A very soggy weekend in the Brecon Beacons is on the cards, followed by a trip to Marcos Heritage to get my cracked windscreen replaced (at last! How many months wait?!?) and also get the clutch looked at. It was slipping a couple of weeks ago, then after a minute adjustment proceeded to jump out of gear, so there is possibly something up. The car handles like a pig on the way down, skittering all over the place with a lot of surface water on the road. While I’m steaming quietly in front of a huge log fire in the cottage, someone informs me that my two back tyres are well & truely bald. A quick (And I thought it rained a lot in Manchester…) trip outside to the car revealed the reason behind the poor handing on the way down – both rears had lost their tread in the middle, with the outer tread almost unmarked; an expensive lesson about the effects of over-inflation. I add two new rear tyres to the shopping list but have already decided to try a new brand out rather than stick with the Pirelli Rossos, which I always found skittish (probably because they were over-inflated, I know, I know). Things are starting to look a bit on the expensive side, and I remember why I haven’t been on holiday for the last couple of years! Oops!
The drive out of Wales towards Marcos Heritage is ‘interesting’. It’s pitch black, I am lost (There is no-one to ask “Which way to England please?” at 4am!), and the windscreen wipers are only just winning. The obligatory leak where the door window joins the hood behind my left shoulder has started with a vengance but I am in high spirits as the windscreen saga is finally coming to a close. A couple of T junctions remind me I am still running on ‘slicks’ at the back (!) & I take it a bit easier until we hit the M4 where I can put my foot down. YEAH RIGHT! Enter the M4, stage left, cunningly disguised as the biggest car park in southwest England. Laughingly, I had been bothered about speed cameras… No problem! Instead I worry about the gearbox seizing up in 3rd, which I don’t get the chance to use for three hours… I idley wonder whether Mr Prescott or My Byers have been in this neck of the woods lately except by helicopter.
Reaching MH about 1030 on the Monday morning, Joe is not around again so I leave the Mantis with them & go for a wander in ‘The Beast’, Marcos’s old courtesy car that MH have inherited. To cut a long story short numerous phone calls back to MH elicit little or no information about when the car is going to be ready, and I get the sinking feeling that I am going to have to stay the night down here. I head for Bath to console myself with a decent hotel and twin Swedish hitchhikers who have run out of money (OK, but there was a need for some optimism at this point, I assure you), but end up stopping in Bradford-upon-Avon which is gorgeous. Not being religious or followed by strange men, a room at the inn is no problem & I bed down for the night, having sauntered round Bradford sampling the beer every now & then. MH demonstrate complete ignorance of the fact that if you are taking twice as long to do something as originally said, it’s a good idea to keep people informed. I do, however, get informed that the clutch appears OK. Then 20 minutes later I am informed that the clutch is not OK & I will have to pay for a new one.
The next morning I set off to acquire some new rear tyres. Again, MH are totally non-commital about when the job will be finished and it looks like being a long day. At least I get a great deal on my tyres, some Bridgestone Potenza S-03 Pole Positions, from Micheldever Tyres. These (well, the previous incarnation in the form of the S-02s) are fitted by Marcos as standard on the supercharged Mantis (Eek!), so should be pretty sexy. As it gets dark I head for MH anyway, determined to take my car away, whatever. Handover takes place about 1700 in the darkened skies, and the scene is set when we all discover a scratch in the glass of the new windscreen. I don’t see the point in getting too uptight about it because there are no other screens in existence, so we all know I don’t have much choice. It’s an enormous improvement over the cracked screen anyway, so no worries. The bill appears, including labour for fixing the faulty mirror MH sent me, which I point out. This is removed & I end up paying for 3 hours labour, which is bewildering (but good!) when I have had to wait 2 full days to get my car back. I leave MH with a slightly sour taste in my mouth but pretty bloody pleased to be going home. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s not raining (much) & the top’s down – life is fantastic once again as I put my foot down & set off for the motorways back to Manchester. Time to bed those Bridgestones in…