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Thursday, 5 March 2015 12:03 pm
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As a placeholder for my annual spending review I thought I would look at the cost of the first few months of owning my new car, a Smart Cabrio and Passion (2002).

First I am liking the car. It is fun, comfortable, has a good heater. For my daily commute it works well. For shopping it works ok, with two people in it you can only just fit in four jute shopping bags, provided you can squash them a bit. With only me you can do a proper shop by filling the passenger seat and footwell too.

Problem items so far have been a large hall mirror that I got in behind the seats with the roof down, and a Rug Doctor carpet cleaner that had to be belted into the passenger seat.

For longer journeys about Scotland on the A-roads it is not great. The ride is very hard, the wheels close together and the tyres small. This means it does not like speed bumps, potholes, or poor road surfaces. There are a lot of these just driving about between places in Scotland. I have done a couple of trips to Edinburgh and these are not too bad, just a couple of places where you need to watch for sudden cross winds as it does make the car lurch alarmingly.

I have done one long road trip to Herefordshire. This was for Tom and Claire's party, followed by a visit to Lisa in Shropshire. I would not recommend doing this in a Smart but with job uncertainty I went for the cheapest travel option. I did just under 1000 miles over the few days. Ok, the Smart is not designed for this but I got it to work. My large (long and thin) rolling case completely fills the boot. I had other thinks like shoe/boot bags and computer bag in the front footwell and on the passenger seat, all topped with my big coat and a jute shopping bag. In this arrangement it is not great for leaving parked anywhere as it is obviously full of stuff with only has a couple of layers of fabric between your belongings and any ne'er-do-well.

What did surprise me was how well the car worked on the motorways. The road surface there is generally very good and flat which the car likes. I did find that I naturally sat at about 60mph, but the car could be made to sit at 70 if I concentrated. You need to add to a lot to the journey time you get from your route planner.

On to the facts and figures.

I have two sets of miles per gallon figures I have calculated, my typical commute and my long road trip.

Commute

This is about 15 miles each way, with 13 miles on A-road and 2 miles in town traffic, plus 5-10 minutes driving round university car parks looking for a space. This worked out at 49 mpg and means a tank of fuel (35l) lasts about 2 weeks.

Road Trip

This was 956 miles. Dundee, Perth, Stirling, Glasgow, M73, M6, A-road though Cheshire/Shropshire/Herefordshire, driving about, then Shropshire/Montgomeryshire/Cheshire, M6, M73, A-road Biggar/Edinburgh and back through Fife. I think about 470 of those where motorway miles. The whole trip cost me £81.71* in fuel and the car did 58 mpg. Not bad as the official figure for a 2002 Smart Cabrio and Passion is 57 mpg.

For comparison my old Volvo managed about 23 mpg commuting, going up to 28 mpg on longer trips.

Cost of ownership

So far, excluding the purchase cost, I have spent £680 in total for 4 month motoring in the Smart, ( Fuel 48%, Repairs - faulty key 22%, Insurance 12%, AA 10%, Tax 4%, Parking 1%) so £5.53 per day.

For comparison the Volvo in the 5.5 years I had it cost me £27,404, excluding purchase price, or £13.69 a day. Over £12,700 of that was fuel.

The annual review of my 2014 spending will happen when I am either settled in a new job or have a too much free time while I look for work.

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* You had to pay in advance of getting fuel at one of the motorway stations and they had no way of just letting them hold your payment while you filled the tank, so had to guess how much I needed! Very annoying.
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I have been decorating the main rooms of my house over the last month. It was kick-started by a week I took off in November and then finished off in the evening and weekends. I have upgraded some of the power sockets and light switches, added proper faceplates for the network and satellite cables, repaired the popped nail heads and other issues in the plaster, painted the walls and woodwork of the hall, stairs, landing and living/dining room. Not something I have done since moving into the house so it is now much less magnolia. A couple of the bedrooms and the bathroom walls had been painted before, but they are much smaller rooms. The modern paint has changed. Now the more hard wearing paint is almost all acrylic water based and very different to use. It has not got the same solvent smell and is much easier to cleanup. The water based undercoat and gloss is particularly better to use. I needed some white gloss/undercoat for woodwork and decided to get some traditional oil based as I could also use it for the exterior of the downstairs windows (when the weather gets better). It does produce a good finish but was much slower to work with than the coloured acrylic I used for all the hall/landing woodwork. Over the weeks have discovered I am very slow at painting door-frames, can patch and smooth plasterwork quite well, and that corner rollers exist (looks like a ring doughnut on a stick and paints right into the join between two walls or the wall and the ceiling).

I still have some varnish work to do on the staircase handrail and will try to do it just before I head of to visit my family so it can dry while I am away.

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On friday Toby and I hired a Rug Doctor (carpet cleaner) from Morrisons while we were doing the weekly shop. Over the weekend it cleaned, 2 landings, 2 staircases, 2 halls, 3 bedrooms, and 2 living/dining rooms. All the carpets were cleaned once with a bit of extra spotting, except my cream living room carpet that was done twice overall with high traffic areas about 5 times. All came up very well and the machine made a very good job of lifting the pile. The only exception being the cream one which came up as well as expected. It had been cleaned several times before by me using my old Vax, and twice by the guys from Chem-dry. It now has some marks then even the Chem-dry people could not get out. The Rug Doctor at £56 for the weekend machine hire and all the chemicals we used felt like good value. It is not as hard work as the Vax, and does do a better job of lifting the pile.

