Tough Call


Life can be tough and unforgiving. Moments come along which demand hard decisions. I have just had a 'moment.' One when I have had to strip emotion and irrational thinking out of the process and do the right thing. We all face such calls but knowing it is a common experience makes it no easier on the soul or the conscience. 

There is a time when young sparky things grow and mature into older girls with their creaks, strange noises and need for constant attention. They, in fact, reach a point where they go beyond economic sustainability. That is, they cost more to maintain than the value they give. Saying goodbye is hard though. So many good times, so many memories, so many shared experiences. Going for a younger model is not a decision taken lightly, by anyone, but sometimes you know it is the right thing to do. 

A fond farewell then to HG55 WWV. I've never owned a car for so long or done so much with one. 205,000 miles and a huge chunk of shared family time. Who could forget the glorious fishing road trips, the hundreds and hundreds of school runs on Sunday nights, the hell that was the Paris ring road, the voice from the back seat on the M 25 saying, "Dad, there's a policeman driving up beside you and he's waving at you." The truth is, I'm saying goodbye to a big part of our little lives and that kind of hits home. 

I was actually going to authorise the service work until the nice gentleman from probably the best Land Rover specialists in the south called me and said, "I'm so sorry Mr Crumble, in my haste I embarrassingly neglected to forward page 2." Page 2 wasn't good. The first of sixteen items was "Front suspension lower arms worn; £795.52." Cumulatively, the decision was made for me, no matter how much I railed against the injustice of engineering wear and tear. 

So, for the first time in probably twenty-two years, I am without a Land Rover Discovery, having owned several. With the replacement cost knocking on the door of £70k for the new model, (with bits), it may be some time before I have another. The other old girl is though, hanging on. Not so easily replaced.                                             

Bye Then

The last Defender rolls off the production line today. Many are mourning its passing and the media have got themselves in a suitably nostalgic tizzy about their passing. They’ve probably never driven one. Perhaps the last Defender will be parked on the spare plinth in Trafalgar Square. I’m not mourning them and I’m not in a tizzy. I sat my driving test in a long wheel base Land Rover in the country lanes of Dorset. It was a perfunctory affair but the Sergeant driving instructor pretended to take it seriously, ticking the boxes on his clipboard as we meandered down the road. We meandered because the front and real axles never seemed to agree on the general direction of travel and there was about half a turn of slack in the steering which was fine because it took all my concentration to be able to see, what with a bloody great spare tyre attached to the bonnet and wing mirrors that flapped in the wind like ducks wings. After years of driving them, I still have yet to figure out where your right elbow goes, what magic trick secures the seat belt buckle, how you drive in the rain with windscreen wipers designed by a three year old and how you drive at night with headlights emitting the kind of luminescence usually found in striking a Swan match.

There were some endearing attributes to the vehicle of course. Who could forget that rush of excitement when a door would suddenly open when going round a corner or that comforting feeling when the foot well filled with water when it rained. If you ever feel like buying a Lannie, ‘because I’ve wanted one ever since I was a little boy,’ go and lie down for a while until the feeling goes away. Ignore my advice and buy one and you’ll need a second one to ferry the spares home from whoever sells them on Ebay. You won’t be buying a vehicle you’ll be starting a new hobby. You can look forward to leaking front hubs and axles, the gearbox and transfer box will always leak as will the radiator, water pump, clutch master and slave cylinders. In fact, any fluid containing part….. will leak. The other parts designed not to contain liquids such as the door frames, foot wells and chassis will though, retain fluids and rust in quick time. Engine seals will be another source of frustration as will rusting springs, bushes. Rubber anywhere in the vehicle will grow algae and moss throughout the year and perish……. along with your patience. The Land Rover Defender, the world’s first biodegradable vehicle.

You probably give more thought to putting the lights on your Christmas tree than the designer gave to the electrics and switches on the dashboard which merely suggest what could, or might, happen if activated. Undeterred you will soon become familiar with the clunk clung, clang clang of your engine calling you as the differential seizes. Of course the Lannie does have its delusional head-in-the-clouds oily rag zealots but I’m not one of them. You know what they say in Aus, ‘If you want to go to the outback get a Land Rover; if you want to come back, get a Toyota.’



Well, I hope you’re all having a better day than am I. I’ve just had Land Rover on the phone with the servicing bill. Tonight’s Euromillions jackpot might just about cover it. I wouldn’t mind were it not for the fact that I’ve already hit the jackpot with a teenage daughter who yesterday decided to test the impact characteristics of small Polo on an even smaller car park wall in Haslemere at 5mph. I wouldn’t mind but with the other two kids playing the drums and bagpipes respectively I can’t help thinking that there is somewhere better to escape than the potting shed.

Grand Theft Auto


There are some calls that I just dread at the office. The interesting ones usually begin, "Now everything is OK but.............." or "You know that little scratch................." Bless, what is it about those little concrete bollards in supermarket car parks that wives are drawn to like they are to Mulberry handbags. 

The calls that make me break out in a cold sweat though, the pencil snapping ones that have me levitating with barely concealed incredulity are the ones that come from the cheerful soul in the Land Rover servicing department. "Hello Sir, bit brisk outside isn't it?" Put all sharp objects down and hold on, you know what's coming............ "Well Sir, we've done a full inspection and I just thought I'd call you before we replace some parts at a cost that would easily cover a two week Caribbean holiday for a family of four..........." Wonderful, just bloody wonderful.

Mine goes in next week and I'm not exactly brimming with confidence having seen this little number that a chum of mine received recently. He levitated with barely concealed incredulity too.

Details are redacted but it really does say, "fuse: £1.99, labour £199, VAT £35.17. That makes a total of £236.16 to change a £1.99 fuse. I can't wait.