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Felicity stumbling towards retirement?



Today I went to the mechanic. The bad news is the bolt is okay. It's something in the variateur (pulley). Worse news, due to the design of these cars, namely their extreme smallness, doing anything with that pulley is an engine-out job.

The mechanic reckons that it ought to keep going for a further week or two. The Aixam dealer was "oh my God" because the vibrating risks damaging the gearbox. This, I'd pretty much already figured out.


So, I called the dealer (who wasn't at work today!) and said I'm going to buy the sporty-looking red car. He will meet me outside of work at quarter to five on Monday (when I finish). If I feel that the car is okay I'll commit to purchase. He has sent me various photos, and there doesn't appear to be too much to worry about from the photos. The finish of the driver's seat is damaged and worn, but it is fake leather. I know from shoes that fake leather doesn't tolerate humidity at all (it's why I wear leather shoes).

As for Felicity, I'll drive her on Monday (the dealer wants to see what's actually wrong to give me an estimate of how much a repair may cost). Afterwards, I have a friend (hello Alison! <wave><wave>) who has offered to take me. I don't know yet how often. The more, the better, obviously, to use Felicity as little as possible now. I think the part that'll take time is sorting out the registration document. I'll get right onto the insurance too, so with a little luck it'll all be sorted out as quickly as possible. I'm hoping by the end of the month, about two weeks; the carte gris (registration) was sorted out quite quickly (about a week?) for Felicity, but that was pre-Covid days.

I do want to get Felicity fixed, to use her a little longer in alternation with the red car, and also because these little cars still have some value to them. Look, I paid three thousand for her in November 2019 so I figure I'd probably get somewhere around €1000 (realistic) or €2500 (online 'wishful' advertising). Well, I still have two years (ish) of loan repayments so I'm not in a great hurry here. It's just that I doubt I'll see much change out of €500, so it's something that will have to happen later in the year.


Everything happens for a reason...

Mom was a great believer in "everything happens for a reason". Consider the aforementioned friend - my mom met her in the supermarket and started chatting with her. A few weeks later, mom's cancer diagnosis happened, followed by scans and such and the inevitable decline. Alison was absolutely fantastic with that. I simply cannot thank her enough for what she did for mom, and she's been a good friend to me too (I hope I've been a good friend back), and helped me with... the aftermath.
Seriously Alison, I cannot thank you enough, I really cannot.

We (mom and I) remained friendly with the previous town mayor. Small town politics, it would probably be funny if it was a movie but in real life it's kind of depressing. He has also been really helpful.

The bank was happy to do me a long-term loan of €3000, and since it wasn't a big amount, I didn't need interviews and such, just sorted it out mostly over the phone. I didn't need to even prove I was actually buying a car (like with my previous loan), they probably don't care so long as I keep up repayments. I'm paying about €90 a month which is only a little more than the phone/mobile/broadband (yes, connectivity is expensive!). The problem was in finding a car. And then along came this bloke who... fits the description of every used car salesman trope, but he had a car for the price I could afford at the time I needed it. And, okay, I've thrown a lot of money at the car in the year that I had it, but this isn't a surprise either.
Back when I first started work (end of 2008), I used to pay a local mechanic (since retired) €100 a month to keep our old Renault 5 going. It needed a lot of work. I think, actually, he probably came out worse in that deal, so when I got a full time contract he sorted out a Citroën from a dealer in Châteaubriant and did all the paperwork, and told me that with a CDI the bank over there will give me a loan. They did, and we never looked back. The Saxo was...quirky, but that was later traded in for a C1 which has been an absolutely brilliant car. It's around back and dirty (I must clean it this spring) but I'm loathe to get rid of it. I tell people that the time it would take to get it ready for sale is more than I'd get selling it, but in honesty mom loved to drive, and that car took us on many journeys. So often "down South". There are so many memories that I think selling it would really upset me.

