It is a sad fact of life that you tend not to fully appreciate something until you no longer have it.
So it is with my (formerly) trusty car.
We had gone a long way together, when I purchased it as a one year old it had a mere 13,000 miles on the clock. Last month, some three years later, the clock rolled round to 126,000 miles, meaning we have travelled 113,000 miles together or, put another way, 4½ times round the world.
If the cars computer is to be believed I averaged 48mph in the time I had the car, which equates to me spending some 2,300 driving the car – some people spend less time with their spouses.
You will note I used the expression “formerly trusty” and I am speaking in the past tense.
Yes, a fateful Sunday, just over two weeks ago, everything changed. Normally one press of the START button was all that was required for the car to burst into life. This time nothing, the engine turned over and over but would not fire into life.
Thinking back the car had been a little bit sluggish for a couple of weeks but I wasn’t overly concerned and it was about to have its 126,000 mile service.
So it was time to finally use the breakdown cover, the very same cover I question renewing every year because “I never use it”.
Now I am not one to give free advertising gratuitously but I must give a mention to Britannia Rescue. Within seven, yes SEVEN, minutes of my calling them out a mechanic arrived – I did not even have time to make myself a warming cup of tea.
I left him to it and 20 minutes later there was a knock on the door, “it’s not good news I’m afraid, No3 cylinder is full of oil. It looks like a major engine problem.”
Not the news one wants to hear when you have a house full of visitors from Australia and you are relying on the car to ferry them around and, as importantly, get them to the airport for their flight home a few days later.
To cut a long story short the car was recovered to the local main dealer.
Next morning, once the service department were in, I spoke to them and they wanted, at least, £225 just to investigate the problem.
It was decision time. It was clear I would see little, if any, change from a grand with this problem. I also knew the car would need a new set of rear brakes (£525) soon. Add to that the upcoming service (£290), it still had the original exhaust which would not last forever and, finally and at the service after next it would require a new cam belt (£700).
So I decided not to spend good money after bad and I, reluctantly, decided to scrap the car. I managed to get a few hundred quid for it which, at least, covered the new set of tyres I had purchased less than a week earlier.
However I was left without a car, something of a problem when you spend your life zipping round the country attending race meetings.
The visitors were taken care of by them hiring a car, which had the advantage of them taking themselves off to Heathrow at 06:00 whilst I was able to go straight back to bed.
My first non-car race meeting was to Sandown Park on the Friday, in theory a relatively simple journey. A train to Clapham Junction followed by a train to Esher, which adjoins the course.
A simple plan, in theory, ruined, in practice, by the driver of the second train failing to stop at Esher. I wasn’t the only passenger looking out in dismay as the railway fences flashed by outside the speeding train. Eventually the train stopped two stations down the line and a couple of hundred discontent racegoers alighted, charged across to the other platform to wait for a train back to Esher.
The next day it was Aintree, I managed to book some cheap rail tickets but the return journey was slightly convoluted, involving coming back via Wigan, where I was booked on the 19:12 train.
Wigan is an “interesting” place if you have a couple of hours to kill in the rain. It’s one redeeming feature is the fish and chips are incredibly cheap. I bought some fish and chips for £3.60, back home it would be £2.20 for the chips and £5.90 for the fish.
I had reserved a table seat on the train home thus giving me the chance to do some work on the journey home, that is one big advantage of travelling by train.
What I had not counted on was the train being full of football fans returning to London, who had decided the coach I was booked in would be ideal for them and they somehow seemed intent on singing as many foul, crude and offensive football song as they could.
Eventually the “train manager” a mere slip of a girl, probably in her twenties, came down and told them to stop singing offensive songs. After getting some abuse they did eventually quieten down.
However after she had left the ring-leader of the football supporters came through the carriage asking passengers if they were offended by the singing.
Typically even those who had been tut-tutting and moaning to one another meekly said to him “of course not.”
Then he came to me. “Excuse me sir are you offended by our singing?”
I replied, ”No I am not offended but you singing is totally inappropriate and out of place on a train where there are women and children.”
I was half expecting to get thumped but wasn’t that worried as I knew there was a CCTV camera in the carriage.
To my surprise he actually apologised to me. It was also interesting to note that once I had said something the other passengers he asked all agreed with me, whilst those who had earlier said nothing looked suitably shamefaced.
My third foray into racing by public transport was Huntingdon for Peterborough Cup day, surely it would be third time lucky.
By car Milton Keynes to Huntingdon is 39 miles and it takes about 40 minutes. By public transport it is either a train to London then back out to Huntingdon or a bus to St Neots and a train to Huntingdon.
I opted for the latter.
Now driving it takes me about 25 mins to get to St Neots, by bus it takes 90 and they charge you £11.40 return for the privilege.
So it was off on the 8:25 bus and I arrived at St Neots station in time for the 10:13 to Huntingdon.
Nope – the 10:13 was showing delayed, until just before 10:30 when it changed to “cancelled”.
The next train due was the 10:39 but literally every minute I waited the expected arrival time increased by 2 minutes, until it was rolling past 11:00.
Of course the railway staff were of no real help . . . . in the space of 15 minutes four different excuses were given for the delay and when I finally found the station manager he admitted he had no idea when a train would arrive.
So it was back home and a wasted day.
My next planned foray into the world of public transport was last Saturday and Lingfield. The problem with that one was I would need to set off 15 mins before the first inspection.
One big advantage with Lingfield is its close proximity to Gatwick Airport, which means by monitoring the ATC Met broadcast you can get real time weather reports.
Before I retired to bed on Friday night I decided not to go as the temperatures had already dropped lower than forecast.
I’m glad I changed my mind as I would have been at Clapham Junction when the meeting was finally called off.
My next planned racing trip using public transport is Ascot on Friday – I see the forecast is for storms – I wonder what the travel Gods will have in store.
Friday should, however, be a more auspicious day as that is the day I will have transferred the money for a new car into my current account.I really miss not having a car – you really do not fully appreciate having one until you have to do without.