Sunday, 31 January 2010

Zen and the art of driving in the dark

In the dark there is the occasional opportunity to drive somehow on the limits of perception and judgement. I'm not mean driving on the edge of sleep more driving on some conscious level that allows a deep and trusted automatic pilot to take over. This is night time motorway driving at it's best and it can be a surreal and rewarding experience. The miles and the road clicks slip by, the constant speed and rhythm propel you into a driving mind state quite unlike anything else. At some point you will tire and become aware of some seat discomfort, a stiff leg or and itch and the spell will break. Then it's back to normal controlled driving, more muddy thinking and an anxious wait for a dark hot coffee at the next service station.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Steak Bake

Not a particularly active Cougar day today. A shortish, well normal and the same length every time drive to work and back. A brief stop in a Greigs for a traditional Scottish breakfast proved however to be slightly damaging to both my jeans and the slightly worn driver’s seat. The accursed, over heated and a bit too runny and tasty for it’s own good steak-bake did the damage. After a bit of wiping up and emergency garbage disposal I was back on the road again. I burned the roof of my mouth also, a bad experience to be filed under greedy bad, early morning decision.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Still and dark

The metal stays cold. It's been cold for months it seems, and muddy and salty and spattered with a thousand different marks thrown up by a thousand trucks or buses or Range Rovers. Road film, grease, oil and unidentifiable matter, a stew of mixed material from the four corners of a five cornered universe. I need to get to a car wash pronto, once the daylight returns.

Thursday, 28 January 2010


Sometimes I lose myself in a night time drive. The motor hums in the distance, the radio chatters, the lights and traffic life blur and folds up around me, outside we are traveling. The tyre noise can be dismissed, vibration and dry heat are ignored, the aches and pains and irritations of the day before. All passed on and away, grippnig onto the wheel. Only the sense of traveling, traveling in some kind of vehicle. And when you get there you know.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Smoothly eccentric

Up and out in to another January morning, engine starts first crank, no sign of the annoying squeak that the latter part of the trip back from Aberdeen generated and after about six miles a puff of heat emerges from the reluctant heater. The heater has never been very good or at least quick to respond. The heater matrix had a major fault early on in my ownership and a new one was fitted, whilst this solved a host of other problems (massive water leaks) it never does really offer up a shot of quick early morning warmth that these chilly mornings call for. Ho hum.

In the end the recurrent minor faults and the things that you never get round to fixing or refuse to fix are what gives your car character and to some extent, if you believe these things a personality. One day I'll list the faults and perhaps they'll add up to some greater whole that might explain or define or I suppose balance up the good points about living with any motor car however smooth, rough or in my case eccentric...smoothly eccentric.

Saturday, 23 January 2010


Drove to Aberdeen and back again. My daughter and son in law were moving house. Carried numerous boxes and bits of furniture. A quick run to a Chinese carry out called Chop Chop and then home, in the rain. It rained all day, very tired etc.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Open bonnet

I did open the bonnet the other day and everything seemed to be in right place and was of course, much to my predictable horror, covered in the customary January road film.

Day 723 of Cougar ownership and drivership: The gauge says 4 degrees of something is occurring outside, the every present weather resetting itself. Now that its turned marginally milder the gritters seem to be spreading again, all normal inefficient balances restored once again.

Petrol prices creep up to point where there is no right price. A few pence on a litre obviously bumps the oil company profits but most motorists driving older and dirtier cars are past caring now - we have accepted the inevitable and the steady decline in our fortunes that must occur. Having said that I'm still hitting the 38.7 mpg mark. The computer never lies but the custom and bespoke tyre sizes (thank you Tom Farmer) probably blow the calculations and everything else.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Who is counting?

Day 722 of Cougar ownership has dawned weakly, got a bit brighter, then cloudy, overcast, the sun set but I wasn't really paying attention and it got dark (as expected), the street lamps came on somewhere and various other things took place, I missed many of them. I enjoyed the 7 mile drive to work and listened to the wonky radio - the nearside door speaker bursts into life unexpectedly now and again surprising me and my occasional passengers. Then I drove home via a brief but necessary detour.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day (or was it yesterday?) I replaced the wipers on the firm, clean and well lit car park surface at a branch of Tesco. Oil was also added to a 3/4 full engine. Easier done there than on our very muddy front drive.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Lest we forget

There are of course many types of Cougar, some more interesting than an old and slowly rusting vehicle made of steel, plastic and rubber. You'd be far better perhaps getting an eager and intimate welcome to Cougartown or possibly somewhere on the outskirts via the warm jets of Air New Zealand. There are other airlines, other countries, alternative big cats and more appropriate and kinder names for the older type of active lady, if you must generalise and label things and people.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Parked and dirty

Sunday: Declared an impromptu no-drive day for no good reason. Doors stay closed, locks stay locked, everything quiet and at rest.

The snow and temporary ice age has passed so we walked up the lane and enjoyed a liquid lunch at the village pub. Sometimes cars look fine just standing still, parked and dirty and a good walk sparks the circulation and unblocks the blockages. They also use a lot less juice in this steady state.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Art of Cougar via the aliens

I'm quite fond of this tinted and fuzzy night time photograph that's nicely showing the curvier aspects of the car's design. I like the sexy rear window line and the UFO Area 51 inspired top design. Funnily enough just out of shot and hovering over the Fife street lights was in fact a real UFO, one of many to be regularly seen in this area. I thought for a few seconds and decided to keep my camera steadily focused on the car, you've got to get your priorities right in this wonky life.

