Every couple of weeks or so I hop into my car and set off on the journey back to Manchester. I usually have some provisions packed although a lot of the time I will pop into the shops and pick some things up, a loaf of bread, a bottle of milk. I’m a man of simple tastes.
The car starts up fine and I’m off down the drive and heading towards the M55 motorway.
Once I’m moving I crank up the stereo and settle back to drive and listen to my favourite music. I hate adverts. TV adverts are bad enough but radio ads are the ones I really hate so no commercial radio, just CDs. My stereo takes five CDs which is great as sometimes I might get bored with the current CD and I like to click forward to the next one.
Coming along Queensway towards the M55 and there are roadworks ahead. There’s not a great queue but the only other route involves a huge excursion to bypass the area so I reckon I’ll just stick it out.
My car is a Skoda Octavia Scout 4 wheel drive. It’s not anything I’ve gone out of my way to buy it just happened to be available when I wanted to change cars so I went for it. The only car I’ve ever really gone out of my way to buy was probably my last car which was a Renault Megane convertible. I don’t suppose I took the roof down that much now I come to think of it but a convertible was something I’d always wanted. I really did love driving on a warm summer’s day with the top down. My previous car was a Rover and it had a somewhat old fashioned radio and tape player. Not that I minded having a tape player. Ever since my teenage days I’ve enjoyed copying my vinyl 45s to tape and making what they call these days a mixtape, although back in the mid seventies that wasn’t a phrase I’d ever heard of.
Anyway, I loved tapes and I enjoyed compiling them. If the tape broke: no matter, they were only cheap, throw it away and record another. Bored with a tape? Again, no matter, just record something else over whatever was already on there.
Finally through the roadworks on down towards the M55 motorway.
When I moved up to the Renault my collection of tapes was consigned to the storeroom and I brought a box of CDs into the car. I wasn’t totally happy but then I realised I could continue in my mixtape recording by just creating collections of my favourite music on CD. I began to copy CDs onto my laptop so I could burn my favourite tracks to new CD collections. I even had a program in which I could digitise some of my very best mixtapes which had clips from TV and film shows and burn them to a new CD.
Finally I turn on to the M55 motorway. I see I’m perhaps a little short on fuel but I’ve got easily enough to get me to Manchester and back. It’s always worth checking your fuel as when I was a motorway traffic officer, running out of gas could be a big problem. So many stranded motorists used to call up and mention they had run out of fuel as if we were going to pop down with a tank of petrol. No, we would be towing their car away and charging them £250 for the privilege, assuming the police didn’t get involved and give them a ticket. Imagine if they had run out of fuel in the fast lane or on a motorway with no hard shoulder; that could be dangerous and even fatal. Always check your fuel before going onto the motorway.
After a while I thought about actually having my original CDs in the car rather than copying and editing them. After all, if you come to a dud track it’s easy to just flip to the next one. So I brought a couple of boxes of CDs into the car, one in the passenger footwell and another in the boot. Every so often I’d rotate them.
Not so long ago I was stuck in a traffic jam. I was a little bored with my current five CD selection and wondering if I should reach over and select some new music from the zip folder of CDs in the glove compartment or even reach down to the box of newer CDs on the floor. We started to move up slowly but just then my eye happened to catch something on the front of the stereo. There was a small slot I hadn’t seen before and was that worn mark the symbol of a SD slot, you know, a slot for a memory card? We started moving and I made a mental note to look into that later.
By now I’d reached the junction with the M6. I took the slip road for the M6 south but I knew that soon I’d have to make another decision. Should I go M61 south and then M60 ring road or stay M6 south and then M56? Decisions. The M61 is not one of my favourite motorways. It always seems to be busy and then there’s the confusing link to the M60 anti clockwise where you have to move over to the right but traffic from the A666 that wants to go M60 clockwise tries to go left. It’s an accident hot spot and I can almost hear myself in former days when I was the radio dispatcher: Romeo Lima three four. Can you make to an RTC southbound M61 just by the junction with the M60 clockwise?
‘State five, Hotel Alpha’ would be the hoped for response, state five is code for enroute to the incident. Hotel Alpha was my call sign. Anyway I decide to stay on the M6 south. It’s a bit of a risk as I know there are roadworks and a 50mph zone but I still reckon it will be better than the M61.
I checked the stereo and guess what? Yes it was a slot for an SD card. Now it just so happens that all the music I have copied and digitised I had already placed on a micro SD card for my MP3 player. I copied all that to a standard size SD card, popped it into my stereo and now I can listen to my entire music collection without changing CDs, without rotating boxes of CDs, without having the footwell of the passenger seat full of CDs. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. OK, I’d have to copy all the newer CDs in my collection that I hadn’t already transferred to the SD card but even so, I still have a huge collection of music on that card, all of which I like and all advertisement free.
I’d hit the roadworks on the M6 and dropped to 50mph as per the speed restrictions. A lot of people look down on my Skoda but Skoda is actually part of Volkswagen and the engine is basically a Volkswagen engine so really the car is actually a pretty impressive vehicle. I’ve got a cruise control so I set the speed to 52 MPH and glide gently along in the slightly faster moving outside lane. I’m gradually working my way through my SD card and along comes some music I haven’t heard for a while, the soundtrack from the film Aliens.
Aliens was the James Cameron sequel to the Ridley Scott sci-fi horror film Alien. Alien is a sci-fi classic and I’m never sure which is the better film Alien or Aliens. The other sequels in the Alien series were poor and even the prequels weren’t that good, even though Ridley Scott himself directed them. The first was Prometheus which he followed with Alien Covenant. I tried to watch Prometheus but just got bored with it. Alien Covenant was much the same.
Alien had a top-notch cast including Tom Skerrit, Sigourney Weaver, Ian Holm, John Hurt and others. The actors in Covenant were good but I just didn’t have any interest in them. The plot seemed pretty similar to Alien; a spacecraft receives a distress call and goes to investigate. This involves a long hike through the countryside although why they couldn’t have landed closer, I don’t know. Instead of the eggs and the face hugging parasite from Alien some alien spores are encountered by one crew member. He is taken back to the spacecraft and to the medical bay. One crew member gets locked in with the deteriorating man and guess what, an alien bursts out of his body and attacks the other one although just about then I switched off. Why is Alien so good and Alien Covenant so bad? It’s hard to say. Was it just the charisma free actors in the latter or the slow pace? Alien ticked along fairly slowly too but the director always kept the viewer interested in what was going to happen, plus the actors in Alien were so good.
A dubious area of the M6 is around Warrington where the M62 joins us and things always seem to get busy. There are queue caution signs up but these are automatic signals which are activated by a system called MIDAS. Motorway Incident Detection and Signalling. Slow traffic has been detected but then it is always busy in this area. Things speed up and we are soon over the Thelwall Viaduct and onto the M56.
I click onto the next CD on the SD card and it’s a singer called Rumer. Rumer is a British singer-songwriter with a really lovely voice. I reckon it’s just as good as Karen Carpenter and both have the same smooth and warm tone. The album that’s playing is one that has a fabulous version of a Carpenters classic, I Long to be Close to You.
Listening to the wonderful voice of Rumer, I pass the airport, another incident hot spot, without any problems and soon I’m pulling up at my mother’s house. I’ve got my laptop with me and I’ll have a few days to write a new blog post.
Not sure what to write about though.