Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Liquorice allsorts

The Batmobile needs new tyres (or tires if you're reading this in non-standard English). Actually, it's needed new tyres on the front for about a thousand miles now, which is both very naughty and very stupid of me. In the UK you can be fined £2500 and docked three penalty points from your licence per tyre if they are defective. And with winter coming to ice up the roads, it makes sense to get my finger out and do something about it.

Now, you'd think this would be easy. Just pop down to town and go to Kwik Fit, ATS, Huw Lewis or Cambrian Tyres. At a pinch, I could drop into Rapid Fit, where I got the last set of boots for the old Peugeot before it was traded in for something a bit more charismatic (and which didn't shout 'school run parent' quite so loud).*

But there is a problem with Aberystwyth, typified by this afternoon's fruitless phoning around that I have just finished. The town is, quite literally, on the way to nowhere. It's as far as you can go. Any further and you're in the sea of Cardigan Bay. The road to Aberystwyth is narrow and winding; the transport infrastructure is poor. Consequently goods which have to be freighted in tend to be expensive.

Aberystwyth is also the only town of any decent size for about fifty miles in any given direction. And so there is little competitive pressure.

But, I hear you say, there are five independent tyre fitters in the town. How can that situation not drive the cost of rubber down?

For this you need to know something about the Cardiganshire mentality, which can be summed up in the phrase: 'never mind the quality, as long as it's cheap and there's plenty of it.' This finds its epitome in the form of the 'Cardy Farmer,' an heroic figure who makes the stereotypical Scotsman seem positively warm-hearted and generous*** by comparison. Cardy Farmers like things to be cheap, except when they are selling them. When given the choice of a pair of boots costing ten pounds that might last six months, or a pair of boots costing twenty pounds that could be expected to last two years, they will opt for the ten pound pair every time. They cost less boyo, see?** More frightening yet, Cardy Farmers are proud of their miserliness. They boast about it.

So the merchants of Aberystwyth have long since learned to squeeze the cheap end of the market until it falls apart from being poorly manufactured, and claw back their losses by bumping up the price of anything with a bit of quality in it (little realising that no-one will pay those exorbitant prices).

This is notable by the restaurants in town, if I can give them that title. There are dozens of places where you can eat until you bloat for very little money, as long as you like sausage and chips. Those few places that open with a view to catering for more gastronomic tastes soon close, their kitchens still gleaming, their tables unstained.

But back to tyres. The Batmobile is an Sports Car. It would be dafter than eggs to put cheap and nasty tyres on it. For one thing I'd end up in a ditch round the first wet corner, and for another, they'd wear out in less than half the mileage despite being more than half the money. But I balk at paying the inflated, and suspiciously similar, prices all the local tyre-fitters seem to want for the good stuff. And their range is limited too.

So to the intarwub, where there's a bewildering selection of places selling tyres, and suddenly I'm all a dither as to what's the best option. Should I favour Bridgestone Potenza RE050As or would Toyo Proxes TR-1s be a better option? What about Pirelli P6000 Powergy? Or BF Goodrich? The Batmobile came with Dunlop SP Sport 2000s, but I can't help thinking it would go better with something different. And who comes up with these stupid names for tyres anyway?

I think I'm beginning to see why it's taken me so long to get the old ones replaced.

*does the full stop go inside or outside the parenthesis here? Better dig out my copy of Strunk and White.****
** except that they'd never say 'boyo' round here - that's more of a South Walian thing. Here they'd suck their teeth, shake their heads and say 'dew dew.'
*** which, of course, he is.
**** according to Strunk and White: 'A sentence containing an expression in parentheses is punctuated outside the last mark of parenthesis exactly as if the parenthetical expression were absent. The expression within the marks is punctuated as if it stood by itself, except that the final stop is omitted unless it is a question mark or an exclamation point.' So now you know.


Blogger Vincent said...

You know you completely foxed me with that post by having the ** and *** the wrong way round in the text. I was staring at the post for whole minutes trying to figure out what 'which, of course, he is' referred to.

November 29, 2006 1:33 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

Sorry about that - I often have trouble getting my thoughts in the right order.

November 29, 2006 2:51 pm  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

'never mind the quality, as long as it's cheap and there's plenty of it.'

That seems to be the standard philosophy anymore. It's a Wal-Mart world.

November 29, 2006 10:27 pm  

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