How safe is parking in Stevenage? This safe.

So I come back from work on the train and return to the car parked in Swingate. Standard procedure – it’s been Swingate for as long as I can remember – not even the snow or Christmas has interrupted that routine.

Only this time, on closer inspection, my driver’s window isn’t there. Two possible scenarios: I’ve inadvertently left it down or someone’s smashed it in completely.

No sign of the latter – and to be fair, I’ve never seen anyone’s window smashed in throughout my Stevenage parking career – unlike gentrified Fulham where I used to live. The familiar puddle of granulated safety glass on the kerb was a common sight.

So it was me. I wondered if my remote had learnt a new trick – winding down the window remotely when I unlocked the car. The BMW can do this. The Focus I don’t think can.

So there’s only one conclusion to draw: Swingate is safe enough to leave your car unattended with the driver’s window down for approximately 11 hours on a Tuesday. Although I wouldn’t recommend it.

Reminds me of the time I left the boot wide open while I went shopping in Tesco. Bit of a shock when I went back to the car, but again the culprit was me and the car hadn’t been touched. What an honest lot SG1s are.

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Introducing the new Ford Greenhouse.

Something I haven’t mentioned before is my allotment which has been part of my life for the past two years.

This year I’ve had no luck growing my brassicas from seed and even ordering seedlings through the post. So when I went to the garden centre on Sunday, I intended to put them in the ground the same day. Family commitments meant that i had to have fun and instead play baseball with my son’s new baseball bat, ball and glove – I’m still pretty handy as it happens…

This means that the 40 brassica seedlings on the floor of my Focus have had to stay there.

So now my Ford Focus (currently parked in Swingate) is playing the part of greenhouse for my brassicas – my collection of purple sprouting broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. And they’re loving it. Plenty of light and oh so toasty!

Might be worth leaving a handful in there to see how well they do compared with the raised beds…

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Considering the Sportage.

So it’s nearly time to change the Focus and I like the crossover category of car. They look meaty and possibly more able to handle icy country roads that the BMW certainly can’t. Maybe I shouldn’t be swayed by the shape of the outside.

Thought about the Ford Kuga – no bigger than the Focus inside.

Liked the Audis but the Q5 ‘s out of my league and the Q3’s similar in size to the Focus again.

The Hyundai ix35 just looks a little bland in comparison. Practical considerations like economy and space take a back seat to looks. Who wants to walk back to the car park with a heavy heart?

If it weren’t for the run-flat tyres, the poor winter performance and the pricier servicing, our BMW 3 Series Touring would be the perfect family car.

The incumbent family motor. This is randomly off the web. Not my parking!

And then one thought that gauges the next car’s suitability (in my eyes only) is “What will it look like in Swingate?”

This will be the bigger family car. While my wife does the school run in her Christmas present runabout, I’ll be parking this thing in Stevenage all day. Will it stick out like a sore thumb? Will it say, “Look at me!”. Is it incongruous to have this ever-rising chunk of metal lauding it up over the earthbound Micras and Puntos?

Swingate is typically populated by Saxos, Clios, Hondas and Focuses. The pricier car parks nearer the station are more executive. Audi S4s rub bumpers with Freelanders, Lexuses and BMWs.

So what would a white Sportage look like in Swingate?

Lucky there’s no need for an artist’s impression or Photoshop. There’s one right here. Looks alright dunnit.

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Danesgate closed. Daneshill needs re-calibrating.

For some reason, Danesgate remains closed. There is no work that I can see being done on it. For half the time, the tarmac was covered in snow anyway.

The knock-on effect is of course that the Danesgate massive are encroaching on Swingate’s turf, so it’s gets full earlier. I’ve been caught out twice on this.

Both times, I’ve ended up in Southgate which is a long old schlep to the station (comparatively). Happily, the Daneshill sign says there are spaces. “Salvation!” – maybe I’ll catch my train after all.

Daneshill is a funny old place. It’s shaped a bit like a ‘W’ and you enter in the middle, so you get to a bit where you have a choice: left or right. I take a chance on right. No spaces. Doesn’t matter. That just means the space must have been the other way (left – if you’re paying attention). No joy. The sign said ‘SPACES’, the ‘FULL’ sign wasn’t lit. Where’s my space? Not in this car park.

Walking back from Southgate, you get a good look at Daneshill from the ramp leading up to the Gordon Craig Theatre/overpass. And there they are: 3 cars forlornly manoeuvring around the ‘W’ looking for an empty space that isn’t there. How existential can you get…?

Snowy Stevenage.

Today made it 2 days on the trot in Southgate. Some kind of record. Impressive, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Yesterday I was here because inexplicably, Danesgate was closed and Swingate and Daneshill were full.

No idea why Danesgate was closed. Funny time to do work on it. They’d have to clear the snow before they could do any road marking. Must have been something that just couldn’t wait.

Being late due to dropping my son off for the school bus this morning, I assumed the situation was the same as yesterday. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Walking to the station from snowy Southgate I could see Swingate had a space or two and Daneshill was open for business again. Gah.

