Wanna Buy a New Car?

I’ve ranted on here once or twice (!) about our rubbish car.  The one that comes back with more faults than get fixed every time I take it to get something fixed.  Sometimes that’s the garage’s fault, other times it’s just the stupid car falling apart.  Example, and here too

Well, the same old Carnold Lark who gave us such grief last year have been trying very hard to mend their ways.  We got a letter through the door last month offering us a free check-up and tweak service.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, of course they’re going to find stuff to fix, eh?  But I was struggling to find time to check and top up oil, or find the manual so I could figure out how to open the bonnet so I could fill the screen washer*… So I figured it would be worth doing next time I’d be in town for a few hours anyway.

* I am actually ashamed that I drive a car most days and don’t know how to open its bonnet or do basic maintenance on it.  But things have changed a lot since I first drove a Ford Escort and could do most of the maintenance myself with my trusty Haynes manual and a lot of swearing and banging and desperate hoping.

ANYway, sure enough, I was advised that the front brake discs and pads needed replacing for costalotta.  I reported this to The Boss who merrily announced that oh yeah, they’d said that at the last service.  Sheesh.  As he forgot, I delegated to him the task of phoning around for quotes and beating people down on price.

Carnold Lark did their best and actually came up with a good price.  Even more importantly, they were happy to drive me and Mini Minx home after dropping the car off with them, then delivering the car to our house afterwards, free.  Brilliant! So after a lot of toings and fro-ings, it was all set: we had a date and time when they could shuttle us around and could get the job done between nursery runs.

I pitch up with car, baby and big car seat, gratefully get driven back home again… to get a phonecall. “We can’t find your locking wheel nut”.  Oh pants.  Quick phonecall to The Boss, who insists it’s where it’s supposed to be and has always been.  He calls the garage and describes its location.  Garage call me back: “We’ve searched everywhere and can’t find it.  You’ll need to rebook”.  Cue incredible amounts of apologising and grovelling from me for wasting their time.  Mr Very Nice Man drives the car back to me, I apologise to him, then greet The Boss on his return home that night with a dark look.  He returns the dark look with a murderous one, when he produces the locking wheel nut from precisely where he said it was located.

We *could* have called Carnold Lark back to moan about their blind mechanic, but och, I gave up.  I am beaten.

A week later, I jumped through a hundred more hoops to get the car dropped off and the brakes etc. replaced and get it delivered back ‘in time’ for the nursery pick-up run (only an hour late… GRRRRRR!) 

If anything else goes wrong with that stupid car I shall attack it with a sledgehammer.  I own one, I like its heaviness and I think I would enjoy pounding hell out the blasted thing very much.

What will happen to the Grumpy Old Trout’s car if it fails her one more time…

PS Photo taken from an interesting blog about 2 travelling airline employees – click on the photo to go there directly.

I Still Hate Garages

Wednesday: Another day, another juggle.

This morning kind of set the tone for the rest of the day.  It was the standard nursery-day battle of wills to get Maxi and Midi Minxes to eat something, drink their milk, get into clothes and shoes and into the car, whilst feeding Mini Minx porridge, get her breastfed, nappy changed, clothes on and shoe-horn the Bucking Bronco into her car seat.

I was scoring maybe 6/10 getting them to eat their breakfast and a 4 on the milk front.  Maxi was naked and refusing to dress, whilst Midi was clinging to her pyjamas.  Mini started up her siren wail, so I abandoned my coffee (+5 bonus points for actually getting to drink some) and went to change her nappy.  My nose tried to claw its way to the back of my head before I walked through her door.  Yep – leaky dirty nappy.  And from the sight of her red raw and burnt looking wee bum, she must have pooed as soon as she was put down to bed last night.  So a quick emergency bath (and I’m already running 10 mins late: joyous), and she screamed the place down.  As she well might with sore lady bits, still half asleep and wanting her milk.  Midi Minx, who’s suddenly become a very protective big sister, came thundering up the stairs to see what was going on.  Placated that I was being a Mummy, not a murderer, she stroked my cheek and bizarrely sighed, “Never mind, Mummy”.

Mini Minx’s angry kicks and jerks as she fought being dressed (“No, don’t put me in the cute blue dungarees, I’m a baby Emo but you don’t know it yet.  No, not the pink stripes.  Bunnies!!!  Arrrrgh!  This is Child Cruelty!”)  soon opened up a very deep crack in my fingers, so as well as a nappy-load of poo to deal with, I had to avoid bleeding on everything.  And yes, it hurt.  Quite a lot.  Indeed, I nearly winced.  (I’m Glaswegian, dontcha know?)

