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Oh. My. GOD.

When I was a child, I was a brat. My mother's ghost would probably use stronger words. Suffice to say, I got quite a number of things that I wanted simply by asking over and over and over and over (20 GOTO 10) until the adults did it just for some peace and quiet.
So, once car guy said he'd deliver the car on Tuesday evening, I sent him a confirmation message. Every single day..
Tuesday morning, a reply - "yeah yeah I'll be there" (well, in French...). You could clearly see the "so STFU" in between the words. But, result!

Tuesday, 5pm. No show.
Tuesday, 5.07pm. He arrived, apologised because the traffic on the Rennes orbital. Well, jeez, if he went that way, I'm surprised he got here at all. Used to go on the "Rocade" for the many hospital visits with mom and it was rarely not a total nightmare of signs mocking you telling you the speed limit is 90 when you're going maybe 15...

He dismounted the car from its trailer, handed me the keys, demonstrated again the gearstick. Which was probably his way of getting back at me because it's basically a "go forwards, go backwards". Still, he gave me some bits of paperwork and a baseball cap so... uh hu.

And it was ME driving myself home.

Oh.
My.
GOD.

I was alone in the car, but was being followed by an English friend. So I started the car and the engine fired right away. I went forward and backward and noticed the brakes seemed a little soft, even though the pedal wasn't. Still, most of the braking in this car is just easing up on the pedal and letting it slow down. It's not good to brake when the drive belt is engaged, the manual (for a different Aixam, but they're all the same idea) suggests you only use one foot so you're either driving or braking, not both at the same time.

I left work and let the car make its way up to 45 (about 28mph, the rated speed of these cars). Coming up to a roundabout, I was a little worried as I was supposed to go off at the third exit, and I'm scared that some numpty is going to try to cut in on the outer lane. There was nobody on the roundabout, so I just sort of stayed in the middle and indicated for my turning.


Oh noes!!11!!1ONE!
Note: the timestamp is wrong, I've not yet corrected it.

Which, for a dyspraxic non-driver was really quite complicated. I had slowed down, so was doing maybe 25 or so on the roundabout, finding the indicator, turning at the correct place, and being quite aware of the need to watch everything all at the same time.

Mom really enjoyed driving. Part of the reason I never drove was because of how much she liked it. I just hope that maybe some day I'll feel that was. It's liberating to be able to go to work, or into town, or whatever when I want. But I see it more as a means to an end. Enjoyable? For the moments I remember to loosen my grip on the steering wheel and relax a little in the seat. But those moments are fleeting. It probably didn't help that the air blower is a bit rubbish, so the windscreen demisting was... uh... minimal. Half the journey was done peering through a clear bit in an otherwise misted screen.

After the roundabout, there's a small town with a mini-roundabout and a somewhat unpleasant dog leg bend, but it's all a 30kph zone so I can take my time. Coming out of that is a junction between the old main road and the forest road. There's a bypass now, so not a lot of traffic. The forest is mostly a straight road until you get to my little town (village, commune... it's maybe 300 people in total (and we're outnumbered by cows, and by an order of magnitude by the pigs)). Some speed humps in town, but again it's a 30kph zone (and doesn't it annoy people when you stick to it?). A sharp right town, out of the town, a sharp left turn, and then on to a road just wide enough for a combine harvester. A kilometre and a half of that, then onto my access lane and nearly home.


# Country roads, take me home...

Thankfully I've not met anything coming on the other way on the narrow road yet. If something does come, I'll just pull over to the side and stop. Not off the road though, I don't have the weight or the power to deal with getting stuck in mud. Let the other person worry about that.

Made it home. My friend pointed out that I was quite far over to the edge of the road, but otherwise she thinks I did really well. Me too, I made it back without incident!
As for the road positioning, probably nearly twenty years of being a passenger. I'll have to get more used to putting myself closer to the dashed line.

So, here I am home:

 

I examined the car and noted some snags. Fairly minor things given the age of the car.

