Weeknotes 2023-32

I can’t remember much of interest happening in the early part of the week, but this weekend I actually went away for the first time in quite a while – back home to Totton (between Southampton and the New Forest) for Tim’s 50th birthday hog roast. The weekend itself was excellent, but the journey there not so much.

I’d decided to drive rather than getting the train, and set off after filling up with petrol at around 11am, hoping to miss the rush hour traffic. Things didn’t start too well, with a queue just to get off the A14 onto the A12 at Copdock, then there were a couple of sections of roadworks on the A12. Then more hold-ups on the M25 (no surprise there) and M3. That’s where it started to go seriously wrong though, with messages about part of the M27 being closed starting to appear on the matrix signs (it turned out later that there had been a serious accident). Google Maps offered to take me on a couple of alternative routes that it said would save three or four minutes, but for that small a difference it didn’t seem worth it, especially as there were big queues to turn off. Eventually I did leave the motorway somewhere around Eastleigh, and followed the satnav directions towards Romsey. This ended up with me sitting in completely gridlocked traffic for about an hour and a half to get into the town (the kind of jam where you switch your engine off, wait a few minutes, switch it back on and move a couple of car lengths, then repeat). I did vaguely consider parking and walking to the train station, but there were warnings of strike disruption and the train didn’t really go where I wanted to be anyway (the fact that I had time to look this stuff up during stationary periods says a lot). Eventually I made it out the other side, where things started moving again, but with about five miles to go, and for some reason best known to itself, Google told me to turn off onto a B road, which narrowed to almost single track just in time for me to encounter more stationary traffic. After waiting quite a while with no movement (and briefly abandoning the car to nip into a hedgerow as I hadn’t stopped at the services and at this point I’d been in the car for nearly seven hours!) someone who’d walked up the queue a bit said they’d spoken to a driver who’d been there for two hours. By then if there had been anywhere to leave the car I’d have happily abandoned it and run the last bit. By a stroke of luck I was stopped just in front of a field entrance, and was able to reverse in, turn round and squeeze past the queue, with two wheels bashing along on the verge, desperately trying to avoid them falling into the ditch. Once back on the main road again it turned out there was only a short delay at the roundabout, then I was pretty much there, arriving at Phil’s at around 6.30.

After a coffee and a walk to the chip shop for some tea, we cycled over to Tim & Michelle’s for a few Friday beers, then got up early on Saturday to walk to Bartley Park parkrun, which is handily only about a mile from Phil’s place. Phil had agreed to join me, despite only running about once a year (mostly when I’ve dragged him along to events when one of us has visited the other). Jeremy and another Phil, who are both more frequent runners, also came along, and we enjoyed a blast round quite a nice two lap route making good use of a fairly small park. The only downside was a couple of out-and-back hairpins round cones that you obviously have to do twice each, but while not exactly flat it’s definitely flatter than Ipswich, and I managed to finish in 10th place with 21:38.

Phil’s cat, Nipper, lounging in the Land Rover

The rest of the day was spent pottering around helping Simon collect some second-hand scaffold poles and Phil dismantle his Land Rover carb to confirm that it was flooding because of a leak in the float, then it was back to Tim & Michelle’s for an evening of Ringwood beer, roast hog and chatting with lots of people I’ve known for 30 or 40 years and see far too rarely. I successfully avoided crashing Phil’s fancy gravel bike as we wended our way back along the wiggly cycle path afterwards (through the same park we’d run round earlier)./

On Sunday I stopped off in Southampton to take my dad (who I also don’t see often enough) out for a pub lunch, before embarking on the journey home. That started poorly, taking two hours to cover the first 40 miles to Fleet services thanks to accidents on the M3. There were a few delays on the M25 too, plus on the A12 which was closed for roadworks at Marks Tey, and it ended up taking over five hours to get home (which didn’t seem so bad after Friday). It’s no wonder I never go anywhere!

At least the car mostly behaved itself on its longest journey yet. The only issue was that the fancy electric panoramic sunroof started making ominous stripped gear type noises, then refusing to fully close (it seems like it’s sensing imaginary obstructions and backing off for safety reasons). I’ve managed to get it as far as both panels being slightly ajar in tilt mode – I think if I can somehow cajole it the rest of the way I might have to just take the fuse out and put up with only opening the windows. They seem to be mildly notorious for failing, even in relatively new cars.

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