Downstairs, I barked orders to Finish. That. Breakfast. NOW.  Or I’ll take Bagpuss away for a day.  Midi Minx pouted out her bottom lip and rolled her eyes while waggling her chin left and right (??? Where the hell did she learn that?)  “I full-up.  Can I get down now?”  The combination of fact and politeness are hard to resist, as well she knows, so we moved on to Round 3 of the Morning Fight.

As I yanked Midi into her clothes, Mini kept escaping with her Terminator Crawl to sniff out and retrieve one of Midi’s potties.  Maxi has hip-length thick hair and gets hysterical when I brush out tugs, so the way she was practicing putting her hair into a twisty ponytail didn’t auger well.  I picked up Mini Minx from the floor, moved her to another room and distracted her with a toy.  She hit it out my hands.  Riiip, another deep hack in another finger.  Sigh.  Curse under my breath.  Fetch different toy.  Find Midi Minx (trying to hide inside the sofa, behind the cushions).  Sit her down and try to peel pyjamas off her.  Yell at Maxi to Leave. Your. Hair. Alone.  Mutter to self.  Go get hairbrush and attack Maxi’s hair.  Forget hairbands.  Fetch hairbands.  Attack hair.  Yell at Midi to turn her trousers round and put them back on.  Go get Mini Minx from the potty.  Put potty on the table.  Start Maxi’s hair again.  Yell at Midi to put her trousers back on and to put her socks back on, they were fine the first time.  Dry Mini’s snot and push the potty further into the middle of the table.  Ask Maxi to put her shoes on the right feet, it’s not funny.

Then the doorbell goes.  It’s 0845hrs. “Hello, it’s Carnold Lark*, we’re here to collect your car”.  The deep breath I took was probably what stopped me ripping the poor innocent’s head off.  We have history, me and Carnold Lark* (see Longest Angry Rant Yet post last month).

*Name changed as they haven’t the ability to tell their side of the story.  Obviously.  Allegedly.

I calmly explain that the car was booked to be picked up at 12, because I needed it to drop the kids off and do the food shop.  The man waggled some paper in my face.  I agreed that his slip of paper did indeed say 9am, but my bit of paper filled in by The Boss said 12 noon.  He’d booked it specifically, and Carnold Lark had agreed, because we’d been messed around so many times before (The Boss booked  the MOT a month before it was due to run out because we needed it done on a Saturday.  10 mins after he set off to get it MOT’d, Carnold Lark phoned to say their computer had broken and they couldn’t do it.  They’d phone back with an alternative appointment.  They didn’t.  All that week.  So The Boss pinned them down, and they kindly offered to pick the car up and drop it off for us).  I suggested to the poor man at the door, being traumatised by Midi Minx running around naked with her trousers on her head, that there’d been a mix-up somewhere, and offered to get home as fast as poss before 12, and phone when the car was available.

So I did!  I skipped breakfast, raced around the Post Office, the dump, Tesco, pushed back baby R’s breastfeed to get back asap.  I phoned at 1105hrs.  The receptionist said someone would be out shortly or at noon at the latest.  1235hrs – nothing.  I was too angry to call, so asked The Boss to deal with them. (Yeah, I know: <waves hands wetly> I’m just a silly woman, can you do it for me?  Well, I have a very sharp tongue when angry and I don’t want to injure someone’s psyche for life).  Anyway, they’d stuffed up.  They’d not even booked-in the MOT (allegedly), and were fully-booked tomorrow.  Our MOT runs out the day after.  The Boss negotiated a pick-up the final day of the MOT.  The Customer Service Manager phoned The Boss and explained that the communication skills of ‘Tony’ were lacking.  You’re not kidding.  I hate garages.  I really, really do.

My Back Hurts Because…

I’m stoooopid and impatient and because the car didn’t get MOTed today.

The garage phoned to cancel the MOT just as The Boss was driving off.  So we decided to get the kids dressed up in nice clothes for a change (we normally all scuff about in grungy who-cares-if-it-gets-paint-on clobber), and all go into town to do the weekly food shopping (rock ‘n’ roll…you should see what else we do for entertainment round here!)

First port of call was Matalan for kids’ belts and big plastic-backed bibs.  Midi Minx promptly wet herself.  This was despite me asking her every 10 minutes if she needed a wee.  I swear I checked not 45 seconds before she let out that all-too-familiar siren wail…  Flexibility is both the key to Air Power and the fundament of being a parent, so we did a swift dive into Asda for a clean up of kid and car seat, then diverted into our favourie ‘treat’ cafe for coffee, milk, cake, sausage sarnie and porridge.  We all had different combinations of these – guess who had what?  Sanity, smiles and caffeine levels properly restored, we were off again.  A visit to TK Maxx was disastrous in that it sowed the seeds for later – I found some cool tiny mirrors to stick on walls.  Tesco was… well, Tesco.

