Cars, gardens, and photographs

Monday July 25, 2005

A minor flurry of activity on the new car front. Not in the least irksome, being no more than a couple of skirmishes at worst. First, a call from the salesman to tell me the car had arrived and was in process of being ‘made ready’ for collection on Thursday. He gave me the registration number—an odd collection of letters and numbers in the new style that I’ll never be able to commit to memory—so that I could fix insurance and he could get the car registered and taxed for the first year of driving. Then, on to the insurers, Ford’s own first. They gave me a good quote but, sensibly, I got on to my current insurers—Churchill Direct—and they did much better, wanting only seventeen pounds to increase the present policy from collection and change-over through to the end of the year, and a considerably lower annual premium to follow. I went back to the Ford people, giving them the chance to improve their offer in competition but they were unable to do so. No contest, then.

There was a time when you stuck with the same insurer year after year, out of convenience and loyalty. Not so nowadays. It pays to research the market thoroughly every year at renewal time so as to find the best cover at the best price, taking full advantage of the 20% typical ‘introductory discount’ the industry offers, along with the typical additional 10% for online ordering. It’s the modern, market-driven way, and they’ve only themselves to blame.

So, the date is set. All I need do is to transfer funds from my deposit account to the current, and I’m ready for the transaction on Thursday.

Strangely, my enthusiasm is tinged with reluctance. It’s going to be a sad moment when I hand over the keys and documents for the little blue Ford. I’ve kept it far too long, until, at the time of the last renewals, it cost five times more in insurance and tax to keep it on the road than it was worth as a trade-in. There has been a good reason for that. It has been and still is a reliable, always ready-to-go little car and still is. I can’t go on driving it until it falls apart, though, and there are distinct signs of deterioration. Sounds like a tired little car now and is in need of more loving care than I can give it to get it through the two or three more years of life it has left in it. Sad, but there you go. I plan to keep the new car for no more than five years, setting aside sufficient funds each month to replace it at the end of that period and long before I get too attached to it.

Off to Spilsby shortly after noon, to post a parcel for Graham and to pick up a small supply of those green garden waste sacks I need to hold the grass cuttings and general weedings and trimmings for authorised pick-up on the weekly trash collection. The charge has gone up to 75p per sack and my initial thought was to be sure to fill them to the brim before putting them out on collection days.

Then I did my sums. It takes about 1.5 litres of fuel to drive to the town dump in Skegness each week and that’s roughly twice the cost of a garden waste sack, especially when you take into account the cost of a cheap black plastic sack for each mowing. Simply doesn’t make sense, financially or ecologically. So I shall put my green bag out once a week, full or not, all meek and mild like a good citizen ought.

It’ll be different in the next place. With Graham out working at his new job I shall have far more responsibility for the garden there than I’ve had in this house or the previous one.

I have sequestered sufficient funds to have a new catio built, and to establish a small kitchen garden with raised beds so that I can grow a decent supply of salad vegetables and soft fruit. I shall have a pair of proper composting bins, too, so that I can process grass clippings and other garden waste properly, returning it to the soil. I shall have fun designing all that, and watching the contractor’s labourers make it. And then, when they’ve gone, it’ll be my job with minimum assistance to commission it with plants and seeds. More fun again. I’m looking forward to that.

I have in mind a cat-safe, largely lawn-free and creaky joints accessible variation of the small garden constructed at the Chelsea Flower Show a few years back, based on Mr McGregor’s Garden from the Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit books. I know I’ve shown the picture before but there’s no harm showing it again:


Mr McGregor's garden, clipped from a magazine sometime in 1999
Mr McGregor’s garden


The rest of the day I filled happily enough on the Flickr project, albeit haltingly as the Flickr servers came and went intermittently. It seems that two problems had arisen over the weekend with the service, one to do with the telecoms backbone (I think that’s what they call it) that serves the installation in California, and the other a database glitch. The first of these was cleared pretty quick when the telecoms guys got in to work in their Californian morning. The second, less serious, is being worked on. Even so, there have been and continue to be periods when my uploading and editing of photographs was and is interrupted for protracted periods. It’s getting better, and I’m confident they’ll fix it shortly but in the meantime it’s a pain.

Don’t get me wrong on this point. Flickr is a good service and will, I’m sure, go on to great things. I’ll report progress as I experience it but, for today anyway, I’d hesitate before recommending the service to my friends. Being fair, it is in beta mode, and some failures and teething problems are to be expected. It’ll be a while before it’s rock steady, though.



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