Wednesday, December 05, 2012

On cars, driving, comment spam, and a strange yellow sky, where the camera lies and photo-editing tells the truth.

The trouble is, I said to Tom and J, that I can't help thinking of them as horses.  I'm not so much anthropomorphic about cars as hippomorphic.  The old Saxo, the one I just had to have shot, was a dear little steady old Exmoor pony, a bit rough and ready, easy to stable and pasture and feed, affectionate...

Initially they found the idea odd and silly - Tom's rightly doing his best to crack down on my getting too sentimental and heart-achey about the matter of the old car.  But then they rather took it up and ran with it. J said her Renault was a good solid grey hack.  The BX, we decided, was a strong and useful workhorse, but with a tendency to unexpected viciousness, which, Tom said, would sometimes get the bit between its teeth and refuse to stop.

This new one's more like a little chestnut mare who fancies herself part-thoroughbred with an inclination to be a bit frisky. She's been spoiled, and kept in a garage for much of her life and primped and beribboned; her car-proud previous owner apologised for not having had a chance to vacuum again since the mechanic who did the test made the mat a bit dirty, and she looked a little distressed when I said that this was going to be my dog's car too, and wouldn't stay clean for very long.  It also came with some jingly and affected bits of harness that irritate me and don't suit my way of life or self-image.  For example the steering wheel:

Yes, it really is meant to look like it's made of scrap metal and wood offcuts and belongs on a go-kart. A Saxo go-kart. I'm somewhat torn about it, in fact: it's slightly smaller than normal, so the steering seems a bit twitchy, and also because it isn't the original wheel it has interfered with the indicator thing so that it doesn't self-cancel, which is quite annoying and reminds me of when we were kids and used to have to call out 'ticker Dad!' from the back seat to remind my father to cancel the indicator.  On the other hand, being short of leg, in most other cars I've driven I've found that to have the seat far enough forward I practically had to have the steering wheel up against my chest which wasn't great, and in fact this one, smaller and flatter with a shorter column, gives me a better driving position from that point of view. And that nasty looking fishnet-rubber grip is actually quite pleasant to hold.

Then there are the black stretchy seat covers with the shocking pink appliqué flowers on (I've more or less covered those up with wool check travel rugs, dog blankets and my old candy striped chair cushions you can see for padding), and worst of all, the hideous boombox amplifier and speakers which nearly made Tom jump out of his skin when he first turned the engine on and which took up almost all of the boot (trunk, transatlantic readers) so that one simply can't get any shopping/recyclables/scavenged firewood/scrumped apples or whatever in there, and made the back shelf too heavy to lift.  The young woman who sold it to me was delighted to be able to include the sound system in the bargain, but I'm afraid they just had to go, and now they are occupying the back seat in a cardboard box, their wires having been careful extricated by the new garage man, who seemed slightly surprised that I didn't want them there, didn't I like music? Yes, I said, very much, but not in the car and not like that .

I can't quite think what to do with them, a depot-vente will, I hope, be an option, otherwise it'll have to be Emmaus or even the dechetterie.  Sorry, my little pony, your jingle bells are out of here, you might even feel better for it. Now you will be working for a living, you aren't a filly any more, you will live outside and put up with mud and cow-poo and dog hair and pulling the shopping home, OK?  Knuckle down and I'll take reasonable care of you, feed you on sans-plomb 95 oats, give you a quick curry-combing and a spit-and-polish now and then at the car-wash - though only the hose, not the fluffy brushes - and in time, maybe, you and I might even become friends.  And you can keep your flowery seat covers, they're one more barrier to the tide of mud and dog hair and dead leaves, and in fact the rather post-modern combo of checks, stripes and floral in black, red, orange and pink is kind of growing on me.  We'll see about the steering wheel.


The left-hand drive is OK, still working on the positioning.  When discussing this people often seem to think what I'm worrying about is suddenly forgetting which country I'm in and so which side of the road I'm meant to be driving on, and turning into oncoming traffic, going the wrong way around roundabouts, etc.  In fact, of all the cock-ups I've made driving here, that was never one of them and I don't think it will be now, unless serious dementia kicks in; I have driven in France far more and longer than I ever did in England, and would, I think, have serious problems re-adjusting to driving on the left.  No, it's a question of my spatial awareness with regard to where I am in the car, which has never really come naturally to me; the danger that I will go too close to the right hand side of the road, forgetting how much more car there now is on that side of me, and scuff curbs, scrape parked cars, slide into ditches or whatever, and that it still feels scarily close to oncoming traffic to be hanging out there near the centre of the road, especially after the accident.  I know it's not a problem for most people, but there we are, mea stulta.  

Anyway, I've booked a driving lesson with the school I mentioned before to try to address some of the possible problems.  


On a quite different topic, I think I'm going to have to do something about comment spam.  I turned off the word verification because it is annoying, I know, though I never really mind doing it myself at other people's blogs, I suppose it does discourage me from commenting as much as I might.  I turned on moderation for posts beyond a certain age, and with Blugger's own spam filter that stopped most of them from ever becoming visible.  However, they still clog up my e-mail inbox, and it's grown more and more annoying to have to keep deleting them from there, and now more of them seem to be slipping through the filter and actually turning up on the blog.  

Most of them are anonymous.  I've never wanted to block anonymous comments because I've got at least one proper regular reader who comments as anonymous then signs herself off in the comment, and occasionally I get a really interesting anonymous comments from people, non-bloggers, on old posts and I'd regret cutting them out.  But I think I'd rather block anonymous comments than turn on the odious WV.  It should still be possible to comment by entering just your name, or Open ID if you're on Wordpress or whatever, so I'm not forcing anyone unwillingly to take Google's shilling or anything. I'll leave a message above the comment box to that effect.  Let me know what you think.