To get Tesco out our hair, we decided to drop everything and get out for a walk onto the beach.  I spent a lovely 2 hrs alternately kissing Mini Minx and breathing in the air she breathed out, as she snoozed in the sling on my chest.  Midi and Maxi Minxes hopped in and out the big old double buggy, enjoying the freedom to scamper about here and there without me scolding or chiding them.  There were so few people about, not even dog walkers – it felt like we had the whole windy firth to ourselves.  The Boss seemed to enjoy ambling around, too, and patiently pushed the girls on swings for at least half an hour at the playpark on the way home.

Walking back home, we counted 5 houses (including our own) with tiles missing.  All had just an edging gone.  All were in the same street.  My suspicions do side with a neighbour who darkly blames the builder, but you know what?  The house insurance company can pursue them if they want – I cannot be fagged with toing and froing with a lawyer just to get 6 tiles put back on the roof.

The Boss and I have been thinking about moving our little noisy room-mate out into her own room for a while, and we keep discussing what combination of minx and room we should create.  Up till now I’ve been very resistant to the idea of having 2 of the minxes share in order to keep a room spare, because (a) it encourages clutter, and (b) giving our kids space is more important to me than providing guests with their own bed and room.  However, The Boss can be very persuasive: he pointed out that whoever had the middle room was in a tiny boxroom, which wasn’t fair if the other 2 were in huge rooms.  So we gathered the clan together and asked their opinion.  All were in favour of Maxi and Midi sharing, with Mini in the boxroom.

Getting home from the walk, I thought, “I’ll just…”  Those fatal words.  (Remember “I’ll just check on Midi; she’s been quiet for a while”?!)  I only meant to look at Maxi’s room more closely and see what I could move.  Och, it’d be easier if I just moved this.  Then that.  I might as well hoover now I’ve uncovered all the dust.  Oh hell, it’ll take 15 seconds to shift the chest of drawers.  Now I need to hoover there.  Do you know, I could add Midi’s books to the bookcase if I just move this here… and that there…  Oh wow, it’ll all be much better if I move the bookcase altogether… to there.  Oh look, space for another bed… 

So, while The Boss made dinner (super-fresh mackerel – yum!  Mini Minx ate half a fillet.  Slurped it up with barely a chew.  Couldn’t get enough.  That’s my girl!) I basically moved the kids in together.  By the time he called “dinner’s on the taaaaaaable!” it was all done.  He thought I’d gone up to give it a bit of a tidy, so his face was a picture.  And my back was a tad achy.

After dinner, I decided I could use the space more efficiently.  So moved it all around.  My back now hurt a lot.  Then I changed it all again because it gave an escape route out the window for Houdini Midi.  Then one more time.  Then went online to search for some affordable new bits and bobs of furniture.  And research paint.  So tomorrow I shall mostly be resting my silly back while The Boss purchases paint and photo shelves.  And probably catching up on sleep – Midi and Maxi love their new room very much, love being able to play and squabble into the night without a partitioning wall, so have only just gone to sleep…

I think the smartest thing about this evening was taking each girl up alone with me and getting them to decide something big.  Eg Maxi decided which shelves on the bookcase would be hers and which side of the room, and Midi helped me decide where to put the furniture.  They both loved that I put both their names on the door in big sticky letters and shifted some of their pictures around so that each part of the room felt like theirs.  Now here’s hoping that when each girl wakes in the night feeling lonely, she’ll stay in her room with her sister instead of waking me up!

Longest Angry Rant Yet

Short Version

Car garages.  Need I say more?

Long Version

OK.  I drive a Renault Grand Scenic.  Not by choice, mind.  When we had one baby I clung to driving my nippy, reliable, joyful and safe Ford Puma.  The downgrade to the battlebus of a Ford Focus Estate was needed with the impending arrival of Baby 2, need for space to fit a double buggy and a week’s food shopping and mountainous nappy change bag.  Not cool (burgundy…) but surprisingly powerful, reliable, safe and spacious.  We reluctantly changed from estate to MPV exactly a year ago when we discovered that the battlebus wouldn’t fit 3 car seats plus 2 adults (plus buggy, shopping, nappy bag, blah, blah, blah).  Factoring in costs brought our choices to Grand Scenic or Grand Scenic.  Luckily, there was just one for sale in N Scotland, about an hour’s drive away, at a main dealers.  We agreed a good price and part-exchanged the battle bus.  It seemed fated and I felt good.

