Monthly Archives: April 2009

The Bible, Football and other stories

OK before I start, I realise there are people out there who find references to organised religion offensive, so stop reading now if you are a football fan. Anything I say in this blog is my opinion and should be ignored or at least laughed at. That said, put your tongue in your cheek and lighten up, when all this is published in my first book, I really hope its kept in the smallest room so if you DO laugh to hard, you are safe knowing that there will be no dribbly consequences.

I was in the local bookstore this week, and for some reason found myself in the religious section. Now we have all had a religious moment or two in our lives, the odd wedding or the christening of some obscure relative that you will never see again. Religious moments come regularly if you drive with spirit, the ‘oh-dear-god-I-hope-I-make-it-this-time’ as you enter a bend a bit too fast kind of thing. There was no particular reason I was in that section other than trying to find my way out of it,ist2_54074-open-bible but curiously I picked up a copy of the King James Bible and glanced at the price.I was quite taken back at the sticker that said a very reasonable £6.99. That’s not bad for the whole of history and supposedly the word of God in your hand, if you believe that kind of stuff. Everything from the creation to the end of the world for under a tenner.

I put it down and went off to look for some non fiction. Then I found myself in the sports section looking at (I cannot tell you why, I must have been on something that day) a book on football called “1001 Football Moments by some bloke I have never heard of but would be familiar to 1001 football nuts” cameroonsubbuteozuegoNow here is a tome that talks utter rubbish about something so pointless only Neanderthals can get any pleasure from it. Its bright shiny with nice pictures to point at and people cluck and moo at it while consuming copious amounts of brain cell muting alcohol, its probably wipe clean, but here is the thing, it cost £17.50! That’s more than the word of God!

It got me thinking about cars.

kia_prideThe Kia Pride is by definition a good car. It seats more than one person, it carries some shopping and can move along and stop under its own power. It keeps you dry and warm when its raining and all it asks is a little regular servicing and some fuel in return. Parts are cheap and plentiful , its easy for the user or the AA man to fix and will take you anywhere there is a road. Costs to buy are minimal when it was new and rock bottom in the second hand market, so why are we all not driving one or somthing similar?

Because there are Alfas, BMW’s, Hot Golfs and Civics, cars that are impractical, shouty,  heathen, temperamental and expensive to live with. If they were women they would be wearing thongs and 6 inch high heels, with one hand on your credit card and the other on your wedding vegetables. My ex wife earned the nickname Ferrari, she was expensive to run, a bitch to live with and everyone wanted to have a go, but like an idiot I didn’t care, right up to the point when she was nicked. The irony is that she got nicked at least three more times to my knowledge after me, but as a Gentleman, it would be inappropriate for me to make a ‘high mileage’ joke here so I wont.

So where is the similarity between the books an the cars? Well the bible, whether you believe in that sort of thing or not (no offence to anyone here, I’m a Buddhist!) can be taken as a nice set of rules to base things on, if you leave out the corruption and fiddling with choir boys. What you are left with is something that you feel comfy with, something that just does the job, just like the Kia, whereas the shouty drunken pee soaked football tome is all about self indulgence, noise and a fast fix, sure it will give you a hangover and yes people think you are a braindead moron but hell, its a lot more fun with a thong than wooly underwear under your habit.

Ah you are waiting for the conclusion bit eh? the witty bit at the end? Well its hard because I hate football, I’m not crazy on religion and wouldnt drive a Kia Pride unless forced to. So that just leaves me to hooliganise a B road or two, hmm just call me a season ticket holder of Alfa United, mines a large one.

Alfa 8C This is as close to God as you can get without wooly pants on

Alfa 8C This is as close to God as you can get without wooly pants on

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Music, driven to distraction.

Ok so its official, by modern standards and common consensus I am old. Not because of my chronological internal clock or the 40 summers I have seen. No, I am old because I refuse to fill the boot of my car with a box the size of a fridge and play music through it so loud that it makes birds fall out of the sky.
I am talking about music in cars, I.C.E, toonz, da stereo, or in my case the eight track. img_13991_incar_2Well that’s a bit unfair, I actually DO have a CD radio in the car, but its so full of LEDs that light up to show me this that and the other, it looks like a Jean-Michelle Jarre concert everytime I turn it on, so I don’t bother. I really can’t understand the fascination of driving around with music up so loud and bass so deep that it makes every ones windows rattle. The cost of this stuff is just astonishing, a fridge sized speaker that you fill up your boot space with starts at about £100, the ‘headunit’ (or ‘stereo’ for us unhip lot) starts about the same and keep going, until your wallet is peeing blood. Honestly prices run to the deposit on a small bungalow  by the time you add speakers, cables, amps and god knows what else.

