Friday, July 24, 2009

The mechanic and the concert: or, what Brendan did on his birthday

Today is Brendan's 25th birthday.

Today is "buy a dozen overpriced Krispy Kreme donuts as a special treat for Brendan's birthday and eat two before feeling sick" day.

Today is "be given free concert tickets, have trouble finding the concert and then lock the one set of keys in the car ignition with the lights on" day.

Yes, really. We tried for about 20 minutes with one of the parking marshalls to get in - now we know one way to break into your own car! The string wasn't quite long enough though. So we called our insurance** and they sent a mechanic.

Here is Brendan looking unimpressed. Look at that unimpressed-but-pretending-to-smile face!

Here is the mechanic's tow truck, which couldn't actually fit into the car park.
(He said he works for Thames Valley Police, and usually gets called out for serious crashes on the M3 and M4, and suicides. They have to take the person's car as it's evidence in case of foul play. Ick.)

When the mechanic finally managed to break into the car, we all breathed a sigh of relief. Then Brendan and I enjoyed the last hour of the concert!

The concert was all tribute bands, quite a lot of fun really. Thanks to Lynne for tickets!

Today I was in Leamington Spa for a work meeting. We took the train up from Reading, which was about an hour. My boss thinks I'm the papparazzi cos I took some photos as we left.

This is the famous Leamington Spa on the left, built around the same time as Bath Spa when "taking the waters" was really fashionable as a health and beauty aid (and rather expensive!). (Sounds like the modern spa then!)

**They must be sick of us by now. This is the second time we've called them this week, after Brendan left the lights on at a work conference in Southampton. At least it's not AAA, where they only let you have six callouts a year (each). Which is probably much more than necessary for most people who don't drive dodgy cars or suffer from overt forgetfulness about lights in winter. But only just enough for Brendan and I with two dodgy cars in San Francisco and one country-wide trip. In our mail from America after we left, was a letter from AAA sternly warning that we had one callout left each. I think AA UK has a maximum of five.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Bleeding brakes...

In the past two months, we've done a lot - I started my new job, we moved out of a house with no electricity and into a new one which has been completely repainted and a new bathroom and kitchen put in, and bought a new car. It's a Holden. Or more accurately, it's called a Vauxhall here. Being in it with the windows closed makes me feel sick, because the first owner was an avid smoker and a builder. 

We've also been to Reading a few times with friends, and I've moved offices, to a little place called Pangbourne on the Thames river, just south-west of Reading. (It's dirty and yucky, but at least it looks pretty!) 

Last Friday I was driving to work. The BMW in front of me slowed down and stopped at an intersection. I put my foot on the brakes... and I wasn't slowing down! I managed to slow down enough and turn the car onto the shoulder with a squeal (there was only a sliver of one, and then a building)! I got to work a bit shaken, with no brakes. 

Thanks to certain friends who are good with cars, I managed to impress the mechanic who came to tow our car home enough that he drove me all the way home instead of charging me £150 to go 20 miles, which was awesome. (I was very grateful.) 
He also explained that it was probably air in the braking system, and told me how to bleed the brakes. Brendan and I decided that this was a good idea, and we would do it ourselves. 

So, all of Sunday afternoon, and Monday evening, we learned how to take the wheels off the car and bleed the brakes. Lots of fun, arguments, swearing and four (four!) trips to Halfords to buy the right sized spanners and assorted tools. But, the brakes worked again! We are very proud. We're not particularly mechanical people!

The car is at the mechanics at the moment, though, just to double-check. Apparently the reason I stopped a little and didn't totally crash into the BMW or into the building, was that the back-up brakes went on when the main brakes failed. It looks like we do have to replace the master cylinder. Ack. But brakes are, shall we say, quite important.