A broken car, 12,000 acts of kindness, and no tumble dryer

“You know nothing Norm Snow,” I said and called the RAC

Tonight I was driving along the A5 on my way to Milton Keynes to collect my son and his friend from a laser quest party when the lights on the dashboard systematically began to flash

Flash: The ABS is broken

Flash: The VSA light is on (I don’t know what that is)

Flash: The yellow triangle with an exclamation mark on it is flashing. Emergency, emergency it shouted silently.

Flash: The wierd yellow jug thing is alight.

Flash: Flash: Flash: All the lights are flickering.

Excellent. Just what I needed when the mechanic husband was 500 miles away. I checked the dashboard again. The temperature read as normal and there was no smoke coming from the engine so I kept going because I was only about 5 minutes away from the party. As soon as I arrived and parked the car the battery light came on and once the engine was turned off, it would not turn back on.

Balls.

I called the mechanic husband who talked me though a diagnostic electrical fault finder using an ap on my phone called Torque (Lite). “No Fault Detected” it said. Well that was no help at all. “You know nothing Norm Snow,” I said and called the RAC.

But then I had a brainwave. The party was at the Daytona go-karting track. Where there are cars, there are mechanics and sure enough there was a trainee mechanic on duty (Sam) who kindly came out to take a look.  He and fellow parent Paul, quickly worked out that the alternator was failing to charge the battery. This was confirmed 45 minutes later by the RAC mechanic and his gadgets.

RAC
I’d complained about the £200 Norm had made me spend on full RAC membership but alas he was right. Maybe he did know something about cars after all…….

By this time there had been approximately 12,000 acts of kindness bestowed upon me by friends from the wonderful Deba who took my 8 year old home with her and her lovely  boys; Jorge who waited with me for the RAC to arrive – and put his life at risk as I drove home  with just sidelights on to keep the battery going (the RAC van was close behind); Paul who pulled out his jump leads and diagnosed the problem, and Paula who took home my son’s friend (because I was supposed to). The wonderful Wendy who kept my daughter for 18 hours longer than she originally planned to and the lovely Sam who went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that the RAC were able to sort out the car.

So despite the fact that this is the second car failure I’ve had this month I feel lucky. Lucky to have a lot of lovely friends and a car that might break sometimes but I still have one. Unfortunately I don’t have a tumble dryer and the cash that I had ready to buy a heat pump condenser dryer (more efficient, no vent required), is going to be spent on an alternator and a battery. My dreams of a laundry free living room are on hold.

It’s time for a glass of wine…….

cheers
Drinking, no driving!

 

 

 

The missing keys…..

Norm has lost his car keys. This is a MASSIVE problem for me. Because even when I tell him exactly where something is he still can’t find it.

“Dette where are my boots?”

“In the shoe cupboard.”

“No they aren’t”

“Yes they are”

Because they are. Admittedly there are about 100 pairs of other shoes in there too but they are there.

“Oh yeah, under the other ten pairs,” he huffs like it is my fault that we all have feet.

So in respect to the car keys I am clearly going to have to find them because there is no way that he will. I have looked in all of the usual places, then I looked under them and then I looked in the unusual places – next to the toilet, in the bins (gross), in the kids rooms, in Norm’s pockets, in the garden, in all drawers in the house. No keys.

Naturally at the time of seeking the keys I needed to go out and the clock was ticking. I had one hour. Every 15 minutes Norm would call and say helpful things like:

“Have you looked on the sideboard where I always put them?”

I’m not a moron Norm.

Then 15 minutes later:

“Have you looked under the sofa?”

Stick to building state of the art race cars Norm and leave the tricky shit to me.

The keys did not reappear in time for me to go out. “No spare?” asked a friend. This made me smile because Norm wouldn’t buy a spare key. “For £300? No chance,” he said.

I continued to pull the house apart checking all the washing baskets (we have many – too many), under all the beds, in toy boxes (just in case), on bookshelves, even in the Halloween sweet buckets but the more I looked the less convinced I was that the keys were in the house. We had established that Norm was the last person to use them and I suspected that he still had them somewhere. Somewhere like in his pocket. I could imagine him shouting down the phone at me “For the last time Dette they are not in my pocket”while the keys sat there in his pocket laughing at him because they had been there the whole time.

A couple of hours later Norm barged in waving the keys with a huge grin on his face like a kid waves a medal. “They were on the drive Dette. They must have fallen out when I was lighting the pumpkins last night. Feel how cold and wet they are”

Yes they were cold. And wet. But Norm is no fool. He clearly rolled them in the wet grass after he found them where they had been all along. In his pocket.

“They were not in my pocket Dette,” he keeps saying every 5 minutes.

The lady doth protest too much methinks.

keys
The mysterious keys. I plan to hide them from him tomorrow so that he can spend 3 hours searching the house…..

 

Sibling battles: car wars

“Mum can we sell her?”

This infuriated Georgie so much that she took off her slipper boot and started hitting her brother with it.

If the kids are in the same room, or even if they are not, they will definitely have a row. I’m getting so sick of it that today when they were arguing in the car I threatened them with no snacks after school. It worked for about 5 minutes. Their car row was about which of them was the blue power ranger and which was purple.

“I am blue Archie,” said Georgie firmly.

“No you are purple and I am blue,” said Archie defiantly.

“I AM BLUE” yelled Georgie fiercely almost leaping out of her seat to shout in his face.

