In summer 2014 I replaced the excessive and untrusted Italian bitch, my Ducati 749s, with a smaller yet beautifully sculptured, Kawasaki Ninja 250R.
What a lovely bike! It’s so light to handle, I feel as if I could chuck it over my shoulder. The Duc had been a swine to get out of the garage, and I was always afraid to drop her (again).
I had been worried that a downgrade from a 750cc superbike to a 250cc bike would be a huge disappointment, but I’m actually very happy with the Ninja. It’s a more modern bike; no faffing with a choke, and she starts every time, unlike the troublesome ‘Daisy’ (Daisy Duke). She’s much lighter and accelerates well enough for my needs and gets up to 95mph – erm – that’s plenty, thanks!
I’m now enjoying biking again for the first time in a year. The Ninja seems to go around corners much better too; I’m not having to overthink this counter steering concept; I just look where I’m going and go there! On the Ducati it seemed it would never turn in time… admittedly it’s not a bike for beginners!
Car wise, the other half’s Lexus RX300 has been sold to friends, so it’s nice to see it in good hands, and after test driving a few replacement RAV4s, found the perfect one: ‘Mimi‘, pictured to the right of Maggy and Becks. The latter, the RX-7, is back and up for sale and several people are interested. I’m current using my beloved MX-5 BBR turbo, Maggy, for my commute to work.
We managed to do an excellent trade in of the Scirocco for the RAV4, the plan now being to sell the RX-7 and buy a fuel efficient diesel for the long commute.
So that would be:
RAV4 – for the girlfriends job
MX-5 BBR turbo – for fun – and I will never get rid of this car!
Ninja 250R for weekends and convenience
Sensible car for my commute
I’ve finally become sensible.
No more silly 20 year old supercars.
Have I become too sensible and boring?? Will I stop wasting money on motorised contraptions??
Well… we did go for a flying lesson the other week.
And it turns out that you can buy a two seater for only 10 grand… 😉
By early 2014 I’d owned 20 different cars myself, plus also purchased and regularly driven 4 girlfriends cars. I’d found the ideal fun turbo charged MX-5, was waiting for the somewhat short-lived experience RX-7 to be rebuilt before selling it, had managed to get rid of the bloody beamer and had now possibly found the perfect sensible hatchback.
Well, it was a coupe – the VW Scirocco.
On paper, ‘The Roc’ met all my needs. She was fun to drive and reasonably ecomonical – whilst out of work for a few months at the
beginning of the year and only pootling about on school runs and to the shops, I was only averaging 31mpg, but recently I’ve done
a few longer runs and I could get 39mpg out of her at a push – not bad for a 200bhp ‘hothatch’/’sports coupe’.
But surely I could do better. I could get a 60mpg diesel with a proper hatchback – the ‘Roc’s ain’t exactly large.
I must be getting old.
Am I finally getting the sensible hatchback diesel??
Do I really want to get rid of ‘Siri‘?
I am finally being sensible and reasonable. Maybe boring. But I have the MX-5 for fun (recently resprayed in Mazda Graphite Grey, from the 2010 model Mazda3). I’ve just started a new job where I’m going to have to drive over 100 miles every day. Buying a diesel could save me £1000 a year in fuel costs. And I could buy a
decent quality diesel for half the price of the ‘Roc.
Where I like the Scirocco, A LOT, and it’s a lovely car, I’ve just not come to love her.
Well, I’ve been trying to work that out.
I think it’s the combination of the DSG automatic gearbox and the small turbo lag. You see, I’m not a huge fan of autos, but as the girlfriend loves them and isn’t used to manuals, and we were planning on selling the RX300 and having a gap before finding her a replacement, she planned to use the Scirocco, and I’d test driven an auto ‘Roc and had been convinced.
At the time.
I’d tried the flappy paddle semi-auto sport mode on the test drive and found it fun. This was the answer to a boring auto, I could still change gear when I wanted!
