Saturday, December 22

Selling a car privately sucks these days

As you know, I'm currently trying to sell my VW Bora. I've done the usual things, like advertising in Autotrader magazine and on their website, putting cards up in the supermarket and sticking posters in the window of the car itself.

It's about the cheapest 2.0 for miles around. But all I have had is calls from agencies - or "Vehicle Matching Services" - who want to rip me off to the tune of £50-£100 a time, and two people who have been rude enough to try to bargain with me over the price on the telephone without coming round to see the car.

The Agencies and Vehicle Matching Services are all about getting your registration fee in, and then they give you back a percentage of that fee if they sell the car. But, of course, if you sell the car privately, you don't ever get that money back, and if they don't sell the car, they don't have to give you your money back either. Forgive me, but I'm struggling to find any motivation for them to do any work here. It sounds like a great little scam if you ask me.

As for the two individuals who've called me, well, I'm more than prepared to do a deal on the car. But, if you expect me to bargain with you, at least be prepared to put in the effort to come and have a look at it beforehand.

If I'm buying a car, and I'm going to make an offer, I look at the car and use any deficiencies that I can see as a bargaining tool. "That paintwork's a bit scratched" or "Looks like it needs four new tyres" or "Has the cam belt been changed recently?" or "These seats are a bit worn", that kind of thing. If you've not even been to look at the car, on what basis are you suggesting I should drop the price? For all you know at this point, it could still be in showroom condition.


But I'm left with little recourse but to drop the price anyway, and hope that someone genuine will call up now and not waste my time.

Failing that, it'll go to the auction, which really will be giving it away :(

Christmas meals

Was fantastic to meet up with the DB folks for a Christmas lunch on Monday, and also on Wednesday at the Managed Objects Customer lunch. Lots to talk about, and it's always interesting to see where DB, MO's other clients and MO themselves are going with the product.

I wasn't expecting to still be here, to be honest, as I should really have been in Australia by now. However, for one reason or another (mainly being lazy) I've not booked the tickets. Until yesterday, that is - I'm flying out on the 21st Jan with Singapore Airlines.

Time to start panicking then, I guess ...

Wednesday, November 28

It pays to be sure, to be sure ...

*** Found this in drafts from the back end of November - whoops! ***

So I got the car back from St George's Coachworks, and they had done an excellent job. I thought to myself, "Well, there's no harm in trying to see if it actually will fit into the drive. I mean, there's no chance it will actually go in without scraping the diff on the ground."

Oh well. At least it got me active building that patio, and at least I don't have to keep shifting the cars around.

The Bora's advertised on Autotrader now.

And I've got the crappiest cold ever known to man. Hoping it clears up soon.

Wednesday, November 14


I'd forgotten about LinkedIn until today, when I was googling for someone and it presented me with their profile page.

It's a fantastic idea which is based around the concept of six degrees of separation, linking you and your network of contacts to their contacts, and their contacts' contacts. It only goes to three levels, obviously, as it would be stupid to list everyone on the internet at level 6 but it opens a whole world of possible contacts to you.

Since I'm going to be looking for work in Australia, it dawned on me that it might not be a bad idea to sort my profile out and start working out who was connected :P

Busy busy

Had a very interesting weekend. Friday afternoon, Mark and I headed up to Birmingham to go to MPH '07. Basically it's a car show with exotica, classics and some motoring theatre hosted by the Top Gear guys.

Well, the theatre part was great. But sadly, the rest of it was complete rubbish. £33 for a ticket, about a tank of petrol and £8 to park (yes, eight quid), for barely half a hall of said "exotica". To top it off, by the time we had got out of the theatre, the classic exhibition had closed :(

Turns out the classic exhibition was actually a separate event in the next hall that was included in the entry price for the MPH show, but nobody bothers to tell you that the two have very different opening hours. Was it good fun? Yes, I guess it was over all, but only if you have money to burn and live close to the NEC. It's not one I'd go to again by any means.