All this, just to make a noise in an acoustically terrible tin box on wheels, and make other people miserable.

Look at it this way, you buy your nice car, add some nice wheels, tweek the performance and handling so you have a quick, fun to drive machine that’s a joy in the twisty bits and a hoot when you can stretch its legs. Then after all that you add ballast all over the place, that then unbalances the car and makes the poor thing move at a crawl. But this is the real puzzler, this is the thing I really don’t get, you drive around with your windows down (or up! its so damn loud that you can hear it several miles away, buried in a concrete bunker) and you firmly believe that you look cool, you really think that your ‘Drum and Bass Compilation Remix ’09 CD’ (or anyother CD, to be perfectly frank it could be Barry Manilow…) makes you look like Snoop Doggy Daddy, and without exception, EVERYONE thinks ‘Pah, what a complete toss pot’. Even teenagers think this, though secretly they ache to be behind the wheel of their 1.0l Peugeot pumpin’ out da choonz.

Apart from the cost, which would be so much better spent on refining your car, The other point is sound. Hi-Fi buffs (there are a few of these around I’m sure) will tell you that there is a correct way to listen to music, to get the very best from the recording. The  position of the speakers, correct size and distance to get perfect stereophonic sound,  special rooms just to achieve the perfect listening experience. Its why Linn only make record players for houses.
The only real reason for all this hardware is to make a noise. Well that and to make people look and point at you as you crawl through the town. Well I have a better solution, fill the car with fireworks, and light them as you drive by, its cheaper and you would probably get a few admiring looks, well I’d cheer anyway.

So why the heck do they do it? Do they hate driving that much that every journey they have to have something to distract them from it? Conversation in the car has to be done in sign language, and that’s quite hard with blood pouring from your ears. I love to drive, even if I’m just on the school run I concentrate hard (see my previous blog, holy cow you need your wits about you near any school, not just from wayward kids but parents who are too engrossed in ‘Hello!’ magazine and the Ministry of Sound at 1,000,000 watts) renault-clio-ice-installation-600
I have to admit, a radio in a car can be an entertainment god-send if the traffic is stationery and has been for the last hour and a half, you are alone or the company in the car is boring. It can be a useful and informative tool, though I cant for the life of me work out why it tells me of the jam ten minutes after I have hit it. DVD in a car is a great idea, if its in an MPV and keeping the children quiet in the back so they don’t need the driver to turn around and yell at them to shut up, distracting him and making him drive into the car in front, causing yet another tailback.

People that need noise in the car just to make it move are in the same category as people that moan when they have to drive for more than 10 miles, if you really hate driving that much then for goodness sake take the bus, or go by train so the roads can be freed up for those of us who love it.

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Keijidōsha, surprisingly fun.

Kei car, a tiny secret from Japan that we should all get excited about.

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One of the better things to come out of Japan was the concept of keijidōsha. No its nothing to do with arranging your furniture so you win the lottery, nothing to do with paper folding or breaking concrete with your bare hands, but it does have everything to do with fun. Continue reading

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Memories and Regret

This week, lets go for a walk down memory lane.

Now don’t panic, I’m not going to get all misty eyed and nostalgic, no reminiscing over the girl you should have married or the boy you shouldn’t have kissed in a drunken mistake. History can teach us many things, if you don’t learn from it you are doomed to repeat it, (that’s a quote I heard years ago and can’t for the life of me remember who said it. If you know, then please feel free to tell me!) But in my case, I would be very very happy to go back to 1985 and do it all again.

Car history can be a fun thing to think about, and an even better subject to discuss over a beer. Can you remember your first car? I bet the older you get the faster it was. Many of us have a favourite, a car that at 4am we wake up and think ‘Why the hell did I sell that?’I have many little gems in my jaded past. Looking back, if I had just kept a few of them then I would be able to sell them all now and buy something half decent. Ill give you an example. My first car was a blue Mk1 Escort, with a small hole in the rear floor, well OK, a largish hole, OK a Flintstones car sized hole, but anyway… I bought it for a princely sum of £40 in about 1987.  A quick look round e Bay tells me that a non runner that’s been stood for 9 years in a ditch will cost me over £1000! It gets worse. My 1980 mini van (Hand painted racing green with a white roof, ex police dog transport, all decked out in rubber in the back for an easy clean, essential when you fill it with drunken mates that are sick a lot) is now worth in excess of five grand! FIVE GRAND?!? it cost me £295!!