I didn't want a good car for my first car. I know that sounds strange, but the truth is that the first time I put my hands on Felicity's steering wheel, it was the first time that I've been in control of a car that wasn't in a car park or on our access lane (shit - my access lane; it's been a year and a half and I still think of this place as mom's home), and the first time I've done more than about 15kph. I was terrified of roundabouts and am really surprised I've not yet been crashed into by one of the ever-impatient Frenchies.

Really, Felicity and mom's ghost taught me to drive. As as much of an ancient pile of bolts as Felicity is (don't think I have rose tinted glasses here, I'm quite well aware of her age), I do have to respect that she allowed me to keep my job during the lockdowns and was simple enough to drive that I could concentrate on stuff like the road signs and looking out for other cars doing dumb things without being distracted by features of the car like changing gears. I feel that is something better handled when I have some experience, which I do now have. I'm still not happy on the road, sometimes people do unimaginably idiotic things, but I have at least progressed beyond nappies. I can almost do the work journey on autopilot, which surprisingly gives me more time to look at stuff like oncoming cars and errant children on the pavement. I think I needed to teach my brain how to filter what is important. The first few months were nerve-wracking, with trying to observe absolutely everything all the time. So with that in mind, I didn't want a spiffy car. I wanted something practical and unexciting. Felicity was exactly the car I needed. And, come on, you can't say she doesn't have personality!

And so the troperific salesman comes through for me again. My know I wanted to save up €5000 by sort of March/April time? Well, I actually managed to save up €6600. I just transfered across an extra €200 (so it'll be a lean month, but I'm not going anywhere!), which equals... the exact amount that the red car costs. Funny, that.

Now, I had planned to buy a car for less and to look at taking driving lessons so my next car can be a real one. Most likely a small Citroën based on how much mom and I both liked our C1. Obviously that plan has been shot by wiping out my savings as I'll be right back to €10 (the minimum I can have in the savings account), but... I made it to 6.8K. I can do it again. So the plan hasn't fallen into the water, it's just been delayed a little.

How did I discover this problem as "oh my God, this is a big problem?". Complete chance. I know there was a noise that didn't sound right, and I thought it was the water pump (it sounded a lot like the Renault 5's water pump as it was failing). Felicity recently had a service, and the mechanic not only didn't hear anything unusual, he also fitted a new belt around the very same pulley. These cars must really be rattly things if he missed that. Suffice to say that the water pump was okay. I also had him check the valves, in case there was an issue there. I honestly never thought that the pulley that was installed last springtime would be the part that was failing, but I happened to look at the engine to see if I could better hear where the noise was coming from when I saw the pulley wobbling gently as the engine idled. I stopped the engine, grabbed ahold of the thing and found it quite easy to wobble. Well, there's the problem. That was neither the valves nor the water pump, but was discovered more or less as a coincidence.

But, as mom said - things happen for a reason. I wasn't sure about whether or not to go for the red car - it's cute and kind of fun looking, but bright red isn't really my colour. Well, Felicity just gave me the shove I needed.
As for wiping out the savings? That too will have a purpose. Something that would have happened will now happen differently. Some day, I'll look back and join the dots. I tend to like to live my life bobbing along with the ebb and flow of time, best summed up by the expression che sarà sarà. It's why I don't tend to make long term plans. That presupposes that nothing changes. But life does change. So, my plans are to get the red car (unless I spot a show stopper). Further on, to fix Felicity, to learn to drive, and to get my passport renewed. In no order whatsever. Because what needs to happen will happen.

One final thought - Marte, the big red mower. Alison sorted that out for me too, last year at the beginning of March. I thought that it would be great at allowing me to do a lot more to tame the land here. What I didn't know at the time was that we would have lockdowns, and that I'd be working part time. In essence, the world was about to be broken. And with a bigger mower, I could spend a lot less time mowing and a lot more time getting other things under control. So... what needs to happen will happen.



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Alison, 13th February 2021, 19:19
This made me sit back, it was an honour to get to know your mum and you, we have had more than a few laughs. Its a good friendship and one I am going to hang onto. This has been more than a good read, its reading your memories old and new. There will be many more to make my friend.

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