Pass the Percy

Without the tools or the knowledge to change Percy’s transmission oil properly and a filter to replace the old one, we gave in and decided it was best to be towed back to London from our holidays in Bath, and get Percy seen by the experts at Globe Transmissions garage. Luckily, we had three options to get home… the AA Gold family membership from my father-in-law, which includes roadside relay; a free recovery service from my HSBC bank account; and our classic car insurance roadside recovery from DAS. We opted for the ‘gold standard’ in roadside assistance and recovery- the AA.

Nina called the AA at roughly 11am when we were nearly ready to leave for home. A mechanic arrived in a little under 1 hour and agreed that with a slipping gearbox it was best to not risk driving and ordered a tow truck back to London for us. The tow truck arrived at 1.30pm and Percy was loaded up.

Fairway Driver taxi AA tow truck

We perched ourselves and Mimi the rabbit in the rear of the truck’s cab but were informed by the apologetic driver that due to the delay from traffic through Bath reaching us, he had eaten into his driving time and had to take his mandatory 45 minute break. So, ten minutes down the road we pulled into Leigh Delamere services and had a 45 minute sit down in Costa coffee. Back in the truck, we were informed that he would only be able to take us to Membury services, just after Swindon on the M4 (28 miles away) where another truck would be waiting for us… they don’t call it a relay service for nothing! We were happy enough, as we weren’t in a rush to get home and I had the next day off work as well.

When we met the next driver at Membury services, he told us he would take us about an hour up the M4 to Heston services, where we would be passed on to our final driver to take us into London. However, 10 minutes into the journey and several ‘phone conversations with his buddies later (we heard him explaining how he’d be home late for dinner) he changed his mind and told us that he wasn’t going to make it to Heston and instead dumped us at Reading services a mere 20 minutes after we’d set off. He called head office for another truck and zoomed off for his dinner. By this time, 4.45pm, my fuse was getting shorter because the driver at Heston that was booked for us was now cancelled and we had to wait for another driver who wouldn’t be with us until 6.30pm. However, we were assured that he would be taking us all the way to London, so we settled down with another Costa coffee and walked Mimi the rabbit on the scenic grass verges of the M4 Reading services.

Fairway Driver taxi AA tow truck Membury

At 6pm Nina received a call from the AA informing her that our driver had to attend a breakdown on the M4, which was given higher priority than us as it was on the hard shoulder. Fair enough we thought, but he now wouldn’t be with us until 7.30pm at the earliest and that’s provided he didn’t get any other high priority calls. The AA weren’t going to find us another driver and I’m thinking that they don’t have enough trucks working. I’d had enough and decided to call my free roadside recovery from HSBC. I explained that my wife was 5 months pregnant and we’d been on the road since midday on the world’s slowest relay from the AA. HSBC were extremely helpful and said they’d provide me with national recovery from a local tow company called Automania. A short time later, Ricky the driver raced into the services and apologised for taking so long!

Fairway Driver taxi Automania tow truck

Unlike the AA drivers, he helped pregnant Nina into and out of the truck, offered us drinks and didn’t chat to his mates on the phone once during the drive back to London. We arrived home at 9pm, having chatted to Ricky about everything from kids to motorbikes, taxis and the AA.

We’ve learnt from this trip that if you know you’re going to be needing a tow, don’t call the AA if you can help it… otherwise it could take you 10 hours to travel 100 miles from the time you called them. They call themselves the 4th emergency service… if any of the other emergency services took that long, you’d be dead.  

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Poorly Percy

Percy was called upon to take us (including Mimi the rabbit) to Bath this weekend. We were visintg family and also off-loading lots of surplus to requirement bits that everyone has in their cupboards and wardrobes, which ranged from a Wii drumkit and guitars to motorcycle helmets (I no longer own a motorcycle). I don’t know why I ever doubt Percy but I did, and started to panic about whether all the stuff would fit in along with Mimi’s travel hutch. However, it was a breeze of course, although his boot and front passenger compartment were both full.

