Category: Vehicles

A Mix of Things (by )

Today has been lovely and annoying, destructive and creative in turn.

Mary Elf and the Tinsel Dragon Cat have been up to shinanigans - I wonder which of them decided to poo on the table cloth this morning - the nice white one with shiny white flowers on it that snags easily that my aunt bought us? I assume it was the cat, it smelt like cat - I was not happy but here they are being cute - the sequence will be storyfied never you fear.

The tinsel dragon cat beckons

The Tinsel Dragon Cat was lonely and felt quiet rightly that it did not have enough tinsel so it called to the Mary Elf, a little rainbow of a thing that hopes here and there and everywhere and never EVER stops talking.

Mary Elf attends the Tinsel Dragon Cat

The Mary Elf attended the great Tinsel Dragon who was once again in it's most comfitable of guises as the young cat Lithium. Mary Elf listened with care to the instructions of the Tinsel Dragon Cat.

Mary Elf and Tinsel Dragon Cat plan their mischeif

The instructions where simple... go forth and fetch all the tinsel that abounds across this fair and mighty land and bring it back for a snuggly bed was to be crafted.

So the Mary Elf went and had many adventures over great lakes that others called puddles and scoured vast deserts of "the super market", onward the little rainbow bounce trekked until the was a montain to scale of stairs scattered with toys which she had to tidy.

Until she bought home much tinsel for the Tinsel Dragon Cat to sleep upon. So pleased was the dragon in it's guise as little Lithium the pusskin that with paw and claw Mary Elf was Knighted most valiant in all the land of Front Room. There was much rejoicing.

Tinsel Dragon Cat anoints Sir Elf Mary

The End

But not of our day. Unwanted turd cleaned up Al's cousins turned up and we did presents and things and had tea and headed out for a lovely greek meal in Gloucester Docks.

The Snell Cousins Visit for Christmas Cheer

Except our car wouldn't start - this has increasingly been an issue we need to take the battery out and top it up (or that was our first thought anyway). So we headed out in the van after we'd moved all the tents and greenpeace signs I picked up at the wood recylcing project to turn into something for the garden - if we ever get stopped by the police (happens a lot when you drive a van) then we might have trouble convincing them that we are not militant activists or something!!!

The meal was lovely though Mary did not like the octipus tentical that was served up to one of our number - she loves octipi and talks to them when she sees them. She almost tried a prawn.

I felt guilty that all the presents we handed over where home made and embarassed that the scarf and hat that glow in light where knitted using the looms and not just on needles - I kind of feel it's cheating but I am getting neat results with the looms and still struggling about with needle knitting.

I got a lovely wooden bowl.

I hear there is a computer game and things too and Mary is excited about knitting the little mouse that is her present 🙂

The resturant we were aiming for was actually closed so we ended up the opposite side of town to where we had parks, there was a cunning plan of Al and Maurice getting the car and van and picking us up. It went abit haywire as plans often but all was well with a bit of twoing and throwing.

We said goodbye and headed back home, it was getting dark, the sun set was a beautiful striation across of the city and sea scape of the dock, I failed to take a photo I'm not sure why.

There were swans.

Our car was clicking and clicking and clicking and clicking when we got home, it had been locking and unlocking itself continously whilst we had been out. Roll on car madness involving origami, welding and drinking straws.

The moon was a finger nail sliver and venus (I think) was bright and garish.

The cresant and venus

I used Jean's head as a camera stand. I also had to help her with her homework by taking photos of her in posses from some famous artist. His drawings look like Mary's, no honestly they do!

Back to fixing the car... we needed to take the battery out but a terminal cover was needed and there wasn't one on the battery so origami came to the rescue!!!!

origami terminal cover

I am so proud of this that you are going to see it in action from three different angles!

terminal cover origami

It was to stop accidental contact and sparkage!

Folded paper rescue for battery removal

It is folded from half a page from a very old and battered copy of an Enid Blighton book. It was beyond salvage and has been used in three different craft projects and now fixing a car.

