Green cred

I have often mentioned the climate change in previous posts. My husband maintains that as I get older I get more like a tree hugger, ‘Why don’t you go and marry swampy?’ he says. The most recent issue that prompted this statement was a discussion on cars.

We are petrolheads. Ever since I was in my early teens, I have been an avid watcher of Top Gear (and inadvertently observed the demise of Jeremy Clarkson’s barnet). I used to join the sniggerers every time Clarkson mocked emissions over power. I will die a girl-racer, I enjoy speed too much to give it up but as I have matured and looked beyond the realms of me, myself and I, cars for me have a responsibility to be cleaner and safer.

I believe we have been going at a snail’s pace when it comes to developing cleaner and more efficient engines that can run on renewable fuels. This is because manufacturers have not felt enough pressure from customers to change engine power.

So when my hubby started scanning the market for a new car, all the usual suspects were off my short list because of emissions. Yet it is difficult to find a car that ticks that box and looks ok too.

Its almost as if you have to compromise streetcred for greencred.

The Royals aren’t exactly helping the cause either, with range rovers chuffing around their kingdom snow-ploughing through the paparazzi and the ozone layer.

So when we do get round to replacing the car, I plan to make a green statement and get the car with the lowest emissions possible.  The best is electric but we live out in the sticks and at least an hour away from our nearest ‘plug’. So why haven’t they made them more available?

Think we should go back to the original horsepower. At least I can do something useful in the garden with the waste products.

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Top gear for top dog?

What does your car say about you?

I watched Top Gear earlier this evening and sat in front of the TV green with envy. Oh to be Jeremy Clarkson – paid a substantial sum for weaving the new Alfa Romeo Disco Portofino (or something like that) through the stunning Italian countryside. Or Richard Hammond flying over sand dunes in a pumped up Merc Gwagon (or something like that). I try to think of the downsides of the job but struggle …. they may have to get up early in the morning???

I have been watching Top Gear since I was very young – it was the incentive to getting my homework done. My interest in cars has never faded, likewise with my hubby. Together we struggle to keep a car for more than 2 years because we get bored easily and want to try something new. We are of course on a limited budget so none of our cars are terrible exciting, plus they have to tick a number of ‘practical’ boxes (mpg, luggage space, room for kids and dogs). We have never bought new and like to hunt for a bargain. I think we should go down the lease car route given are penchant for swapping cars so frequently but hubby needs convincing.

So in the meantime its the used and hopefully not too abused market. We have had our current car (Soda Octavia VRS) for over a year now and can’t fault it. This has presented us with a problem because we like to identify a logical reason why we need to change the car so that we don’t feel so irresponsible about buying a new one.

Because we can’t find fault with the car, we have turned to our immediate environment (flooded like the rest of the SE in the UK) and concluded that the car does not suit the harsh terrain of where we live (the home counties). After having been through one too many potholes that have made us wince as the car shudders its way out of them, we have decided to pursue the rugged SUV/ small 4 x 4 option. Nothing to do with feeling marginally higher than everyone else (hubbys pick up does that). But ticking this box and the mpg and luggage space box is not easy. I rather like the look of the Toyota Rav 4 and was impressed when I saw a family of 5 jump into one after a dog walk earlier today. Although I can’t recall if they had a dog with them… The dog makes all the difference. We have 2 small dogs that are hardly there (often I am calling them while on a walk not realising that they are standing directly by my feet they are that small) but the cage they travel in (essential for keeping them contained in transit) is massive despite being the smallest one on the market. There is definitely a gap in the market for dog cages for short dogs. 

So in order to get the car we would really like we need to re-think our dog transportation method. Our dogs are smaller than most cats so maybe one of those little wicker cat cages you see grants use to take their darling kitty cats to the vets might be the answer.

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Living Life a Quarter Mile at a time, Paul Walker

I am watching Top Gear at the moment and I had been hoping that at some point in the next promotional run of the Fast & Furious franchise, Paul Walker would be the next ‘star in a reasonably priced car’. But, tragically, I am writing this on the day after his death when the Porsche he was travelling in as a passenger crashed and burst into flames, killing Paul and his friend. Throughout the day I have listened to the news reports with a heavy heart. It is strange to grieve for someone you have never met, but like most of us who admire celebrities, you feel like you somehow know them because they have been part of your existence, even though their presence was purely on-screen.

