Sunday, 23 March 2014

Being Middle-Aged

I have before in this blog advertised my predilection for automotive pornography, most particularly The Jaguar XK8 (which relationship I have consummated), any Aston Martin and the Honda Goldwing. But I have to confess that I have most recently fallen for the siren call of the sensible purchase.

Big Fat Pig's Big Fat Car
Actually 'sensible' is probably not the wholly apposite word since no suburbanite whose children have grown-up and flown the nest needs a large four wheel drive. The category of car is determined by another  foible of my taste - I remember with affection the Land Rover Discoveries we used to have as Sharon's company cars. But once I had convinced myself that what I wanted was a f*** off Chelsea Tractor, my middle-aged sensibilities took over.  And so there stands on the gravel a great grey slab of Kia Sorento.

The thought processes were these - I want an SUV; the Kia has a seven year warranty; a big Range Rover is too expensive to buy and maintain (I spoke to people); the Kia has a seven year warranty; the Evoque is beautiful but not at heart a man's car; the Kia has a seven year warranty; Discoveries remain unreliable and we don't have the luxury of it being a company car; the Kia has a seven year warranty. And, of course, there is the seven year warranty. I find this one of the more compelling commercial offerings. The cars are either bomb-proof or the warranty is not worth the paper it's written on, and being a lawyer I've read the small-print.

So it was off to Sutton Park Kia (their proximity another selling point) for a test drive. I was prepared to be underwhelmed but the Sorento behaves impeccably enough. And there is the seven year warranty. The sales pitch from the dealer was neither neglectful nor overbearing. And there is ... well you get the picture.

So ten days into ownership what do we think? The high driving position is great and I look forward once again to being able to see the Menai Straits as I drive over the Britannia bridge. Fuel consumption isn't too damaging when you consider the size of the car. The interior is plain but acceptable. It has that new car smell. The reversing camera is much more useful than I had somehow imagined it might be. I would like an automatic boot release and close. The digital radio (an upgrade - the lack signifying that this car is really aimed at the American market) is fiddly but I'm getting there. For now I'm a happy camper but will keep you posted.  

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Tony Benn Phenomenon

I think at heart the thing about Tony Benn (aka Viscount Stansgate or Anthony Wedgwood Benn) was that he seemed a decentish sort of bloke and gave off the air that he might be amusing company.

I saw him speak at university (he might still have been Wedgwood Benn at that time) and he was compelling. Verging on bonkers but compelling. The only political speaker I ever saw who could hold a candle to him was Keith Joseph (aka KJo) who came with the same intellectual confidence but from the opposite direction. Also vaguely bonkers. Ultimately (and via the proxy of Thatcherism) Joseph did more to shape the land we live in and Benn achieved the greater fame.

There was a predictable piece about Benn on Feedback on Radio 4 this afternoon, people bemoaning the cancellation of a Rebus adaptation to make way for a Benn retrospective. The general tone was that this had been an exaggerated response to the death of a man who only briefly held ministerial post and never one of the great offices of state. But what all the complaints overlook is that Benn was an adept communicator, hence his piercing of our modern consciousness. He deserved his attention. Our toleration and respect for his philosophy speaks well of the British; far better than the vituperation that the Thatcher death engendered. Plus he was a pipe smoker and as the son and grandson of pipe smokers I've always thought that lent an air of gravitas.

Back On The Chain Gang

Three cracking days at Cheltenham, all involving degrees of inebriation, two culminating in a curry and one generating a profit. For four days every Spring it really is the best place on earth.

My age is catching up with me and the days at the Festival left me footsore and brainsore. I then refereed a decent enough game of rugby on the Saturday and I'm still stretching out the stiffness six days later. No rugby this weekend coming because I have the technical rehearsal for the production of Anne Frank's Diary wherein I am treading the boards next week. I know my lines but not necessarily in the right order. This can be very confusing for my fellow thespians. I put it down to my age. And no I'm not playing a nazi - why does everyone ask me that?

The beautifully prepared Ireland won the Six Nations and the richly deserving Brian O'Driscoll thereby got the send-off he deserved. If you bump into me I will explain how that arch poseur Steve Walsh once again got the last decision of a major international wrong. He is a very good referee with a peculiar gift for unpunished big errors. While we're on the subject of rugby, can anyone please tell me how it is other than confoundingly stupid for England to have agreed to play a test match in New Zealand less than a week after the Premiership final thus inevitably denying themselves a coterie of their best players .

On the subject of Brian O'Driscoll, Keith Wood opined that O'Driscoll has been one of the three greatest figures of the professional era, alongside Richie McCaw and Dan Carter. It is telling that an Irish commentator could so readily ignore the career of the only Northern Hemisphere player ever to have lifted the World Cup, Martin Johnson. This omission would be deemed a calumny if it involved other than an Englishman. Hey ho.

I was never conscious of him as Viscount Stansgate, saw him speak as Anthony Wedgwood Benn and observed him with grudging affection as Tony Benn. The reaction to his death has been interesting and will get a post of its own. As will my confession about the middle-aged good sense that underlay my recent purchase of a new car. Be back soon.