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The future - residence

There's a house in New Orleans, they call The Ris.... wait, wrong story.

There's a house down the way.
It is haunted.
Not by a ghost, but by a presence. I don't know what.
Ever gone somewhere and felt that something is really wrong?
That describes this house.

I know it isn't just me. The house is "known". The Jehovah's Witnesses, perhaps the last people on Earth to be even remotely affected by superstitious things, won't go anywhere near the house. The previous occupants lived in the second building, intended for a cider press, because they said they could never go to sleep in the main building. Speaking to some locals, most don't want to talk about it. I did get as far as admissions that it was not something that happened during the war (I was wondering if there was a massacre, like the one near Châteaubriant). But no. This evil is old. Whatever it is.

By contrast, our house. It has always felt welcoming. Even in the middle of winter when the kitchen is cold enough that one can leave the fridge door open to chill the food inside, in the dreary fog and miserable rain, this house has hundreds of years of history. And through it all, it remains a happy place.

And so it shall. It outlived my mother, but make no mistake, it will outlive me. It has seen wars, revolutions, and all the nonsense that humanity has offered in the last 500-600 years. We are just temporary occupants. Foreigners, no less, but the house isn't racist.

So enough of the feeling sorry for myself shit. Life goes on. My mother died, yes. And in maybe twenty five years (if the same age as her), it will be my turn. To put that into context, the old RiscPC that I have in the back of my room is older than my remaining lifespan if I die at the same age as mom. Of course, I would hope to have a few more years than that, but then, I do believe mom said more or less the same thing. [note to self - if you're diagnosed with cancer, die of cancer, don't get medicated for it!]

Even though this house is big, with a lot of land - perhaps too much for one person to deal with - I don't want to leave. I was happy here. I will be happy here.
I bloody well will.

Look, it's naff weather today, I'd have preferred photos in the sun as that always looks better with brighter colours, but never mind - here are some photos...

Looking at the front of the house:

Looking across west lawn towards where Cat lives:

Little traces of mom all over the place:

The potager (veg garden) might be an unkemp mess, but the birds love it:


Rock, wind vane, sakura cherry, and the Epic Willow behind:

Looking along the driveway:

The view out of the front door:

I'm not a terribly social person, so the isolation doesn't bother me. I lived in Bridgwater, Ash, and Yateley and while there are obvious benefits to living in towns, there is a kind of peace here that you just don't get in towns. What I need isn't to move, it's to be more mobile.

Which brings me to...


The future - transportation

Here's my car:

Well, not quite. It will be soon. Just got to sort out financement. La Banque Postale has offered to loan me €3000 for around €3,400 (interest at 7.77%). Currently it is spread over 42 months, to repay around €84 per month. I intend to bump that up to something closer to 120 a month to pay it back sooner, but I'm not sure how or what the finances will go - everything that used to be is no longer. I figure it is simpler to take a loan for a longer period and shorten it, than the other way around.

The car is an Aixam 400 Super Luxe from July 1997. With around 58,000 on the clock, it is estimated at being halfway through the service life of the engine. The engine itself is a two cylinder Kubota diesel that is often used in smaller industrial machines. It's also a noisy bugger.

In terms of category, it is a "light quadricycle". Accordingly, the frame is extruded aluminium and the body is thermoformed plastic. It has to fit within a specific unladen weight. If you think it sounds like a death trap, that's true. But luckily these cars normally max out at around 45kph (less than 30mph). There are videos on YouTube of people getting them up to 55-60, but you can hear the engine really suffering to do that.
How it works is a continuously variable transmission. As the motor turns faster, two conical discs move closer together, and the belt between the discs is grabbed at the start, and then moves outwards as the discs squeeze together. This means the car is a gearless automatic, the speed being mostly determined by the speed of the engine. While this is similar to normal cars, it means it won't stall, when engine speed is slow enough, the drive mechanism will disengage. And slowing down the engine will cause the discs to move apart again, which will slow down the car speed.
Here's a video showing the CVT in operation:

The handbook (for a later model) says that you should drive with only one foot. Accelerate or brake, because doing both together will risk undue wear on the brakes.
There is a gearbox, it is for selecting between forward and reverse. Like an automatic, the selection is D, N, and R - Drive, Neutral, Reverse.

The engine is diesel, so upon starting will need a few moments to preheat. There's a video on YouTube of the car starting at -17°C. The engine sounds horrific, but it does start. Our winters aren't that bad, so I don't feel like I have to worry much about cold starts. The main thing will be the need for a sticker that says "DIESEL DUMBASS!".

