Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Stop being cruel to cars

At 11 pm the car in the centre of the car park was a wedding cake decoration. I scritched the windscreen, the driver and passenger windows, the wing mirrors. The rear window was hard iced and beyond me. The engine had been running and I got inside to fiddle with the heater knobs. But the inter-reacting system had a mind of its own and, without any direct instruction, blew the whole of the warm air output against the windscreen. After a few minutes I drove away safely.

During cold spells some do this every morning. It wastes time, the starter works harder against the thickened engine oil and the battery loses efficiency in sub-zero weather. Some people have no garage. But most on our estate do have garages which they fill with cardboard boxes, mowers, superfluous furniture, ladders and detritus. A car costing £20,000 sits outside and junk worth less than £1000 is sheltered. Cold bums too.

MAESTRO Last night he got a standing ovation and Brummies are stingy with those. He’d just played the Emperor, and made me think I was hearing it for the first time. The Berlin Staatskapelle was as much a virtuoso instrument as his piano. But half an hour beforehand he’d conducted Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht. Now he was at the keyboard.

It’s one thing to do this with Mozart. Beethoven demands large and varying forces and from the piano the gestures must be unequivocal. He plunged into that initial chord as if entering a swimming pool, later he was a passenger in a motorcycle-sidecar race. He flicked his tails back and, as part of the same curving move, descended delicately on to the keys. The slow movement, always the test, was pure soul. He encored a Chopin Nocturne and the orchestra, now at rest, listened with self-evident and rapt pleasure. Daniel Barenboim’s day at the office.

Novel progress 1/2/10. Ch. 13: 4370 words. Chs. 1 - 12: 52,579 words. Comments: Clare rampant.


Sir Hugh said...

Leaving the car engine running with the heater on demist and going inside for a cup of coffee seems like a good idea, but apparently it provides an easy steal for the car thief.

Joining Green Flag was the best money I ever spent (except perhaps that on the dishwashher)), and it is my way of being kind to the car. When the battery had frozen up a week or two ago I rang and they were here in twenty minutes. If I have a puncture I no longer have to feel the humiliation of not being able to undo the ridiculously tight wheel nuts - I have no hesitation in calling them rather than trying to prove my macho manhood.

marja-leena said...

Living in a 'real' winter climate like Winnipeg's and northeast BC every car was equipped with a block heater to keep the engine warmed up. In extreme cold, you might not be able to start the car at all otherwise. A place to plug in the electrical cord (you'd see a dangling end below the front) would be on posts in many parking lots.

Even here in balmy Vancouver, on the odd very cold nights we'd still use a portable car heater inside the car, plugged into a timer set for an hour or two in the morning. No ice scraping, no cold bum and saves on gas and pollution. Those who have never lived in real cold are surprised by these actions.

Rouchswalwe said...

Well stated, BB! My Buick is good to me, so I keep it in the garage. Having moved so much in my life, there is little junk around, mainly sturdy boxes for the next move. I very much enjoyed your description of the day at the office of this master musician.

Lucy said...

I like the sound of those car heaters, good for leaving the dog in the car too.

Lucky you seeing Barneboim.

Lucy said...

Tom and I had a discussion on the junk in the garage, car on the drive syndrome, in which he pointed out that if you were to put the car in the garage and the washing machine, freezer, kids' bikes and old shopping bags on the drive instead, then a) they'd all get nicked, and b) you wouldn't be able to get the car out past them. He has a point.

Regarding my enormous blog-reading obligations. I suppose what has to give is the chat in comments, which I don't follow up too much. It's much better here.

What I would recommend you do, however, if you've not done so already, is tick the settings box to have comments here relayed to your e-mail. Then when I have an afterthought on one of your posts several weeks later, you will not miss it. Also, I occasionally get something unmissable, like the one today from a teacher at a university at Istanbul saying they had found my post on the angel frescoes at Langast church of nearly a year ago very useful for a course they were teaching on the Dark Ages. I cherish these incidents beyond measure.

Barrett Bonden said...

Sir Hugh: I modified the post: I was in the middle of a car park and never far away from the car while the engine was running. I would never go into the house for a cup of tea (don't like tea for one thing) under the same circumstances. The tight wheel nuts need a sort of knack rather than brute strength; briefly there's a binding action between the two metal surfaces. It may be possible to overcome this with a well positioned blow.

M-L: In more extreme climates than ours (eg, Wheaton, Illinois, where I held a job for four days before resigning) some device like the one you describe is necessary. My argument is against those with garages who don't use them to accommodate their cars.

RW (zS): So, you travel light; I think there was a folk song. Barenboim's recent concert in London was awarded five stars (the max) by The Guardian.

Lucy: Oh crikey, I don't mind getting up your nose but Tom's another matter. Sooner or later he's going to go online and denounce me as a techno-fraud and the comments will fall away. The dishwasher/freezer scenario could be solved more cheaply in the long run with a large garden shed and a power line. At your suggestion I visited your archives and saw the baronial splendour of your garden with its Henry Moores; looks as though you've plenty of room. How about a Tudor-style shed?

I enabled the email link system you mention a month or so ago and that's how I spotted your delayed response to my post about binoculars and bird-watching. It is decidedly worthwhile since otherwise responders may feel rushed. I share your delight in the year late response from Istanbul; I was going to say it's flattering but the fact is it was entirely deserved. Several months ago I did a rant about US misconceptions of the NHS and someone asked if they could use it at a protest meeting in the Mid-West. Some way short of the seal of academe you received, but pleasing nevertheless.

Plutarch said...

Barenboim and The Emperor, and iced car windows and the process of scraping and warming. A rich contrast of experience. If I had a garage it would be full of junk.

Barrett Bonden said...

Plutarch: When you live in the under-developed Welsh Marches you have to create your own entertainment. What I have described is not so much an example of the rich tapestry of life here, rather a desperate search for that which is novel. I was going to suggest that having to replace a car battery every three years might be some encouragement to garaging your car appropriately. However I have just Googled car batteries and found that prices, unlike everything else, have been stuck in a time warp and you can still get a very good one for £40. Thus you may well be justified in turning your garage into a dĂ©chetterie. And given your proclivities as a walker you could reasonably turn your car into a greenhouse.

Avus said...

In Russian winters I believe they site little heating stoves under their Ladas to guard against the solidification of the sump's contents. As to "cold bums", SAABs have heated seats which are a great comfort....
I suppose, with your background, it comes naturally to write such sparkling mini essays. A latter day Addison, who could proudly do a modern "Sir Roger de Coverley" series.

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: As a Francophile I can take the word essay either of two ways: a bit of coruscating substanceless persiflage or "a try" or "an attempt" (with the deeper understanding that I haven't arrived).

I only dance with women who have prosthetic feet.

Hattie said...

When we lived in Wisconsin my husband would bring the battery in at night, so the car would start in the a.m. He still had to scrape off the windshield, since we had no garage.
I envy you that concert and now know what a "Brummie" is. Thanks.

Barrett Bonden said...

Hattie: Although a fan of the Packers I always wondered whether Wisconsin really supported human life as we know it. I recall reading a news piece about the car-hire company operating at Green Bay's airport. During the winter the engines were allowed to run throughout the day; otherwise there wasn't a chance they'd start up. And then there was the famous Ice Bowl; a football game where the weather played as great a role as either the Packers or the Cowboys. Your blood must be a good deal thinner these days