Saturday was more long distance madness. I was intending to go and watch some of the Tempest Rally, being held all around our area, but to be honest I was still knackered from driving back the previous night so wasn't really in the mood. At lunchtime Mark and I headed off up to Wigan to watch the final Great Britain vs. New Zealand rugby league test match. Journey was very long, weather was bitterly cold and after 20 minutes of the match with GB losing 0-12, I was wondering why I'd bothered. Then GB woke up and scored 28 points with NZ adding only a further 10 and GB rounded off the series 3 matches to nil, so all in all a very satisfying end result despite the rain storm that engulfed the ground in the second half. Yay for tickets putting us back under the roof of the stand :)

Sadly the traffic management around the ground was absolutely non-existant and we sat in gridlock for about an hour. There were only about 25,000 people there, it's not like it was the FA Cup Final or something, but I've not seen more incompetent handling of the traffic since the Bon Jovi concert I went to at Milton Keynes Bowl with Si, Ade and Hannah many years ago.

Seriously, guys, if Hampshire Cricket Club can get it right when they're selling out the Rose Bowl for 20twenty, you guys who run Super League and Premier League matches at the JJB should be able to. It just requires a bit of nouse.

It's really annoying to have to whine about things, but really, if you've made the effort to do a 500 mile round trip in one day to support your country in the last ever GB home international, you really don't need to top off your day with an hour of needless chaos in the car park.

Sunday, I slept.

Thursday, November 8

What's happening?

Sorry I've not posted in a while. A lot's been going on in the last few weeks.

Firstly, and most importantly, my Working Holiday visa for Australia has been approved, so I'm starting to work out what I'm going to be doing for the next year. Lots to think about; I've been planning to take the Maserati with me and have some fun in that, but it looks like there's been a bit of a "Haynes Manual Moment" (you know, where it's only 3 steps to do a task but when you look closer: Step 2. Just remove the engine and then ...) in that I overlooked some of the pre-requisites for personal imports. Apparently, I may need to have owned the car for 12 months prior to import. Still working on that to see if it's out of the question though. If it is, then the car will have to go into storage. :(

The fan problem I mentioned turned out to be far more involved than I had imagined - basically the header tank in the car developed a tiny hairline crack, which resulted in coolant squirting out under high pressure after a long run. It was squirting onto the fusebox, and shorting out the fans that way. Sadly it took 2 weeks to locate the correct type of header tank (how difficult can that be, really...).

I was glad to get the car back, and headed off to make the most of a very nice day by going to Portsmouth, and having a wander around Gunwharf Quays and the Royal Dockyard. Very nice day, spoilt only by the fact that now the aircon doesn't work.

Just to really top things off, I left the car outside the day before taking it back in for the aircon to be looked at because there was building work going on in the garage forecourt and some $%^&* reversed into it and drove off without leaving a note. Damage is pretty minor, but it's a proper kick in the balls. Quotes have ranged from £600 (St George's Coachworks in Doman Road) up to £2700 from Bodytechnics (through Maranello in Egham). That was quite funny, apparently they think it will take them a total of 13 hours to remove and refit the bumper, grille and door trim. A whole 8 hours of paint prep too. Though, of course, "we are one of only two Ferarri approved body shops in the country". Riiiight - that's not a license to print money, then, is it ...

Anyway, no news from Fiorano on the aircon, I'm getting tired of them and I'm probably going somewhere else to get the aircon sorted.