The contacts were all pretty corroded - enough that I am wondering if that is part of the problems we've been having. We have like a spare jump start battery - the car reset itself with that and stopped the damn clicking which must have been driving our poor neighbours made as it was outside their window 🙁

The fault also left the car basically unlocked, there was only really some loom knitting and survival tools and some cuddlies and colouring in books of the girls in the car but still I'm sure we would be grumpy if they got stolen!

Turns out there's a battery bracket/brace with a slightly inaccessible bolt.

I held the torch and after accidently getting Imperial and Metric round the wrong way Al got his long bolt undoing tool firmly in place and turned, all locked home and good seeming there was a crunch and then the thing went round and around.... because the force had broken it :/

The bolt had not moved.

Other tools where got but would not fit or reach etc...

Queue the welding and adapting of a screw driver to make an undoing of the bolt tool. The new belt sander I got Al for Christmas was also used, the go pro failed to record sadly so there will be no funky video 🙁

battery getting out tool

He tried it... it needed further adapting.

A sad a resigned Alaric holding the improvised tool he's just had to make

And again. He was resigned and cold.

battery getting out tool mk2

Back out in the ice he went and... the damn thing broke and the bolt was still firmly in place.

Kids fed and in bed, we ate our Christmas pudding - it's a gluten free one so it fell to pieces but we had some special brandy butter and it was nice and warm and filling.

We decided to add penetrating oil but the reason we had not already done this is that the little tube for getting into narrow spaces was not long enough so a drinking straw had to be used to extend it so that we could actually get the oil down to the bolt. A special tool will have to be got to get the battery out. We used the jumpstart battery to lock the doors and packed up for the night. School run in the van which will be interesting as car share kid has a broken leg so will need help getting in and out 🙁

But it should be possible, other down side is that Al will have to pay for parking as the free carpark for his new job has a height restriction (£8 a day and it obv. ates fuel).

He is now PC minecrafting it to calm down.

I've been doing more origami...

folding paper

This is what I mostly made 🙂

Muse Monster Book Corners or origami bookmarks

Muse Monster Book Corners or origami bookmarks, they are a variant on the hats I used to fold out of newspaper 🙂

I am making them to go with The Monster Blog Zines and Wiggly Pet publications that I make. They will be making a debut at the Ok True Believers Comic Book Festival in Cheltenham this Feb.

And then I wrote this post.

Mods and Rockers (by )

I love motobikes and mopeds and that sort of thing in general - yes I am one of those people that like vintage cars and funky sports cars.


So the other week we were in Morrisions in Cheltenham when I spotted these babies out side the window - apologies for the poor quality of the photographs they were taken through glass.

Mopeds at Morrisons

There was a four wheeler there too 🙂 The guys the belonged too were sitting not far from us wearing Mods and Rockers T-shirts much to my dad's amusement. I think one of them may have been his age but the others were all younger.

Turquoise moped

Mods and Rockers as popularised by the film Quadraphenia was a sixties phenomina where those that rode motobikes and those who rode mopeds dressed differently and listened to different types of music. They were seen as gangs and a series of riots were blamed on them.

My dad says it wasn't really like that at least not where he lived. He got teased for riding a moped dressed as a Rocker instead of mod but later on had a motorbike and him and his friends all rode about together with a mash up of vechiles not smashing the place up though they did apparently get chucked out of a pub family room for swearing or something.

This is my favourite track from Quadraphenia.

And this is my second favorite.

The album is deeper than the film in my opinion especially as the film never explains the title. Thought the film leaves me with a lingering sadness, the struggle of disconnected youth trying to find where they fit into society whilst not wanting to end up as nothing but a puppet, a clone and boring person and yet they crave stability.

And of course drugs sort of fluffs it all up but mainly it is a desperation and loneliness that bites the protagonist too the core.

I still prefer just the album.

Adrian Brown and The Cheap Car Trade Centre (by )

Earlier this year, Sarah and I spent my bonus pay on a second-hand car from The Cheap Car Trade Centre in Gloucester.

