Saturday, 9 January 2010
As the frost settles on the grass and the mourners gather around the graveside, a crow is heard cawing over the bleak landscape. The priest murmurs the soothing litany and the honour guard snap their rifles to their shoulders and, at the sergeant's bark fire the three volleys into the cold, winter sky. I bend and gather some of the frigid dirt in my fist and open my hand over the hole. Then I open my fist and whisper, almost inaudibly, 'Goodbye old friend'.
My twelve year old Honda has finally died. I await the strict notice, the certificate and the verdict from my mechanic on Monday, but I know in my heart of hearts that this last will be final, be terminal. Goodbye old friend.
It has been mine these past four and a half years and together we have covered some serious miles. And the car was not young when I got it. The odometer read 122229 miles, but a review of past documents in the glovebox revealed that on its final inspection before I got it it had done 378000 miles. It bore the screwholes for a meter mount. It had been a minicab at sometime in its previous life.
And why not? The Accord was a big, comfortable saloon, economical in its diesel form and I have had on a summer run down to Portugal from Calais, more than 1100 k on one tank. 53 mpg on a full, heavy, old car. It was my workhorse.
It wasn't all roses though. Owning an old car never is and although I have been lucky with other motors over the years I had to pay out for this one. There were normal, wear and tear type problems, tyres, brakes etc, but these are to be expected. But as well as this I have had the linkage welded, the pedalbox replaced. The engine's values, rocker-shaft and pulley wheels done twice (once when the timing belt snapped, once when the oil pump failed). A new oil pump. The clutch replaced. A hole in the exhaust welded. The handbrake pump repaired. The fuel pump replaced. The master and secondary slave cylinders for the clutch and a new (well a replacement) gearbox. After a break in I've also had to fix two windows. They stole my cassette player worth practically nothing, but broke two (2!) windows getting in. I also had the electric windows repaired, a common fault on these cars it seems. It seems it is the gearbox which has died again. I await the verdict Monday.
That's quite a list. Readers are probably asking themselves why on earth I put up with a car constantly going wrong. It's simple really. It handled well, it ate up motorway miles and just fit me, my personality and my needs. But this 800 quid car probably had another 3000 spent on it in repairs. Not cheap motoring. But then look at the miles I have done. I have to estimate as the odometer has never worked since it was clocked before I bought it...
I think I have done between 80 and 110000 miles in these 4 and a half years. There's everyday motoring, the shops, work etc, coupled to some monster drives from UK, Spain, Portugal and Italy. The furthest north I have taken it is about an hour north of Glasgow, the furthest south probably Italy, near Bari. That'll be the furthest East too, and the beach here in Portugal will be the furthest West. I've been back and forth across Iberia many, many times. Once with a good friend we drove from Madrid to Portugal with only second and fourth gears. The old beast made it.
But tonight I think it is dead. I was towed from the side of the road for the fourth time (I've always otherwise managed to limp to a garage). It's time to say enough. Say goodbye to the old girl. I've slept in the back, taxied family and friends around, hauled stuff back and forth from the UK, overheated on the M25, the list soes on.
The Honda is dead.
Goodbye old friend.
Wednesday, 6 January 2010
Back to school... and the classes progress at a slightly easier pace. I like this time of the school year. We have tests in the middle of Feb, the end of our semester, but I've covered most of the material and so it's revision time, which the students don't mind so much if it comes in the form of games.
I've been thinking about the Cambridge exams and how the assessment of the students works and consider it not to be a level playing field in some respects. The speaking part of the exam is examined my local teachers who are examiners and are accustomed to the accents and foibles of the local language and I think tend to be more forgiving accordingly. The listening part of the exams have phoney accents (put on by the actors) with some frankly odd intonation and seems hardest for those taught by my US and Canadian colleagues, whose laconic drawl differs most from the delivery on the CDs Cambridge use. I had one nice comment from a student yesterday which made my evening (CAE level). He spent some of his Christmas hols in London with his parents (both of whom have the FCE). He said 'Dave! I am pleased I have you as my teacher because you speak so fast!'. I asked him to clarify what he meant. He said that because he was used to my delivery he could cope with the burbling cockneys he encountered, and had to translate for his folks, and so could show off!