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Trapped in the car park

Story location: Home / Blog / work /
11/Feb/2009

It took me about an hour to park the car and get to my office this morning. Getting into the car park was easy - my pass card opened the barrier. The car park was full so I tried to leave to go to another car park. Actually the car park was had plenty of spaces but they were all in the roped off empty upper floor of the multi-storey. The top floor had been closed due to the risk of ice.

I drove to the 'out' barrier and swiped my card but the barrier failed to open. A queue of cars started to form behind me. A few other people tried the barrier but it wouldn't open for them either. We phoned security and waited for them to arrive. It took 3 people and a lot of trial and error before they managed to get the barrier open. I eventually managed to leave and find my way to another car park which had some proper spaces, which happened to be a decidedly non-icy top floor of another multi-storey car park.



Waiting In

Story location: Home / Blog /
21/Jan/2009

I'm not used to spending time at home during the week and didn't realise how many annoying useless phone calls we receive. My car was being serviced so I was waiting for the garage to call to say it was ready to collect. Within a couple of hours I had call trying to sell me replacement doors and other home improvements, and a call from BT trying to sell me their broadband package.

I try not to be rude to phone salespeople but I wanted them off the phone as quickly as possible to keep the line clear for the garage to call. Eventually it was ready and I went to collect it.

On the drive to work I encountered a windscreen washing bloke at some traffic lights. Whenever the traffic stopped he would walk out and start cleaning a windscreen, completely uninvited. The lights turned green while he was still faffing about. I couldn't easily get to my wallet so I drove off. He must be used to that kind of thing, but if I wanted to wash my windscreen, I would use the windscreen wipers which have been standard issue on cars since at least the 1930s.



Tis the season to drive like a knobhead

Story location: Home / Blog /
27/Dec/2008

Christmas brings out the usual crap drivers. While we were away we saw one idiot on the A6 south of Stockport. He was driving along perfectly normally then, without warning, he would swerve violently from left to right for a few seconds, then get back to driving normally again. It looked a bit like when racing drivers swerve to warm their tyres before a race. We couldn't decide whether he was a moron, was drunk, or just thought it was funny.

On Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson has commented on how 'cocks' have started driving Audis instead of BMWs. We saw a prime example of this too. We were driving through a village where there was a 40mph speed limit. A knobhead in a black audi decided that the speed limit didn't apply to him, and he was swerving past the other cars in his haste to get past everyone. We saw a similar moron on the motorway driving a silver Ford Focus, changing lanes every few seconds because he didn't want to drive sensibly behind people at a junction.

We encountered our final knobhead of the season (so far) on our way back home, driving along Holyhead road towards Coventry. A moron in a crappy little Renault was tailgating me. I braked in an attempt to force him to slow down and increase the gap but it didn't work. We finally lost him at a junction where he went a different way. At our last sight of him, he was still driving like a knobhead, tailgating a taxi.



In Stevenage

Story location: Home / Blog / work /
09/Dec/2008

I'm in Stevenage for a few days, on a training course.

The train journey down here was ok. I only had to wait a couple of minutes for each connection. At King's Cross Station, I had a long walk to platform 9 for my train, although I did pass the famous Platform 9¾ on the way. My train was at the platform ready to leave so I didn't have time to stop and take a photo.

Stevenage town centre is a bit of a concrete dump. It's like the worst parts of Coventry town centre, only darker and more desolate.



Kingswinford Hamster Show

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /
29/Nov/2008

It was foggy this morning as we drove to the hamster show. Along the M6, we knew Birmingham was out there but couldn't see any sign of it.

The Christmas hamster shows are always a bit special compared to the normal meetings. The hamster club puts on a buffet which always goes down well. There is usually a good turn-out which means more competition which usually means our hamsters don't do as well as normal. We only won the one trophy, for our Winter White hamsters.



How walkable is your neighbourhood?

Story location: Home / links /
01/Sep/2008

A few weeks ago I discovered the Walkscore website. You give it an address and it uses Google Maps to plot nearby facilities and calculates a walkability value for the area.

We live near Coventry city centre and putting in our address gives a walkability of 53/100, or 'Somewhat Walkable'. There are some shops nearby which aren't on the map so I might add them and see what difference it makes.

