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Harsh Beauty

The snow has turned to slush, that most dreaded of underfoot conditions. Yet there are small patches of white clinging to the bushes and peppering the fields.

The morning light is cold and thin, leaving everything dull and flat.

Yet there is still a stark beauty at play, a clean harshness that I find attractive. It’s similar to those magazine shots of a white room, minimally decorated. It speaks of open places, clean slates, blank canvases.

It is a bit of a bugger to drive in though.




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The need for speed

How fast do you drive? At present I have a powerful car, which I admit I drive too fast. I like to think I’m pretty careful, I’m not doing 60mph past schools or anything, but if the road is clear, and conditions are good my right foot does tend to get quite heavy.

And I’m really not all that sorry about it. Irresponsible? Occasionally. Human? Undoubtedly. It’s not something I’m proud to admit but there you have it.

Part of the attraction is the thrill. There is a feeling of being alive that can be obtained which is similar to (but not as intense as) riding a rollercoaster, and isn’t that one of the things that defines us? Our drive towards emotion? It’s why people throw themselves down icy mountains on flimsy pieces of moulded glass fibre, or disappear into uncharted territories full of nasty beasties and big scary monsters, it’s all done in the name of emotion and that wonderful adrenalin rush that comes from pushing things to the edge of your control.

God, I sound like some hopped-up loony, driving at 100mph every chance I get. I’m not, honest. I top out about 90…

In all seriousness, being a responsible adult (stop laughing at the back!) means that there is a constant battle when these situations arise. The emotion-driven part of me strives for more, faster, higher, closer to the edge, the rational part of me senses the danger and the safety mechanisms kick in. Partly fear, partly self-preservation, it rails against adrenalin, and endorphin.

I know I’m not alone in this respect, that with middle-age approaching and the tendency for life to start to slow down kicking in, driving a car is sometimes the only place where such vicarious thrills can be saught. Perhaps I should’ve gotten into more outdoor based sports like caneoing which I enjoyed, I’m sure I would get a similar thrill, blasting down a fast flowing river. Man versus nature and all that.

Alas we all live in a society and as such need to obey the rules, which means being sensible, colouring between the lines, and following a set of principles.

Or you could bend the rules a little, occasionally let the urge to be silly take over, and slap bright dabs of your favourite colour wherever you damn well like.

After all, life is about living.




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Second biggest purchase

our new civic

That’s my car. An ’06 plate, Honda Civic 2.2TDi ES model. It’s a wonderful car to drive, with a very good engine and a good level of equipment. The reason I have a diesel is because of the high mileage we do, about 380 miles a week, and it was supposed to be cheaper in the long run and, well, it might’ve been but for one thing.

Being the ‘first’ of the new model Civic, it’s fair to say that the car has been plagued by a lot of small niggles. On average it’s been back at the garage about once every two months and whilst a lot of the work was carried out under warranty (and some was, I admit, my own fault as it’s the most powerful car I’ve ever owned and I did… er… ‘over’ drive it on occasion) it’s not out of warranty and the niggles keep on coming.

Time for a change then, but what?

I’m tempted to get a newer Civic, with the presumption that the niggles have been ironed out. Honda have a good reputation for build quality because they do change production to take account of these things, so it’s a reasonable bet that if I did get another Civic, it wouldn’t give me half as many problems as the current car has.

But with fuel prices continuing to bubble upwards, perhaps now is a good time to look at some of the ‘Eco’ cars. The VW Golf BlueMotion gets a good write up (better than the Prius or Focus) but is still quite pricey. The Honda Insight is a proper Hybrid (the BlueMotion is a diesel with ‘smart’ technology to help boost MPG), which again makes it pricey and by GOD it’s ugly!

So I started looking at smaller cars. The Fiat 500 to begin with, which is super cute but just too small for the amount of travelling I do, I need something comfy. The Fiesta gets good reviews all over the place, and it’s looking like that might be the best option.

Ultimately, it’s about money. The monthly cost of ownership is key, and I’d like to lower my monthly payments as well as get a car that will help minimise ‘running costs’. Which brings me to the Kia Cee’d, which gets reasonable reviews, has a good level of equipment and has a seven year warranty. Seven years!

It’s a bloody minefield though and I’m still searching and comparing all sorts, with a reference copy of AutoExpress at my side. Perhaps that Skoda Octavia is the best bet after all?




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