As the day wore on more details on the crash were released. I was vey disturbed to hear an interview that implied Paul and his friend had been trapped and that the emergency services couldn’t get to them in time before the car went up n flames. This fact is unbearable to comprehend.

Maybe Paul, like his alter ego Brian O’ Connor in F&F, lived life a quarter mile at a time. The same could be said of most petrol heads, speed and the feeling of being on the edge is not only exhilarating it is a sensation that is a must-have in life, despite the obvious risk. In fact it is the risk that is part of the thrill. I mentioned this when reviewing the 2 different types of racing drivers in an earlier blog about the film Rush. Some drivers take calculated risks and adopt precision driving techniques, others run the car ragged, driving every bend like it is their last with either disastrous or glorious results.

I obviously don’t know what kind of driver Paul was. All I know was that he wasn’t driving when he died and that is a tragedy in itself.

I will miss Paul and his films as he was the only actor and celebrity I cared about or paid attention to. I also admired all his work with charity ROWW, who will be feeling his loss even more than his fans.

I know that Vin Diesel will do the most amazing tribute to Paul’s memory on the release of the next and probably final F & F.

As a fan I will remember him through support of ROWW and his obvious driving talent which is up there with greats like Mcqueen, Newman, Dean, Hunt and Senna.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. Please view my campaign here.

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Rush for the Rush movie

Just watched the latest episode of Top Gear and enjoyed the interview with Ron Howard in anticipation of the film ‘Rush’ about the duel in 70’s F1 between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. This well-known competitive pairing came well before my time but I enjoyed watching Niki’s participation in the sport throughout the decades and like the idea of James Hunt’s stripped down and raw approach to racing representing everything remotely ‘laddish’ about racing. 

I am sure the success of film ‘Senna’ contributed to Ron’s inspiration for making the film. There is something about people putting life on the line just to fulfil their passion and ambition that is spine-tingling to observe. What motivates people to carry on doing what they enjoy or believe in when that lifestyle nearly kills them? Niki Lauda endured horrific burns yet returned to race regardless. Senna, arguably, knew his car wasn’t right on the grid of what proved to be the fatal race at Imola. The camera shot of his face as he sat in the car that later killed him is haunting.

I think that is what is so appealing about Formula One – the personal struggles to be the best regardless of cost. Arguable this has become more muted over time but nethertheless it has to be respected that it is still one of the most dangerous sports in the world.

See the trailer for The Rush movie here.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. If you are able to donate to the campaign, please visit my page on Unicef’s website.

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We have an unhealthy addiction

Its cars. Buying cars. =-iooiiui (apologies for that interruption that was my husband getting annoyed by my typing at the table) Never mind that he is noisily chomping his way through a fruit crumble (yes can you tell that we are nearing a decade  of marriage !).

We cant stop looking at Auto Trader. This was a problem when I was a kid – and when he was a kid too. We are both petrol heads (I wish we had horses in common too then he would  be a bit more supportive of the idea of buying a horse and would ignore the fact that they are, I quote, “a bloody money-pit”).

Back in the 90s I would make sure my homework was done after school and then switch on the TV every Thursday night to watch Jeremy Clarkson and his bouffant hairdo pontificate wittily over a car. I loooved Top Gear (although I thought Tiff Needell was a bit of a twat). I enjoyed it when Vicky Butler-Henderson was on the team too as she squeaked her way round corners as if she was Barbara Windsor in a bikini being chased by a horny man.

When I wasn’t watching Top Gear (and collecting the magazines) I was looking through Auto Trader for my first car. I desperately wanted a VW – didn’t care what model, I guessed it would be a polo with my parent’s budget. The years passed and the time came to get my first wheels and my parents bought my car secretly and were going to reveal it to me on my birthday.  But then one day my Mum let the cat out of the bag when she was talking to me about insurance. She said, “and when we have insured the Golf….blah ….blah…b;ah” The rest was a blur as I leapt around the room screaming ‘yes’ ‘yes’ ‘yes’ like the Harry met Sally film clip. “Why are you so excited/” said my Mum completely oblivious to what she had just said. “I’m getting a Golf, I’m getting a Golf, I’M GETTING A GOLF!!! Whoop Whoop. The penny dropped and my Mum clapped her hand over her mouth, “Did I just say Golf, oh bloomin bloomin”. I didn’t care that it wasn’t quite my birthday yet. It was the best birthday present ever.