We took the M4 then tried to avoid a reported 50 minute delay between J13 and J15 by diverting onto the A4 but, naturally, everyone else had the same idea, so we were then stuck on in traffic on the single lane A4 for the next 10 miles. On the plus side, Percy was driving like a dream, wipers were working, heater stuck on full as normal but it wasn’t too bad for once with the heatwave now over.

Whilst staying in Bath, we decided to take a trip to Bristol. I chose to take the A4 instead of the M4 as I thought the slower speeds would be easier on Percy, except I forgot the long steep hill on that particular stretch of the A4 and Percy really struggled up it. In hindsight, I should have disengaged the overdrive and selected 2 on the automatic gearbox, but I ploughed on. The rather unfortunate result (but it’s probably unlikely to be the cause) is that Percy now has a problem shifting out of 1st gear in D. This isn’t just after steep hills now, he’s doing it when we start him from cold too. Although he seems to be only doing this to me, as it doesn’t happen to Nina when she drives. I suspect he’s sulking and having his revenge on me for forcing him up that hill.

I have resorted to shifting between D and 2 to try to get him to behave and it has worked so far, but I don’t know how long this will last. It has made me slightly nervous about the journey back to London. His engine won’t last long if he won’t shift out of first gear! I’ve already checked the transmission fluid level and it’s fine, so I’m going to attempt to change all of his transmission fluid this week. I’m also planning to treat his ever-expanding rust hole where the aerial is attached, while the weather is still being kind. We don’t have a new gearbox filter yet but I only need him to last until we get back to London, so a transmission oil change will probably do for now. Fingers crossed it does the trick.

Percy’s Pick-up Service

Percy was called into action on Wednesday, thanks to Nina’s ebay extravagance (which is rare to be fair) we had to pick up a high chair from Chiswick. Percy hadn’t moved in almost two weeks, so I wasn’t sure if he was going to need defibrillation and CPR. Keys in, half turn, orange light on for the glow plugs to warm up (which didn’t take long in this warm weather) wait for the click and orange light off, then another turn of the key for ignition. Percy let out a slow and angry moan before the 2.5L diesel engine purred to life. Phew… lucky escape, otherwise it would have been CPR from the AA van again.

Chiswick is only 10 miles from us, meaning Percy didn’t have long to charge up, so it was lights off, fans off, no music and no overdrive on the A40. Traffic in London in the evenings after rush hour is actually surprisingly manageable and we made it to Chiswick in under 25 minutes.

The ebay seller’s father-in-law let us in to his house, while the seller himself was making his way by bicycle. The father-in-law was a very pleasant chap and offered us tea while we played with the high chair. He gave us lots of advice from his experience with his grandchildren and very subtly tried to sell us the other baby furniture in the house. There were several mentions and motions towards the folded push-chair in the corner of the room but I stood my ground as we’d just bought a buggy today (early but it was a very good price and came with a free car seat for a limited time only). We won’t need them for another 5 months… but we can’t resist a good offer!

The seller soon arrived at the house and showed us how to operate the rather complicated high chair…who knew you needed an engineering degree to adjust a baby chair? 10 minutes later, with everything explained and forgotten (by me at least), we handed over our cash and the seller kindly carried the chair out to the car for us… maybe he was glad to see the back of it? He anxiously asked “What car do you drive? We may have to try and dissemble the chair to fit it in…”

“That’s alright, it’ll fit in Per.. our car”

“Oh, you’ve got a 4X4?”

“Not exactly, but similar dimensions, it’s an old London cab”

“That’s great, my mate is a cabbie, he has all these stories…”

“No, we’re not a cabb… never mind, it’ll fit”

And so it did…

Bloom Fresco in London Fairway Driver taxi

I did contemplate strapping the disabled seat belts around the high chair but it was so sturdy it wasn’t going anywhere. So a nice slow journey home on the A40 it was. Naturally, there were no parking spaces left on our street by the time we got home, but hopefully that extra 50 metres Percy had to drive to a free space will have been enough to charge him up sufficiently until his next mission.