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It's all a load of bollocks, quite frankly

Make poverty quieter, make Bono history. Caution: Naughty words

Mr B. Ono-Twat

This is one of my old stock images of Bono. It’s still VERY relevant

I’ve lost count how many Bono rants I’ve done, but I make no apologies as the twat winds me right up and I’m going to fire another one at you. I hate the bastard. The man is a conceited, fraudulent, hypocritical cunt as far as I’m concerned and it would appear I’m not the only one. My old friend Michael refers to him as “a cunt” and I’ve pinched one of Michael’s quotes for the title of this piece of bollocks I’m forcing upon you.

This man, pictured here, is an activist and “global spokesperson” for ending world poverty. He has given his defence for tax avoidance in Ireland. The Irish Independent has reported that Bono has defended his band’s decision to move its publishing arm to the Netherlands because it is “inline with government policy”.

I quote “It is not an intellectually rigorous position unless you understand that at the heart of the Irish economy has always been the philosophy of tax competitiveness,” and “Tax competitiveness has taken our country out of poverty. People in the Revenue accept that if you engage in that policy then some people are going to go out, and some people are coming in. It has been a successful policy.” He also added “On the cranky left that is very annoying, I can see that. But [that] is why Ireland has stayed afloat”

FUCK OFF! So, that has nothing to do with the bailout Ireland had from the EU and IMF that was around the tune of €85 billion, then? No, God, I can see it so clearly now! Get your country out of an economic disaster by fucking off and avoid paying your tax bill. Now, I don’t enjoy paying taxes any more than the next person, and yes the amount I pay is like a penny in comparison. But in the same token I’m not a multi-millionaire alleged rock star that spouts his mouth off that everyone should pay their fair share of everything and that we should end world poverty. Indeed he is a co-founder of something called the ONE Foundation which does it’s best to remind us that THERE’S POOR PEOPLE IN THE WORLD AND THAT THERE IS LOADS OF POVERTY THAT NEEDS SORTING. I’m sure he doesn’t need reminding about the report that was made public about the ONE Foundation back in 2010.

But I’ll thrown in a reminder anyway. Bono received in excess of £9.6 million in donations, yet only managed to hand out £118,000 to the relevant causes. Now, I understand with these kind of things that they are awareness schemes and not every penny goes to the selected charity and causes, but come on, it was NINE FUCKING MILLION QUID YOU TIGHT ARSED OIRISH TWAT! That works out that the good causes this foundation supports received a little over 1%. Ah! Maybe that’s why it’s called the ONE Foundation is because ONE percent is all that will be handed out to the relevant causes. Also, according to the New York Post, £5.1 million in wages were paid out. Hmmmm.

I wouldn’t have a problem so much with Bono if, firstly, he wasn’t part of an utterly underwhelming and mediocre rock band. Secondly, I cannot ever take anything seriously from someone who is basically avoiding paying tax in his own country, yet has no shame in asking other countries to get their citizens to use their own tax money to pay for issues he wants to support. And that’s after the concert tour that grossed $736,421,586. With his nett worth, he could solve most poverty problems, but he constantly gets you or I to do it rather than dipping his hand in himself. I’m not saying he should give all his money away as that would be stupid. Like it or not, he has earnt a good share of the money he has received by being in a successful (I’m not quite sure how, though) band. Fuck me, if I were in a band the size and popularity of U2, I’d want to be rich and see the cash flowing in. Yes, I would also do my bit for those less fortunate as I try to do in my own small way now. But I certainly wouldn’t preach as to who people should give their money to. However, what infuriates me most is the nice, tidy living he’s made off the back of things such as Live Aid, G8 and this ONE Foundation bollocks, as has that twat of a mate of his, Geldof. Did I mention he’s avoiding tax bills, did I mention that? Did I?

Certainly a far cry from his days of being just an anti-establishment cunt in a mediocre rock “band” who speeled socialist bollocks.Nowadays, he’s very much “the establishment” and tells us who to give our money to whilst putting on a façade that he is “the voice of the poor people”. Yeah, because preaching to an audience to give more money when they’ve spent anywhere between £70 and £100 a ticket for a fucking rock concert is fucking bang on isn’t it?

I believe at a Glasgow gig once, he started clapping and slowed it down whilst saying “every time I clap a child in Africa dies” to which someone responded with a typical Glaswegian slant of “Well fucking stop it then!” My sentiments exactly…

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September 23, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Dealership

The Apprentice Lad's bicycle, parked correctly

The Apprentice Lad’s bicycle, parked correctly

I’ve not seen this programme The Dealership. Apparently it’s a fly on the wall documentary about a, erm, dealership. Even though I haven’t watched it I think it should have been filmed at the garage I used to work at.  In fact I remember the salesman saying it would be a fantastic idea to make a fly on the wall documentary about where we worked. I think the best way of describing what the experience may have been like can be summed up in one word: unique.

We were a main franchised dealership for Fiat and Alfa Romeo. I no longer work there and since the dealership no longer holds the franchise. Some of the people I worked with were great, some not so. I’ve focused in on the people who I liked (except the General Manager), and the rather amusing anecdotes. Most of the recollections are “you should have been there” moments, but alas none of you were so I’ll have to tell them.