  • First up, the mist problem. I put a roll of paper towels in the back, in case the screen needs to be wiped. I also (today) bought some anti-mist wipes which... don't appear to have had much of an effect. Hmmm...
  • The right speaker wasn't working. Turns out this is a loose connection just below the speaker. If I can find some better speakers at a vide grenier, I might change them. They don't have much bass response. Then I can fix the fact that left and right are transposed.
  • The fog light didn't work. Turns out that this doesn't work until the headlights are on. Hmmm, I suppose that makes sense.
  • And the red light that comes on at the back when the headlights are on was internittant on the left side. A push on the terminal block fixed that, but I'll need to keep an eye on it in case it needs a better fix.
  • There's a green light that's supposed to come on when you're in neutral. It sort of flickers when I go into drive. If I feel like it (as it's not a big thing), I might see if I can see where the sensor is. Probably just a worn strip of metal that would appreciate a bit of TLC.

More serious was the spare tyre. It's probably been back there for twenty odd years. Even I'm not dumb enough to think that this is an acceptable tyre:

I'll need to take this around to a tyre place and see how much they want for the cheapest possible tyre. It's a spare, not an in-use wheel, so it doesn't need to be good.

 

To put this into context, by the way, when this car was shiny-new, the World Trade Center was standing, Bill Clinton becomes President for the second time, boffins from the Space Shuttle start fixing Hubble. Again. Hale-Bopp comes closest to Earth, everybody had to fart around with their TV aerials to try to receive Channel 5, Tony Blair wins a landslide victory in a way that Corbyn never will. The UK won the Eurovision Song Contest. The computer Deep Blue finally beat a chessmaster. The Commons votes for a total ban on handguns, it being a year after the Dunblane Massacre. The first Harry Potter novel is published. The UK hands Hong Kong over to China, and we all know how well that is going. Pathfinder makes it to Mars. Woolworths ends. And with it, the childhood joy of Pick-and-mix dies in abject silence. Diana (you know which one) dies in a car crash and suddenly all the scummy papers that mocked her in life print endless pages of "remembrance", leading to a funeral watched by an estimated two and a half billion people. That's like a third of the world's population. Scotland voted for a devolved parliament. Wales also votes for devolution. The film "Titanic" becomes the highest grossing film of all time. Chloë Grace Moretz (or "Hit Girl" if you prefer) was born, as was Maisie Williams, Olivia Holt and her Cloak&Dagger co-star Aubrey Joseph. Taylor Swift would have been eight. Carlton Television, as it was then, had a live debate on the future of the monarchy and, well, it all went a bit wrong didn't it? Riverdance and Michael Flatley were a thing, with a special programme airing on BBC1. Meanwhile on BBC2, Teletubbies begins. Speaking of BBC, they do away with their spinning globe. Clive Anderson interviewed the Bee Gees, and that went down in television history for all the wrong reasons. The BBC creates a "Children in Need" website...for the first time. Lexx began showing on Channel 5. Daria, Buffy, South Park, and Ally McBeal all had their debut this year.
There. You feel old now, don't you?

 

Here's the engine and stuff, and yes, it's a two cylinder diesel engine:

And here's the boot. It's actually pretty spacious:

 

This morning I drove to work. Sorted the windscreen mist by driving with the window open. Not a useful tactic for cold or rainy days, but it worked today. I made up a CD of music, Avantasia, HolyHell, Delain, Mysterya, Nightwish, ShadowIcon etc etc. Discovered that the CD player has no buffering at all so it skips if there's a bump in the road, but the player has a headphone jack and a USB socket, so other options present themselves. Anyway, I was pleased to have some music.
There were quite a number of cars on the road. They all went around me. Even on road with solid white lines.

Made it to work, wish I had a cup of tea to calm my nerves, but this is France. It's yucky mint green tea or forty types of coffee. Meh.

 

After work, drove into town. It went quite well except for two small hitches. The first was a traffic light in town. It was green as I was oming. "You're going to go red", I thought to myself. Sure enough, it did. I braked a little harshly, but not so much that there was a risk of being rear-ended by the guy behind. I went a little beyond the line, but could still see the light. The period of green to yellow to red is ridiculous. It's like two seconds of yellow. I pulled on the handbrake and counted to forty. Then I put the car into drive and my hand on the handbrake, because I knew the guy behind was probably saying friendly things about people driving sans permis. So when the light went green, I was off. Straight through the narrow road and into the town centre.

