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Trading In

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The time has come for a new company car. My three-year stint with the Peugeot 407 comes to an end in August, and as it takes an unfathomably lengthy time to order a car, I have to settle on one about now. The Peugeot 407, I have to say, was a revelation. Okay, so it’s not the coolest car in existence, but my requirements were a bit different three years ago. My job dictated that I needed a car for sitting in endless traffic jams with, and one that had a load of buttons and gadgets. It’s been reliable, it’s big enough to support my ample frame, and unlike the Audis and BMWs it manages to cram a whole lot of extras in for a reasonable cost. The built-in satellite navigation has been a revelation – at least until recently, when the lack of updates and a scratched CD has caused minor frustration.
So, what next? After the “family car”, I’m looking for a more sporty number. There are two rules to my company car choice – it must be a diesel (thanks to company car tax) and it must have a decent-sized boot. These two rules, cunningly, rule out most of the funky cars. Top of my list, I think, is the Lexus IS200. For some reason, I’ve always wanted a Lexus – again, I think it’s to do with all the gadgets. I managed to wangle one to test over the weekend, and it’s frankly looking awesome. It’s small enough for Michelle to drive back home when I get too drunk at the pub, and has enough buttons to kill a few hours in traffic jams. Second and third place go to the Audi A4 and VW Golf. Anyone have any other recommendations?

Naval-gazing Karma.

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I’m getting stares. A waitress has just said, “look, he’s sitting there with his imaginary friends. “A Birdhouse In Your Soul” – a wacky favourite of mine – is playing around the restaurant.

Ladies and gentlefolk, I am in Chester, in a very nice hotel just on the outskirts of the town – and there’s a reason they’re staring. I have brought my laptop to the table, in an fine example of geekery. In fairness, I do have online work to do, and the wireless internet isn’t working in my room. I could have caused a stink about it, of course. Just like I could have kicked up a fuss at the petrol attendant for charging me for someone else’s petrol earlier today. I could have torn a strip out off a colleague who managed to stand on an important certificate I’d dropped at the office. And I could have had some serious words about my company expecting me to come in to work for the entire weekend a few weeks ago.

But I’ve always been calm, been a little laid back. And I’ve found, certainly recently, that calmness is definitely the way forward. By not complaining about my weekend of work, I’ve been rewarded with a bonus and a letter of thanks from the Managing Director. As a reward for not kicking off at a colleague, I’ve managed to get a fresh printout of the certificate and a mention that I was “a nice chap”. By going along with the mis-charged petrol, I managed to get the petrol free (as it’s a company car, they WILL be pleased with me). And finally, by accepting that problems happen, my internet charge is being refunded, I’m moving rooms and, as I join in the mocking of my geekiness at the table this evening, the staff have said how nice it is to have “someone who’s not angry at everything.”

As I said in a slightly drunken stupor to someone the other day, life’s too short to get shirty with people. Problem’s happen. Some people get lucky, others don’t. You’ve only got one life – spread the love while you can.

And so endeth the sermon for this week.

Morning Wreckage

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“Aren’t you cold?” I asked, shivering in the cold, misty morning, patiently waiting for an ambulance.
“No, I’m from Wales”, he replied. “We ski in the summer.”
Before us was a considerable vehicular mangle, the result of a car collision mere moments before at the crossroads on the A325 in Surrey. A car in the opposing lane had wanted to turn right, slowed, got rammed from behind by the following car, and was pushed into the Peugeot 206 travelling in front of me. I managed with deft control to swerve into a friendly bush, nudging the 206 as I went past. That touch meant that I was now officially involved – and here we were, waiting for what resulted in 3 ambulances and 4 police cars. The driver most seriously injured was wafting in and out of consciousness, crying “why today, why today?” to anyone within earshot. His car’s front end was virtually nonexistant, concertinaed by one of the cars. He had the appearance of a professional wrestler – bald headed, well built, and a worrying taste in clothes. It turned out he was on his way to a motorcycling test (which finally explained his astonishing leather-clad get-up) and that this was the worst possible moment to have a crash.
Is there any good time to have a crash, I pondered as my eyes tracked over to the second driver. He had merely being trying to turn right, the poor blighter, a fact he was repeating ad nauseam. He was an older, slighter figure, lazily dressed and seemingly unaffected by the crash despite being sandwiched between two cars like a burger in a bap. The third figure, skulking by his shell of a car, was the perpetrator – the student driver who had failed to notice the slowing car in front and had inadvertently delayed a budding motorcyclists’ dreams. Steam was rising, and oil trickling, from his Rover and it was obvious that it would join the other two cars in the Farnham car dump, never to be rammed into a car again.
And then, of course, there was my car – my wonderful new car. Now slightly damaged at the front end. The light cluster was pushed in, the scrapes from the earlier nudge and prickly bush were evident down the right flank, and the bonnet had acquired a curve not unlike that of a squatting dog. It was still drivable, thankfully, and I was eager to be off, held back only by the interviewing policeman who was ambling over to me. He took my details in an inordinately cheery manner, remarking at the satellite navigation and mentioning at length that he wanted a Peugeot 407 too. Finally he asked me to take a breath test. “Have you taken one of these before?”, he enquired, and I smiled as I relayed the seven times I had previously been asked the same question. “Red!” he said, “you’re over the limit!” Shock and bewilderment contorted my face in equal measure, as my mind relayed the events of the last twenty-four hours. Toothpaste, fish and chips, blackcurrant cordial – that’s all I’d had since lunchtime yesterday afternoon. “Whhrrr…?” I responded desperately. “Only joking!” he remarked. I savaged him under my breath.
The crash scene got smaller and smaller in my rear view mirror as I drove away down the road. Now there’s the hire car and the repair garage to sort out. There are distinct advantages to a company car.

On the road with a man named Duncan

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“Now, this is where the fun starts – there’s a French lady on reception, and she’s a bit temperamental.”
2 or 3 days a week, my job involves visiting customer sites and fixing their scientific computer-based issues. Three days into the job and I’m still expectedly clueness, so Thursday was a shadowing day. I had driven up to Bicester at the crack of dawn, to be confronted with the blasted M25. Ten miles of its time was all I asked – and I got 8 miles of queues for my trouble. My company car – albeit a hired one until I decide on a real one – was built for traffic jams. The Vauxhall Vectra is a big slab of a car, more functional than fanciful, but it got me to Bicester in some style and an hour early.
Once Duncan the engineer had been located, we set off for Oxford University, where two cries for help needed to be answered. The aforementioned Frenchwoman turned out to be having a good day, and we sailed through the two jobs in a couple of hours. And that appeared to be it for the day. We chowed down on sandwiches, after which I wended my way home, throughly pleased with the early finish. Something tells me the days won’t always be like this…

Bye, Jac

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Well, Jac’s off. He had a leaving bash on Saturday night in the Cranley Hotel, which we all duly attended with aplomb. After the final rendition of Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me A Horse and I’m The Only Gay Eskimo, we said our farewells, and even Jac won’t deny he got a little emotional.
He’s started a new job at Renault, moved into his new house in Ealing, and just received a new company car. It’s the end of an era. We’ll miss you…
On a lighter note, I slipped on a small button mushroom this afternoon.