Monday, August 23, 2010

Decisions, decisions

Why this odd picture? Can you guess where it has been taken? That couldn't be a steam locomotive in the background, could it?

Actually, it's this little red car that I wanted to draw your attention to. My wheels for the next X years. The Nissan era is finally over. The last few weeks have been full of decisions for me. First was whether the time had come to change the car. The Almera had 87,000 miles on it (most related to curling in one way or the other). It was coming up to a big service and the road tax was due. I had planned to eke another year, and another 20,000 miles, but...

One on the scariest things that has ever happened to me was when the windscreen wipers on my first Nissan Almera gave up. Suddenly, completely! At the time I was overtaking a couple of trucks on the M8 in heavy rain, in 2004 I think it must have been. To this day, I don't know how I managed to get the car safely onto the hard shoulder. I was (almost) calm by the time the AA arrived, thirty minutes or so later! Wear and tear (aka old age) was the diagnosis. The car had done some 105,000 miles.

I was reminded of this when the rear wipers gave out on my most recent Almera a couple of weeks ago. That galvanized my thinking. Was it telling me something? Most of us don't change our cars very often, so when the time comes to do so, there are lots of decisions to make.

Needs must, so I knew that any new car would have to be (more) economical to run, and that meant going smaller. I'm not a big fan of the Micra, and after a good look around, I narrowed my choice to a VW Polo, a Toyota Yaris, and a Mazda 2. I'll not go into all the detail on how the decision was eventually made, but that's the result, for good or bad, in the photo above. A Mazda it is. All my savings are now gone, and the bank owns the rest! Ah well.

The actual experience of making the purchase was quite pleasant. After all these years, I finally met a car salesman that I didn't immediately dislike! The only thing against him was that he didn't know what I was talking about when I described my first car, bought in 1966. It was a Triumph Mayflower, built in 1953, which cost me £30, and was sold a year later for just ten pounds less. I was very proud of my first car!

You still encounter Mayflowers at classic car shows (see here), but I recall being on a bus in suburban Bangkok, ten years ago, and being hugely thrilled to see one still in regular use there. Of course, when I owned my Mayflower it was not considered a 'classic' car. 'Old banger' was a more apt description.

At a rough count, I think I've owned twenty cars since 1966. I've been trying to work out how many different cars I might have driven over the years, with no success. Hundreds, certainly.

Back to yesterday. The weather forecast was good, and a run in the car was in the plan. At least these days, one doesn't have to 'run in' a new car as one did, say, in the sixties! I looked for a day with not too much motorway, but something testing, and hopefully enjoyable. And so it was down to the A686 which goes from Penrith to Alston. The stretch from Melmerby over Hartside is a smashing bit of road, much beloved of bikers, and usually exciting to drive because of them!

I was not disappointed in my wee Mazda, and I think we are going to be very happy together. The CD player got a good workout yesterday too.

Anyway, Alston is home to the narrow gauge South Tynedale Railway. I've visited before (see here) and I promised I'd go back later in the season when there was steam on the line.

Naklo was in steam for my visit yesterday!

You can read all about the locomotive here.

Briefly, Naklo is a 70 horse power, 0-6-0 tank type LAS locomotive, built in 1957 by Fabryka Lokomotyw Imf Dzierzynskiego, Chrzanow, Poland. The locomotive was imported from Poland, where it had worked at a sugar factory railway at Naklo, arriving at Alston in April 1988. It has been modified somewhat since then.

Candid shot of the driver enjoying his ice cream prior to the next departure. It was indeed an ice cream day.

Here's a little video I took yesterday. Or click on the image.

My next port of call was Langwathby. But that's for Yesterday Part 2, to come.

Pics © Skip Cottage

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