There was no parking in town, so I went around to the car park by where the old supermarket used to be (like, back in the 80s judging by the building). The first thing I was met with were barriers and "no entry" signs because of road works. Given that I didn't fancy reversing on to a blind bend, I decided "sod it", if they can't be bothered to warn that the access is closed before one gets there, and since there's nothing there except barriers and a spool of pipe, I decided to just drive around it. And I did.

 

Leaving there, went to the supermarket to get dinner. I'm still getting used to the acceleration of this car, which is to say, not so much. It might be my style of driving. The guy when he demonstrated the car got it to speed fairly quickly, but I'm not sure that "flooring it" with a belt driven mechanism is kind to the belt or the engine. I'd rather be a little more cautious and hope for a little more lifespan out of the engine. After all, just doing my normal routine will probably add 7-10 thousand per year.
Of more concern was taking corners. It might be a perceptual thing, but it feels like if I turn a 90 degree corner (like on to a different road at a T junction), I might be capable of rolling the thing if I'm going much over 20. So I slow right down for that.

The supermarket aren't able to cut me a new key, the guy actually asked me if Aixam was some sort of British car. Huh? If I go to Châteaubriant this weekend, I might ask there. Went out to the car and fiddled with the headlamp. It's a big round one with three prongs on the back. So I bought a set of spares with one of that type. H2, I think it was called. And, since I eat so terribly well, a salmon/broccoli meal and a pack of doughnuts. Yup, that's dinner.

And, then, the journey home. At night. And since I have a sense of humour, it had to be Amberian Dawn's Magic Forest playing as I was driving through a large forest. Run for your liiife!
On a straight flat bit of road with nobody around, I pressed the accelerator right down and got up to fifty five. So that's about what the car can manage on flat road. Once it was clear that it wasn't going to go any faster, I slowed down to the 45 that the car is supposed to travel.
The speed is maintained by a little screw that blocks... I don't know, the accelerator? The fuel mixture? There are vidos on YouTube of people removing this (it's called "débridage" in French) and getting their cars up to 80-90. Which is utterly insane. It's an aluminium frame with plastic bits attached to it. Don't kid yourself that this is a real car built to real car standards, this is a sort of deluxe go-kart that legally qualifies as "quad bike". Doing those sorts of speeds in a car such as this is, frankly, stupid.

I know a lot of people don't like driving at night, but I actually found it easier. Partly because my eyes are photosensitive so I prefer dim lighting (as I write this, the only light is a small lamp running a 30W fridge bulb (well, an LED equivalent) and the monitor. It's dark enough that mom would turn on the light to pass by, but it's more than enough for me. I know I sometimes get comments at work about working in the dark, but to me... it isn't. So I wory more about bright sunny days than night.
And, the big one. At night, all you can see is what's in the headlights. I suppose people might fear that which lurks just out of view, but the alternative way of looking at it is that it removes all the distractions. There's the road, that's it. Also, all the other cars are signposted from far away so you can see them coming. And, yes, every single one went whizzing by. That's just how it is.


In the forest no one can hear you scream everybody overtakes.
Note: Timestamp is correct.

 

I suppose there's an upside to finally having a car and driving it...thirty years late. I'm not impressed by speed. Nor do I have that late-teenage habit of thinking I'm the world's best driver. All I'm interested in is in getting to where I went to go, within a reasonable time frame, without much effort (so no walking!), and safely.
That's all.

 

There's no video. It's dark when I get home, it's the naff end of the year.
I might do one over the weekend.

 

Until then, enjoy this video. Music to drive through a forest to:

 

 

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David Pilling, 28th November 2019, 13:48
As it happens my view on driving in the dark is that one can see so much less than in daylight. Console my self with the thought that other road users also make allowances. Thinking about it, in the dark a car is much easier for pedestrians to see. Like you say perhaps you can see all you need to see.
Pieter, 29th November 2019, 07:02
"I'm not impressed by speed." I don't care either. Luckily I live in Japan, where even here in Tokyo maximum speeds are often limited to 30 or 40 km/h in town. Become a good driver, young man. By the way, I would love to have that car.
Gavin Wraith, 29th November 2019, 19:51
The tyres and the suspension are really important for safety. A worn tyre, a duff damper, can turn a pleasant vehicle into a death trap. After many years of driving I came to believe that cars have their own personalities; they can work with you or against you. I must say that your car has pleasant looks.

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Last read at 06:44 on 2019/12/13.

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