Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The money pit

Wasn't so bad actually. The meeting at Stirling that is. A fine venue it has to be said, and lunch was excellent. As to the content of the meeting, well it wasn't as bad as I was expecting and I think I made one or two useful contributions.

So I got home this afternoon and as I pulled up outside the house I managed to fairly gently and at slow speed touch the offside front wheel against the kerb. I reversed back a bit and parked, but when I had switched off the SatNav and taken it from the windscreen, disconnected my Bluetooth headset and put my phone into my pocket, and got out the car, I noticed immediately that there was a slight bulge in the side of the tyre, just where the tread stops and the sidewall begins. Fuck. I took my stuff into the house, changed out of my suit (God how I hate wearing shirt and tie!) and got back into the car and drove along the road to the local Kwik Fit garage.

As I was idly looking at the tyre while waiting for the tyre fitter to come and have a look I noticed that the outer edge of the tread looked decidedly thin. I looked at the nearside tyre, and found it too looked similarly bare (well, not bare, but on the way to it) so I mentioned this to the fitter and suggested that I might need two front tyres anyway, even if the sidewall damage was repairable or liveable with. He had a look and immediately diagnosed that yes, the sidewall damage meant that the offside front tyre needed replacing, the lack of tread on that tyre meant that it would need replacing anyway even if it hadn't been damaged (it wasn't illegal, just on the limit - he measured it) and the lack of tread on the nearside meant that it should be replaced too (again, not illegal, just on the limit). Additionally he diagnosed the relative baldness of the outside edge of each tyre suggested that the wheel alignment was wrong but he could check that for free.

So, to the quote. Each tyre was £74 and although he could check the alignment for free, if it needed sorting it'd be another £25. Ouch. He did me a deal by giving me 15% off the price of the tyres since I was buying two, but the bill still came to about £150 once the balancing and cost of valves were added. Still, it needed done.

I got home and was adding the receipt into the paperwork file relating to the car, when I noticed that the MOT certificate from back in January had with it a "cautionary" paper advising that the tread on both front tyres was near the limit and the tyres would need replacing "soon". That was at about 41000 miles. I had forgotten that this had been mentioned in January, so I have managed to get an extra 3500 miles and six months of wear out of them! While looking in the car file I also noticed that it was almost a year since it was last serviced. I have only done about 7000 miles since 8th August 2006, which is exceptionally low for me but was caused partly by being unable to drive for 3 months while in a plaster cast (see previous posts) and partly by me having bought a motorcycle late last year and having ridden that everywhere in preference to using the car when I could. Anyway, tomorrow I'll need to phone the garage and book it for its annual service, so that'll be just over £100 (unless they find anything wrong in which case it'll be more).

So to recap my motoring expenditure recently/soon:

£120 for a bike rear tyre
£290 for parts for the bike service (unless other stuff needing fixed in which case it'll be more)
£unknown for labour for the bike service (this weekend coming)
£30 for the bike MOT
£150 for car tyres
£100+ for a car service

Currently getting on for £700 and rising! Never mind. It's the price one pays for personal freedom. Freedom to drive or ride where and when I want without having to rely on public transport all the time.

Unrelatedly, did I mention I got a new phone last week? I knew I was getting toward the end of my contract with Vodafone so I wandered into their Glasgow shop to ask about upgrades, fully expecting to be disappointed and again end up leaving them to go elsewhere as I have done for the past few years each time my contract has expired with whichever service provider I have been with at the time (you will find that you can usually get a better deal as a new customer than as an existing one and it's pretty easy to keep your number and port it out to a new network where you become a new customer, and you can return to the previous network the next year if they're doing the best deal) but no!

In the past year, for various reasons, my monthly mobile phone bill has been huge. So the salesman checked my account and told me I could have any phone in the shop for free apart from 3 for which I'd have to pay £50 (although they were 3 in which I wasn't interested).

So I now have a lovely, albeit slightly bulky compared with my previous Motorola SLVR, Palm Treo 750v Smartphone with full qwerty keyboard (see photo). It really is all-singing and all-dancing and has cut down versions of MS Word, MS Excel, MS Powerpoint and MS Outlook. I can (and do) synchronise my contacts, calendar, email, and documents with my PC.

Cost price £400, but to me on this occasion, free. Can't be bad.

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