Sadly, they neglected to buy it a tax disc before I picked it up, so I couldn't drive it (other than the quick trip) home for a couple of weeks while the papers went through to make me the registered keeper. However, even on the trip home, the engine started to overheat, and the engine started to run badly; as the car had been stationary for a while, and had been almost entirely out of fuel, I was suspicious but it might have just been sludge from the fuel tank washing into the engine; I looked into the cooling system and found a syphon tube had become disconnected, so the engine could blow out excess coolant into the reservoir when the pressure was high, but could not suck coolant back in. Sure enough, although the reservoir was full, the cooling system was very low, so I flushed it out and filled it up after replacing the syphon hose.

All was well for a few days, but then it started overheating again. I was dropping Sarah off in Cheltenham at the time, so I stayed in the car park to let it cool down before heading home; however, it quickly overheated again, and again, and started to emit white smoke from the exhaust, and steam from under the bonnet. I pulled in another car park, and rang the RAC, who came and told me the head gasket was leaking badly.

So I rang the warranty company, who said that head gasket failure wasn't covered. So I rang The Cheap Car Trade Centre and explained the problem, but they disavowed any responsibility, so I informed them that the Sale of Goods Act made them responsible for the goods they sell being fit for the advertised purpose, which includes a reasonable life expectancy, even if they are second-hand; and this car was sold to me as "ready to drive". They told me I'd have to take them to court in that case.

So I sent them the required two warning letters, then tried to take them to court. This was hampered somewhat by them refusing to say who owned the business, which is an obligation under the Business Names Act, so I rang Gloucester Trading Standards, who pointed me at:

Office of Fair Trading Investigation into The Cheap Car Trade Centre

Which led to:

Formal Undertaking against Adrian Brown, Sole Director, Adrian Brown Limited

So Adrian Brown was the man behind the business, using his limited company, Adrian Brown Ltd, company number 04831719, which is registered as being at The Cheap Car Trade Centre's premises.

A look on the Companies House web site reveals:


...that's five days after his "formal undertaking" with the OFT. I suspect he changed it from his home address to his premises to divert unwanted attention at home. However, Companies House remembers all. I wonder if he still lives there. I would discourage my loyal readers from jumping to the conclusion that he does and inundating the address with junk mail or any other forms of harassment, in case he doesn't.

Anyway, knowing who to sue, I proceeded to activate the county court system.

They answered my claim with a defence (stating that it must have been me driving the car while overheating that broke the head gasket), so I was waiting for a date for the hearing when I received my last letter to them returned unopened, with "THE LTD CO THAT TRADED AS 'THE CHEAP CAR TRADE CTR' HAS CEASED TRADING AND IS INSOLVENT WITH NO ASSETS, AND HAS VACATED 333 BRISTOL RD GLOUCESTER".

I got back in touch with the Trading Standards folks, who said that they knew the company was closing, but that this action was suspended as there were county court cases in progress, so my case would probably still proceed, even though I might never be able to extract any money if the company was truly insolvent.

However, I'm still going to try. Limited companies protect their shareholders and directors by limiting their liability; the company is sued, not the people. But there's a limit to the limit. If a director can be shown to have acted fraudulently or incompetently, then they can be personally liable.

It looks like I won't get my money back, which will leave us carless until I get another bonus or something - but I'm hoping that, perhaps, the courts might find Adrian Brown personally liable. Given the involvement of the Office of Fair Trading and Trading Standards, it would appear that I'm not alone in having suffered from his business practices (the OFT judgement explicitly mentions him attempting to avoid the Sale of Goods and Business Names acts).

After all, I have little choice but to pursue this - I am scraping by with buses (which run once an hour, and don't run at all after about 5pm), being bankrupted by taxis, and begging lifts from people. This is seriously hampering my ability to live my life.

Surviving the Curse (by )

Recently we have been living in Interesting Times more than usual - first off we still don't have a working vechile as the car we bought died on the first long outing we did in it. This has resulted in us going to the small claims court etc...

Of course Alaric spent all he could spare of his bonus on the car - using the rest to pay things off. So until he either gets another bonus or we get our money back we can't get another car.

