Tag Archives: cars

No Gold Medal for This Driver

That old saying – when you let something go, something new comes into your life may be true – but they never said how traumatic the new could be.

So there was the dinky little new car waiting at my daughter’s house. They were all away, so I locked up the old car, patted it, said goodbye with tears in my eyes and climbed into the new. When you’ve been driving for fifty years, it’s a piece of cake isn’t it!

But as I pulled away to join the rush hour and looked at the gears, I realised that I had no idea what I was looking at. I assumed D/ S was the gear to drive in, but was ‘ L’ a top gear, since it was the last in line? The nearest petrol station was marooned in heavy traffic, so I went back to the friendly car wash, where the attendant had been so helpful. He put me right on ‘ L,’ so I sailed onto the motorway and into the going- home rush hour traffic.

Not being used to the sound of small cars, I wondered if the noise I could hear was mine or outside. I pressed the side window button, and got the left back window. Pressed the front, and it worked, and I listened and found I was making the sounds I could hear, so went to put the window up. It wouldn’t go. Neither would the back window. Bowling along in heavy traffic, I sat in the cross draught with an icy gale blowing, getting soaked as the rain flew in. I tried every button, and the car began to behave like a Mr Bean nightmare, push this, and the side mirrors curled in, push that and the wind screen wipers swirled, push another and a blast of hot air told me I’d got the heater. That was good, it slightly balanced out the bitter wind and rain.

Three-quarters of an hour later, frozen, I pulled off at the first petrol pump on the left and asked a man getting his petrol how to get the windows up. I didn’t have to put on a pathetic little old lady act – I was one!

It was quite simple, I just pulled the tabs up. As I backed away to resume the journey, the car started shouting at me. I jumped and nerves completely shattered by now, crawled to another pump occupied by a man and six sheep. He suggested maybe it was the seat-belt. It might have been. So I carried on home, and deposited it in the garage after various other tribulations.

Come the morning I had to drive over an hour and a half to get my frail husband to the airport to see his even frailer older sister, pushing ninety. Problem number one, we couldn’t unlock the doors. The driver’s seat was still unlocked from the night before, so in the end- quite desperate – I stuffed my bulky husband into the driver’s seat and pushed and shoved him and his unyielding stiff legs into the other seat. Feeling slightly unhinged by this, and with all the mud coming off the soles of his shoes into the pristine car, that he didn’t know where it had come from, I got in front of the wheel. The gears wouldn’t budge. Some time later, I unlocked the house, went back inside and rang the garage. Saturday morning and just a stand-in selling petrol. So I rang the boss at home and got his wife. “Try putting your foot on the brake,” she suggested.

Locked up the house, back to the garage, and trapped husband.  Foot on the brake and I could move the gear stick. Hooray. Off we go. But we don’t. I can’t start the wretched thing (and by this time four letter words were being used quite freely). Try taking your foot off the accelerator said my husband, whose advice had not, frankly, been too good up till now. This time he’d hit the spot. The car started, and as we backed out of the garage, I discovered why it had been making frantic noises the day before at the petrol pump. It does make these noises when I back. It’s the nature of the beast.

And so off to the airport, still not knowing how to unlock the doors, work the wind-screen wipers with any accuracy, or the heater with any certainty, and the inside light and the head-lights a complete enigma. Reader, (to quote Charlotte Bronte) we got there! A stop for petrol and a helpful attendant meant I discovered central locking and some of the other baffling refinements.

On the way back, travelling at my normal speed – which has earned me in the past the epithet of ‘racing grannie” – a number of large cars of the Chelsea tractor variety, passed me quite dangerously, and cut in on me. I was puzzled at first, and then it began to feel familiar. Yes, it was  ‘the- little- old- lady- in- a- little- car- must- be- driving- too- slowly’ syndrome. I’d experienced it years before when I used to drive a little Ford laser. Back home I mentioned it to a friend. “Oh yes”, she said, “in Mike’s big car, I get around no trouble. In my little car, I get hassled, and bullied, especially at roundabouts and junctions.”

