This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Willy’s MB – popularly known as the Jeep. The first four wheel drive vehicle that many people came into contact with through service in the forces in the Second World War, it provided the springboard for the whole 4×4 industry – particularly once the Land Rover came along in 1948. There are an awful lot of Land Rovers – nearly five million in their various flavours.

One of them is sitting on our front drive – a 2003 Freelander. Want to buy it? It seems the market for older second-hand 4x4s has died. Our car has a book price of £3200, but the best trade-in we’ve been offered is £1400 because “nobody wants ’em”. With most 4×4 manufacturers now offering much more economical models (the latest Freelander diesel has similar mpg figures to a Ford Focus, compared with our model’s 29mpg on a good day, downhill with a following wind) and petrol at £1.35 or more per litre, people are shunning older models in favour of cheaper options.

As always, those who can not afford a new car are left to run more expensive models. Using the tax system to penalise drivers of gas-guzzling cars may seem well-and-good and is well intentioned, but it tends to penalise the poor twice over – first on the extra cost of running the car (be it an aging 4×4 or an aging saloon) and on the higher tax disc costs. In rural areas, a 4×4 is a pragmatic choice – when roads around here were effectively closed to non 4x4s by snow for more than a week earlier this year, if you wanted to get to work, school, the shops or – in our case – infirm parents who might need help at a moment’s notice, an older gas-guzzling 4×4 is vital. Our road is full of them (at least eight in a road of just 31 households).

So, what do you do? Wait for the new car fairy to wave a magic, fuel-efficient wand?

Post title inspired by this.

Meme instead of work

So sue me. Or him.

1. My uncle once: fell over the side of an aircraft carrier in a plane. Actually, he did it more than once.

2. Never in my life: flown in a hot air balloon.

3. When I was five: I began primary school. My teacher was called Miss English, and I told her that my parents were aged 21 and 18.

4. High school was: not as great as people sometimes claim. But not as bad either. And probably a missed opportunity, particularly the sixth form.

5. I will never forget: the day that Tom was born.

6. Once I met: Molly Sugden. She visited my parent’s nursery and forgot to take her credit card after the transaction.

7. There’s this girl I know. Fact.

8. Once, at a bar: I was stalked by a midget with a perm.

9. By noon, I’m usually: thirsty.

10. Last night: I fought with Tom whilst trying to persuade him to sleep and then went to bed early myself. My patience is dramatically reduced when I feel ill.

11. If only I had: more money, time and self-discipline.

12. Next time I go to church: I’ll probably be with Tom and we’ll admire the architecture.

13. What worries me most: is not much at all. I don’t worry about much, as it seems a rather futile activity. But I’m concerned about the future, like most people. You can only wish to be happy, comfortable and for your child to have it better than you did.

14. When I turn my head left I see: the garden – lots of plants in flower, plus Tom’s trike parked outside the door.

15. When I turn my head right I see: a couple of pot plants and the stereo.

16. You know I’m lying when: I admit to it.

17. What I miss most about the Eighties is: the lack of responsibility. As I was in my early to mid teens during that period, I didn’t have much responsibility at all. Unfortunately, it was a missed opportunity – I should have grasped those years a bit more.

18. If I were a character in Shakespeare I’d be: Banquo? Nah, who am I kidding?

19. By this time next year: we’ll be millionaires, Rodney! Alternatively, I might have finished those draft posts for this site.

20. A better name for me would be: um, actually, I like the one I have.

21. I have a hard time understanding: people who don’t think things through and use the evidence available to their own senses. I can understand why Richard Dawkins gets so frustrated by people who don’t agree with the findings of empiricists.

22. If I ever go back to school, I’ll: have taken a wrong turning.

23. You know I like you if: I relax. You’ll know it when you see it.

24. If I ever won an award, the first person I would thank would be: Hels.

25. Take my advice, never: clean your headlamps with a baby wipe and then try to stick “beam benders” on. It won’t work. (What? You wanted a philosophical answer??)

26. My ideal breakfast is: Dorset Cereals Simply Delicious muesli with cold milk. Plus eggs, bacon, toast, tomato, black pudding, juice, coffee, cheese, bread, ham…

27. A song I love but do not have is: not known to me yet. I tend to download stuff I like soon after hearing it.

28. If you visit my hometown, I suggest you: visit the Cathedral and then a pub (assuming you mean the place I consider my hometown. If you mean the place where I live, then visit the church – it has a surprise inside).

29. Why won’t people: just give me the f***ing money now!

30. If you spend a night at my house: you’d eat well, drink well and, hopefully, relax.

31. I’d stop my wedding for: nothing, except a fire alarm perhaps. Done it already.

32. The world could do without: about three quarters of its human population. Obviously you and I are exempt from this.

33. I’d rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: its feet.

34. My favourite blonde(s) is/are: my wife.

35. Paper clips are more useful than: staples if you want to take the pages apart again after fixing them together.

36. If I do anything well it’s: cook duck à l’orange.

37. I can’t help but: I have a short attent

38. I usually cry: when peeling onions.

39. My advice to my child/nephew/niece: is to never stop asking questions.

40. And by the way: isn’t it your round?


Rommel Markt

Rommel Markt. Photo hosted at Flickr

Rommel Markt
Originally uploaded by graybo.

