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Tuesday, February 21

Micra-tastic
Well, I got up this morning sometime between 7 and 8. I don't like setting the alarm too near to 7am. I certainly don't like setting it for before 7, as I had to last week in order to catch the train to London for my course. Anyway, I managed to raise myself out of bed quickly enough to drive across Reading to the Mazda specialist garage. If I'm honest, I'm a bit worried about their hourly rate - it's quite high. However, the fact that they had a yard full of Mazdas and a 25 year history of working on that brand gave me some sort of confidence that if anyone knew why my car was misbehaving, it would be them.

They even had a cross-sectioned rotary engine sitting on the desk as I reached reception.

I don't know if it's more normal in this part of the world, but these guys were the second localish garage to offer me a courtesy car while mine was being looked at. The other garage is the one who will be fixing my crash damage next month. Perhaps it's something to do with the fact that a lot of people in this part of the world commute some distance to work and have no use of public transport. Perhaps not? Anyway, after filling in a form, I became the proud temporary driver of a Nissan Micra. Woohoo! It's M-reg, has done 103,000 miles and has a 1.3 litre engine. It's small. It's very small.

The person who was dealing with me probably had a few loan cars to choose from. He appeared to be deliberating over which one to loan me. When I asked him what the problem was, he said "I'm just wondering whether to loan you the Micra". I immediately pointed out that, though the Micra is not a car I would ever particularly want to be associated with, my other experience of driving one was entirely positive. I reckoned it would be worth a go.

I hadn't factored in my aching body. While I'd woken yesterday feeling slightly sluggish, after a weekend's heavy lifting, the aches had worn off over the course of the day. I forgot that it's often a full 24 hour gap that's needed to get the full effect of physical straining. So, I got the post-lifting pain this morning. Cramming myself into a Micra was possibly the best way to exaggerate it. However, I was determined to make this wee car the drive of my life.

I should compare the car to others I've driven recently, which are:
  • My own, knackered, car - Mazda 626
  • A hire van - Peugot Expert, Diesel
  • My girlfriend's - Peugot 306
How did the Micra do? Well, it was probably the most fun of them all. It felt like it was blasting along. Being a small car, it had a high impression of speed at under 40 mph. However, it ran really well and felt like it was going when I put my foot down. My girlfriend's car felt fine, the van felt sluggish, my own car has issues, and this Micra simply felt like a bit of fun. That's a nice drive in my book.

The radio didn't work.

My Sat Nav was my only company - that and my own thoughts. I drove to my house in Farnborough.


A change is as good as a rest
I'm the sort of idiot who forgets to pick up a change of clothes. I dropped into my room in Farnborough to pick up a change of clothes for tomorrow and to change my underwear. Yuck. Then I went to work.

Failing to build
I may as well not have bothered going to work. My computer there is not working properly. Things changed enough during my absence last week that my computer wasn't properly up to date. Sadly, after yesterday's tinkering, things just still were not working. Then after this morning's tinkering, nothing felt like it had really progressed anywhere! Very very frustrating!

I took lunch more as a way of escaping the confines of my desk, where I had achieved sweet FA in the last day and a half's employment. On the up side, I still get paid. On the down side, I've no idea how I'm going to be able to do anything useful/interesting in the next few days unless I get things sorted. I've not given up. I needed a break though.

Hail to the grief
Lunch was a baked potato. I've not mentioned the contents of my lunch in a while on this blog, so I thought I'd release that fascinating fact. A baked potato with tuna and sweetcorn and a side salad. It wasn't a huge potato. The tuna wasn't in huge quantity. The woman who served me used tongs to administer the tuna mix. I've never seen that done before. Innovative.

Then, on returning to the office for another afternoon's frustration, I was hailed upon. Just briefly. My only thought was - ah well, at least it won't soak in.

Achy-braky-car
I rang the garage to find out what's going on with my car. I always think of it as a bit of a battle of nerves when I take a car into the garage. I don't want to call them before they call me. If I do that, it feels like I'm being pushy. However, if I don't, then they may be waiting for me to approve some work and may not be able to get the car back to me in time, or may declare it ready at a time of day when it is too late for me to return to the garage to pick the car up. Given that I current have one of their cars, it's even more important that I didn't mess things up. So, I rang up to find out what was going wrong. Given that they're charging for their "investigation time" by the hour, I reckoned that they'd probably done the one hour that I'd agreed to pay for.

Apparently, the reason that my car isn't running well and is making a burning smell is because half the brakes are jammed on. They're jammed on on the passenger's side. I guess that would account for much of the problem. They mentioned a bunch of components that were to blame. Some of these components were recently replaced - some of them were replaced at my expense. I'm not best pleased. The running of the car is still a problem, but the constant braking can't be helping. They're going to look into it some more.

The good news is that I get to keep the Micra overnight.

The bad news is that my car may be expensively broken.

I've considered the possibility of asking my insurance company to go for a write-off on the car and calling it quits. If there's £1000+ worth of damage to the car then it might actually be cheaper for me to get £1000 from the insurance, write the car off and buy another one. I like Mazda and I don't think my car is a typical example of that sort of car. But, if there's more than a few hundred pounds' worth of repairs, then I might be better off taking the money, paying another £1400 on top and getting a newer car.

Sad isn't it? I only got the car in September. Since then I've spent a fair bit on it, had 20,000 miles out of it and now feel like getting rid.

We'll see. Mr Mazda in Reading may be able to rescue it for me.

Getting grumpy
So, my car's screwed, my computer's configuration is screwed (and every step to repair it seems to take forever), I ache all over, I'm tired and feeling overweight.

So, I'm not in the best of moods today. I'm also getting grumpy with the people around me. I think I'm managing to keep my grumpiness in check as a sort of deliberately calm voiced objection to my problems, but I'm not impressed with my state of mind. I need to return to being a joyous love-bunny.

Other people's grief
I'm not the only person in the world of computers who is having grief. Other people are suffering too. People don't like to be messed about. In some ways, my problems come down to feeling messed about. The car should work, but is refusing to behave, despite the effort put in. Also the computer stuff should be simpler than it is. When you invest time in something, you expect that thing to play ball and reach a state of success. If the problems arise because things are just harder than you thought, then fair enough. If, however, problems arise through other people making life difficult (poor mechanics, perhaps, or an overly complicated build process) then it's not nice.

Some friends of mine found themselves in a situation where it's the being-messed-about-factor that's the biggest threat to their wellbeing and chances of any sort of success. Oddly, though, there's huge value in being able to react quickly. There's an important lesson to be learned about the difference between being able to turn on your heels and just fannying about. I'll try to summarise my thoughts on this. See the next post.

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