Friday, 15 January 2010

An unexpected visit

I had ten minutes to kill so I wandered into a handy Halfords. A new set of Bosch wipers and a proper jug of 5w30 squiggle oil (or something) was duly purchased. I felt like a proper motorist. I also managed to escape without buying any useless gadgets or crap from the January sales dump bins. Motoring is such fun, at times.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Ashes to ashes

For the first time in three weeks no need to scatter yesterday's ashes across the ice and snow. Today it was a case of dropping them into the pot holes in the lane, a custom that has become a ritual that is now a necessity, a service and a routine.

Once daylight becomes available again, most likely Friday afternoon I'll check the tyre pressures and the oil. The sump has a longstanding leak, not a drip, more the kind of slow hemorrhage that coats the underside of the engine gradually with a fine oily, dirty mist. A pint of top quality supermarket oil a month depending on usage maintains an uneasy equilibrium. Not quite like the power steering fluid leak, now the subject of possible miracle status and a Papal investigation. It was low and the pump was noisy for a while and so I topped it up each week and each time allowed it to go a little above the mark. Gradually the level stabilised, the leak stopped and now the steering is smooth as a Bentley on an ice rink. Payback will of course come one not so fine day.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

No grip to be had

This morning's exit took almost ten minutes as I attempted to get started on our own local version of the frozen Lake of Mentieth. This was despite a milder night and no fresh frost or snow, the ice however is determined to maintain it's grip at the expense of any unprepared driver. In the end it was down to taking long run at the slope before curling over the potholes and on to freedom.

Monday, 11 January 2010

What would Jimmy Page do?

Life is a strange mix of awkward unwelcome religion, passion, favourites and prejudice that pulls the balance and reason out of everything. The ghosts, protein particles, bricks and writer's blocks that make us up are often not chosen, not hand picked, they occur, they fall upon us and emerge from routes, formulas and accidents we never planned or expected. The music of chance and the journey into friendly chaos define us, remarkable and ordinary, dull and flamboyant, spirited and docile. What would Jesus do? What should Jesus do? What would Jimmy Page do? What can anybody do?

Going into a little more detail and being less serious life with a Cougar is never dull either, a few quick slides this morning, across ice and slush, dodge the estate Range Rover barreling down the long hill and then the relief of hitting actual clear tarmac at at least 4 degrees above freezing that the tyres can grip, then out onto the Forth Bridge and up motorway right up to the limit - almost normal.

On the way home a glug of junk food petrol from Tescos, as usual paying little attention to the price but bagging the points. Somehow the litres counter and the price never quite relate, like many other things, they exist only as numbers and letters on a screen or on a white slip of paper, then away you go.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Inside looking out

Another day of not driving or even venturing out beyond the confines of the garden. My non-driving status was confirmed by an early afternoon decision to add a generous drip of whisky to my coffee in the hope that it would be downhill for the day all the way from there. A later well chosen moment of observation outside confirmed that most of the ice and snow has fallen from the other cars and Mr Cougar. The roads however still look like crap and it'll freeze tonight no doubt.

Once the thaw gets a proper hold I may well invest in a couple of new front tyres. The current set are sitting at 25kof road use and remain quite legal, the back ones are fine after a similar mileage. Let's see what Tom Farmer has on offer early Feb.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

If Global Warming continues...

...we are all going to freeze to death - said a wise man. Today is a "no drive" day however; fresh snow, fresh ice and few stray wolves are gathering in the woods. Bored and unsettled we walked for miles ignoring the gunshots and the flocks of Canada Geese heading South, this is no-man's land (and also snowman's land).

Actualizing Kindle related thought processes and walking any distance in the snow is hard work and demanded a lengthy pit stop at a local non-hostile garden centre. The car park was pretty much empty apart from a few abandoned CRVs and rolled Pugs but we were cheered and warmed that the cafe still had some nicely thawed out soup selections left. Then in scenes reminiscent of the movie "the Road" we trudged back home to clear more snow from our small collection of disabled vehicles. Tomorrow is another day (it wasn't such a wise or original man who said that) .

Friday, 8 January 2010

Central locking mystery

7am, opened up the car, started the engine, got out to scrape the now everyday ice film and as I closed the door the central locking popped on. Bugger. Thankfully Ali was in the house and available to let me get back in to pick up the spare key. I'll put it down to extreme weather and not a fault. It hasn't happened again (today). Note to self: Have a spare key handy.

More internal ice discovered inside the windscreen today. It shaves away like icy chocolate slivers and scatters across the dashboard, then disappears back into the atmosphere. So after a few early morning slides I was on my way, painlessly gliding to work. Since the air con doesn't play ball demisting can take a while but I've become used to it. That slight haze around the windscreen edges is now almost likable and a familiar quirk. It's good to have a car with quirks, provided they don't turn into show stoppers.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Another cold one please...

Slithered home from work once I'd succeeded in scraping the ice from inside the windscreen - 23 hours without use and the touch of a warm heater is not the best way to keep your car happy. anyway welcome to the Cougar Diaries, an irregular, irreverent and most likely ignored piece of blogging about living with and travelling in a 2000 Ford Cougar 2.0 bog standard sports coupe. A car I happen to own and like very much.