German cars and matrix signs

Every so often I have to drive up to London on business. Today was such a day. The car was under the impression it was a mere 2 degrees C and I found myself broadly in agreement with it. It’s not really too bad a drive once you get used to it, the first half an hour or so is through the Forest after all. Trouble is the next hour and some is M27 and M3, how good is that. Actually during the extended Autumn it was somewhat alleviated by the remarkable colours of the trees alongside the M3 making it, if not a particularly poetic journey, at least visually more acceptable.

As ever the best thing about motorway driving was the other drivers. It’s a funny thing, regardless of how fast you are going, there is always a BMW who wants to go faster and imagines that by inserting themselves into your boot and possibly flashing their lights, you will be more inclined to move over and let them do exactly the same to the car in front of you. I have to confess that my initial reaction to this is probably not what the beamer drive wants, but is in all likelihood exactly what they would do if say a Porsche was to do the same to them. However if you’re going to drive on motorways you have to develop a mental state that allows for you to not feel your manhood is being challenged by such circumstances and just move over and let them pass. My rationale is that I would rather be able to see where they are in front of me than have them too close behind. Plus they are obviously plonkers and that makes me feel superior. Job done, I move over and they become someone else’s problem.

I may be being a little unfair on BMW drivers because the truth is that most Teutonic cars seem to attract a certain type of driver so eager to make your acquaintance that they risk joining you in an instant cut and shut should you have to brake too suddenly. I wonder if it’s the same ethos that requires all the deckchairs be commandeered and somehow is inseminated into the beamer and Audi drivers by some cunning adaption of pine tree shaped air fresheners. I have noticed that Passat drivers are now similarly effected although mercifully I have yet to suffer the indignity of a Trabant attempting the same thing.

Whilst on the subject of motorway driving, what is the point of the single matrix signs? The ones I am best aquainted with on the M3 seem to have a randomise program which flashes up arbitrary speed limits which bear no relation to traffic conditions. They will show a speed limit of 40mph on a straight road with no other cars in sight, yet insist that 60 is a reasonable speed when you are already sitting in a queue. They have now been joined over the whole length of the M3 by large overhead matrix signs similar to the sort that instructed Steve Martin in LA Story. When they have nothing to do, they have a little game of guess-how-long-your-journey-will-take and give distances and times to prominent junctions. All I can say is they have never attempted to drive down the M3, particularly in the vicinity of Winchester. How long that particular stretch will take on any one day is completely in the lap of the gods, and the beamers.

Car parts and crash repairs

OK I admit it, a ‘red-top’ headline worthy of any tabloid as far as being ever so slightly exaggerated is concerned. However I’m still a tad traumatised so I claim mental immunity. I was parking my car in the car park at church before a Christmas carol practise last night when this large wall jumped out in front of me and ran towards my car, officer. Fortunately walls don’t move too quickly and neither was I at the time so I was forced to accept the valiant sacrifice of the front number plate in deflecting the wall. I have heard that it is possible to put an automatic into drive instead of park by mistake, but obviously that wasn’t what happened here.

At least it gave the tiler a good laugh when I mentioned it to him this morning, so we got away with the footprints in the dust. He said that accidents of that nature happened a great deal in this area and related several eye-watering instances he had heard about. A large number of said accidents had happened due to the drivers age and possibly confused state or lack of vision, apparently. I was a little surprised I have to say, I know there is quite a high percentage of the more mature in the area, but I had no idea there were so many highly mobile walls. I will have to be more careful of them in the future.

Fortunately we have an auto parts shop in Lymington, one of the more useful shops for people who actually live here, and joy of joys, it sold number plates. I was informed when I phoned up that I would need some form of identity and something called the “V5 logbook”. I confess to being somewhat auto-challenged so initially I had no idea what he was talking about, so I just said “sure, no problem” and hung up. Turns out that it’s a piece of paper in multiple colours and sections which is actually the vehicle registration document and proves that you own the car with the number plate you wish to purchase. I knew I had one of these and after a shortish search in my highly organised filing cabinet, off I went clutching said document. As the car parts guy drily commented, it took longer to fill in the statutory forms than to actually make the number plate, but it covers him in case I turn out to be a gangster intending to steal just the front half of a car. If you’ve never replaced a plastic number plate then you will not have had the enjoyment of reading the instructions regarding how to drill suitable mounting holes in it. And you will therefore not be aware that there is a special drill bit for drilling holes in acrylic number plates with a very specific cutting angle. Thought you might like to know that.