Day one at the dealership: Tall lanky salesman (who is a top bloke) says “Weellllll, what a load of old shit. What a fucking liberty” as a customer pulls up. I, the service manager, shares same level of enthusiasm and says “what does this prick want now.” On the same day, a second person turns up wanting to do something strange such as buying a car. Prospective customer number one sees the tall lanky one and is sold a car instantly because the customer has interrupted his online Scrabble game. Prospective customer number two makes the fatal mistake of dealing with the sort, dumpy one (General Manager – likes to tell many many tales of rallying, hearing aids and SAGA holidays. In fact, he used to rally hearing aids) drives in an Alfa 156 and leaves in a hearse. Post mortem later revealed customer died of boredom upon listening to stories of rallying, hearing aids and SAGA holidays. His Alfa 156 is in the customer parking spot for so long, it takes up root in the tarmac. (Some poetic licence in this bit, obviously. He hated SAGA holidays)

Day two:  Our beloved Jaguar XK140, one of the many classics for sale, is sold. The new owner, who was rallied by the General Manager, paid cash and like most people had a part exchange which were, unlike most part exchanges, an old tractor and ride on lawn mower. The lawn mower was taken on by someone who “used to rally lawnmowers” and the tractor served its purpose as a backup rally vehicle, after being fitted with a souped-up A+ Series engine from a 1983 MG Metro, the front brakes from a Ford Granada and the indicator stalk from a Peugeot 104.

Day three: Owner’s son shouts at the back my chair (I’m not there because I’m on annual leave): “Yoooouuuuu! You’re going down the road when you get back!” Our Welsh Mechanic stumbles home to his caravan, falls through a hedge into a stream. General Manager says “Oh my!” a lot

Day four: The owner’s son chases the trainee salesman, known to everyone as Ginger Tosser, around the premises with an air rifle. Can’t say I blame him as he really was a tosser. And ginger. Later on, Police are called to arrest a man for and it takes three to take the owner’s son down. General Manager used to rally Police cars, it turns out.

Day five: Chief mechanic, MoT tester and Mexican Freddie Mercury impersonator says to the Ginger Tosser sales trainee “ah well, at the end of the day, in all fairness I’m going to lock you in the fucking boot of that car.” And he did, good man. Chief mechanic glued radio dial onto Classic FM to stop people changing the radio station. Rebuild on Twin Spark engine interrupted by me talking in his voice to him, and the YTS lad speaking to Welsh Mechanic in his voice. Told many, many stories on how “I used to rally Datsun 120Ys” other enlightening rally stories by General Manager. I fall asleep for a while. Before falling asleep, we all talk to General Manager in his voice, because he used to rally it.

Day six: This day didn’t happen as I was still asleep from the rallying stories. Oh, wait, hang on… The owner’s son used to wash the cars and sometimes had to scratch “himself”. Police were called to investigate a man “masturbating into a bucket.” General Manager used to rally buckets, it emerges. News comes from Dealer Principal who has had to go to London for a meeting with Fiat. Travelled by Motor Cycle rather than car, something happened to his luggage – it fell and caught fire on the exhaust. Luggage found at side of the road on fire. Problem solved, new suit from Savile Row. News also filtered down that he opened the wrong door to use the toilet and ended up opening the front door to the hotel room rather than the bathroom and walked into the hallway stark bollock naked. Without a key. General Manager used to rally keys.

Day seven: Son of service manager of other branch steals my office chair. Wondering where it is I launch a full scale investigation to hunt down whatever bastard stole my chair. Its whereabouts are soon discovered. It’s at the back of the yard with a hoover and a photocopier smouldering on a bonfire. Fire brigade called out by the bunch of ejits at the council yard. Fire officer who knew the cheeky arsonist bastard what set fire to my chair, looked at it, basically said DILLIGAF and fucked off. General Manager used to rally chairs, photocopiers and Fire Engines.

Day eight: I try my best to get General Manager to swear and say “fuck”. I try all sorts of things and none of them successful. Closest I get is “bastard” and “shit”. Apprentice mechanic opens bonnet of a car and says “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” a lot. Instantly declares that the air filter on this JTD likes men. Then declares that all his colleagues like men and we’re all going on a trip to The Isle of Men, via a concert at the MEN Arena. General Manager apparently used to rally men.

Day nine: Fiat/Alfa DET “strategically places” airbag onto battery to see what would happen. It shoots across the floor underneath several scooters, fills the workshop up with smoke and causes Dealer Principal to come out of his office shouting “Who the fuck is letting off guns in the workshop?” General Manager says “shit!”

Day ten: I steal Apprentice lad’s bicycle and Chief Tech and MoT tester parks it in a tree (see picture). General Manager never rallied bicycles, strangely. Trees, however…

August 8, 2013 Posted by | Motoring, Other Stuff! | 2 Comments

French car in “reliable for a year” scandal

A Peugeot named Edgar, literally some time ago

A Peugeot named Edgar, literally some time ago

I own a French car, so rather predictably I get the “all French cars is well shit lol don’t buy them cos dey break lol how many times your car broke LOL”, which is utter bollocks. The fact of the matter is, my French car is 26 years old, still on the road and is showing no signs of giving up yet.

The French car I’m talking about is Edgar. The name was chosen by my wife, and some friends have agreed this car is definitely an Edgar. I am, of course, talking about my 1987 Peugeot 205 Junior. I’ve had to tax it today, which means I’ve had it for a year now. It’s been a good year with the car. I love it to bits, it’s fun to drive and puts a smile on my face, is reliable and very cheap to run. It’s in fantastic nick for its age and is kept as much as possible in that condition. However, it is also a daily driver and first and foremost a work horse.