In terms of features, the bodywork is a bit beaten up in parts - the plastic around the door lock is broken, and I noticed the passenger door needed a good slam to close. But, come on, it's a 21-22 year old car. But, wait, the car offers electric windows which was a surprise. There is also a heated rear window which is damned useful on cold mornings. Apparently this is an option these days. There's also a rear wiper. And underneath the carpeting in the boot (actually a surprisingly spacious boot given the car size) is a spare tyre and a jack. Apparently new models don't come with spares because people call a mechanic these days. My god, how hard is it to change a wheel? I've done it twice on normal cars that will weigh twice what this does.
In terms of safety features, none. The law does not count these as real cars, so the majority don't have things like ABS (it's an option on recent models) or airbags. I would imagine the frame is not going to be particularly capable of withstanding impacts either due to how the car needs to be constructed to fit into the weight category. However the danger here is from other road users. Clanking along at 40-something shouldn't permit one to get into a lot of trouble.

The car has a 16 litre fuel tank, which at current prices should cost around €24 for a full fill. The engine is quoted as consuming 3.5 litres per 100km, which means the car should have an autonomy of around 400km. This means that it should cost about seven euros a week to run (five days to and from work, Châteaubriant on Saturday). That's less than half of the C1!
Whether or not a 22 year old engine meets the expected efficiency is a different issue, mind you! I can imagine ambient weather would be a factor as well.
The car needs to be serviced every 5,000km (oil change) and 10,000km (full change). The vendor quoted me about 65 euros for the 5K service, and about 170 for the 10K one. I estimate doing about 10K a year, so it'll cost about 235 a year in upkeep (depending on what needs replacing). For a car of that age, upkeep is important - the motor and drive belts will need care.
Here's a photo under the bonnet:

Luckily, there are three drive mechanisms. The belt on the left (as you look in the bonnet) drives the alternator and, possibly, the water pump. If that breaks, the alternator light will go on so I can stop safely. The belt on the right is the drive system. If that breaks, the car will cease to go, but I ought to get off the road safely enough. The final drive system is a big toothed wheel (just visible under the exhaust). These are really reliable, so there's no trashing the engine due to drive chain failure causing the pistons to slam into the valves.

The final piece of the puzzle is the insurance. There are three levels of insurance. The legal minimum, third party fire and theft, and all risks.
It seems, in general, that the basic insurance is around 40-60 euros. Fire and theft takes it to around 70-80 euros. All risks? Double that.
I have obtained three (plus one) quotations, concentrating on fire and theft.

A friend of the vendor, Adélie Assurances, quoted me €71 a month for fire and theft (excess of €580), broken windscreen (excess of €60), and breakdown assistance.

Allianz (that I just stopped in to by chance passing) quoted me €78,66 a month for the same thing; with a €300 excess for fire and theft, and apparently none for the windscreen. Plus assistance.

The final quote was a referral from a comparison website. I did it earlier today, and a woman phoned me back in about twenty minutes. On a Sunday. For €73,73 a month with a €500 excess for fire and theft, and €70 for windscreen, and assistance/transfer up to €155.

I said plus one. That's because I also went to MMA. The man there put in my details and told me it was super-cher. I said I knew, it was around seventy euros. He did a double-take and said that it was about a hundred and eighty. For the basic level. That was what everybody else estimated for all-risks. The all-risks? Consider in the ballpark of three hundred. Per month. He couldn't believe that the others were offering seventy with assistance. He refused to print me a quotation. Probably embarrassed because, yes, I would have scanned it and included it below. I mean, WTaF? Does MMA provide the paperwork engraved onto gold ingots? Per year, MMA's all risks quote would cost more than I'm paying for the entire loan. N'importe quoi!!!

I will need to visit the Allianz woman again to confirm if there really is no excess for windscreens, and if so, I may consider them. Their quote is the most, but their excess is the least, especially if there is none for the windscreen.

You might be thinking "holy crap, that's expensive". So let me reassure you of one thing - I do not know how to drive. Seriously, I've watched mom driving all over the place, and I've moved the C1 to the front of the house and back for washing it.
So, with my little toy car and an oh-my-God level of insurance, I can take my clueless self and venture out onto public roads with other vehicles, at speeds up to 45kph. With no licence and no real idea of how to drive.
It's crazy.