The alarm has played up a bit still, but at the moment it's reset itself to factory defaults and isn't auto-arming, so I'm happy with that. If it goes wrong again I'm going to rip it out and fit a cobra system; even the local Clifford dealers have told me that they're crap and that I should bin it. Refreshing honesty I guess. :)

If anyone knows someone looking for a cheap, reliable motor, though, I'm getting ready to sell my VW Bora. It's a 2000 (W) 2.0 SE in Anthracite Grey, 5-speed manual, full service history, 94500 miles on the clock with a recent-ish belt change (at 72k). Electric Windows all round, alloys, 6-disc CD changer, 4 new tyres, rain-sensing wipers, trip computer, air-con, more airbags than you can shake a stick at, ABS and the rarest of accessories these days, a full-size spare wheel. It's been reliable over the 4 years I've owned it and it regularly returns over 35mpg (even up to 400 miles on a tank on longer runs), which is the first time I've ever owned a car that lived up to the manufacturers' figures.


Friday, September 28

I'm still alive :)

Just a quick update to apologise for not uploading the last couple of day's pictures, it will get done either over the weekend or on Monday. I have had a few things on my plate recently, not least a very annoying PC rebuild, necessitated by a 2p piece of plastic breaking (there's a blog post in itself there) and an "Italian electrics" episode about the Maserati which involves cooling fans refusing to switch off, a flat battery, a jump start at 11pm in Swindon last Sunday night (cheers to the Taylor brothers for assisting me there!) and a visit to Wembley tomorrow to hopefully get it fixed.

Tuesday, September 18

Day 8 - Liverpool to Home

The final day on this leg of the trip was a long one, heading initially from Liverpool around Manchester and back into the Peak District via Glossop. Heading over the Snake Pass, we found another dramatic road, which came out at the Ladybower Reservior.

From there we went south to the A623 and back via Chapel en le Frith to Whaley Bridge, the A5004 to Buxton and then the A6 to Bakewell. With the time as it was and neither of us wanting to hit the Luton around the rush hour, we decided to spend a couple of hours at Chatsworth, once we had avoided the cows.

The grounds are really beautiful;

Inside the house was just as amazing;

They were hosting a big sculpture exhibition while we were there;

But the best sculptures, in my view, were in the house's Sculpture Gallery - now I'm generally a phillistine but there were some absolutely amazing pieces in here.

From there we headed home, though we did have time for a completely crap meal at the Wetherspoons at Xscape in Milton Keynes. Not only can they not serve food that's warm, they manage to get pasta wrong. I mean, even I can cook pasta and not end up with it rock hard and stuck together like superglue. I didn't expect gormet, but it seems that edible was too much for them and after sending it back for the third time I just gave up.

However, that was no doubting that this has actually been a thoroughly enjoyable roadtrip.

Day 7 - Whitehaven to Liverpool

What a washout. We'd managed to steer clear of the rain for the last couple of days, keeping in front of it from Inverness to Glasgow, and chasing it from Glasgow to the Lakes, but today we found it, and it paid us in full. Basically this meant that we were really struggling driving around the small roads in the lakes, knowing full well that there were some great vistas hidden out there somewhere but unable to actually see or appreciate them, and both of us were having to pay so much attention to the road that we couldn't really even appreciate the little we actually could see.

After a difficult trip from Whitehaven through Cleaton Moor, Lamplugh, Loweswater, Buttermere and Borrowdale, past Derwent Water and into Keswick, we dived out of the car and into a local pub for some lunch and to re-evaluate the rest of the day. We'd hoped to head to Hexham to try the A686 again but in these conditions it was completely out of the question, and as I'm sure you can imagine the cameras stayed firmly in the car most of the day.

Eventually we drove north out of Keswick, past Bassenthwaite and onto the A595 into Carlisle. From there it was a matter of negotiating miles and miles of rooster-tails along the M6 until the weather finally eased around Preston way. We dived off the M6 at Preston due to congestion and took the A59 into Liverpool, through Ormskirk and Aintree.

The hotel was handily situated just upstream along the Mersey from Albert Dock, and while the rooms were basic with a capital "B" and there was no WiFi access, we spent the evening in the Hotel bar and rued a missed opportunity of a day.

