My Sixty Fifth Week as a Budding Author
There’s an old saying in my family that goes something along the lines of “If it ain’t broken, don’t let Dave near it”. A very sage bit of advice that would be well considered by anyone coming into contact with myself. Were the bible to be re-written for modern times the casting team wouldn’t even bother advertising for Jonah, they would simple trek to my door and offer me the job on the spot. I cannot think of any single object that I have ever touched that hasn’t malfunctioned in some sort of manner.
This week I’ve been particularly plagued by the gremlins who have taken umbrage with my entire personal inventory from bike related objects to the radio spectrum. It all began with my track pump, how on earth can anything go wrong with a track pump? It’s simple a long handle with a bit of rubber on the end that goes up and down in a metal chamber. Robots of the future will thank us cyclists for inventing their sex life. Anyhow, my track pump decided that the anniversary of transferring into my ownership warranted a particularly special celebration, so announced this by letting out a huge explosion of air as the tyre reached 80psi and blowing the pump head off the valve.
You cannot possibly understand how annoying this is. I require 95 psi in my tyres in order to perform at my optimum speed upon the bike. The weather is currently very conducive to optimum speeds yet I am 15 pounds per bloody square inch down due to the malfunctioning track pump. It’s all been a bit Basil Fawlty in the garage again as I’ve jumped up and down waving two fingers at the thing and subsequently gone in search of birch twigs to beat it with. The next ceremony this particular pump will be celebrating is it’s own burial at Swindon Recycling Centre when it joins our previous 6 washing machines in a metallic grave.
Having redecorated the garage door with pump shaped impressions, I toddled off to Devon in order to write the remainder of my cycling book. The rest of the family stayed behind optimistically clutching tickets to watch Swindon Town play in the international football festival globally known as the Johnston Paint Trophy. Their opponents, the mighty Chesterfield FC. Swindon Town should have sacked me as a fan years ago as the outcome was clearly preordained. Dave had been near this team previously, they’re going to lose. So I don’t even need to type the next paragraph do I? Suffice to say I had a sullen phone conversation with disappointed wife and kids that Sunday evening. In hindsight I should have driven up to Chesterfield and declared allegiance to the town of bent spires.
Next in the line of things broken by me was the wifi connection in Brixham. I rely upon a BTOpenzone connection when down there which is very important for writing the book. This is all down to my Dictafone ride notes which often go along the lines of “Just rode through the very scenic town of ‘Can’t Have One’”. Clearly there is no such town and it takes an extended period of googling to ascertain that I was actually transiting through Caernafon and the “Bloody great thing on left made of bricks” is possibly the famous castle.
Therefore you can imagine my distress when after a few hours of wifi connection my laptop gleefully informed me that a “Connection Timeout” had occurred. I cannot hide my contempt for error message authors. I’m not bad at wielding the old electronic spanner but I need a bit more information than two words that offer no clue as to where this time occurred, is it me or BT? and are there any possible remedies that I might want to consider? I wouldn’t even mind a bit of honesty from the laptop along the lines of “Dave, it’s broken, give up and go to a cafe with free wifi and make some coffee last ages. All the reboots and reconfigurations in the world are not going to fix this one”. But the piss poor “Connection Timeout” gives one hope that after a while the time-out will time-in and all will be well. I spent days trying again and again to reconnect. After many futile attempts I resorted to attempting the hack the neighbour’s wifi with password guessing attempts. Being in Devon I couldn’t resist some stereotyping so their security logs may read:-
25-03-12: Failed password attempt: “fisherman”
25-03-12: Failed password attempt: “clottedcream”
25-03-12: Failed password attempt: “grockelsrule”
25-03-12: Failed password attempt: “ohforfuckssakepleaseletmein”
25-03-12: Failed password attempt: “iamaciderdrinker”
Having clearly killed the wifi, I turned all of my powers of object jinxing inwards. Last week I banged on about writing 20k+ words in a period of 4 days. Three days in, I had 15k done and it was all looking to be on track with an extended session on the Monday planned to nail the final 5k and finish the book. I woke up early that morning and struggled to leave my bed. The descent of the stairs took hours, as I stopped to mournfully read the chairlift adverts in the back of the previous day’s newspaper. I had contracted some weird form of lurgy that mixed stomach complaint with absolute and total lethargy.