She was called Gertrude and she was that kind of weird VW Green – not dark green or light green or evergreen – it would be best described as Golf Green. Describing her colour proved tricky when describing my location to the AA (which I had to do on frequent occasions) particularly when it had been raining. When I described it as “sort of Green” I remember the AA man saying “Golf Green?” , “Yep that’s it you’ve found her”. Every time I started the engine I had to go through this bizarre ritual, which felt like I was trying to communicate with the engine gods, either that or waking Gertrude up gently.

1) Put key in ignition and pull choke out (wake Gertrude up by whispering in her ear)

2) Wait for all the  red lights to come on (plump up her pillows and offer her some tea)

3) Pump the accelerator 5 times (give her some toast and marmalade)

4) Turn the engine then rev it for a while until the cloud behind you has disappeared and passers by can remove gas masks (make sure she has been to the loo before you go)

5) put choke in and press the accelerator a quarter of the way down – at which point she would suddenly lurch forward (make sure you have hold of her hand once out and about!)

She hated the wet. Once I was pulling on to the dual carriageway to go in the opposite direction from a side road. I crossed the first part fine but then she died on me as I was crossing the fast lane. Thankfully I was opposite a pub and a few lads could see my rather hairy predicament so quickly ran across the road to push me to the side and back on safe ground again. I did a lot of mileage in her when I used to return home from university – from Plymouth to the South East. On my return journey to Plymouth we successfully negotiated the A303 (slow uphills, very fast downhills) but then we just passed the ’10 mile to Plymouth’ sign when she died on me (it had been raining). So I pulled to the side and rang up boyfriend to come rescue me. A very kind policeman pulled up behind me in the interim (which at first made me shit myself) but it turned out he just wanted to make sure I was OK until my boyfriend arrived (sorry have just hit a button that has made the font into italics and  cant seem to undo it) I think it also might have had something to do with the serial killer that was on the loose at the time although I tried not to think too hard about that one on a dark wet Devonshire evening.
 
Because I wanted to be cool, Gertrude had a No Fear sticker in the rear windscreen (although not sure how much fear is experienced by the average person when the top speed is 50mph). However she was not for the faint hearted. Her accelerator used to stick which was tricky in a traffic jam as she was an automatic. You had to jam your foot on the brake like you were holding back a thoroughbred at the start of a race and she completely ignored the handbrake – just powered through it (and into the Volvo in front which was a shade embarrassing).
 
I once pulled over to post a letter and after I had done the deed I could hear a roaring engine behind me, I turned to see a demented Golf rocking to and fro with smoke pouring out of its exhaust. I ran to poor old Gertrude to see what  was wrong and discovered her accelerator was stuck again and she was doing the equivalent revs of 70 mph. Thank fuck the handbrake was virtually touching the ceiling to hold her back. 
 
She was a very cool car though. She was only a really basic model but she had the GTI trim – wheels, steering wheel etc. I remember my boyfriend was very jealous when he met me as he had a shitty 1 litre Fiesta. When we met I invited him to follow me home after I dropped my friends off (I was a bit of a slut back then) and then tested how keen he was by putting my foot down along the motorway.
 
My Dad ended up with my beloved Gertrude and it was lovely to see my dad driving around in her complete with the No Fear sticker.
 
I have had soo many cars since then and we change them more often than other things that you change regularly. Our last car we had for about 9 months. But taking a trip down memory lane has made me hanker after buying a classic for Sunday drives (now we are getting a bit older) and I quite fancy a Mini. Although a Mark One Golf Gti would be something else. I forgot to tell you Gertrude was a Mark One….the best Golf ever……before they started getting fat and their drivers started getting old and dull.
 
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