Quick it ain’t, only having 45bhp from its 954cc suitcase engine, but it’s lively enough around town and will cruise at about 65ish. But bloody hell is it economical and cheap to run. Sod all insurance costs, next to nothing on fuel and running repairs? Ha! Bugger all.

In fact here is a break down, if you’ll pardon the expression, of what has been done to Edgar the little Pug in a year:

– First week of ownership, it got a new set of wiper blades all round and a small engine service – cost £30
– Nothing until Christmas where for the first time it wouldn’t start. Damp HT leads and a fouled spark plug were the culprits. Nothing serious, no time to fix and zero cost.
– January: MoT time. Pretty much mate’s rates at the garage, so £25 for the test. It failed on one rear wheel bearing and one brake pipe. However, the other rear wheel bearing was an advisory and another brake pipe was getting a bit crusty. I had both brake pipes done as the fuel tank had to be lowered anyway. Whilst they were at it, the other wheel bearing was sorted out. A perishing CV boot was advised. Cost: £150
All quiet on the western front until April where for only the second time ever, it wouldn’t start properly. A new distributor cap and rotor arm sorted that at a cost of £11.00
Had a puncture a week later, hardly the car’s fault and whilst the wheel was off, had the CV boot done. Tyre: £25, CV boot: £30.

Excluding fuel, insurance and tax, the little 205 has cost me £671 in a year. That includes the purchase price of the car – that’s cheap. Factor in zero depreciation and it’s a winner. I’ve known people pay more than that for MoT repairs (usually on German stuff). Not bad for a French car, you know, the ones that continually break and fail. A French car that has got under my skin, become rather endearing and if it carries on like this will be with me for a very long time. I’m quite attached to it really.

 

 

August 3, 2013 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Top Albums: Jeff Lynne – Armchair Theatre

armchair theatre_2_jpg

The Preamble

Ah hello! Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea and welcome to my latest blog post. This week I have been mostly listening to Armchair Theatre, the debut solo album by Jeff Lynne. It has been given the remaster treatment, a freshen up in the packaging department and available on CD for the first time in well over ten years. Never heard of Jeff Lynne? Where have you been? Multi-instrumentalist, singer, song writer, producer and collaborator with some of the biggest names in music. More than that though, he was the creative force in the Electric Light Orchestra. He wrote, arranged and produced all the songs.

As we’ve established, this is Jeff’s solo debut. While there may have been a little over four years since the Electric Light Orchestra quietly disbanding after contractually obliged final album Balance of Power and the release of this album, Lynne was far from idle. He had written and produced with George Harrison on the Cloud Nine album which led to him becoming a Traveling Wilbury along with George, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison. Co-writing and production duties on Full Moon Fever, Tom Petty’s fantastic first solo offering, beckoned soon after.

Upon its original release, Armchair Theatre contained eleven songs. Eight original compositions – one of which co-written with Tom Petty – and three cover versions. It also featured a stellar cast of musicians. First and four-most we have Jeff, who plays guitars, keyboards, bass, pianos and drums. In addition, George Harrison guests on a few numbers playing a cracking slide guitar and providing backing vocals. Ex-ELO band mate Richard Tandy appears throughout the album providing keyboards, guitars and backing vocals. Jim Horn provides saxophone on a couple of songs, Mette Methiesen drums on the songs Jeff doesn’t and Del Shannon crops up on backing vocals. And it was all recorded in Lynne’s home studio in Warwickshire, England.

My regard for the album is incredibly high. I originally bought the album over a decade ago on vinyl and had been searching for a copy on CD ever since. I had to “back up” the vinyl copy onto CD as the record became very, very worn as it became one of my most played albums in my collection. I’d spend many hours in second hand record shops (when they existed) looking for a copy to no avail. So, Christmas came and the gifts bestowed upon me included Mr. Blue Sky (I’ve already reviewed that) and Long Wave (I will be reviewing that). Within both of these was an advert card for forthcoming Jeff Lynne related releases. ELO Live, a remaster and re-release of Zoom and, at long last, a fully remastered Armchair Theatre. Release date here in the UK – 22nd April, the day before the birthday of yours truly. Excellent!

The package arrrived containing Armchair Theatre and Zoom (I’ll review that another time) and it’s been repackaged in a gatefold card sleeve more reminiscent of an old LP with a picture disc and full booklet. It also includes two extra songs that were recorded around the same time as the rest of the LP but didn’t make the cut.

What I do like are the sleeve notes by Eric Idle. Well, I use the term “sleeve notes” in just about the loosest term possible. It’s actually Eric Idle recalling a story about him trying to write the sleeve notes, coercing Billy Connolly into helping while all the time trying to convince Lynne that they had really done them. All whilst the three of them are having a meal in a restaurant eyeing up the waitresses.

One little quip from the liner notes: “How about we say originally it was a Virgin record? It had no hole in the middle.”

The songs

It’s a typically Jeff Lynne sounding album, with his trademark production sound, which is something I’m a big fan of. It’s more of a stripped back sound than many of the earlier ELO songs. The album kicks off with a bang. Well actually, it kicks off with Every Little Thing, which is a fantastic start with powerful drums and bass and then kicks into the verse with an effective saxophone refrain throughout. Good choice for the first single, too, though commercial success for the album and singles was never great despite the generally positive reviews received at the time. If the miracles of modern technology are, by some miracle, actually working then you should be able to see the video placed above. The real life and animated video contains cameo appearances by George Harrison and Tom Petty.