“No Georgie you have to be purple because I am blue,” said Archie more loudly puffing out his shoulders and showing her that he was bigger so he must be right.

“You can both be blue,” said Grandpa diplomatically. He had the bad luck of being in the car with us that morning.

This row came a few minutes after Archie had yelled at Georgie for looking at his privates when he went for a wee. “I’m not looking at your winkie,” said Georgie primly (who was clearly looking at his winkie). “I looking at your feet.”

However all of this pales into insignificance compared to the car argument of last night. It started off with Georgie throwing a massive tantrum because I wouldn’t buy her skittles from the vending machine at the swimming baths. I offered her a bag of crisps instead (inferior) which she rejected and then hit me. I bundled her into the car where only the threat of telling her teacher that she was naughty made her hold still enough for me to fasten her seatbelt. Then she began kicking the back of my seat. “I want my crisps,” she yelled. This made me laugh. “No chance. And you are going straight to bed when we get home. You don’t hit Mummy”

She wailed and then turned on her brother who was enjoying the show while contentedly munching his way through his salt and vinegar walkers. “Not fair,” she yelled as Archie gloatingly scoffed his crisps.

“Mum can we sell her?” asked Archie

This prompted a burst of laughter and infuriated Georgie so much that she took off her slipper boot and started hitting her brother with it.

“Perhaps we could just leave her in the forest like Hansel and Gretel,” I responded.

“Noooooooo, don’t do it,” she cried.

“I’m joking, I wouldn’t do that. But you are going straight to bed,” I said.

Georgie decided she was not getting anywhere with violence. So she stopped whacking us, composed herself and then said: “I want my crisps please.”

But after attacking her Mum and brother this was closing the stable door after the horse had bolted.

By now Archie had devoured his crisps and turning to Georgie with a twinkle in his eye, he said “You can lick my fingers if you like,” which brought about a fresh bout of uncontrollable laughter and another whack with the slipper from his sister who was also trying to scrape him with her nails.

There was nothing else I could do but put her straight to bed when we got home and of course when she woke up in the morning she was an angel. The mild row they then had over Mr Bean seemed like nothing.

Georgie: “Mr Bean doesn’t have a Mum does he?”

Archie: “Yes he does Georgie, she is just not in the programme.”

Georgie: “No Archie, he doesn’t have one.”

Archie shouting: “He does Georgie. Everyone has to have a Mum or you can’t get born.”

Georgie: “Mr Bean prays for a Mum.”

*This was 24 hours. There are sooooo many more. Like the fight over a sick bucket, who gets in the bath first, who has the best belly button and so on. In fact there is nothing that can’t become an argument and at 4 and 7 years old I suspect this is just the start……

Women’s work: car maintenance

We were two independent, educated women who could add oil to the bloody engine all by ourselves. Except we couldn’t. Shit

Last weekend I went away with the girls for a leisurely 2 days of relaxing, drinking wine, sleeping for over 8 hours a night, having naps and eating food that I had not had to cook. It was blissful. I was feeling liberated after flying solo for 2 days but on the drive home the oil light started to flash on the car dashboard. What does that mean? I discussed the implications of the light with my co-pilot Jo, and then rang the husband, he is a mechanic after all. And as he is so fond of saying to me (in your face Norm): “You don’t get a dog then bark yourself.”

His advice was simple: “If it is orange stop at the next garage and put oil in. If it is red pull over now and stop the car,” he said. It was orange.

At the next garage I bought a litre of engine oil (£14.99 – what? Probably the same price as the pick and mix) and then the fun started. Where the hell was the button that pops open the hood? This was already embarrassing. Not only did I not know how to check the oil after 18 years of driving I couldn’t even open the bonnet to start to get it wrong. We even asked a stranger who fortunately couldn’t find it either. Then Jo demonstrated a flash of genius. “Where is the manual?” she said. Oh yes. I’d had the car since December and had not yet looked at the manual which was in the glovebox.

The manual told us that the bonnet button was just behind the fuel button, which it was but tucked around the inside of the panel down by the accelerator. Not obvious. Obviously.

We popped it open.

Next stop – the dipper, which we couldn’t miss because it was bright orange. We pulled it out and looked for the minimum and maximum lines. There were none. We looked harder. There were two tiny holes and the oil hadn’t even come up to the first one so it was definitely low. Excellent. This was not rocket science. Now which tank was the oil tank? “It usually has an oil lamp on it,” said Jo who, with her powers of practical deduction, was fast becoming my hero. To my mind there were three different openings that could have been the oil tank so I consulted the manual again. It was the black one, which once I wiped it clearly had an oil lamp in it. Bingo.

I tried to twist it. Nothing. Jo tried to twist it. Nothing. We alternated a few times and then looked at each other in dismay as the bloody thing refused to shift. We were on the final lap (of a very short race), we didn’t need a mechanic husband or anyone else for that matter, we were two independent, educated women who could add oil to the bloody engine all by ourselves. Except we couldn’t. Shit.

A few people had noticed our struggle most notably a bearded gentleman in overalls. We waved. He sauntered over and after a few seconds of explanation he reached down and immediately turned the cap which turned as easily as a  child’s windmill in a strong breeze. “It has been over tightened,”  he said kindly. Then he smiled, nodded and sauntered away as we thanked him, our politeness disguising the resentment that we had needed to ask in the first place. Fifteen minutes later we were back on the road feeling empowered. The car needs a service in January. Perhaps Norm would like me to do it instead……