A very polite…car?

 We once had a dog called Geoffrey, who in is his later years had a bit of a season ticket to the vet for various ailments.  Invariably we would be seen by the same one of the vets, who although nearing retirement and reducing his hours always seemed to be around at the times that we brought Geoffrey in. The vet was a softly spoken Scot called Graham, very much of the ‘James Herriot mould ’ who was kind, gentle, empathetic and most importantly ‘knew his stuff’.

Geoffrey would get prodded, measured, temperature checked and injected but there was never a whimper.  Graham the vet would invariably comment that he was sure that if Geoffrey could talk, Geoffrey would be a very polite dog!   Geoffrey is sadly no longer with us these past years,  but whenever I hear politeness being complimented, I think of Geoffrey.

 Which brings me to the subject of my car.  When I bought it some months ago I was intrigued by the 300 or so page manual provided.  I sort of expected 30 pages of instructions in English with 9 other translations, making me the ideal pub quiz team companion  as I would be able to reel off such important phrases as ‘replenishing your screen wash’  in Serbian, Catalan, Basque, Latvian and Lithuanian. Should that ever come up as a question.

I was somewhat taken aback to find that all 300 pages were in English, with the first 8 pages covering minor  and inconsequential points such as how to start the engine, lock the doors,  and turn on the lights  with the remaining 292 pages on all the other magic that existed in the vehicle to make my life easier.  I did start diligently reading but by the time I got to page 150, my eyes had glazed over with another 150 still to go.

 

Some weeks later we were on a long journey – well long by UK rural standard of about 250 miles – I appreciate that if you live in Australia or the US outside of the cities,  people travel this distance just for a  quick shopping trip and a coffee .   

About half way along the journey, the car chimed –  the car actually does a lot of chiming…it chimes  when its about to tell you the temperature is down to +3 degrees centigrade; it chimes when the washer bottle is low in water (or as we say in Lithuania ekrano plovimas) , it chimes  for more worrying reasons too like low tyre pressure….and here is the problem, I always associate chimes with impending bad news. 

So along comes a chime and the message is ‘feeling tired, maybe you should stop for some refreshments?’  Hmmm, is this the car being judgmental and analysing my driving and determining fatigue, or is it just showing off its mathematical ability and calculating a halfway point in my journey ? I will never know unless I read more in the big book……

So fast forward a few more months and another journey and another chime.  This time a very genteel and polite message advising that my oil level was a little low and at my convenience could I top up with 1 litre? Very polite, but very precise.  As the car had asked so nicely, and as I had some distance to travel, I stopped at the first roadside garage and bought oil and duly topped up.  It wasn’t the cheapest oil in the world, but this garage had a captive market and therefore the chance to sell oil at about the same price per litre as   liquid gold or computer printer ink !   

 Back on the road again, and this time on the UK’s M1 motorway, a veritable race track crammed with high-speed cars, trucks and not much calmness here.   

A few miles passes and ding, another message, but this time politeness has gone – a stark message in red that might as well have had a coffin symbol flash – ‘Your car has TOO MUCH oil, stop and do not proceed. Major engine damage could result. Seek technical assistance now’.   Fortunately, I was near an exit and got myself off the motorway.   In the UK we have so called SMART motorways where there is no ‘shoulder’ and just a detection system that theoretically causes signage to close the live lane that you are in, but of course relies on following drivers to see the signage and exit the lane.  There have tragically been serious and fatal accidents in these and I did not want to add to those statistics!

 

Anyway, once exited, I did seek assistance and I finally got me home and car got to the garage for repairs.  Naturally I asked what did they have to fix, a measuring sensor I had assumed? 

Oh, no they said giving me a pitiful look…its just a software issue, all fixed , new version downloaded and all will be good , don’t worry!

 I live in hope!

A house, a car, a holiday and a very large bar of chocolate

Ask many people and it appears that quite surprisingly, well surprisingly to me anyway, is they have a ready prepared list of what they would buy if they had a substantial lottery or premium bond win.

For readers outside of the UK, I probably need to explain Premium bonds. Quite simply it’s state sponsored gambling where you might be a winner (and that’s a very, big extremely unlikely kind of might) or you will at least not be a loser. Why? You always get your money back when you exit. Even years later. Great Auntie Flo would buy you a one pound (and that’s money, not weight) Premium bond for your Christening and each month it goes in a draw for prizes ranging from 1 million pounds down to 50 pounds. Thirty years later, having not won a million pounds , or even more than 50 pounds very occasionally , you can then “cash in your chips” and get your original pound back. What’s not to like about that?

Unlike poker, you always keep your ‘stake’ with premium bonds

Anyway, people have these lists and often they start with something practical and fiscally prudent such as a house, then an item that is somewhat frivolous and is often a totally impractical car.

And then final item is usually disproportionately small, such as a bar of Cadburys Milk Chocolate or a multi pack of Tunnocks caramel wafers but hey, why not!!

I don’t have such a list, but if I did, my number one item would be a Beach Hut. It sort of gets itself in all three categories of being sort of practical, a bit frivolous and also rather small.

Beach huts are not completely unique to the UK, but they are a very British institution and often found in the more genteel seaside resorts of Aldeburgh, Southwold and Frinton-on-Sea. Beach Huts are in some ways very impractical.

You can’t sleep in them, they have no electricity, no toilet or washing facilities are very hard to insure and stand a high chance of being wasted out to sea, and turned into matchwood to be washed up at Blankenberg, Belgium one stormy January day. Oh , and did I mention they are hard to buy with long waiting lists and are very expensive, a bit like any true love!

And then having finally bought one, you then need a clever name for it. Sea view or Ocean gaze just don’t meet the standard. Creativity with names such as the Dog House, Cat Nap or Vitamin Sea is how you get yourself noticed!

I haven’t quite thought of a name yet for mine , but Late Again does appeal for obvious reasons. 😁

BMW, Mercedes or Porsche?

Ask someone about what is a really great German export and if they are ‘into cars’ they may well name one of the above…with apologies to Audi who I really should also have included on the list.

But cars are not unique and any proud Italian will counter this and reel off the names Ferrari, Lamborghini or Alfa Romeo and so on.

What Germany has cornered and no other country can match for both home markets and to export is the Christmas Market

And now in so many other European cities too with the warmth and ambience that is unique to these events. But they are at their best in their country of birth!

My first Christmas Market of this year was a couple of weeks ago in Dortmund.

..and it us hard to beat this one with its amazing centrepiece tree…made of 1000 individual trees!

However earlier this week I was in Dusseldorf and had the chance to visit their Weinachsmarket, spread across a large part of the Altstadt (Old Town).

And there amongst the Gluhwein, Bratwurst and beer……

..a new treat for me.

Crepes with Marzipan…

For someone who loves marzipan (as well as pancakes) Christmas really has arrived early for me 😁

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