Next up is the first of three cover versions on Armchair Theatre, Don’t Let Go. Catchy, short rockabilly number originally written by Jesse Stone and featuring some great saxophone by Jim Horn. The other covers are excellent versions of September Song and Stormy Weather, the latter of which was recorded as a tribute to Jeff’s late mother. Both of these feature George Harrison at his slide guitar playing best and all three covers demonstrate that Lynne can do a decent cover version, simultaneously keeping the mood of the original but adding a little something.

Lift Me Up is a contender for one of the best songs on the album. The second and final single from the album, it is a piano and guitar-led ballad  and again showcases George Harrison’s soulful slide guitar. Hopefully, by the miraculous miracles of modern miraculous technological miracles, the video should appear at the bottom of the blog entry. If it doesn’t I’ve wasted my time writing this.

Nobody Home is, as far as I’m concerned is a bit of filler. I like it, but I do find myself reaching for the skip button every now and then so I shall cease writing about it. Now You’re Gone is an Indian tinged song, complete with Indian percussion and harmonies and a fantastic violin solo. Don’t Say Goodbye is a pleasant song that could have quite easily been recorded in the early 196os.

What Would It Take is, along with Lift Me Up, my favourite track on the album and is a fairly straight forward guitar-led song. Simple bass, simple drums, great vocals and a smidge over two and half minutes long. Blown Away was co-written with Tom Petty and wouldn’t have been out of place on Full Moon Fever. Has quite a hint of Beatles about it. Final song on the original album running order is Save Me Now which is a very short ecologically-minded acoustic number which did end the album perfectly. However, there are two bonus tracks that were recorded around the same time. Borderline is an acoustic strumalong, and would have made a welcome addition in the original album line-up. Forecast is, rather predictably, a song about the weather and is more than just a little Beatlesque. This too sounds too good to have been left off the album in the first instance.

I’ve bored you for long enough now, but it’s great to hear the album fully remastered and not just a “back-up” of a very worn out record. It rates in my top ten albums ever, and I haven’t grown tired of listening to it yet. My rating out of ten? Well, I have to skip a song so I’ll be fair and call it nine. I’ve kept you for long enough, go and make a cuppa and watch the video for Lift Me Up, below.

April 28, 2013 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pass the blanket and slippers, I’ve bought me a Rover.

A Rover 25, yesterday

A Rover 25, yesterday

So, we’ve bought yet another car, though this time it’s not through choice or wanting to. Some inconsiderate cow of a woman-person decided it would be a good idea to have a game or Russian Parking Roulette. What would have been a routine visit and lunch at the local supermarket turned out to be a total twat of an occasion, as the aforementioned woman-person in her Renault Laguna caved in the rear door of our “beloved” (ha!) Corsa, and the insurance company declared it a write-off. The fact that this wrote off a 10 year old car is deeply frustrating and needless, especially as we’d spent a small fortune on the Corsa just before Christmas and got the thing mechanically just so. As working for a franchised Fiat and Alfa dealer when the scrappage scheme was in full force made me cringe as to what good cars were sent to the crusher, so to know this little Corsa was being sent to an early grave was a bit of a bitter pill to swallow. However, things change and move on, and so it had to go. But what to replace it with? We needed something to carry us and a toddler approaching his terrible twos. Oh, and all his crap – literal and metaphorical.

We were due to go on holiday, typically, and two days before we were due to drive from Cornwall to Teesside the Corsa got collected by the insurance company. True, we had Edgar the 205, but I wasn’t about to do nigh-on 500 miles in a 954cc French buzzbox with wife and child on board. If I was doing the journey myself, I would have done! So, we were going to hire some brand new peace of Korean misery, but quotes were flying in excess of £350 to hire a car so bearing that in mind, we set to work to find a car that most people on Autoshite would be proud of. There wasn’t much for what we wanted to spend and the decent stuff was too far away. Plenty of stuff on Gumtree, again too far away. So we thought sod it, we’ll hire something and buy something when we’re away.

The following day we took a walk and at the end of the road was a 1999 Rover 25 in metallic blue, with 8 months ticket on it advertised at £475. My wife, knowing that I’ve gone on about the renowned OMGHGF of the K Series engine, asked if these are the ones that go pop regularly I confirmed it. We contacted the seller man-person, who turned out was a trader man-person who I’ve sold a few motors to in the past. We had a good look at it, looked at the vast amount of service history which included a replacement head gasket with the modified parts done within the last eight months. So we slept on it (not literally, that would be stupid) and reconfirmed how much it would cost to hire a car.

The following morning, the wife-person says something along the lines of “Well, if we beat him down in price, buy the car, it’s going to cost 100 quid maximum more than hiring some little box. If we don’t like it, we can sell it on and if it breaks we’ll bin it and grab another one.”

I liked her train of thought, so we thought sod it, we’ll buy it. Wife-person phoned up man-person, haggled a bit and got it for £430. We picked it up Wednesday evening, bearing in mind we were going away Thursday.

So, what is it?
Well, it’s a dark metallic blue Rover 25 1.6. Three owners from new, one of them clearly blind as one of the previous owner-persons fitted it with ghastly Lexus lights. SWMBO-person likes them and alas they’re staying put. If they meet with an “accident” then so will I, I’m told. Its interior has been relatively well looked after, got four good condition alloys, a pretty much full 14 year service history and (after the holiday) 107,000 miles on the clock. The bodywork has a few rust spots and in some places on the bonnet the lacquer has seen better days. Other than that, it wears its years well.