Afterword:There doesn't seem to be any option for non-anonymous comments that doesn't involve signing in with Goggle or another blogging platform, which is just as exclusive. You can't just sign in with a plain name any more, it seems. So I'm afraid I've switched to word verification after all, and reinstated the anonymous option.  Sorry if this is irksome, I know some people get very righteous about being made to do it and say they won't bother any more, but I'm fed up with the spam so it's the lesser of two evils.  If the WV is difficult to read, you can refresh it till you get an easier one...


And just a picture to close: trying to capture the strange, gamboge colour sky that of a sudden surrounded us and suffused everything for a few short moments between the endless rain showers and the fall of dark the other day. The camera's guesswork completely failed, with boring anodyne optimism it said it looked like this:

and my fairly ignorant fiddling around with the controls could make little difference. However, with the wonders of photo-editing, I can tell you, with very little exaggeration, that in fact it looked much more like this:



Julia said...

Word verification has never bothered me, and I rather like the idea that with some of the WV programs I'm helping to verify the text in scanned-in books.

Well edited photo by the way; post-production work can make so much difference!

marja-leena said...

I enjoyed your tale about your 'new' horse/car - hope you become good friends soon.

What a gorgeous image you were able to revive out of the camera. We had a similar western sky yesterday, I called it a silvery-gold, and in the east the most brilliant and hugest rainbow I've yet seen. It really looked like there could be a pot of gold at the base, in the water below.

I empathize with the spam issues and have also tried various methods over time. I turn off commenting on all older posts and that helps greatly. I see my only choice here is to use google as the others don't apply and that seems to happen at several favourite blogspot blogs. I generally prefer not to use g. for anything but this keeps me hanging in there. Hope it helps you.

Lucy said...

Thanks both.

Having gone over to Tom's account to test it, I see you can't comment without a blogging account of some kind or similar, so I've now reinstated the anonymous option, but put on the WV. Thanks for taking the trouble, ML; I don't see why you should be made to jump through signing-in hoops you don't wish to.

Julia, what's the thing about verifying text? I didn't know about that...

Rouchswalwe said...

The Buick is my beloved Clydesdale. Used to be stabled, but seems to have adapted wonderfully to the uncovered lot in the city. I'm told the brake lines are starting to show a bit of rust, but otherwise, my 150k Buick is a happy workhorse.
I'd like to know more about Julia's mention of verifying text, too. I've been reading old German lately, and the ß is usually rendered as a capital B, which leads to all sorts of mirth.

Catalyst said...

Marvelous piece about your car. I enjoy the Anglicized terms you use, like "the ticker". Much better than "directional signaling device."

I'm afraid I'm going back to the word verification on my site also. The anonymous comments have just flooded my email box lately.

Roderick Robinson said...

You may find that that steering wheel is a Momo; they cost about £200 and I had one fitted to my company Citroen because I couldn't bear the squidginess of the fitted wheel which felt like a length of boudin knotted up in a circle.

I see you are getting a driving lesson. May I make two suggestions: DON'T, repeat DON'T raise these hippothromorphic fancies with your instructor; most of these fellows (and especially in France I would assume) live on the ragged edge of nightmare and believe the world is already too complicated for them and their charges. Beware their calmness; they are all barely suppressed Etnas and you don't want an eyeful of lava.

Start making a friend of road centre-line. You're nearer to that than the kerb and it's easier to use it for alignment. Provided you stay moderately close there will be long periods when you needn't worry about the other side of the car. I could say more but I won't. Except that being killed in a car crash is such a banal way to go, a long way from the Wagnerian ending you probably mapped out for yourself once you learned that Brunnhilde went there (well, sort of) ON A HORSE.

Lucy said...

Thanks again.

The steering wheel can easily be changed, then the indicator will self-cancel again, but I might just get used to it. I asked the garagist to look for a new one anyway.

R - a dear old Clydesdale sounds lovely. That funny letter can easily be rendered by a double 's' can't it? The B must be funny sometimes!

Bruce - I think perhaps 'ticker' was just in our family!

RR - I've never heard of a Momo! This monetrice is a woman, but no, I won't attempt to explain the hippomorphism to her. I can well imagine they are all on the edge of the abyss - funnily enough there is a driving school in Lamballe called just that 'L'Abyss', which has surely got to be bizarre in either language, and implies they will teach you to drive abysmally. Tom gives me the same advice about the centre line.

Dear old Brunnhilde.

Julia said...

Below I've posted a link to ReCaptcha's description of what they do. Briefly though, if a site uses ReCaptcha's word verification tool, the text that we are transcribing is used to help digitize old New York Times newspapers and Google books. Pretty nifty!

Rouchswalwe said...

wow! Julia! That really is nifty keen! Thanks for the link! (Exclamation points abound!)

Anne said...

I loved your fantasy about your cars as work animals. I spent a little time trying to hippomorphize our cars but eventually gave up. I don't like any of them enough. My car, little, boring, uncomfortable; the truck, huge, cumbersome, hard to drive and worse to park, the van, its transmission always on the verge of collapse, the Saturn, a three door(!) weirdo that sits low and is hard to steer. I want a new car; then perhaps I can imagine it as a sleek race horse.

Rosie said...

between ourselves, I am not so keen on our volvo....seems a bit impersonal compared to some that I have had, which were usually on the point of falling apart...

Crafty Green Poet said...

I don;t mind word verification myself but i know some people have real difficulties with it. So I turned it off, but yes the spam is a problem

How different the colour of the sky looks in the two versions of that photo!

Pam said...

Please don't encourage me to feel sorry for cars. I have enough trouble with feeling sorry for foxes out in the cold and mice and birds and ... etc.

I enjoyed your post, though!

I wouldn't mind the WV if it were always readable.