I felt quite indignant. It’s bad enough being introduced to the same man over and over again, because men never recognise or remember women with grey hair, but to be hassled and despised in my car because I have grey (to white) hair as well is the pits! The family were mortified when I described my ordeals because they had actually thought I had understood their briefing on the car. But I am someone whose only kitchen gadget was a pop-up toaster for most of my life (made mayonnaise with a wooden spoon), and who has never learned to thread a sewing machine, so made all my curtains by hand. No wonder I struggle with my computer! As for the car manual – that’s another story, but I’ll spare you the details.

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

The winter weather seems to get colder with every day that passes, my huge pile of firewood is dwindling, and our need for comfort food increases. So today I did my  chicken stew special. Searching the deep freeze for something edible that would de-freeze quickly (no, I don’t use a microwave) I came on something I recognised – a couple of chicken thighs. I try to label, but usually decide I’ll recognise it when I want it. This means that the day I defrosted some lentil soup for supper, we ended up having Christmas pudding instead.

So I got out the big saucepan and sauted a couple of onions and celery sticks, added a couple of chopped leeks and browned the still frozen chicken pieces. Then I added two chopped carrots, one grated carrot, a big cup of mashed pumpkin from the day before, and another quarter of chopped pumpkin, a parsnip, a few chopped garlic cloves, and some chicken bouillon cubes, a squeeze of tomato puree, Worcester sauce, salt and pepper, and let it all simmer till soft.

Meanwhile I put four tablespoons of self raising flour in a bowl with two tablespoons of grated suet, salt and pepper, and a teaspoon or more of mixed herbs.

Mix this with enough water to make a soft dough, and leave to stand in the fridge for half an hour. Ten minutes or so before serving, drop large tablespoons of the dumpling mixture into the simmering stew, and cook for about ten minutes or until a needle comes out clean. On other days I would use whatever other vegetables I had in the house, or even add some washed lentils, but always onion, celery and carrots. If I put potatoes in I wouldn’t make dumplings, but would add the mixed herbs to the stew. I usually throw in a handful of frozen peas at the end, for the colour. There’s always plenty to have the next day as soup, and for added nourishment I add plenty of chopped parsley and grated cheese on top.

Food for Thought

Few have heard of Fra Luca Pacioli, the inventor of double-entry book-keeping; but he has probably had more influence on human life than has Dante or Michelangelo.

Herbert J Muller, 1905 – 1980     American philosopher

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Filed under cars, cookery/recipes, family, food, great days, humour, life/style, philosophy

Buying a New Car

My daughter has finally winkled me out of my ancient and large white car with the bribe of going halves on a new one. An irresistible offer! A nippy little silver job, easy to park, and flies like the swift it’s named after.

But first, there was the old car to dispose of. Cleaning it out was a bit like moving house. The glove box obviously, was a mess – old sunglasses, handbook, old warrant of fitness bills, old maps – out of date – and a heavy choke chain and lead for a big dog. The middle shelves gave up a hoard of tooth picks- the wooden sort and the plastic brushes with a plastic lid – peppermints, a box of matches, a pen, some packets of almonds for hungry emergencies, loose change for wind-screen washers at traffic lights, a couple of elastoplasts, a defunct key-ring and a lipstick. The compartment in the door had to be cleared of tissues – clean- a bottle of Yardley’s lavender water, peppermint wrappers and a small choke chain and small dog lead.

The back seat was divested of rug, a basket containing a bottle of water, a pair of gloves, a nearly empty bottle of Chanel No 5, and some empty egg boxes for re-cycling. The pocket in the back seat had another out- of- date book of maps and some dog biscuits. On the floor were a couple of shopping bags, and a large Tupperware box to be returned to a friend in the city when I was going her way. In the back window, two purple umbrellas, purple because they had a loop handle to go over the arm, and also dozens of spines instead of the usual five or six, to stop them blowing inside out. Purple because that was the only colour they had!

In the boot, a big towel for wiping wet rescued dogs, a child’s plastic beach bucket and a big bottle of water for thirsty dogs, a walking stick in case my husband forgets his, a picture and frame to be taken to have the glass repaired when I find a good picture framer, a bag of books to take to a hospice shop, and another bag with some of my own books as – just occasionally – people I meet ask to buy one.