Equipment levels aren’t bad – leccy sunroof, mirrors and windows. It also has occasional central locking, ABS, airbags, power steering and comfortable multi adjustable seats. Rover definitely engineered this car for the older person-person. People with lumbago as there are so many different lumbar support positions. People with glaucoma or some other sight related deficiency as the steering wheel is the same thickness as the average German saloon, the gear knob is the size of a desert and all the switches are chunky and easy to read. Oh and there’s wood! Wood!

“Hmmm hmmm heh. He said wood, hmmm hmmm heh.”

However, the way it drives is totally different. It doesn’t drive like a 107,000 mile car, feels about half that. It’s quite sporty. That 1.6 K series lump is smooth, refined but an absolute gem when you apply the right foot. Indeed, it’s a very rev-happy unit. The steering turn in is a marked improvement over the Corsa, being a hydraulic system rather than the ball ache electronic unit. It handles nicely, corners well, though the gearshift is a bit too clunky. Boot is a good size and the front is roomy enough, however because of the sloping roof, the rear headroom is a wee bit clip.

So, to summarise: Corsa gets side-bummed by stupid woman-person, nasty man-person in transporter takes it away, we buy a 14 year old Rover with a K Series engine instead of hiring a new car with full warranty back up and breakdown cover. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

Well, ye of little faith, nothing so far. In just over a week it did a trip from Cornwall to Teesside and back again and including the driving around the North East, that’s 1200 miles. 1200 fault free, comfortable miles. It hasn’t missed a beat. Plus for the wife to go to work and back everyday since getting back home (35 mile round trip). For the moment, this car is a keeper, but hopefully we’ll keep it longer than for the moment as we’ve grown quite fond of it. It has minor irritations that need sorting, such as the dreaded water in the boot, which just so happens to coincide with the rear screen washer not working, the central locking sorting and a quick engine service. But for what we paid, this is a seriously good little car.

Looking for a cheap car? If you’re prepared to accept that at some point you’ll have to have the head gasket done, you could do a lot worse than a 25. The interior build still seems solid after those years and miles, the whole car still feels tight. It’s good fun to drive and refined at the same time. Try one, just don’t believe that they’re only for old people!

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April 12, 2013 Posted by | Motoring | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Electric Light Orchestra – Mr Blue Sky

mrbluesky_300dpiI’ve been meaning to write about this for quite some time now, as it was one of two albums bought for me for Christmas – the other being Jeff Lynne’s Long Wave LP. I’ll deal with that one another day.

Now, I already own at least one ELO Greatest Hits compilation, the original releases from the seventies and eighties on vinyl and one from the late nineties on CD. Since then, a million and eleventy seven Greatest Hits compilations have been released. So why do we need yet another? This one is a little bit different as Jeff Lynne has, almost single-handedly, re-recorded the songs because the old ones didn’t sound as good or as tight as he remembered. Which started alarm bells ringing straight away. I’ve never really liked the idea of artists re-recording their earlier work. Indeed, this collection already has its detractors who have stated that this is nothing but a cynical marketing exercise. Would I think it to be the same upon listening?

I’ve always been more of a Jeff Lynne fan rather than out and out ELO fan and I find myself listening to less early ELO than I used to. The later synth-driven and stripped back stuff appeals to me far more. ‘Secret Messages’ and ‘Balance of Power’ are two criminally underrated albums, as is Jeff’s debut solo album ‘Armchair Theatre’. Same again with ‘Zoom’, which despite being released under the ELO banner, is essentially Jeff’s second solo album with help from fellow ELO bandmate Richard Tandy, George Harrison and Ringo Starr among others. I find the production of the earlier stuff a bit too over the top these days, especially the orchestral arrangements. Whereas I like the latter day “Jeff Lynne sound”, and the production work he has done for the likes of George Harrison (Cloud Nine), Tom Petty (Full Moon Fever, Into The Great Wide Open, Highway Companion), The Beatles and as a member of the Traveling Wilburys.

Anyway, back to this compilation.  The running order: Mr Blue Sky, Evil Woman, Strange Magic, Don’t Bring Me Down, Turn To Stone, Showdown, Telephone Line, Livin’ Thing, Do Ya, Can’t Get It Out Of My Head, 10538 Overture and new song Point of No Return. A line up of classics, basically. I’ve listened to this collection a couple of dozen times now, which must be testament as to what I think of it as if I hated it it’d be in the bin. I should have trusted Lynne and his production know how really, as the re-recordings are amongst his best work. Remember how bad the demo tape of the Beatles Free As A Bird was? The job Lynne did with the surviving Beatles was fantastic. He’s managed similar here.