Update: 01/01/09
I've re-run the score for our home address and it's gone up to 71/100 which is still 'Somewhat Walkable'. It looks like some of the local shops and take-aways have been added to the database.



A bit like Spielberg's Duel

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /
07/Aug/2008

This morning's commute was a bit like something out of the film Duel. When I joined the ring road, a lorry flashed its headlights to let me on. We both left at the same junction and drove 3 miles down the same road, turning right at the crossroads.

I pulled into the car park to let Emma out, then turned around and drove back to the main road. The lorry had also pulled into the car park and turned around, and followed me back to the road.

At the next crossroads I turned left, with the lorry following me. I took the next turning left, but by now I had managed to get a bit ahead. I think the lorry also took the same turning but it was too far behind me so I can't be certain.

I'm sure this is just coincidence, and nothing sinister at all. There are roadworks in the area and some roads are closed. Otherwise the lorry wouldn't have had to turn around where it did. I think the driver might have found himself at the wrong end of the roadworks and the route to the other side happened to be the same route I was taking.



Google Street View

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /
03/Aug/2008

This morning we were joining the ring road when we saw a car parked on the side of road (where Gosford Street turns into Far Gosford Street) with a strange camera-like attachment on the roof. I wondered whether it was one of the Google cars - this was confirmed by the small 'Google' logo on the door.



Bacon is not a Vegetable

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /
13/Jul/2008

Seen in a shop at a motorway service station on the M1:

Bacon is not a vegetable

Yes we have no bananas



Weekend

Story location: Home / Blog /
06/Jul/2008

We were away at the weekend, up north to a friends wedding. The drive up was terrible - the M6 was a slow crawl nearly all the way from Birmingham up to Junction 17, where the motorway was closed due to an accident.

We stopped at Stafford Services on the way, and had a walk by the lake.

Stafford Services geese

Stafford Services Lake

The wedding went well. Despite all the rain, it stayed dry for the photos after the service. The reception was held in a marquee at the groom's parent's farm. We were supposed to be camping in a nearby field overnight but we had to delay pitching out tent thanks to the non-stop rain this morning. We managed to get the tent erected in the afternoon but it needed both of us - one to stop the tent blowing away while the other pushed the tent pegs into the ground.



Automatic for the People

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /
12/Mar/2008

I was driving a hire car today. I don't know whether the University regularly hires automatic cars but that's what I got. It's only the 2nd time I've driven one - I'm more used to a normal manual gearbox. It feels weird driving a car without a handbrake or a clutch, and the sluggishness from a standing start is a bit annoying (although the last point may have been because it was also a diesel).

When I got back this afternoon and returned the car, I got back into my own car to drive home. It then started to feel weird needing to press the clutch. The steering also felt strange - the hire car had very light steering whereas my car doesn't have power assisted steering so it felt very heavy.

While I was out, I heard about an unexploded 2nd World War bomb found in the city centre. Later this afternoon I read about the ring road being closed in an anticlockwise direction, but it was open and moving freely when I drove home. It looks like I got home just in time.



Top Gear

Story location: Home / Blog / tv /
19/Dec/2007

Thanks to the BBC iPlayer, I finally managed to watch the episode of Top Gear where they 'celebrate' 40 years of British Leyland cars. Unfortunately the episode I originally downloaded failed to work - the licence had 'expired' despite having 5 days left - so I had to watch the version with the sign language person 'flapping' in the corner of the screen.

In the episode, the presenters had to go out and buy an old BL car each, and then perform various tasks. They drove to the sites of some of the old factories, but most of them had since been demolished. The only one still in use is now owned by BMW. Others had been demolished and (like Longbridge) were derelict land or had been turned into hotels or offices.

At the site of the old factory in Coventry they commented on how it had turned into a hotel. They complained that there was nothing to commemorate the site of the factory, apart from a few road names (Herald Avenue, Dolomite Avenue). They must have missed the metal plinth which gave some of the history of the site.

Plinth at site of old car factory in Canley
Plinth at site of old car factory in Canley
The Canley factory has gone the same way as most of the motor manufacturing in Coventry. A lot of the sites have been converted into flats, offices or shops. The Canley site has an industrial estate, a hotel and a Sainsburys. The Peugeot site at Stoke is now flats and offices. The only cars made within Coventry are the Black Cabs, made by London Taxi International, at the factory on Holyhead Road. This factory (tucked behind the BMW/Mini dealership) is opposite yet another shopping centre built on the site of an old car factory - the Alvis Retail Park.