The perfect place to get your lovely fresh Rommels. Three for a fiver!

Spotted by junction 43 of the A59 near Vlijmen, Netherlands. 8 December 2005.


Image021.jpg. Photo hosted at Flickr

Originally uploaded by graybo.

I have all sorts of issues with any manner of things – politics, people, clients, competitors, the weather, the cat’s muddy feet. Can I now get these issues resolved at McDonald’s?

Last night at Schiphol…

[written yesterday at the airport]

There’s something about being in airports, even the more cosmopolitan variants such as Schiphol, that makes you feel like you are suddenly a character in Rocko’s Modern Life. As I fought my way through the aisles of the shop in the departures lounge, surveying the endless rows of over-priced tat in a half-hearted and ultimately futile attempt to find a small gift for H (cow-shaped photo frame, anyone?), a clearly over-enthusiastic floor-sweeper operator patrolled across the store in an excessively frenetic and slightly crazed manner, literally sweeping all (including magazines, postcards, stray luggage and unattended children) before him. Meanwhile, a grotesquely overweight American, complete with shockingly pink navel glaring out through an opening in an over-stretched mid blue nylon shirt, ambles vacantly with an air of the lost (in every sense of the word). On the travelator, a tattooed Dutchman speaks rapidly to a girlfriend via his mobile phone whilst walking at full speed against the direction of the belt – perhaps some bizarre form of exercise for exhibitionists.
At gate D8, waiting for the flight to LGW, all one can hear is the monotonous, rapidly-repeated refrain of "Mind your step", delivered in a delicately accented female voice to travellers reaching the end of the moving walkway. A group of teenagers run for the end of the walkway, hoping to reach some sort of terminal velocity at the point where the walkway folds back under itself and they are catapulted onto the shiny tiled airport floor.

"Mr O’Toole, please report to airport information. Mr O’Toole, please report to airport information." Isn’t that one of those coded announcements, informing staff of a suspect package?

Evening sun is glowing across the aircraft on the apron as incredibly dark clouds loom over distant Amsterdam city centre. It’s been an incredibly foul day, with torrential rain, lots of standing water and slow-moving traffic on the A4. The sky promises a rough flight home. I ponder whether to go and get a copy of Wallpaper* Navigator, the new travel sub-brand of my favourite magazine that I’ve only just noticed (I tend not to browse magazine shelves at home, as the special subscriber edition of Wallpaper* is delivered to my home each month), but I feel that €10.99 is rather a lot for a magazine that costs £3.99 at home.

This has been a useful trip, with considerable amounts of knowledge gained, a few new contacts made and several old contacts refreshed. But I forget just how exhausting trade shows are to attend – an eight hour day yesterday of trudging the aisles, constant talking and vain attempts to absorb all of the information that is being presented to me; today, a 10am meeting (at least a civil hour at which to begin the day) followed by another four hours of aisle trudging, etc.

At the back of my mind are thoughts about our impending house-hunting and move. My travels here have been punctuated by several phone calls (including a very long one from the Gatwick departure lounge) to mortgage people, estate agents and Hels, all on that theme. Somehow, in spite of all the distractions around us, this weekend we must focus our attention on finding the right home in which to begin our married life – possibly the biggest decision we will make during our thirties (aside from the actual decision to marry, of course!). We have three candidate properties to view – two in need of significant refurbishment and one that has been recently refurbished but is in the middle of nowhere. The middle of nowhere option is the most appealing to us both at the moment – the property details are encouraging, the pictures of the property are encouraging, the location is encouraging and the price is encouraging. We have two properties sold. We have mortgage agreed. The pieces may, finally, be fitting together. But celebrations will be withheld until we have the keys in our hands.

Do Japanese tourists really shout a lot and take photographs of everything, or is it a popular myth? There is a group here that is doing nothing to dispel the untruth, if that is what it is. Oh oh, I’m getting grumpy.
Oh my god. There are dozens of them! Enough to half-fill the aircraft. Gah. AND I’ve run out of Maynards’ Wine Pastilles. This flight could last a lot longer than the scheduled hour. And nothing to read besides an EC Directive, as I arrived sufficiently early to demolish the entire Indy already.

And I’m sure I passed H’s local vicar by the tat shop.


I meant to write here about a phone call I received recently (when at Hels’s home, as my phone still isn’t working and BT are not convinced that there is a problem). The call started something like this:

Hello, sir. My name is Nigel, and I’m calling on behalf of Verylargetelephonecompany Limited to tell you about…

The question is, how many people are there called Nigel who have an accent from the Subcontinent?