Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bloatermog The Annual Dread: Other than road tax, which we can buy stamps for, the only 'horrible' bill which we never put some money aside for in this world of Standing Orders and Direct Debits; is the MOT. It's something of a lottery, too, never knowing what the cost will be until the dreaded day when they go through the car from stem to stern with a hammer and a screwdriver, and then phone to give us the not so bad, the bad, or the absolutely awful news of what it's going to cost for another year's motoring. These days, no one except the DIY mechanic with his Haynes manual can do it for under three figures, and including an annual service, it can, depending on what's wrong, be a cripling £500 or so, (unless you've got a fairly new car, of course). That's plus petrol, naturally, and a couple of tyres which passed the MOT on the day, but are 'getting close' and will need renewing in the next 3 months.
So, with the convenience of travelling when and where we want and doing so fairly quickly, those prices aren't too bad. And we love our car because it beats waiting for a bus, and spending an eternity travelling to places we don't want to go because they can't deviate from their set routes. The car is more direct, more comfortable, less aggrevation, (like any public transport, there's always someone on a bus who annoys you, isn't there!), and if I knew the price of fares these days, probably quite expensive, too.
And we do it quite strictly now, either on or just before the day the MOT is due, because with police cars being as alive with technology as they are today, they can just tap in our registration number and immediately find out if we are a) taxed, b) MOT'd, and c) insured; and if we're not, we are pulled over.
Aren't the police ruddy annoying, though.
Why must they always use the plural?
"Have WE forgotten to tax OUR car then, sir?"
"Have WE forgotten to insure it?"
"Have WE forgotten our MOT?"
"No, WE haven't, but I have, because I pay for yours within my community charge!"
After passing my driving test at about 17 years and four months of age, my license has remained unblemished for every one of those 41 years. Never a pip has it seen, and I have only been stopped the once on the way back from a Motorhead gig at Hammersmith Odeon when Mrs. B and I went to see the 'May-hem-Day' gig on May 7th, 1984. The motorway was all over the place with cones and suchlike, and somehow we ended up in Reading! Some time later and back on track and puttering through St. Ives, near Ringwood, we noticed the police car on one of those little roadside hummocks, where they sit with their lights off...watching and waiting.
So they saw this (then) long-haired chap in a biker jacket with his biker chick drive past in a Mini, and at something like 2am decided to, as we were the only car on the road, find out what was going on? The night was completely black out there in the wilds of Ringwood, and suddenly in the rear view mirror it seemed as if we had the spaceship from 'Close Encounters Of The Third Kind' behind us, when the whole area lit up like the proverbial 4th of July. But no, we were not about to be abducted by aliens, it was just the police car from the roadside hummock.
And despite the fact that we had been to a Motorhead gig, I have been blessed with the life-long sensibility, (well, not in my younger day before some buffoon invented 'the breathaliser'), that if I'm driving, I simply don't drink anything alcohlic whatsoever. It pays off, because when Mr. Plod walked along to my side window and I wound it down, I could give him a silent 'up yours' because I knew, even if he did ask me to "blow in the bag," that I would be absolutely bullet-proof; because all I had imbibed was a can of Cola.
Much to our surprise, though, he wasn't the grandson of an SS officer like most of them like to think they are, but instead he was courtesy itself, and when told about our unintentional diversion around the streets and town centre of Reading, asked if we had enough petrol to get home, as "we've got a can full in the boot you're welcome to, if you're getting a bit low?"
How good was that?
But I always fill up at Hammersmith regardless, and in all honesty we probably had enough to get us to Land's End; but I often kick myself at missing the chance of those free couple of gallons courtesy of Lora Norder. But taken by surprise at the kindness of their offer, I didn't. Never mind, eh.