Anyway, back to Top Gear. They took their old cars to a test track and had to drive along a bumpy cobbled road, with a colander of eggs taped over their heads. They scored depending on how how much egg was still in the colander, and lost 'points' for any trim which fell off. The biggest bit of 'trim' lost was the back door from Clarkson's Rover SD1.

Another of the tests was to drive up a 1 in 3 stretch of road, apply the handbrake, and see if the car would stay there. Now 1 in 3 is very steep - lesser gradients make it feel like the car is tipping over backwards. The Rover had great difficulty even getting up the slope. The wheels lost traction and the wheelspin hid the car in huge clouds of smoke.

Back when I lived in Aberystwyth, there was a 1 in 4 road between Waen Fawr and Llanbadarn. At the bottom of the hill there was a T junction and I had to approach it very slowly because it always felt like the car wasn't going to stop. Heading the other way, up the hill, unless I managed to get a good run up I had to take the hill in 1st gear. At the time I only had a Rover Metro with a 1.1 litre engine so it struggled when presented with challenges like that.

We got rid of the Metro a few years ago, but we noticed the address in the back of the handbook was given as 'Canley Road' - the site now occupied by the hotel/industrial estate/Sainsburys. I did a search for the postcode on Google maps but it doesn't exist any more.

Getting back to Top Gear, the tests became more surreal. They filled the cars with water and drove around the track to see which would go the furthest. The surprising winner was an Austin Princess driven by Captain Slow.

Top Gear is at its best when they have the silly games and challenges. Most of the car reviews get very tedious. They tend to be either overexpensive cars being driven fast around the track while being compared with other overexpensive cars, or small/affordable/economical cars being accused of being dull and boring. I can't be the only viewer who gets tired of hearing about the latest supercar with zero relevance to everyday life. It's like a car version of the pathetic Celebrity type of magazine.

Despite these problems, the banter between the presenters is good. The 3-way reviews, where they all go out with similar cars and compare them, tend to be more interesting than the one-off reviews with individual cars. Hopefully they'll continue to do more of the motoring challenges - the one where they had to drive old cars across Africa was one of the better episodes of the series.



The Red Light Zone

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /
10/Dec/2007

I don't know whether the population of Coventry doubled over the weekend but the traffic was much busier than usual on the way home tonight.

Near one one the many roundabouts on the way home, there is a bus lane. It is separated from the main carriageways by a traffic island. There are traffic lights here, the ones for the bus lane are always red unless there is a bus approaching.
Tonight, a lot of cars seemed to want to use the bus lane. They didn't seem to realise that the light was never going to turn green for them. The traffic in our lane was moving so slowly, we got a good look at the long queue of cars stuck in the bus lane, waiting in vain for the lights to change.



Half Term

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /
27/Oct/2007

It normally takes us around 30-45 minutes to drive to the University in the mornings. We normally encounter bottlenecks of traffic near the railway station, along Kenilworth road near the A45, and on Charter Avenue. This week it has only taken around 10 minutes to do the same drive, with no hold-ups anywhere.

We were wondering where all the traffic had gone, then it occurred to us that it was school half term. Some of the decrease in traffic would be due to people taking time off work to take their children on holiday, but I'm sure most of it is due to the absence of parents driving their kids to school.

I find it amazing that all the extra 'school run mums' add enough traffic to make the roads grind to a halt and increase journey time by a factor of 3 or 4.



Deer in the Road

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /
15/Oct/2007

Part of the Coventry ring road was closed yesterday - there was a long queue of traffic approaching junction 5. Thankfully we managed to avoid it by staying on the slip road and got to our exit ok. The rest of our drive to work was uneventful. There was hardly any traffic on the Kenilworth road - all the cars must have been stuck on the ring road.

According to the news, the incident was caused by a deer on the road. Unfortunately the animal had been hit by a car and had to be put down.

What I find puzzling is where the deer came from. There aren't any large expanses of green near junction 5 of the ring road. Coventry might be a small city but a deer still has a long way to walk to get there from either the parks or the surrounding countryside.