In the longer term, when I'm more confident, I intend to take driving lessons. Well, a lot of that will be down to how much all of this stuff is going to cost. However, I used to give mom €150 a month (because her state pension was derisory) so I won't actually feel the car loan or the insurance, they're only about 12 euros more than I used to give mom. But, factoring in house insurance and all the other rubbish. Jeez... Still, I don't think I'm that badly off. I only have myself to look after, and I'm really fond of pasta (which is cheap), I'm used to the house being cold in the winter, so won't blow hundreds on heating, and if the car really does run as cheaply as it seems it might, then it'll be less than I used to pay to top up the C1 (yeah, it was me who paid the petrol - did I mention how crap mom's pension was?). I just need to give things time to settle, so I can have an idea of the situation. I mean, mom's burial policy was for 2K, not 3K like I thought, so I've needed to put aside around 300 a month to make up the difference. If I can manage that without the world ending, I think things will be okay in the future. Not great, as my pay is SMIC (minimum) plus 1%, but I don't smoke, drink, or do drugs. My main vices are tea and chocolate. I'm using a freebie tablet to write this, and my computers are a Pi2 and an old PC from a boot sale. I'm not interested in latest-greatest, so I think things will be okay. Well, I hope. I'll have a better idea by next spring time.
But life goes on, and so must I.

If all goes to plan and La Banque Postale approve the loan, they should drop the 3K into my account around the 8th day after I signed the contract. Which will be around the 25th. Then I'll need to pick an insurance, sort that out, do a transfer to the dealer for the car. And... well... expect videos of my first car. It's a cute little critter, but oh my god is it noisy. Clank-clank-clank-clank-clank.......

Okay, here's a video giving a presentation of the Aixam 400. Mine's pretty much this, only white. And, yes, it's really as noisy as it sounds. At 1m06 you can see the engine, and at 2m10 you can see the big boot. I don't think mine has a flap like this one - I'll have to ask if he has one he can sell me. Anyway, here's a presentation of the car:

And finally, it seems that Aixam has presence in Germany (does this mean I can drive it in Germany, or is the no-licence a French thing only?) and here's a video showing driving in an Aixam 400. The radio must be up really loud to cover the engine noise. The music stops around 3m20, if you want to hear the car on its own. It's not particularly fast, but as you can see, it's fast enough. And, yes, everybody will overtake. But, hey, it's a car, right?


And for you?

Monday night (into Tuesday morning) is the peak of the Orionids meteor shower. It'll be slightly marred by a bright quarter moon, assuming it isn't raining, but with up to 20 per hour, it isn't the most prolific but it is still well known to stargazers.

And, sadder news. This time next week, all us Europeans mess around with our clocks. That means an extra hour in bed. It also means an earlier brighter morning at the expense of a rubbish evening, Today the sun rises at half eight and sets a little after seven. Give it a week, the sun will rise at twenty to eight and set just before six. And, yes, we lose 23 minutes of daylight over the course of the week. It's getting chillier, soon the leaves will be turning brown. And that baking hot summer is now but a memory.



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David Pilling, 20th October 2019, 19:54
Hmm I think people can use motor scooters on UK roads with no licence on their own. One gets used to seeing these people with L plates, and typically they're using that bike because it is cheap and are good drivers. One forgets that some of them are a hazard, because they lack experience. 
Variable transmission is interesting, been around a long time. I recall it in Dutch "Daffodil" car. 
I guess (true in the UK) lots of pedagogical material about driving available. Reading/interacting with that would be a good idea. 
I suppose you can teach yourself if you stick to quiet roads. With an instructor the thing was often being taken to busy and hazardous places and being stopped from doing dangerous things by them interrupting (dual controls). 
Being in the countryside may help. Like in UK there are places with no roundabouts and you can take your test there. But here in the town, there are squillions of roundabouts and until you grok roundabouts you're not going to pass. 
Instructors know what the test requires. They don't always teach what you need to know on the road, but what you need to pass the test. 
Being slow is not always safe. Motorway lane 1 at the legal min of 30MPH, scary.
Rick, 20th October 2019, 20:22
Oh, over here slower vehicles (tractors, scooters, toy cars...) are not permitted on motorway or motorway-like (dual carriageway with 110kph speed limit) roads. The most other traffic ought to be doing on the sort of roads I can use is 80 (which means about 95 in practice).
David Pilling, 21st October 2019, 00:27
Yes, restrictions on motorways, no people with L plates. 
I thought EU had decided to stop the clocks forward/backward thing.

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