Day 6 - Glasgow to Whitehaven

We chose to break day 6 in Whitehaven to give us some time in the Lakes the following day before heading to Liverpool. This wasn't going to work out, but we weren't to realise at this point. We got off to a late start in Glasgow, not getting away until nearly 1pm, which was a bit of a problem. After a brief stop for lunch in Dean Castle Country Park in Kilmarnock, the drive towards Prestwick was fairly uneventful. We came off the coast road onto the A713 to Dalmellington, which was a pleasant enough road.

After taking the B741 to New Cumnock we joined the A76 and then the A75 at Dumfries which is a pretty boring stretch down to Gretna Green.

One thing we did notice on arriving in Cumbria was the change in the roads. More specifically, that the roads in England don't give you places to stop and admire the wonderful countryside. We do have some stunning countryside in England, too, but it's far more difficult in some counties to actually stop and admire it.

From Carlisle we wandered east towards Brampton and then down towards Gilderdale Forest in the North Pennines, along the A689. We did manage to stop on Alston Moor and take some snaps of the views:

More suicidal sheep here too:

This was an entertaining road with climbs and twists and turns aplenty through the old lead mining areas, and we headed back up to Hexham via the B6295 for what we thought would be more of the same on the A686 down to Penrith. Well, the A686 is something else. I can honestly say that it could have got pretty hairy if I had been driving the Bora - it was a very challenging road in the fading light and I was glad to be in the Maserati, where I was driving well below the car's limits. A number of times we hit unexpected hairpin bends and corners that tightened significantly half way around. There were also a number of sharp bends just after crests which were "interesting".

We stopped for food at an excellent italian restaurant called Villa Bianca in Penrith and then headed on through the dark to arrive at Whitehaven about 11:30pm.

Day 5 - Inverness to Glasgow

Day 5 was a monster day of driving. We left Inverness and headed southwest along Loch Ness.

We managed to get a drive-by of one of the tourist boats on the way there, and caught it again a bit further along when we were alongside the Loch itself.

We managed to get some pictures of the ruins of Castle Urquhart with the Loch in the background, while the weather held out. Unfortunately, no sight of Nessie :(

We continued along the A82 around Loch Oich.

Further southwest we passed around the south of Loch Lochy.

Moving on we went through Fort William and past Loch Linnhe. Time for a diversion, which we took along the B863 around Loch Leven - yet another fantastic road. We took a break for some sandwiches at Kinlochleven.

From there we came back to Glencoe to rejoin the A82. More ski areas with no snow in sight, but you can easily imagine this in the depth of winter.

This sign gets the "No-s***, Sherlock" award for stating the bleedin' obvious:

Due to a slight mis-reading of the map, we decided to take the B8074 from Bridge of Orchy along Glen Orchy to Inverlochy. I say "slight mis-reading", it was more a case of expecting it to be of a B-road standard, instead of a single track with passing places, but we were rewarded for tiptoeing along it with some stunning scenery.

From Inverlochy we went west and then took the A819 Glen Aray road, again a great drive, to Inverary. This little village was a gem - perched on the banks of Loch Shira, the immaculate houses were really photogenic, and we took the opportunity to grab a tea and cake from the coffee shop on the boat, Arctic Penguin.

From Inverary we headed east on the A83 past Inverary Castle (which I managed to do a drive-by on as we crossed the bridge over the river).

The A83 then took us around Loch Fyne, via Cairndow, to Loch Long and the A815. From here the target was Garelochhead and the A817 Glen Fruin road to Loch Lomond. All I can say about this road is WOW - to the point where we turned round and drove it again in the other direction. It's not about hairpin bends, but it's about 7 miles of wide, smooth tarmac taking sweeping turns through the valleys and climbs along Glen Fruin. If you're ever anywhere near this part of Scotland it would be a crime not to drive it and enjoy it.

We then took a leisurely pootle down the Gare Loch:

Then along the Firth of Clyde into Glasgow to meet up with Beverley; a long but thoroughly rewarding day of driving with some stunning views along the Lochs to boot.