I find myself becoming increasingly irritated by my car. I have had it nearly five years now, which is quite a long time for me to go without changing, and I find it a delight to drive. It's comfortable, reasonably economic as far as fuel is concerned, and has as much oomph as I need either around town or on those long, nearly empty stretches of French motorways. But... And isn't there always a but? But it has developed an irritating, intermittent fault. The electric parking brake sometimes comes on when I press the button but more often it just causes a "beep" and a message on the screen telling me there's something wrong. The old style lever handbrake was so much more reliable.
There are times, times that seem to me to be coming along more and more frequently, when I hark back to the unsophisticated cars of 50 years ago like the Morris Minor. When you lifted the bonnet (hood) of one of those cars you could see and reach just about every part of the engine. When I lift the bonnet of my VW Passat all I see is the windscreen washer filler and the oil filler cap. Just changing a bulb is a garage job! Part of the trouble is that cars have been "improved" by adding more and more gadgets and gizmos. I grant you that some of them, like cruise control and electrically adjustable exterior mirrors, are actually worthwhile, but all these extras just mean something else to go wrong. Like my parking brake. There was a letter in the motoring section of the paper the other weekend about the VW parking brake from a driver who had been quoted £119 by his local dealer just to look at the problem. Putting it right would cost even more.
And that's another gripe I have with the Passat. The timing belt should be changed every 4 years or 40,000 miles - at a cost of approaching £500 at a specialist garage or more at a franchised dealer. That adds £2 a week to the running costs.
So I've been thinking about changing. I've always hankered after a Volvo estate (and I definitely need/want an estate car) but quite honestly I think they are overpriced for what they provide - and I can't bring myself to pay that sort of money anyway. The Ford Mondeo looks good but the equivalent Vauxhall/Opel is out. The Skoda Octavia has had rave reviews, including one from a taxi driver when I took a cab a few weeks back and found myself in just such a car. Skoda was at one time a marque that caused great hilarity - a bit like the Trabant - but is now much improved - and part of the VW/Audi group. The Skoda is almost on a par with the Passat but is much cheaper. As is the Toyota Avensis. I have had Toyotas in the past and was much impressed - but that was long ago. All the same, this is definitely in the frame.
But I don't suppose I will actually do anything except soldier on for another year or two.
I posted a picture of one of our pear trees yesterday. The apple (we have just the one) is still quite tightly in bud but should burst forth quite soon. We got no apples at all last year so are hoping for better this.