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Yesterday Kate came round and helped me hang pictures, mirrors and put back my wall clock. We were very impressed with how level we got the mirror in the hallway. We did discover the wall has a slight curve to it so it was not possible to get it to sit totally flush, should be stable though and not rattle in the wind from the front door. This was all in an effort to get everything sorted ready for having people round for tea. I realised all the artwork I put back in the living room and hall is original, four oil paintings, two tapestries and one illuminated manuscript. And even better all made by or for family and friends. Kate also braved the cold of my shed and helped me sort out a base for a lamp I bought off eBay a few weeks ago. I need to do a bit of work on it yet to replace the bulb fitting. It is a 1960s stage light with a funky shape and before I use it for domestic lighting I need to change it from a 650w bulb to a more sensible low-energy halogen.

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I had Toby, Kate, Beth, Mary, Margaret and Gavin round for a birthday curry tea. A chance to show off the new decor (and clean carpet). We all got fed to a standstill but saved a bit of room for some cake. I went for a cake-stand of little things, ginger, coconut, almond and eccles cakes. It was a very good evening in great company. The evening was rounded off with a very thoughtful email from a work friend.

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Today should have been the start of the last minute christmas shopping, spread out family and friends does pull back the deadlines a bit when combined with postage times. In actual fact today is the first proper day of job hunting. I got told officially on thursday that my job is "at risk", which is HR speak for, I will be made redundant at the end of March. The grant we applied for did not appear as hoped, and the extension we have received instead excluded my position in the team. The reason given was that the awarding body wanted to consolidate the position of the software and halt future development. So my position working on the core data model development has been axed. I have been there for 8 years so I guess it is time for a change, but the start of December is definitely not the time you want to find out. The only good thing was they let me know just before I committed to buying a new sofa. I can repair the old sofa in the meantime.

So today has been updating my CV and looking to see what jobs are out there.

My tweets

Monday, 15 December 2014 12:03 pm
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My tweets

Thursday, 11 December 2014 12:03 pm
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My tweets

Saturday, 27 September 2014 12:00 pm
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  • Sat, 10:25: Don’t try buying a range extender hybrid car in Scotland, every dealer says “Oh that is only handled by our Glasgow branch.”

My tweets

Friday, 26 September 2014 12:01 pm
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My tweets

Saturday, 6 September 2014 12:00 pm
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My view of the concert.

My tweets

Friday, 5 September 2014 12:00 pm
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Leaving London

Thursday, 21 August 2014 09:13 pm
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Made it as far as euston station. Sitting in the first class lounge. Just had a shower and feel almost human. Working till about 7 then a walk followed by a drink with Ian and a talk about books. Got to station about 9:45 after messing about with tube die to station closing and collectin my luggage.

My tweets

Thursday, 21 August 2014 12:00 pm
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Post Loncon

Wednesday, 20 August 2014 07:35 pm
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I spent today (Wednesday) visiting the royal observatory with Nik. We saw a planartarum show, the main building with the steampunked exhibition, and the londatude exhibition. It was a full day. To get there we took the cable car and the Thames clipper boat. Coming back we went for the tube and DLR. We collected our luggage from the hotel and headed back into London. Nik to bacteria for the coach and me to euston for the premier inn I am staying in for the night before my meeting at Imperial tomorrow. I am real tired and my feet are killing me. I am just having dinner in a Lebanese restaurant arround the corner from the hotel. My luggage weights a tonne, but I should only have to shift it from the hotel to the station for the sleeper train tomorrow night.

My tweets

Wednesday, 20 August 2014 12:01 pm
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  • Tue, 14:14: Move out ate Andronicas Coffee out of baguettes and salads, had to walk to other end of excel to find lunch. #loncon3
  • Tue, 15:49: I remember when this was all fans #loncon3 http://t.co/Hlnnk1UZfc
  • Tue, 17:17: @Sharikkamur and I have just handed back the last two room keys, Loncon 3 has left the building. #loncon3
  • Tue, 17:24: Sharikkamur and I have just handed back the last two room keys, Loncon 3 has left the building. #loncon3
  • Tue, 20:27: Out at the Lebanese restaurant recommended by Stuart and Dianne for dinner with Nik.
  • Tue, 20:28: Wonder if I have forgotten how to use plates and metal cutlery after six day of concourse food?

My tweets

Saturday, 16 August 2014 12:00 pm
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  • Fri, 13:33: Friday afternoon and I have made it to my first panel item! #LonCon3 How to add electronics to costume workshop :-)

My tweets

Thursday, 14 August 2014 12:00 pm
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My tweets

Wednesday, 13 August 2014 12:00 pm
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  • Tue, 23:39: All settled on the sleeper train to London for #loncon3 Everything going well but buffet car out of Horlicks, so chocolate instead.
  • Wed, 07:06: Having breakfast in the dining car. Not unwrapped the package yet… http://t.co/m44f3oyg3K
  • Wed, 07:26: I keep seeing narrow boats. Including a boatyard with them being worked on. Guess the track and canal run side by side at this point.
  • Wed, 07:29: Oh, contents of the package. Potatoes mushroom spinach scrambled eggs and a cherry tomato. Ok but a bit mushy. http://t.co/vA0lfqzxYv
  • Wed, 07:34: @Kateaw There was a toothbrush as part of my "comfort kit", also some bed socks! http://t.co/eJcq92HIOg
  • Wed, 07:44: For some reason I cannot post using the live journal app. It would then go to live journal twitter and facebook but I keep getting error.
  • Wed, 09:22: Made it to hotel safe and sound. Luggage checked now off to help with setup.

My tweets

Thursday, 24 July 2014 12:01 pm
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My tweets

Friday, 27 June 2014 12:00 pm
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