What Lynne has basically done is use modern production techniques, modern tools and equipment to reinvigorate these old tunes. To my ears, and I’m not expecting everyone to agree (though granted, those who disagree are stupid) , he’s done the best possible job he could. He hasn’t buggered around with the arrangements at all, they are as you would remember them from years ago. There’s just an added clarity and they seem more focused. The production is brighter and clearer, which would be what Lynne was aiming for. With the exception of the strings and a piano bit here and there, Lynne plays all the instruments and to be honest does as good a job as the members of ELO did back in the day. The bass sounds more pronounced, the guitars are far clearer and the drums sound tight. His voice has matured a great deal and seems better on these recordings now he’s older. Christ, he sounds good for a 64 year old. Most of all, the orchestral arrangements don’t overpower the songs. Watch the promo video for Mr Blue Sky:


Mr Blue Sky doesn’t seem totally over the top anymore, though hasn’t lost any of its charm. Don’t Bring Me Down seems to pack a bit more of a punch and the guitars seem rockier. Can’t Get It Out Of My Head, a fantastic song that I always found spoilt by its production is given a new lease of life here. Same with Livin’ Thing, a song I never got on with that much before has somehow become my favourite Lynne-penned song. Then there’s 10538 Overture, the song whose main riff Paul Weller pinched for his song “The Changingman”, really has been given a good buff and shine as it sounds clearer than you could have imagined. And if anyone thinks Jeff Lynne’s creative juices have run out, there’s new song Point of No Return hinting at what we can expect in the future It’s a cracking little pop song that wouldn’t sound out of place on A Hard Day’s Night.

Whatever you may think of this collection, it’s put ELO back in the public psyche and that’s a good thing. We need songs and musicians like this, something that isn’t a load of pre-packed nonsense. Lynne has managed to score three top ten albums in one week, with his solo album Long Wave, this compilation and people buying the old compilation, presumably to see just how much difference there is between the songs.

Still not convinced? Watch Jeff Lynne and Richard Tandy live from Bungalow Palace Studios (Jeff’s house) here:

March 5, 2013 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Austin Metro 1.0 City x 5 Door 1985 B reg | eBay

Now, I like a bit of Italian exotica, as you know. What I’d do for a 246 Dino or a Delta Integrale is anybody’s business. However, I’m more intrigued by and interested in boggo standard, basic shite cars from the 1970s and 1980s. Cars from the eighties moreso as that’s the decade of my childhood as I were born in 1982.

The Austin Metro was a reasonable car when launched and was the best British Leyland could do with their limited budget at the time. However it was quickly outclassed by newer rivals.

None of that really matters thirty years on. What does matter, despite the Metro’s propensity for rusting before your eyes, cars like the one in this this eBay listing survive. Much like my own 205 Junior, the Metro City X will never be regarded as a fully fledged classic and that’s a good thing. They’re pretty low down the pecking order compared with 205 GTis, even MG Metros and certainly anything with a VW logo on it. However, it means what you have is a useable and enjoyable car that if maintained well enough will provide fun motoring. The best thing about cars like this is you can pick them up for next to nothing, they’re easy to fix and still modern enough that if looked after could be used as a daily driver.

The Metro in this eBay listing is rather splendid. I love how BL or Austin Rover as they were called made everyone know you were driving the basic model. The recessed headlamps, the iron gurder bumpers and CITY X in great big letters down the side. Excellent stuff. You could probably get a Metro cheaper than the one in this eBay listing, but this one is a little beaut. I like it a lot.

Austin Metro 1.0 City x 5 Door 1985 B reg | eBay.

January 30, 2013 Posted by | Motoring | Leave a comment

Six months on with Edgar

Six months. That’s how long I’ve owned the white Peugeot 205 with blue denim seats. A car that my wife has named Edgar. A car that was supposed to be a stop-gap until I found something better, but truth be told I don’t want to find something better. It’s like the family pet, now. It’s the first car my wife has given a name (as far as I can remember) and my 20 month old son is obsessed with the “Puurrrrrrrr-jooooooooooeeee!” Especially not now, anyway, as the car now has a new, crisp MOT certificate. Not without needing some remedial work, mind you.

I was expecting a fail. It’s a twenty-five year old car. More than that, it’s a twenty-five year old French car. A twenty-five year old French Peugeot made from steel so thin you could read through it. I was expecting it to need lots of work. Chiefly because up until MOT time, the bonnet has been open for nothing much more than checking levels and when it had a quick engine service. Only once has it needed to be opened because it wouldn’t start at all. One fouled spark plug cleaned up and a liberal spraying of WD40 on the leads ensured it started first time afterwards. The only other work I’ve done to it is reseal the boot lid because, typically Peugeot, it lets in water. That and I drove it through flood water. Seriously, since I bought the car other than fuel and insurance (which is on a classic car policy as, because I don’t think I ever mentioned it was twenty-five years old), I’ve spent the sum of £30 on service items and a pair of wiper blades.

So, expecting it to fail on lots it was with a heavy heart I handed over the keys to my “old banger”, returned to work and waited for the phone call. And waited. Did some more waiting. And waited a bit more. I kept thinking that yes, the car has been fantastically looked after by previous owners but I own it now, it’s cost me next to nothing over the last half a year so something’s got to give. And let’s not forget it’s quarter of a century old (did I mention that before? Don’t think I did.)
Then, the phone call. “Paul, hi. It’s Gary Baldy-Biscuit from the testing station. Bad news I’m afraid, your Peugeot has failed its MoT test.” My first thought was bollocks! I enquired as to what repairs were needed.
“It needs two brake pipes and both rear wheel bearings replacing.”
I responded with “…and what else?”
“That’s it, just an advisory on the windscreen and an offside CV boot perishing.”

So, not too bad. Yes, they were the front to rear brake pipes that go up over the fuel tank and two wheel bearings so there was a fair amount of labour. But as I had neither the time or the inclination to repair it myself, the garage continued with the repairs. Literally some time and a couple of hundred sovs later I was presented with a crisp MoT certificate, along with a few other minor niggles that were unrelated to the MOT but rectified free of charge all the same. An advisory of O/S/F CV boot perished and windscreen delaminating in places were the only advisories.