There is no greater form of torture than staring at a blank screen with a self enforced deadline and a total and utter inability to function at all. I tried it for a few hours occasionally distracting myself with a “Connection Timeout” but inspiration just would not come. I even tried flushing the whole system out by eating an entire can of stewed prunes followed by a large pot of natural yoghurt. Trust me that this works, but it takes 24 hours to kick in. Whilst many areas of the country are currently suffering a petrol crisis, Brixham is currently wondering where all the toilet roll went.
Forlornly I struggled home in the car and spent Tuesday attempting to get back on track. This was almost achieved and I am happy to report that I’m within a whisker of completing the text. A business meeting intervened and proved to be the only unbroken thing this week as some major progress was made, major revelations had and cursory plans were solidified. I drove home from this meeting begging the car to not break and see me home in time for us to pack for an Easter holiday with the kids.
Suffice to say that I made it. Helen had studiously sorted all of the packing and administration in my absence. My only task was to fill up the van with diesel ready for our Thursday evening depart. In a normal world this would have taken ten minutes to achieve, a quick dash to the petrol station, an emptying of wallet and a smug return home. But seeing as this was Dave it was all destined to go wrong. The whole country had decided to go diesel shopping based upon Government advice. David Cameron had clearly advised that the best “no panic” action to take in the event of an imminent tanker driver strike was to “top up”. Being the loyal subjects we are, every British citizen complied at exactly 7pm on Wednesday evening.
Luckily we are all a canny lot and know where to get a bargain. Therefore all of the Swindon garages with diesel priced slightly less than gold by weight had morphed into car parks. The one shining beacon of light was the Texaco garage a few miles from my house. As a public service to us motorhome owners they’d jacked their diesel price to £1.50 a litre, therefore clearing a tiny space on the forecourt where a desperate motorhome owner could pull in and place the equivalent of a new bike into their empty tank. To make things worse the van was behaving oddly on the way. I could only get 3rd and 4th gears to work. Which is not a problem in a 2.3 diesel engine with a lot of torque, but seemed odd anyway.
Returning home, I attempted to reverse the van onto the drive. The Jonah force within me grew strong and left my physical form via the gear lever transferring itself into the gearbox giving everything it had.
All gear selection failed. The van was blocking the road with the engine idling merrily away and a whole cul-de-sac’s worth of curtains twitching. It took ten minutes of swearing for the gearbox to concede and I managed to get the van to at least go forward and park up. The kids were happily bragging to friends outside about their forthcoming trip as I announced to Helen that our holiday plans had taken on a subtle new path down the avenue of “f**ked”. What does one do in this situation? In the old days one phones a garage and merrily laughs off the phase “fully booked, Easter mate innit” then cancels all plans. However, we’re kids of a modern age and so we raced to Google.
A plethora of Fiat owners had spilled their frustrations with this gearbox online. Apparently it was a common fault, equally apparent was that advice ranged from handing over one’s wallet to a mechanic to hitting it gently a bit. We took the latter option and would you believe it worked. The problem was remedied by Helen sat in the cab wriggling and me under the van hitting. Wiggle, wiggle, hit, hit, hit. That’s all you need to know if your Fiat gearbox will not select reverse.
Clearly we’re tempting fate by driving a van repaired by bashing over 500 miles down to the Alps. Fate is tempted even more by placing Dave in said van for the duration and who in their right mind would subsequently place Dave on skis when he’s Jonah’d everything else in the previous five days? The family have packed gypsy lavender, rabbits feet and will be saluting magpies for the next seven days.
29th March 2012
ps. Rumour has it that Amazon are going on strike next week so you may WANT TO STOCK UP ON EBOOKS as soon as you can