Well, I did see in all my research before buying that Grand Scenics were rated highly for everything except reliability.  You’re not kidding.

We bought the car with some known defects (broken bits and pieces of luxury, pointless gadgets that we could live with, like a side window blind, the fan would only go up to ‘3’ because ‘4’ wouldn’t work, the back window would go down but never back up unless you locked the whole car, etc).  We anticipated a few things to go amiss, because in a 5 year old car, they generally do.  However…

In the cold, the car won’t accelerate well.  Well, it got to -18degC here.  And my driving is c/o the Stampy-Stampy School of Transit Vans.  I learned of the automatic power and acceleration limitations alongside a cheery fault message just as I was overtaking a tractor with another oncoming.  It takes time to think “OMFG, what the…?  Eh?  Oh.  OH!” as well as footer with accelerator, then drop down a gear for more poke, then ultimately brake (hard) and steer tightly.  My heart’s racing now at the recollection.

In summer, we discovered the air-con didn’t work.  The dealer (let’s call them ‘Carnold Lark’ to protect their identify) declared it needed a costly repair.  The local garage disagreed and suggested it might be because there was absolutely no fluid at all in the system.  Yet there were no leaks.  And when the fluid was replaced, it worked perfectly and continued to do so.  They hinted that Carnold Lark had a reputation for draining the system, then charging buyers for ‘fixing it’ later on.

One tyre wouldn’t hold pressure.  (Oh, did I tell you the fancy automatic tyre pressure sensors in each wheel didn’t work?  The Boss assumed they did; Cynical Me assumed they didn’t.  I won).  Renault recalled it to reprogramme the handbrake, so we asked the Renault Dealer (Garage 1) to check for a puncture and repair the tyre.  They changed the wrong tyre.  Neither they nor The Boss spotted the error, either – it was me with my suspicious head on, 2 weeks later, because the tyre still wouldn’t hold pressure.  Garage 1 refused to admit they’d done anything wrong (!) and wanted an additional premium charge to fit a new tyre on the original non-pressure-holding wheel. 

We went to Garage 2, who said it was ‘leaking on a dirty bead’.  They kindly took the tyre off and cleaned it out free.  No joy.  Still having to pump up tyre every journey.  Went back to Garage 2.  They’d been burgled in the night, said sorry we’re shut (or was it sorry we’re shit?  I forget), so we took it to Garage 3.  Garage 3 said definitely leaking on the bead, cleaned it up, and it’s been fine. Phew.

So you can imagine how upset I got when a week later *another* tyre got a puncture from the many nails left in the road from the building site next door…  This time, the only hassle was that suddenly the garage (Garage 2 again) noted that the car needed “Special” tyres because of the all-up weight.  That nearly doubled the price, and by now we were a zero salary family, on a hope and a promise of The Boss getting work soon.  Garage 1 were cheaper, so we returned to them sheepishly, having complaining about their fit-any-bloody-tyre-we-like to Trading Standards.

It’s now annual service time, so we went to Garage 4.  When it went, it worked fine.  When it returned, operating the rear windscreen wash mysteriously directed water to the *front*.  Turning on the rear wipers suddenly made you descend 2 flight levels and your radio retune to Radio 4.  (OK I lied about the FLs and radio – just to keep you awake).  I decided to live with this problem rather than take it back yet again because I feared what would go wrong with another ‘service’.  And negotiating visits to the garage is worse than trying to get a GP’s appointment.

So, imagine the gnashing of teeth and bumping of gums when The Boss admitted that Garage 4 had said that the rear brakes were binding because the handbrake cable was stuck and that they’d detected a botch job of a random spring being fitted to stop the handbrake binding.  Helpfully they took the spring off and affected surprise at there being no functioning handbrake.  “Nothing to do with us”, they insisted.  “We can’t even fix it”.

I can barely bring myself to write about it, I’m so angry.  We limped on for a bit leaving the car parked in first gear and carrying a wedge of a rock to use as a wheel chock just in case.  But ‘Safety First, Safety Second’, so we swapped £700 we didn’t have for one new entire handbrake module.  Still, we got a free carwash (worth £2.50!  Bonus!).  And they kindly *delivered* a free hire car to us for the day – Twingo.  With me, 3 kids and a double buggy shoehorned in to do the nursery run, ok it wouldn’t go above 45 mph on a slight incline, but I’m tempted to buy one, attach roof bars and botch-tape The Boss to them anytime we wanted to go anywhere as a family.

Anyone want to swap one for a crappy Grand Scenic?  I’ll throw in its current fuel tank, some of the minxes’ toys and some ground up biscuits in the carpet for free.