On the far left is the church St Andrew & St George, Grade 2 listed - the largest parish church to have been built in this country since World War 2.

Stevenage Fire Station straight ahead.

So tonight I have needlessly long traipse back to the Focus ahead of me. Oh well, it makes a change from Swingate every day. I could even go for the record 3-in-a-row on Monday.

One can of course have TOO MUCH excitement in one’s life…

One day my international conglomerate will occupy this entire building.

How did I get here?

A reconstruction.

WordPress tells me what search terms bring you to my blog. It doesn’t identify you personally – I just see a list of search terms and how many hits I got from them.

Dwarfing all others, Duncan Norvelle is the most popular search term. Is he gay? Is he married? Etc.

But in addition it does give me a fascinating window on to the kinds of things you good citizens of the internet are looking for.

This is a new type of post. I will update this from time to time with my favourite search terms. And I shall start with these:

– Sue Holderness legs
– Ford pigeon
– man superdry back
– silica gel Stevenage
– duncan norvelle gardener
– kepi blank
– illegal parking on grass
– Brian Blessed wife swap
– Stevenage Taliban
– Tesco ad where man pushing a car all over the place
– crossdress air force
– lost black glove
– “showing a bit of leg”
– how much does Duncan Norvelle cost to book
– wiki duncan norvelle please leave me alone

Who smokes cigars in the car these days?

I’m feeling very manly. For the first time in my life, I’ve changed a fuse in a car. Changed plenty around the house but never the car.

At first I thought the little FM transmitter thing I use to play my iPod through the car radio had bust. You buy ’em for about £4 on eBay from a place in China and you don’t really expect them to last forever.

So when first one went, I bought a replacement. When that didn’t work, I wondered if it was the cigar lighter (who smokes cigars in the car these days?).

And so it was. Checking the Focus manual, fuse 47, hiding behind the glovebox, needed looking at. I got the fuse picker-outer from another fuse box under the bonnet and replaced fuse 47. Hey presto, everything works again.

The outgoing Fuse 47.

I love it when you can fix a car for £2.09.

The only slight niggle I have is that I’m not quite sure if the glovebox is quite what it was. Now when you open it, it flops open like a difficult teenager. I feel sure that my meagre Zetec was never blessed with hydraulically dampened glovebox but I don’t remember it being this ‘relaxed’.

If you have a 53 reg 1.8 litre Ford Focus Zetec with an as-new glovebox, can I have a go on it?

The egg in my car.

Why is there an egg in my car? It’s not really an egg, it’s a dehumidifier in disguise. For some reason, in winter my reasonable-in-every-way Ford Focus gets steamy inside (see http://bit.ly/f5u1Cn). Something to do with leaky seals perhaps; I’m no expert.

When it gets really cold, I can come back from work to find the windscreen has iced up on the inside. Well that’s no good – I can’t see out to drive.

So I’ve bought this. You leave it in the car and over time it absorbs moisture in the air and stores it it so it can’t get out again. It’s even got an indicator on it to tell you when it’s getting full.

If it shows pink you just sling it in the microwave for 10 minutes and all the moisture’s forced out again.

Does it work? Yes. I’ve noticed a big improvement. Low cost, low maintenance. Perfect.

If you want to get one and see for yourself, I got mine from here:

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=300471917413

Last in space.

This is hardcore parking news. I’ve had complaints that I’ve wandered away from the business of actually parking in Stevenage. So brace yourselves: this is PiS in the raw.

I arrived at Swingate at my regular time (look out for me at about 7.58 web fans!) but it looked as though the green Almera had taken the last spot. But wait! There was a really tight spot that I really needed God to lift my toy Focus into.

Then I remembered he doesn’t exist – or at least won’t perform miracles for non-believers in Swingate.

I pulled a 7-point parking manouvre forwards (arguable harder because of the relative turning circles) and had my car safely parked while green Almera was still buggering about. Manliness confirmed. What a way to start the week!

How to make it snow inside your car.

Come the winter months, my reasonable-in-every-way Ford Focus reveals itself to be more damp (damper?) than the average vehicle.

When it’s parked under cover, it’s not a problem, but when I come back to Swingate in the evening, the frost has not only covered my windscreen on the outside, there’s a thin coating of ice covering the inside too. This is hard to shift.

A reconstruction.

I gave it a go with a redundant credit card combined with the blowers on full. You should try it – it makes your car’s interior very Christmassy. As the scraped ice flakes fall from the windscreen, the fans catch them and blow them gaily hither and thither. They then drift gently down and melt all over my dashboard, probably dripping somewhere mechanically unhealthy.

Plan B anyone?

The heaters don’t really get going until I’ve driven for a bit. Catch 22: can’t go anywhere with the windscreen iced up – it might not be suicide but it’s not a clever idea is it.

I’m leaning towards getting a big bag of silica gel (tarted up with packaging for marketing purposes, of course) to leave in the car and soak up the excess moisture. I”ve found motoring solutions in the past. I can do it again. I shall report back soon.

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