I knew it was a pretty sound car anyway, and I viewed it twice before buying. But to be told by the MOT tester that it’s the cleanest Peugeot he’s worked on in a long while and is solid as a rock is relieving and feels good to know. The fact that it’s the cleanest Peugeot he’s worked on in a while isn’t really a huge recommendation, but then think of it this way – the 205 for a flimsy French buzz box is a pretty tough old boot. They’re pretty resilient to the old tin worm, the engines are strong if maintained well and mine being a Junior means there’s nothing electrical to fail. Have you noticed just how many 205s there still are on the roads? The paintwork in places is showing its age (I never mentioned it before, but it’s twenty-five years old) from the first owner who liked to use the gate posts as parking sensors. The interior is in great condition, and will be better once I receive the rarer-than-rockinghorse-shit glovebox (currently missing from mine) I ordered off Fleabay t’other night. The engine, currently, runs sweet as and even in the coldest of weather we’ve had has taken a maximum of two attempts to start. Let’s hope the next six months have been like that last.

January 27, 2013 Posted by | Motoring | Leave a comment

Junior Delinquent

The last blog entry I wrote entitled “I went on the internet and I bought this…” recalled the encounter of me going on eBay to buy another banger. I’d been looking for a cheap runaround to replace the Punto as its floor had fallen off. I’d found a rather charming little 1987 Peugeot 205 Junior with 44,000 miles driven by 2 owners from new. The promise of a huge lever arch file full of service history, the photos on the auction listing and the fact that it wasn’t a Corsa looked too good to be true. Thankfully the car looked better than advertised and drove a treat. So, as this entry was written before I’d picked it up I thought I’d update the story with any set backs or breakdowns I may have encountered along the way in the two months I’ve had it.

So in my best Autocar style, here’s the road test bit.

Exterior
Yes, it has one of these. It has some doors, windows, headlights, bumpers, bonnet, tailgate, wheels and much more which make up the exterior. This being the Junior model means it also has some stripes. On both sides. And some Junior badging. And colour coded wheel trims. Seriously though, it’s a fantastic looking car and considering the 205 was launched in 1983, its crisp lines still looks quite modern. Certainly, the 205 has always been one of my favourite hatchbacks of the 1980s.

Interior and equipment
It’s got one of these, too, largely made up of seats, dashboard and carpet. This being the Junior model means it has light stripes on the seats, and indeed the seats themselves are upholstered in a lavish and luxurious denim. The carpet is incredibly lavish pile made from expired French peasants. The dashboard is formed from the finest quality plastic with a grain not too dissimilar from an elephants’ bottom. Everything falls to hand readily (no, falls to hand, not falls off) and the controls logically situated. Steering wheel is in a good place, which is in front of the driver’s seat and the gear lever and hand brake are situated in the middle between the two seats. I’m not sure this idea will catch on personally, as it means your passenger could interfere with your driving by sabotaging the gear lever with, say, some super glue or worse still, leave a rancid Kipper on the handbrake. Still, the previous owners of this car have thankfully refrained from either of those practices and the interior is immaculate. Equipment wise, it has an up to the minute cassette deck with automatic tuning device for the radio system. The dials are fantastic, you have a speedometer which is handy for seeing if you’ve actually managed to get to 26mph yet and a fuel gauge which basically tells you there is fuel in the tank but not how much. The most impressive dial is just to the left of the speedometer. It simply says “Peugeot” and I’ve figured out what it’s for. It’s to remind you to that you couldn’t quite afford the GL model.

Engine
Somewhere under the bonnet beneath the carburetor lies an engine. Lies being the operative word seeming as it’s the Douvrin XV8 unit (the engine leans back 72 degrees). It develops an immense 45bhp from its 954cc which is enough to propel it to 83mph. It’s lively enough around town, but slower than time stood still for anything else. It’s a pretty smooth running engine that in its 25 year existence has covered all but 46,000 miles. It’s noisy in comparison with a newer car, but in a fun kind of way. These old lean-back engines have a distinctive whiney when pushing on, which makes you more aware that you’re extracting every little bit of power the poor little thing has to offer. I love it!

Performance
Erm, moving on…

Fuel economy
Impressive, in a word. It’s more miserly than Albert Steptoe. I’m not sure it even runs on unleaded to be honest as it’s that infrequently I actually need to go the petrol station. I can’t be arsed to work out miles per gallon figures as I have better things to do. Like write rubbish roadtests. Suffice to say we did a 120 mile round trip to Bude to see some family. Two days before, I put fifteen quids worth of unleaded in the tank from next to bone dry which did me a days worth of driving to work and back and the trip to Bude and back before replenishing any additional fuel.

Ride and handling / On the road
The 205 gained a reputation for being fun to drive. This one is no exception to be honest, even in lowly basic poverty specification such as this Junior. It’s not as sharp as the GTi, quite obviously, and has a fair amount of body roll but it’s fun to chuck into the bends all the same. Steering is light and is great for parking, but the turn in is good and feels positive. The gearchange is typical of other Peugeots from the time I’d driven. It’s rubbish until warmed up properly and then when warmed up very slightly less rubbish. The brakes are lacking in braking ability so much so that I think the front brake pads are made of Weetabix and the brake discs formed from water biscuits. The ride is superb even compared to more modern cars, thanks to typically French lofty suspension coupled to comfy seats as with most French cars of the time. This means it can at least transport eggs on French cobbled streets in superb comfort. So, dealing with the potholed roads of the UK is easy. Whereas speed bumps in my wife’s Vauxhall Corsa are undertaken as if it’s a bloody expedition to climb Everest, this little Pug makes speed bumps appear flatter that witches’ tits.