Then due to this we hired a car for a weekend trip I had booked ages ago - everything seemed fine when we returned it and about two weeks later the office in London was broken into steeling Alaric's laptop for the second time in a few months. Alaric walked in on the pale, pimply behooded youths who made a quick get away.

Fortunatly Al is quiet good at backing up.

On the way home from this debacle after having had to cancel cheque books and the like that where in the laptop case, he discovered that our account was empty.

However this turned out to be due to the car rental company and not the brake in - who had on the Tuesday removed some £800 odd quid from our account leaving nothing there. I recieved a letter on the day of the break in saying there were dents on the car but no mention of money.

Letter is dated after they took the money from the account, it was a further week before we recieved the invoice saying they were going to take the money. We tried to sort it out with them but they said it would take weeks/months to sort out - mean while we had no money for food, rent etc...

So we re-contact the bank and have to fax them stuff though they are helpful and know of the company as a royal pain. But then we find our fax doesn't work, nor do any of the others we have tried so we re-contact bank and get an address.

And mean while everyone is now contacting us to say they haven't been able to take payments etc... Ulrike has been very kind and is getting me a Tescos order which I hope to be able to give her the money for next month but at this rate we are going to be short next month too now as it doesn't look like that money will reappear in our account any time soon :/

The old Chinese curse strikes again me thinks!

(Other friends have been helpful too such as Stephen who brought us round some food plants - I am so glad we grow so much of our food and get stuff delivered from the diary at the moment.)

Van calamity (by )

Last Sunday, we attempted to go to Cheltenham in the van, as Sarah had a WoPoWriMo launch meetup to attend.

We're used to having to deal with ice on the hills leading out of our valley, as water from the farm fields tends to run off into the road; so if it gets cold, it turns into sheets of ice. There were a few patches of ice on the way up, but nothing like what I've managed in the past, so imagine my surprise when I turned a sharp bend onto a sheet of ice that spanned the entire road. The van promptly lost traction, so I stopped and attempted to gently reverse back around the corner to try a different route.

Sadly, the steering had no effect, quickly followed by the brakes; the van began a slow, graceful, unstoppable pirouette until it ended up like this, with the nose wedged into the bank:


That's looking down the hill from above. As you can see, I'd already done a bit of salt-spreading by the time that photo was taken; before I spread the salt, the ice was so slick that I couldn't actually stay standing if I got out the driver's side, I had to climb across Jean and get out the other side.

Sarah had a deadline, so headed off on foot to try and catch a bus, leaving me with Jean to try and free the van. I could reverse it as the rear wheels just span, despite me shoving some road salt underneath. I tried letting the rear tyres down, in the hope that a larger surface area in contact with the ground would help me get traction, but no luck.

So I proceeded to salt the ice sheet; if I could find somebody with a tractor of a 4x4, perhaps they could pull the van from above and get it free of the bank, then I could complete the turn and head off down hill. The salt began to melt the ice, and then salty water started to flow underneath the ice sheet, creating pretty patterns; and allowing me to wack it with my folding shovel to break it, at which point I found out it was a good half inch thick, even after being partly dissolved from beneath:

I wasn't treading on thin ice.

But the one tractor-owner I knew the number of wasn't answering, and another that a passer-by knew couldn't help, so I continued to try and get it free myself. I gave up on being able to drive backwards, so I took the folding shovel (it's actually a military surplus trenching tool. Good job I carry a military surplus trenching tool in the van, isn't it?) and dug the bank away to release it.

After making sure the ice was well gritted. I didn't want to be downhill of a tonne of van, working away at the one thing holding it in place, while it was on a slick icy surface.

After much digging (indeed, it was now two hours after getting stuck in the first place), with the steering wheel on full lock to the left and the rear wheels spinning, I managed to get the van out forwards, and set off down the hill. Surprisingly, the front of the van wasn't ruined, as I'd thought it might be:

Luckily, not much damage!

Jean was surprisingly patient for a four year old strapped into a stranded vehicle while I worked away; I figured she'd be safer strapped in than running around on the ice with me, even if another car came and hit the van.

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