My list is a seemingly endless line of cheap crap that I could just about afford, but that could now fund a small war. 1968 VW Beetle, sloping headlights, small rear window, ‘W’ boot lid and American bumpers (Aircooled VW enthusiasts will be getting a little moist by now) a great car, it had 6 volt electrics so if it rained at night you had to make a choice of either wipers or headlights, and the windscreen washer was a bottle pressurised by taking air from the spare tyre (I’m not making this up). A few Vauxhall Chevettes (I had a Silhouette and a rare HS that only ran on all cylinders when it felt like it) A brown Hillman Imp 1968_hillman_impthat had a racy steering wheel and a bag of cement in the front so it could steer properly (again, all true!)  Now there is a big following of these cars, they were big in motor sport, hill-climbs and (then) touring cars, even today enthusiasts race them, but this little Imp was way off any of that, I’m not a fan of being anecdotal, but there’s a great story attached to this one.

From the age of about 15, me and a few mates would meet at a local pub (people who have known me a while will know this particular  pub well. It was a sleepy, country sort of pub. A pub in a small sleepy village that had no less than 5 pubs within walking distance of eachother . The landlord would have lost most of his business if he turfed us out. Thing is, in all the years I went there, there was not one incident, not one fight, not one nasty moment. We went in, had a few drinks and a few laughs and then went quietly home. No police, no complaints, nothing. Says a lot for 15 year olds of today. It was a happy time and taught me a lot, thanks Lou, you know who you are.
I digress.  As we grew up we were absorbed into the motorcycle club that also used the pub as a meeting place, a great bunch of guys who I miss dearly, I could write a book using just the stories from those crazy nights. A few years of this and a few motorcycles later, I graduate to cars and wound up buying this Imp.
For those of you who don’t know, this is a tiny tiny car, its powered by a tiny tiny all aluminium engine mounted in the rear, Google it for the specs but don’t expect to be impressed. So it was decided that on this occasion we would forego the local and head up to Brands Hatch to have a few beers at another pub delicately nicknamed ‘the flying bottle’ (again this will be instantly recognised by those who know, incidentally another pub that we used to frequent was known as ‘The Mudhole’ more on this in a later blog…) Packing more than one rather large and hairy biker, decked out in leather and customary denim waistcoat (used also as oily rag on the bike as necessary) is an interesting business. Packing four plus me is just plain hilarious.

Brands Hatch Circuit is at the top of a hill that used to be called (and is still known to most) ‘Death Hill’. I suppose for some reason someone at the council decided that it hadn’t spent enough council tax one year and changed the name to ‘Gorse Hill’ God knows why because if you look at the name plate for ‘Gorse Hill’ (yup there is one, I used to read it every time my little 50cc Yamaha strained up it in 2nd gear to take me to the racing, no idea if its still there but it was in 1986) in brackets under the name it states ‘formerly Death Hill’ Pah, what a waste of money.
Wow I seem to digress a lot this week, so lets get back inside the Imp. Its struggling up Death Hill with 4 Bikers and me, intent on getting to the ‘Flying Bottle’ before last orders (we had that sort of thing back then, no drinking to 5am for us) when out of the darkness we see a bike parked at the side of the road, tool roll out and rider scratching his head. Without a second thought I pulled the Imp over, jumped out and walked up to the guy to see if I could help (no mobile phones either!) he looks up, I smile and give a cheery ‘Need any help mate?’ Its then I notice he is not paying attention. In fact he is not looking at me at all, he is looking past me at the four large and hairy men getting out of the tiny, steamed up Imp and who are making their way toward him and his bike. His shock passed into  astonishment as they all set about the machine, looking for the source of the trouble.
For the life of me I can’t remember what exactly it was, I think it was a loose spark plug cap, loose or broken, I’m not sure, however for some reason in order to fix it we had to go to the pub.

Imagine his bewilderment as he is then bundled into the Imp with me and four bikers, driven to a pub and had drinks bought for him while I was dispatched back to the local for some expert or other to fix it.
The story ends as you expect, the bike is fixed, ridden to the pub, the expert is plied with drinks of thanks and the grateful, no longer stranded rider goes on his way. I cant even remember his name but I do remember the good humour, and friendliness of the whole affair.

Weird thing is, I don’t know if I would stop and help now, god knows what sort of thing could be lying in wait for the unsuspecting motorist, trying to do a good deed, but then again with four large bikers in the back, I don’t think I would have any trouble. Thing is, all of my biker buddies have now swapped their bikes for nice sensible  Vauxhalls with baby seats.

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