I was all set to go to the supermarket this morning. It was drizzling, not the sort of wintry weather that would have justified the Met Office's yellow triangle Be Aware warning for Essex (though when I investigated that more closely yesterday evening it seemed to be based on the possibility of light snow in Saffron Walden), but not gardening weather either. And anyway, I'd offered to cook.
My car would not start. It's been sounding a bit iffy for a few months, the engine reluctant to turn over on cold mornings, and today it finally gave up the attempt, making an intermittent grrr sound, and then increasingly spasmodic grr...grr...grrs at subsequent turns of the ignition key. Having bade the Systems Administrator a chirpy farewell I was back in the study two minutes later, shopping bags in hand. My car won't start, I explained. This didn't come as a particular shock to either of us, since it's been increasingly reluctant to start for some time, but I had hoped it would last until the annual service next month. The battery is the original, ten years old, so it's done pretty well, especially when you consider that while few of my journeys are less than two miles, very few of them are more than twenty-five.
The Systems Administrator came and tried starting the car, and it grrd even more lethargically than before. The SA pronounced that the battery was completely dead and promised to put it on charge. In the meantime I borrowed the SA's Skoda, which was very kind of the SA. It is much cleaner than mine, has done fewer miles, and has a whizzier engine. Despite the fact that they are both Fabias and their gearboxes are arranged in exactly the same way, five forward gears, reverse away from you and to the left, it feels completely different to drive. It took me three goes to get it into reverse, and I still hadn't got a real feel for how much accelerator it needed to pull away smoothly in first by the time I got home. If you saw an anxious middle aged lady in a grey Fabia making boy racer noises at the lights in Clingoe Hill today, that was me trying not to roll back on to the car behind during my hill start.
The boot of the Systems Administrator's car is much cleaner than mine, so clean you can put groceries in it. This morning it contained a sack of coal, a camouflage jacket and a sink plunger. The SA should really put the coal in the woodshed to save carrying round the extra weight. The sink plunger is left over from the time the SA went over to help try and unblock some friends' drains. There again, my own car always contains a pair of filthy red bath towels, not for wrapping up any roadkill that takes my fancy, but for when I want to transport garden related things on the back seats.