Availability of things and how to upset a wife

Living somewhere remote can be difficult in ways you just never imagined. Getting things for a start. Aberystwyth is our nearest town, but it is still 12 miles away. And it doesn’t exactly have a comprehensive range of shops. On the one hand, that’s a good thing – far fewer chain stores – but on the other, finding something when you need it is a nightmare. I’ve had difficulties locating trousers this week, which is merely the tip of the iceberg.

I’ve pretty much given up buying car parts in town. The motor factors never seem to stock stuff for the oddball motors I drive, even though some of them aren’t exactly ancient or that oddball. I accept that finding 2CV parts might be tricky, but the Citroen BX was still in production 20 years ago (just about) and there used to be loads of them about.

That means trusting my luck to mail order. I tend to use a mixture of established specialists, parts retailers and Ebay. I don’t like Ebay – it goes against my hippy ideals and there are many things wrong with it – but it can be very good for finding parts. Problems can occur though, like getting sent the wrong part. This can hold a project up by days on end, especially if you don’t realise you’ve got the wrong part until the car is in pieces. The other problem is when further faults develop as a job progresses. If something breaks, you’re pretty much stuffed. Last year, I ended up with the Ford Maverick marooned outside the garage after being sent the wrong rear wheel cylinders. With the rear hubs in pieces, I couldn’t move the car, so poor Mr Postman had to try his best to negotiate it when turning his van. Sorry Mr Postman! Tools is another problem. These days, there are more and more special tools that you need. A basic socket and spanner set just won’t cut it anymore. I find this deeply frustrating and many a painful hour has been spent trying to use a tool for a purpose that its designer never had in mind. Sadly this tends to result in damaged tools and, even more often, damaged hands. The alternative is to spend yet more money on tools I’ll use once in a blue moon. As someone trying to reduce expenditure, that means often trying to make things work with what I have – which can backfire, causing injury and even marital strife…

Jiffy Mountain2

Anyone for a jiffy bag or six?

Let’s just say that if I have a BX needing strut return pipes fitting, I’m going to have to buy a special tool and not rely on using my wife’s wire strippers. Lesson learnt… (sorry dearest wife!). It’s a valuable reminder that I really should find a better tool for winding back BX calipers than my wife’s wood chisel (it works really well, but as I like being married, I shan’t be using it for that reason again).

The problem with buying tools is that it doesn’t always go well either.

That’s what happened with the Mercedes, which seems to need a special tool to remove the spark plug leads. I ended up with the Merc stuck in the garage for days while I eventually gave in and ordered the special tool. It was rubbish and is now broken, not that Ebay cares. I had to resort in butchery and violence to get the spark plugs removed, which was at least satisfying, if messy.

It’s one reason for trying to rationalise the fleet. If I stick to BXs and 2CVs (pretty much…) then I should amass suitable tools for both, and frustration will not be such a factor. There’s also the fact that I’m getting to know these cars and their foibles. These days, I’m excited less and less by the lure of other cars  – especially when cars like the Mercedes underwhelm me quite so much.

Oh, one downside of mail order – we have a VAST number of jiffy bags. If you need any, do let me know!

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