Thursday, January 27, 2011

Credit where credit is due

A couple of things have happened to me recently that have restored, to a certain extent, my faith in human nature. I'm not completely cured of the yapping dog syndrome that makes me cheery on the outside but expecting the worst in all situations. I still subscribe to the mantra that a pessimist is never disappointed.


But there have been two incidences recently where even the pessimist in me was pleasantly surprised. The first was when a Christmas card from my uncle arrived a few days ago. Granted, it had been posted on December 8th, but the address had been slightly mangled by whatever contacts database my uncle is using these days. It had my name, the name of the house, and then the name of the county misspelled as 'Ceredigeon', which makes it sound like some kind of lewd act to me. 'M'lud, the plaintiff was caught in a state of high ceredigeon, such that two officers of the law were required to calm him down. We arrested him on the spot, and sent the parrot to a zoo for safekeeping.' To cap it all, my uncle had managed to get the postcode wrong as well, changing the initial SY to SE. Then, despite living in deepest Englandshire, he had written the country as Cymru - perfectly correct if you know Welsh, but unlikely to mean anything to your average Hampshire postie.


Despite all this, the letter arrived, a little over a month after it was posted. Scribbled on the bottom of the envelope were a few cryptic clues in several different shades of post office biro. 'Wales?', 'SA? SO? SY?' I am impressed with this level of service. Several people have sat down with this envelope and puzzled out where it was meant to go. Some old-timer, with thirty years or more of dodging rabid dogs under his belt has stroked his long, white beard and said 'Kimroo? Kimroo? That's what those strange Welshland buggers call Wales now, isn't it?' Country established, a younger member of the lost letter squad has set to working out all the possible variations of S+ another letter, until they've realised that both SA and SY are in Wales, unlike SE which is in London. Then the young lad, still wet behind the ears and never been been invited in by a bored housewife, has sat down at one of them newfangled computer things and cross-referenced the house name against all the possible postcodes. And lo, the full address has been extracted from the garbled mess on the envelope. Neither wind nor rain shall stay and all that. Good job lads. Thankyou.


And the second event? Well that happened today. My elderly Range Rover, not content with losing its air suspension on the journey up from Wales to Fife earlier this week, leaving me driving on very hard rubber bump stops for the last eighty miles, decided that it wasn't going to start. It didn't do this at the farm. No, that would have been too easy. I could have cursed it, borrowed the pick-up from my brother and just got on with what I needed to do. Instead, it took me to Dundee, and then to Cupar. Only then did it say 'enough is enough. I shall start no more.'


I had parked at Meldrums Chainsaws and Garden Machinery in the Eden Valley Business Park, as I had business to conduct with them. Quite what a chainsaw is if it's not a piece of garden machinery, I'm not sure, but it's probably best not to go into that. Despite not having been able to conduct any business - the second hand UTV I wanted to buy from them was out on trial with a prospective customer - the nice people at Meldrums lent me their battery booster, since I thought at first the problem was simple like that. Then when that didn't work, one of the engineers came out to have a look. Admittedly he was more used to dealing with vehicles running on a single cylinder, rather than eight, but he came to the same conclusion as me, to whit: the starter motor's buggered.


There was nothing for it but to call the AA.* Fortunately I'm not only a member, but had my card with me. Now normally, if you're not a pregnant woman in the dark on the edge of a war zone, you can expect to wait at least an hour for a patrol van to come to your aid. I was resigned to this in the way a rabbit, staring at the oncoming headlights, is resigned to becoming a crunchy smear on the tarmac. But I had my iphone, and a 3g signal, so I could at least while away the time until the battery ran flat.


To my surprise and delight, the patrol van arrived in twenty minutes. I hadn't even finished the first level of Angry Birds. He poked and prodded the beast, hit it with a hammer a couple of times and the said: 'your starter motor's buggered.'


As luck would cheekily have it, next door to Meldrums, there is a Land Rover dealership. Just out of curiosity, and fairly sure I knew the general direction of the answer, I had already asked them how much a new starter motor would be. From a Land Rover dealer, the answer was an eye-popping £350. Plus whatever they thought they could get away with for fitting the thing. Bear in mind the beast only cost me a grand in the first place. I wasn't about to part with almost half as much again for a starter motor. Not when ebay would sell me one for fifty quid.


All of which I told the nice AA man when he offered to tow me round the corner to the Land Rover dealership. Technically this was all he had to do, but he took my point, and instead said he'd call up a truck, the Range Rover being too heavy for his van to pull more than a few hundred yards. Word came back from head office that this was OK, but it would probably have to come from Edinburgh, or even Glasgow, and would almost certainly take a couple of hours to arrive.


Resigned to a lost afternoon, I retreated to a nearby cafe and stared out the window as the light began to fail, nursing a cup of fruit tea and a slice of ginger cake. I was, indeed, so lost in my pessimistic musings that I didn't at first notice the large tow-truck pulling into the car park of Meldrums Chainsaws and Garden Machinery. How could this be? The clock on my phone said it was only half an hour since the call had been made. Not a lot more than an hour since the problem had first manifested itself. And yet here was the man come to the rescue.


Loading up the Range Rover was a matter of minutes; the drive from Cupar to the farm just under half an hour. And so I arrived home ignominiously but nothing like as late as I had anticipated. So thank you, nice people at the AA, and also at your subcontractors, ACE Vehicle Recovery (not of Edinburgh or Glasgow, but Methil, in Fife - made famous by the Reid Brothers). Although if I was being picky, I could complain about having to see the recovery truck driver's bum-crack peeping from the top of his low-slung jeans as he tied down the beast. Please, people, learn to dress properly. There's a lot to be said for overalls, you know.


The Range Rover has had the last laugh though. Had it refused to start an hour earlier, I would have been able to order a new starter motor in time to be delivered tomorrow. As it is, the part won't get here until Monday. So I'm stuck in Fife for the weekend. At least that'll give me time to get the caravan in order.


Maybe paying a grand for something that cost £50k new wasn't such a good idea.


* no, not them. Don't be silly. The Automobile Association. 

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