I’ve got so much gear for dogs because if there is a lost dog within a hundred miles of me, it will eventually cross my path. In the past I’ve had a springer spaniel found in a forest, two over-sized muddy mongrels escaped from home, a lost retriever found on the road late at night, and stowed in the garage with a message left on the draining board for my husband – ‘Warning. Large dog in garage’. I’ve found a labrador puppy, whose teeth marks still deface the arm-rest in the front, and a Staffordshire bull terrier who leant gratefully against the back seat, knowing he was now safe; there was a huge shaggy German shepherd, and a little dog who I lured into the car by giving him my husband’s steak for dinner, and throwing a blanket over him as he ate. He turned out to be a well known local tramp, accurately named Scruffy. Then there were the sealyham and the scottie wandering down a country road late at night, two retriever puppies stranded on a busy city roundabout… and a litter of sheepdog puppies gambolling down another country road on a summer’s night on our way out to dinner…and these are just the ones I remember!

The now empty car needed a good vacuuming, getting pine cone crumbs off the back seat, when I couldn’t get mesh bags of them into the boot because I’d forgotten to empty it of some boxes my daughter had asked me to put in her garage, the odd mouldy chicken nugget retrieved from under the seat, the fossilised relic of a grandchild’s snack, and the general mess from carting bags of compost, potting mix, bark, plants and the rest.

I took the old car to a car wash and gave it the works, and then drove it to my daughter’s where the new car awaited me. By now I was beginning to feel a bit weepy, as though I was abandoning a beloved friend. It had carried me faithfully for over eleven years, done thousands of miles especially when I was doing a six hundred mile round trip once a week to see my grand-children. It had never let me down, and in turn I faithfully oiled and watered and serviced it. I thanked it each time it passed its six months warrant check, and felt grateful for its loyalty, reliability and dogged service.

I’ve laughed in it, and prayed in it, sung in it, meditated in it, cried in it, enjoyed friends in it, and carried my grandchildren in it- even my grand-daughter’s dollies propped up in the back seat when she wanted them to have some fresh air. I look back on moments like the one when the fourteen year old was asleep on the back seat, after we’d had a long adventurous day out together. As we returned to civilisation and approached the harbour bridge, I called out to him to sit up and put his seat belt on. “I’m too tired, Grannie”, he murmured from the depths of the seat. ” Well, I could be caught and fined by the traffic police you know”, I replied. “No, you won’t Grannie,” he answered, “they’ll just think you’re a dear old grannie, and let you off!”

And another child at four years old, sitting in the front seat going home after the weekend, looking wizened and sad in the middle of an asthma attack. He asked a question, and after I’d given him the answer, he looked grumpily at me with his big brown eyes, and said; “How come you know everything Grannie?”  I gulped, and then came up with the answer: “Because I’m so old”. This seemed to satisfy him!

So this car, a heap of metal, was much more than that to me. I loved it and it held so many memories. Martin Buber, the great Jewish teacher once wrote that: ’no encounter with a being or a thing lacks a hidden significance’. He said that: ’the people we live with or meet with, the animals that help us with our farmwork, the soil we till, the material we shape, the tools we use, they all contain a mysterious spiritual substance which depends on us for helping it towards its pure form, its perfection’. Recognising the part that this big heap of metal had played in my life – this old car which seemed to have its own personality –  and remembering Martin Buber’s words, made me feel less foolish at being so upset at saying goodbye to it.

I just hope its next owner loves it too.

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

The lemon chutney I made the other day is wonderful with cheese or cold meat, and also makes a lovely gift. At this time of year in New Zealand the trees are laden with citrus fruits, and it’s a particularly good year for lemons.

You need seven or eight  lemons –  the thin skinned sort. Cut them in eight wedges and pick out the pips. Put them in a bowl and sprinkle the lemon flesh with one and a half tablespoons of salt, and leave for two days. Put it all in a blender with 500grammes of raisins and four cloves of garlic, and blitz.  Tip the mixture into a large saucepan with two teaspoons of horseradish sauce, one teaspoon chilli powder, a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger, a cup and a half of cider, and 500grammes of brown sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer gently without a lid until thick. Pour into clean hot jars and seal. Yum!

Food for Thought

If it is to be, it is up to me.       Advice for life to his boys, by an anonymous English headmaster.

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