AutoMemory #3 – Morris Marina TTE704M


By cunningly injecting references to Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson in the last AutoMemory (covering the esteemed Vauxhall Viva, as you no doubt recall) I managed to pull in a bumper crop of Internet readers. (Bumper, that is, by my standards. By which I mean that AutoMemory #2 has more “hits” than #1, whereas normally an older post will always have a higher score simply by virtue of having been around longer and, I suspect, because some visitors to a new post will take a quick detour to click around the older ones – a tendency for which I am grateful, boosting so well, as it does, my fragile writer’s ego.)

Well if something works once, why not try it again? And this time round I have genuine justification, for the focus of our attention is the even more esteemed Morris Marina, a car much beloved by the TG presenters as a subject of ridicule and, furthermore, deemed a fair target for destruction by a grand piano dropped from a great height.

Those who love to smirk at our beloved British Leyland are in for a treat as this series will feature not one but two (yes, two) Marinas, the first being a 1974 1.8 Coupé in a fetching shade of mustard, not unlike our picture. This was the car that took the family down to St Ives and up to Fort William, the car in which my brother learned to drive, and the car which permanently put Dad off ever owning another Marina.

Take the St Ives trip, for example. As we cruised down the M5 there was a terrific bang from under the bonnet. Inspection at the next services revealed that the flywheel pulley had split apart, firing one half upwards like a bullet and denting the bonnet from underneath. I don’t recall the repair story, save to say that we made it to St Ives Holiday Village and enjoyed one of the finest Easter breaks in many a year (for this was, I believe, 1975 – the year of the first of two legendary long hot summers – and clearly the weather was revving up for the coming scorcher – to use the motoring simile – as early as March).

To Scotland, then. The banks of Loch Eil, roughly 20 miles by road from Fort William and the nearest shop. (Strangely, my Dad felt this was stretching the definition of “shop nearby” as indicated in the brochure.) We spent a hot but not unpleasant week in a caravan in a potato field fighting off midges and trying not to run into shaggy Highland cattle blocking the road. We took a foray into the foothills of Ben Nevis, savoured Scottish tea-rooms and called the AA out to replace the Marina’s leaking clutch master cylinder. My brother, bless him, had the joy of coaxing the Marina back to base, kangaroo-hopping at every gear change. (Those who know about these things will correct me – no doubt with great delight – if I’m wrong, but I understand that the majority of clutches are cable-operated and hence not prone to leaking hydraulics. I suspect, however, that had the Marina designers opted for the conventional technology we would have suffered a stretched / snapped / stuck clutch cable instead. I do happen to know that the Marina was vulnerable to sticking cables – but more of that in a future episode.)

Such, then, are my fond recollections of TTE704M. By a strange quirk of fate, a family trip down to the very same St Ives Holiday Village over 20 years later was severely marred when we were rear-ended by a coach at Gordano Services. Unfortunately this distress befell us a mere 15 years ago and we have yet to delve into the 80’s, let alone the 90’s. In due course you will thrill to the full gory detail of The Ford Sierra Dented Boot Tragedy. But not yet.

When the tale is finally told, however, you, forewarned and forearmed, can raise your eyebrows in recognition, give a knowing look and exclaim, “Aha! This is not the first but the second Cornwall-centric tale of vehicular shenanigans. For I do recall the sad story of the shattered pulley way back in episode #3, when we were given but a tantalising glimpse of this current tale, by which I am so utterly entranced.”

Don’t let me down now.


The Joy of Internetical Joined-Upness

I sincerely hope that the linguistic purists and dictionary aficionados among you will excuse my quirky title. It’s a writer’s privilege, darling, to play fast and loose with vocabulary when the mood strikes, while spending most of the time gleefully spotting editorial howlers in everyone else’s creations. And if it isn’t it jolly well should be.

I was about to type that I’m fully aware that there’s no such word as “Internetical” but decided to Google it first. Lo and behold, there’s at least one definition to be found at, and unfortunately it’s quite different to mine. Whereas I have chosen (or so I thought) to jauntily combine the concepts of “Internet” and “technical” to create a clever yet entertaining word that draws the reader’s attention, they apparently deem it to signify mathematical equations birthed purely from conversations on the web, or some such nonsense. (I am, of course, compelled to throw in that not-so-veiled insult at the end to infer that my definition and intent for the word is at least as valid as theirs, if not more so. For if that were not to be the case then my use of it wouldn’t be rather clever author’s license, but rather a demonstration of author’s ignorance – rather like a boss of mine who, in 1984, insisted that the word “assimilate” was the correct one when what he really meant was “simulate”. He was wrong then and he’s wrong now.)

On the other hand, I’m pleased to report no dictionary definitions for “Joined-Upness”, but it would probably be difficult to come up with one that didn’t mean what I’m assuming you all take it to mean anyway – that is, having the characteristic of being joined up.

Incidentally, there is actually a point to the title, and I promise it’s coming right up. May I thank you for your patience in following the meandering river that is this piece as far as this particular bend.

Welcome, then, to my tale of Problematical Calendar Synchronisation.

Every so often my iPod would refuse to synchronise its calendar data with that held by Microsoft Outlook on the desktop PC. I would spend hours trying suggestion after suggestion to no avail until it would one day miraculously resume without explanation and as if nothing had happened. In the meantime I was having to manually check that computer and hand-held told the same story so that my data was protected and so that my better half could see my calendar entries and add her own so that I could see them.

When it all started to go horribly wrong for the third time in two years I set off down the well-worn path of try this, try that, reset the other, delete, switch off, log out, log in, increase, decrease, reinitialise, and so on ad nauseam. Several days of anything but automatic and seamless updating began to take its toll. I even resorted to praying for a solution.

Friends, my prayer was answered.

My Apple device still refuses to play nicely with the Microsoft software when it comes to sharing dates, but I am nonetheless happy. For I have found a new calendar friend to play nicely with, and it works, as they say, a treat. It’s a calendar that lives not on my home computer but “out there” – on the Internet. Gasps of amazement. (Except from those of you who’ve been doing this for ages and wonder what the fuss is about and are probably shaking your heads in disbelief at my delight.)

My Internet provider (whom I shall not name lest you track me down, hack my account and steal all my calendar appointments) is kind enough to give me not only an email address but also a calendar, and one which, by the magic of Internetical Joined-Upness, can swap appointments with my little toy. What’s more, my favourite lady can see said calendar from her laptop far more easily and so we can share and update our appointments at home or work. Let us give thanks.

Oh, we do have a backup system as well. It costs £2.99 each December, it’s made of paper and it hangs on the kitchen wall. What a great idea.