As a musician, and especially one who tours a lot, it is very necessary to own a car. It would be a very complicated thing to tour by train and a car is not only convenient when I’m in Cardiff, it also means I can get to work in twenty minutes rather than an hour – which is what the bus would take.
Unfortunately, cars can come with their own special type of trauma, and the last month has been rather too busy with it for my (and my bank account’s!) liking.
I’ve had two cars in my time as a driver. The first – a trusty Rover – met its end on a roundabout in Cardiff in the pouring rain on a dark Friday night in winter on the way home from Bristol on tour. It sounds dramatic, and it felt like it at the time. Standing on the side of a roundabout having called the AA, I’m still in my concert black, I’ve a violin on my back, and it’s raining.. heavily. It’s like a bad film. Thankfully a colleague stopped and helped me push the car into a nearby shopping car park, and he took me home. I returned to deal with it the next morning. It was very old, bless it, and it had seen me through a lot of mileage, but I thought.. enough, and started looking for a new (at least to me) car.
I had decided to go for a nearly new Ford Focus due to the very nature of its supposed reliability; there had been many promises of checks that had been applied to the car so that it would be no problem, and was very unlikely to break down on the side of a motorway or a roundabout, that being my foremost top of the list must-have. However the litany of issues that followed could almost be comical if it wasn’t so depressing.
Leaking seals were only the beginning. Driving down the motorway in the rain to a gig when the car had only been a month in my possession, I was slightly perturbed when I changed gear, and found the gear stick wet. Water was dripping through the windscreen into the car. Then it was the rear door seals.. on both sides.
Then a month after the guarantee ran out, the ABS pump went. Needless to say, that got fixed, though it was a painful one… £1500 later!
Then it turned out, the particular version of the Focus I had didn’t have a cover over the engine, and water got into the spark plugs on a regular basis, which meant problems with ignition, as the plugs would rust through. Twice yearly visits to the garage to get plugs changed to ensure them being able to remove them without them falling into the engine and causing serious damage.
Then the latest incidents… on the way home from Plymouth a month ago, the battery light on the car comes on, the lights go off, and I break down at 1am 100 miles from home. Home on the back of a lorry arriving at 3am. This time the culprit was the alternator. So that got replaced. Having only been in my local garage getting the plugs fixed a month earlier, I felt like I was seeing rather too much of them. Indeed my mechanic, on seeing it was me, just went “oh not you again!”
So.. here we are today and I sense the end is nigh for my poor old Focus. Reading the litany of issues above that I’ve had with it right from the beginning, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. The engine light is now on, laughing at me mockingly in its defiance. “You thought it was over?” it says.. “back to the garage with you…!”
Enough might be enough…