There are a number of topics which I can talk about with some authority. The problem is that most of them are of absolutely no use in the 'real world'. One area which I consider to be very much a 'blind spot' for me is my knowledge of cars in particular, and their mechanics in general.
This feels like a particularly shameful admission coming from a man in his 30s who is from West Falkland. This is a place where vehicles 'lives' are extended by years beyond what might be expected by creative mechanics and engine parts being adapted, mended, bashed into place, or simply done without, whereas in the UK they'd might simply be replaced. I'm not saying it's always a happy life for the vehicles, I've seen the Knight brothers of Fox Bay driving rovers which at times have looked or sounded like they'd rather just be 'let go'. I remember as a kid my dad telling me how good araldite glue was and explaining that more than one part of our rover had been held together with it, I never did ask which parts.
The reason that my lack of knowledge in this area has been on my mind recently is that Amy and I have been looking for a new car. I should clarify, when I say a 'new car', I actually mean a second or third hand car which will be 'new' to us. Being married to a teacher of course means that we've always done our research prior to arriving, and prior to test driving any car we've generally looked up the amount of tax/insurance etc we'd have to pay, as well as any issues we should look out for with particular models. It also means that I generally have just about enough knowledge stored in my short term memory to be able to bluff through a conversation with the salesman, until the nightmare scenario of him going remotely off topic of course. We were in a showroom the other day talking to a guy and discussing a Ford Focus he had for sale. We were talking about our requirements and in particular space being a key issue and he asked "Would an Espace be too big?" I hesitated, sensed a look of panic flash across my face, tried to look like I was considering it and said "Not necessarily?" It turned out that yes, an Espace was far too big.
The problem with our doing much of our research online is that as soon as you look for reviews on almost any product, you open yourself up to a world of angry customers. No matter how good something is, someone, somewhere will have had such a bad experience that they'll feel compelled to share under a heading such as "Deathtrap...Ruined My Life" or something equally eye-catching. I don't know about you but I rarely feel compelled to review anything unless it's to vent anger about some perceived injustice. This is why a restaurant might be open for 5 years, have a great reputation locally, be almost impossible to get a booking at but the only reviews you'll find online will be years old and consist of "The waiter spilled soup on me" and "My meal was 20 minutes late". The difference when buying a car, even when it's second hand of course is that the chances are you're going to be spending a lot of money so you tend to be more cautious and so end up reading every review by people signing themselves as 'Livid in Leigh' or 'Seething In Southend'.
The only car that we have ever owned has been a bright red Toyota Yaris which was second hand when we purchased it in about 2005. In the following months we discovered that it had been involved in a serious accident in the years prior to our owning it, which was something which the previous owner had very much glossed over when negotiating. As we were young at the time and, as I believe the technical term probably goes, 'Idiots' we hadn't paid a government agency to do a background check of the car's history. This check would have revealed the full extent of its accident and we instead decided, for some reason, that we could probably trust the man we had never met before. Hey, you live and learn.
Having said that, the Jakemobile, (yeah that's right, we named it...and we named it after our dog), has been a really good car for us. It's never had a breakdown or given us any real mechanical issues at all, even in terms of passing its MOTs. It has little 'quirks' which we have grown accustomed to over the years. Due to its accident the fan belt rubs against (At this point my knowledge lets me down and prevents me naming another engine part it might be rubbing against) something and makes a squeaking noise whenever the engine is running. This means that whenever our car is within about 30 feet of home after being anywhere our three dogs start going crazy in the house as they can hear the car and know we're home. The fact our car also judders and shakes slightly when idling at traffic lights is also another facet of its charm, as is the fact that the car is completely incapable of doing anything more than 87 mph on motorway. I of course have never contemplated doing this speed anyway as it is above the speed limit, but I certainly know people who have. The engine literally starts to make high pitched whining noise at the precise moment you hit that speed. I have actually come to think of that tortured whine as an inbuilt safety feature, like the car is telling you to slow down and stop being in such a hurry. Another feature which I have come to think of as 'charming' rather than 'annoying' is the fact that the car only has a tape deck as a source of entertainment on long journeys. The radio doesn't work (The guy who sold it to us had a tape playing as we test drove it.....clever) and there is no CD player. This means that Amy and I have been making compilation tapes for our long journeys for the last 7 years and have more than 25 of them rattling around in the glove box. I am not sure if I know anyone else who has made car tapes in the last 15 years. We're basically like hipsters, if hipsters were choosing how to act based on what they could afford rather than what was cool.
Based on various points I have mentioned above I'm not sure how easy it would be for us to sell our existing car for anything much more than scrap value. Truth be told I'd be very sad to sell, and I am really not sure that I could convince any potential buyers to see the Jakemobile (As I shall insist on calling it throughout any negotiations) and it's foibles as mere character traits that adds to its charm rather than faults which devalue it immensely.