ice. However, whereas the Walls brand has a top that just sits on the nuts the Tesco brand has a gap of almost an inch. That's a lot of missing dessert!

The chocolate tastes cheap, the nuts are bland, the ice cream's soapy and the cone tastes of cardboard. That makes five good reasons to stick to Walls next time.
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Thursday, November 19

Seven foot Pudsey

It seemed a simple idea at the time: print a gigantic picture of the Children In Need Pudsey bear, divide it up into lots of sheets and get people to make the black lines by writing their names in the right places in return for a donation. We'd got to file number pudsey6 by the time we had an image that worked because it had to be black and white as I hadn't got enough yellow ink. Eventually we printed the 64 sheets but couldn't make the picture out of them because the lines had to be feint so that people could make them themselves. We used those as templates, though, and drew pencil guide lines. That needed a makeshift lightbox using one of Maggie's plastic storage boxes placed over one of my lamps so that we could trace over the lines on new sheets. Next came the fun part, spraying the bits that needed to be yellow. Amazingly, we seem to have got that right, thanks to the template and numbering the pages. Although quite how we managed to go from 2 to 65 instead of 1-64 I'm not sure.

By using the staircase and most of the bedroom, we managed to get the pages safely dry just in time and Kirri raised loads of money at Royal Latin School where, hopefully, the completed monster bear will be on display in a while. Picture to come.