Davey No-Mates

In-car conversation with Jen this morning:

J: I think his name must be Dave C.
R: Whose name?
J: The chap in that blue car. Its registration was D4 UEC.
R: That's not even close.
J: The 4 represents an A.
R: Yes…
J: …and the U represents a V.
R: No way! You can't have a U representing a V!
J: I didn't say it was any good. I was just trying to work out why he'd spent his money on a personalised numberplate, and what it was supposed to stand for.
R: Do you think his mates call him DAUE?
J: I don't reckon he'll have many mates.

Scents deprivation

My car started pestering me to replenish its screenwash fluid last week. So I used what I had, then went to Halfords to buy some more. A helpful shop assistant helped and assisted me to locate the screenwash, then asked which scent I preferred: berry or citrus.

Screen wash

Halfords berry- and citrus-scented screen wash.

I asked if they did a screenwash-scented screenwash. They didn't. So I asked what type of berries the berry-scented screenwash was supposed to smell like. He didn't know. Ditto the citrus-scented screenwash.

According to their bottles, the citrus-scented screenwash stays liquid down to -20°C, whereas the berry-scented screenwash only stays liquid down to -10°C. So I went for the citrus-scented screenwash—even though the temperature almost never drops below -10°C in this part of the world. Isn't science wonderful? Who would have thought that the choice of scent of screenwash fluid would make such a huge difference to its thermal properties?

I've been thinking about this episode on and off ever since. The thing is, I don't think it's at all important what my car's screenwash fluid smells like. OK, granted, I would prefer it not to smell like dog shit or earwax. But, given that the smell of screenwash before they add a fancy scent to it is, I presume, nothing like dog shit or earwax, I can't see the point of actually going to the trouble of giving it a different scent, to wit: unspecified berry or unspecified citrus fruit. Call me old-fashioned, but I really don't want that level of choice. What a particular brand of screenwash fluid smells like is not going to affect my decision whether to buy it or not. “What? You're all out of citrus? This is unacceptable. Fetch me the manager... No, I don't want any of your nasty, berry-scented rubbish, thank you very much. You leave me no choice but to take my custom elsewhere.” Such a conversation is never going to happen.

Like I say, I've been thinking about this quite a bit, and I've come to the conclusion that, when it comes to consumer choice, there is an ideal number of options for car screenwash scent. And that number is one.

Everything Hertz!

I passed my driving test when I was 17. In other words, 31 years ago. I don't know how far I've driven since then, but it must be half a million miles, give or take. Twenty times around the Earth, say. To the Moon and back.

And in all those hundreds of thousands of miles, not once—not on one single occasion—have I ever needed to consult the rev-counter on the dashboard of my car. Not once. Never.

True—touch wood—I've never had need of a seatbelt or airbag either. But seatbelts and airbags strike me as sensible precautions. But what the hell is a rev-counter for? For counting revs, obviously. But why on Earth would I need to know how many revs my car's engine is doing? To make sure I'm not over-revving, presumably. But I don't need a rev-counter to tell me when I'm over-revving, as I have a perfectly adequate pair of ears, and can tell when I'm over-revving because the car's engine starts screaming for mercy, and bits start flying off it. Even if my rev-counter were to tell me that the engine was revving within acceptable parameters—whatever the hell those might be—I would certainly ignore it if my ears told me otherwise. That's what ears are for. Well, that's one thing that ears are for. When it comes to flogging an engine—which I don't tend to do—I would far rather play it by ear than rely on some stupid dial telling me that I was doing 500,000,000 revs—or whatever.

The truth of the matter is that rev-counters are a total waste of space. The only reason they put them on car dashboards is because they can. Revs are something that can easily be measured, so measured they must be. If you were checking out a brand-new car in a showroom, and it didn't have a rev-counter on the dashboard, would you even notice? (Be honest, now, have you even noticed whether there's a rev-counter on your current car's dashboard?) And, if you happened to notice that the otherwise perfect new car in the showroom didn't have a rev-counter on its dashboard, would you kick up any kind of fuss about it with the salesperson? Or even try to use its inexplicable absence as some sort of haggling point? Of course you wouldn't: they would laugh in your face.

Diedrich Uhlhorn

Having a laugh: Diedrich Uhlhorn (R) and some apples.

Whoever it was who invented the rev-counter is laughing in our faces. Or they would be, were they not, presumably, long-dead by now. (Actually, I've just looked it up: it was the German engineer Dietrich Uhlhorn, and he died in Grevenbroich in 1837, so the joke was ultimately on him.)

Putting it quite simply, we don't need rev-counters on our dashboards. That space could be filled far more usefully. With yet another drinks-holder, say, or an ashtray—remember those?—or even a barometer. Anything, almost anything would be more useful on a car's dashboard than a sodding rev-counter.

Someone ought to do something.


This week saw the end of the road for Murphy, my faithful Audi A2. Over the last couple of weeks, Murphy's performance had become ropey, to say the least.


Murphy's odometer as I traded him in.

Fantastic car. I'd definitely buy an Audi again

But I didn't. I traded Murphy for a bag of magic beans.

Not into cars

I'm not into cars. As long as it's reliable, has reasonable acceleration, and gets me from A to B, I'll drive pretty much anything. I don't get people who want to change their cars every couple of weeks. My own car, Murphy, passed the 140,000 mile mark this week. I'm kind of hoping he makes it to 200,000. If he does, I'll be hoping for the quarter-million. Murphy has been a great little car.

To be honest, I don't know much about cars either. I even find it difficult to tell them apart. Jen is very good at identifying cars. She says cars are easier to identify than birds (which I am good at) because, unlike birds, cars have their names written on the back. I suppose she has a point.

Sometimes, when we're driving together, Jen will tease me by asking me to identify the car in front.

"What's that car?" she asked me once.

"No idea."

"Yes you do. You do know what kind of car it is."

"Give me a clue."

"OK… You're driving one."

Like I said, I'm not into cars.

But what I am into is Top Gear. The thing I like about Top Gear is that it is unashamedly for something. The entire premise of the show is that cars are utterly brilliant, and anyone who says they're not isn't worth bothering about. It makes no pretence at neutrality. It is totally biased, and totally entertaining. It's also beautifully shot, and pretty damn funny. Last week's review of the new Ford Fiesta was particularly so:

Like son, like father

My dad gave me a lift to the railway station the night I bought my defective railway ticket. As he was reversing out the drive in the dark, Dad made the following observation:

I remember when reversing lights were bright enough for you to actually see where you were going. You used to get two. Then some bright spark in London somewhere decided that two white lights on the back of a car looked like a car coming the other way…

Well they bloody well were a car coming the other way!

So now you know where I get it from.

It's sorted. It's gripped. Let's Off-Road!

Jen and I helped our friend the farmer chase cows today. We'd got them out of the field and they were heading in the right general direction, when the farmer suggested I head them off at the pass in her LandRover Defender.


I'd never driven a LandRover before. I almost fell at the first hurdle, trying to start the bloody thing (handy hint: the ignition is on the left side of the steering column), then I was off down the rough, dirt track at a blistering 10mph.

After a short while, I got a bit cocky and changed up to second. Easy-peasy! But then I came to a slight bend in the track and…

Nothing happened. I turned the bloody steering-wheel and nothing bloody happened!

I was about to scream and slam on the brakes, when the LandRover suddenly turned as I had wanted it to. Then another bend came along and exactly the same thing happened. It turned out there was a two-second delay between turning the steering wheel and the message getting through to the wheels.

I reckon I'll stick with Murphy.

Earlier cow-herding yarns: