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Saturday 1 December 2018

A damned nice thing*

I garage my car at night. Most neighbours with garages don't. Some for good reason (too many cars), some inexplicably (garage given over to grass mower, discarded furniture, things in cardboard boxes).

I do so to hide the car from thieves and/or vandals, because I hate scritching away frost, because low temperatures reduce battery efficiency, because the house (which cost rather more than the car) looks prettier minus the car. Also the car insurance company prefers things this way.

But garaging can jangle the nerves. The car measures 2.017 m between side mirror extremities while the garage door is 2.130 m wide. That 0.113 m difference (roughly 5¼ in.) may sound like plenty of clearance but, don't forget, it must be halved for the two sides of the car. The side mirrors are foldable but for reasons I will explain I only fold the driver's side mirror.

Inside, the garage itself is wider than the door - it needs to be. The car has to be parked much nearer to the garage wall on the passenger side so that I may open my door sufficiently to get out. I use the edge of the unfolded side mirror to judge the gap - about ¾ in – but it’s a nerve-wracking journey. If it's been raining I get wet squeezing out between the car side and the other garage wall.

Recently frost was expected and I'd forgotten to garage the car. I did so in my jim-jams and dressing gown. Felt a bit of a fool, especially since the frost never arrived.

Widening the garage isn’t an option.

QUERY The utility company urges me to install a free smart meter. I’ve heard dreadful things about them. Are they true?

* Duke of Wellington. Often paraphrased as "a close run thing"


  1. A smaller car and/or a dressing gown?

  2. Have you ever tried backing it in? Not a recommendation, just wondering how much you like a challenge.

  3. Sir Hugh: Smaller cars aren't necessarily much narrower. And in any case I'd be sacrificing driving comfort; driving the Skoda is one of the few situations where sciatica isn't a problem. I have three dressing gowns already.

    Colette: Once, many years ago, I backed the same marque and model of car into the garage. There were no advantages (other than being able to make use of the reversing sensors) and several disadvantages.

  4. When I had my first decent car it was always garaged, with the ever present motorcycle squeezed in beside. However, I have found that garages are far too useful to have them cluttered up by a car and mine and my wife's sit outside. We are lucky in that the house sits in a "sub-close" of our main close on a private offshoot road of five houses.
    My garage is used as a workshop and also houses
    One motorcycle
    One scooter
    One ebike

    Smart meters. We do not have one installed and my only comment about them is "why"? Other than being a convenience for the power company, which saves on meter readers what use are they as a power saver. I am not prodigal with electricity/gas - they are both costly and are used only when needed. I don't need to be told how much I am using. Also some meters cease to operate if suppliers are changed.

    They are a bit like the HS2 railway, a costly vanity project, totally redundant and paid for by all of us. (The Chinese have a saying, "In the final analysis, wool comes from the sheep")

  5. Avus: As you have said in a recent post, fiddling with vehicles can be as much fun as driving them. Since I can afford it I pay others to do the fiddling and use the car - not for fun - but for getting from A to B (B standing for B├ęziers) on immediate demand. And to singing lessons which dominate my life and for which public transport would be inconceivable. An ebike may eventually be forced upon me but I don't relish that moment. All that enrobing/disrobing and the prospect of slush outside.

    Your garage must be a monster. Do you have to take all those vehicles out before you can usefully employ your workshop? Why not a DIY project whereby a garden shed becomes a workshop

    Smart meters. It's their reliability I was questioning. Their morality I can work out for myself.

    Your essentially Metrocentric attitude towards HS2 amuses me. It means absolutely sod-all to south-east England and can therefore be safely done away with. But do you remember the Great Drought? There was a possibility that London would run out of water, not surprising since users were in effect paying to let Thames Water leak mega-gallons away. There was talk of siphoning off some of our water to compensate for your shortage.

    But our supplier is Welsh Water - a mutual, do you remember them? Presently Hereford's roads are being ripped up and it's a nuisance. The difference being that this work is based on WW's projections about future usage and will ensure we will not die of thirst in thirty years' time. How much is TW presently spending on the future compared with desperate Elastoplast work. Your only consolation is that many of TW's greedy shareholders will also die thirsty too.

  6. It's a long time since I saw anyone keep a car in a garage.

    Apart from our wooden Brexit-proof bunker (49 shades of grey and one of off-white), the German wood-and-resin kit house belonging to the funky mixed-race family (Adrian to us, owing to his resemblance to Adrian Lester, if you must know) and the expensive neo-Breton update with the Scandinavian wood-burner, which may one day even be finished and someone living there, every house on our lotissement is a standard rendered bungalow, one large room with coin-cuisine and a sleeping cubicle or two at one end, a large insulated but unusable roof space, and a garage. The car isn't kept in this, but everything else that might otherwise encumber this minimalist mode of living is. Other benefits of a garage are less habitation tax (it doesn't count as habitable space) and also in car insurance, even though the car is always out on the drive. Even knowing this we refused to have one, preferring to keep washing machine, freezer, water heater, and an array of shelving of the kind that would have been Dexion when I was a nipper but is now made somewhere in what used to be East Germany, I think, in a lean-to we rather pretentiously call the cellier, though it does contain what you would consider a laughably small store of wine.

    It also houses (seguing effortlessly) the smart meter. This goes by the quite un-French name of Linky. It's a cuboid affair in lime-yellow, a rather 'gilet jaune' colour, in fact, and indeed its eradication from the face of regional France (to speak of the provinces is no longer bon-pensant) may well be one of the eponymous protesters many, various and often contradictory demands. Even before their rise, a 'Stop Linky' campaign was already afoot. The evils attributed to its devilry range from a hidden camera to spy on one's indoor activities to causing tinnitus, power failures and probably curdling the UHT milk (though not a problem to Bretons used to lait ribot). With a new house and a commune with something like a 90% roll-out for them anyway, we didn't have a choice in the mater. So far, however, no ill-effects have been noticed, and it won't have spied on anything more heinous or deviant going on than watching English telly and letting the dog up on the sofa.

  7. Lucy: I weep with nostalgia. Notably at the deliberate use of "laughably", last sentence, first para.

    We lucked out with our Herefordshire house (An ambiguous US usage; can mean both good and bad luck. In our case good.) We sold a 1930s three-bed semi needing "some cosmetic work" (Words inserted by the estate agent) in KuT for a four-bed, detached, entirely modern house here close to Tesco at a £30,000 profit. Peanuts now, given that an identical KuT house, three doors down, recently sold for nearly half-a-million but we moved in 1998. Not only did we gain two more loos but also a utility room (with wash bowl) and an integral garage. So posh. Since I have had the loft partially floored anything useless which nevertheless plays on my heart-strings goes up there. The car cost, new, about £18,000. Most of my neighbours' garages store stuff to the value of £2000, if that. QED.

    As the gilets jaunes are reminding us, disapproval in France quickly translates into cars burning in the streets and students with wet tee-shirts babbling into microphones. Things are not as well organised here, Brexit being merely the latest example. Smart-meter suspicions were more of a susurrus but enough to apprehensive me. With new techology the rule of thunb is "Never be a pioneer." so I think I'll remain mum. Eventually they may try and bribe me.