Living with the car / Reliability
It’s always exciting when you buy a new car no matter what age it is, and two months on the novelty hasn’t worn off. I went on about the condition before I drove it home, and getting it home meant I could have a proper look at it. It really is fantastic. Solid underneath, never been welded and the good sign is it won’t need any. Well, first day was event free on the drive back from Wadebridge to home via Falmouth. No fuss whatsoever. And if I’m totally honest, it’s pretty much been like that ever since (touching every piece of wood in sight). It has been given a minor engine service and a polish. So far, the bonnet has been up to top up the screenwash and to do the aforementioned service. It generally starts first (or third) time. Third attempt is a record so far, and that was on a blustery, rain-soaked day so I can forgive it that. My Basil Fawlty starting encouragement branch has yet to be used.

There are odd little bits and pieces here and there that I will probably end up doing but none of them are things that overly concern me. It has a very slight noise from its left hand front driveshaft, a pinhole in the rear silencer, a very minor engine oil leak and could do with its wheels balancing. Whilst we’re on the subject of wheels, I may put slightly wider wheels on at some point. It may be a little bit more stable on something a little bit wider than 135 section tyres. Nothing untoward will be going on as I’d like to keep it as original as possible.

Conclusion
To sum up the 205, then? It’s slow. It’s noisy compared with new stuff. Aside from a central locking kit that’s been retro fitted, there’s next to no equipment. The gearchange is rubbery and the brakes quite woeful. However, none of that really matters as it has a character of its own and makes me smile every time I drive it. That’s as important as anything else for me and the fact it’s cheaper than walking is also very appealing. It has quickly become one of my favourite cars so in my illustrious history of slightly shite motors. Is it going to be a stop gap car until something better comes along? I hope not. There’s not many of these Juniors at this age left on the road and I aim to keep this little machine battling on for as long as possible,  Yes, it’s bloody clean for its age. I’ve seen five year old cars look worse than this, however it’s a daily hack and therefore needs to work for a living getting me to work, doing the nursery run, going to the shops and filling in for when the Corsa is being repaired. Repeatedly. It will be cleaned, polished and maintained as well as possible to keep it going but it has to earn its keep. Final verdict? 10 out of 10.

October 12, 2012 Posted by | Motoring | , , , , | Leave a comment

I went on the internet and I bought this…

eBay has a lot to answer for. I looked at old bangers again. Old bangers! Only this time I’ve made a purchase, it’s mine and I pick it up tomorrow.

[Pause for first musical interlude. Always Knocking by Ian Broudie.]

The reason for looking on eBay was looking for something to replace the Punto which had failed its MoT. I couldn’t be bothered to fix it though as it needed a fair whack doing include plenty of welding so it’s been sold off to a trader so he can do it and flog it on for a profit.

So, with a very, very small budget I went on the hunt for something a wee bit different from the norm, but practical too so my fourteen month could be transported. I had an idea of what I wanted but it was finding it. Then a listing hit me out of the blue. Not literally, though. A Peugeot 205. Nothing particularly out of the norm, normally. However, this one’s a bit special if you like basic, rubbish cars like I do.

Saw the listing advertise the car as a 1987 Phase 1 205 1.0 Junior 5 door. Two owners from new, 44,000 miles from new in very good condition, long MOT, just add tax. Plus, the car was only twenty five miles away so I had to go and have a look.

[Pause for musical interlude. I’m Mandy, Fly Me by 10cc. Features my favourite middle section of a song. Ever.]

So, upon inspecting the vehicle it transpired there a few things to point out. Firstly, it would appear that the eBay photographs did this little car no justice whatsoever. Secondly, the seller was selling this car very short. Some small areas show their 25 years, others it’s like a time warp. But to say there were dents and scratches on it to signify its age is selling it far short. The rear seats have never been sat on. You could eat your dinner off the paint work (though if you did I’d fucking kill you) and I’ve seen less glare on the back of a bald man’s head than the glare coming from the gleaming engine bay. It’s not that the car has been prepared, it hasn’t. It’s just an honest, clean little car.

Like I said, it was advertised as two owners from new which the V5C confirms. It’s covered 44,000 miles from new with a plethora of history (including old MOTs) to back this up also. My test drive confirmed this also, it drives like new. The 954cc Douvrin “leanback” engine starts readily and purrs lovely, steering crisp and accurate, brakes good, gear change typically 205 and everything electric works (which on the Junior is basically just the headlights).

[Pause for another musical interlude. Edge of Glory. Laydee Gargar.]

So because of all that, I bought it. Not for nostalgia as I passed my driving test in a 205. Partly because there are only twenty odd Juniors with the leanback engine and wanted to give it a good home. Partly because the car has a sparkling, endearing character. Partly because it’s a nice example. Partly because I needed a car. All because of eBay.

I was supposed to be picking it up today, however because of the insurance company being a complete twattish bunch of incompetant, rude, unhelpful bellends, that didn’t happen, so tomorrow it is. I’m excited! I can’t wait, it’s like the night before Christmas and like a child I won’t be able to sleep. Goodnight all. It’s going to be a long one.

[Ending on Slipknot’s Psychosocial]

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August 17, 2012 Posted by | Motoring | Leave a comment

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