In practice, I never use it. I just haven’t been able to get used to it; you can’t ‘feel’ which gear you are in or need to be in so much as you would with a manual gearbox. Perhaps with time I’d get used to it, but I’m finding the sheer joy and simplicity of the MX-5’s gearbox is more than enough and leaving the DSG gearbox in auto mode.
The problem with that is the combination of the DSG boxes momentarily lapse to decide to drop down a gear when accelerating, plus the small turbo lag, results in a slightly irritating delay.
Only slightly – its not as annoying or dangerous as the Brera’s turbo lag. But in reality it feels more sluggish than the girlfriends older, lower powered, heavier RAV4 auto.
I can live with it, and still enjoy the car, but I can’t love it.
So why not keep it?
We’ve found the perfect replacement for the RX300, a 2009/2010 Toyota RAV4. It meets all my girlfriends needs, and whilst I’m not
exactly an SUV fan, I have to say, it’s one nice looking beast! The newer post ’08 engine offers slightly more power (up from 150
to 158bhp) and better fuel efficiency (31 to 38mpg) and seems to drive nicer; the standard auto has been replaced by a CVT system
with a semi-auto flappy paddle option. There are mixed opinions about these CVT gearboxes which effectively have no clutch – but
she liked it and it seems a better option that the older models which after 50,000 miles seem to be somewhat tired feeling (see
my post on the Pistonheads forum).
It’s not cheap though. But she needs something decent for her job and it would be a good ‘family car’ for us at weekends and for trips, purchasing things with it’s large boot, etc.
So that’s why I’m considering selling the ‘Rocco. I just don’t need it; it would make more sense to sell it to part fund the RAV4, and then get a cheap diesel for my commute.
During all this debating, the sun came out and I got back on the motorbike.
But I wasn’t happy with Daisy. She was a b1tch, she’d threw me off, I didn’t trust her!
Yet again I offered my business to Pistonheads, eBay and AutoTrader to sell yet another vehicle.
I decided to replace the somewhat excessive 750cc superbike with a little 250cc.
I’d considered a range of 600cc bikes but I hadn’t liked the weight of the Ducati and it had been a pain getting her in and out of the garage, and into tight parking spaces. I recalled how nice and easy life was with my 125. The wet weights of the 600s were all very similar.
I looked at the KTM Dukes, as these are incredibly light yet quite powerful. Unfortunately they are quite pricey, and with me only using the bike occasionally, I felt it was unreasonable spending so much money. I wanted to scrape back some cash from the Ducati and buy a cheaper bike. I was also worried about the more upright seating position compared to a sportsbike due to my tailbone issue (to be posted shortly in the Health & Fitness section).
The journey from Rousse in Bulgaria to Bucharest in Romania took just under 2 hours and passed quickly due to there being two
friendly girls from London on board the minibus happy to have a chinwag.
We were dropped off in a central area of Bucharest and I started heading for my hotel. I was dying for a coffee (read: toilet) and on passing a small restaurant I thought I’d pop in and give my (very) limited Romanian a try. I managed a greeting and to order a coffee politely, although I had no idea what she said back to me, but her beautiful smile was worth it. I even managed to ask where the toilet was, which was again greeted with a wondrous smile and a babble of words I didn’t understand – I followed the pointing finger and managed to find it. It seemed that the Romanian’s appreciate you trying to speak their language just as much as the Turks did.
I then had a 10 minute walk to my hotel near Cismigiu Park. I had been through Romania previously, but only at night in a taxi on my way to Bulgaria. Walking through the streets in the afternoon spring sunshine, I was very impressed. The architecture was impressive; I could be in London or Paris. True, some buildings weren’t in a great state of repair… but again; I could be in London or Paris!
The boulevards were wide and the traffic reminiscent of any large city. I had expected to see Ladas and old VWs; instead I saw
Mercedes and a surprising amount of modern French cars.
The people too; they were beautiful. Ok, there was the odd old lady or homeless guy (again, London or Paris…) but in general the people were very well, fashionably dressed, and the women were gorgeous – elegant clothes, slim figures, beautiful jet black or platinum blond well styled hair.
I was liking Romania!
Then I arrived at my hotel. It was basic – seems I’d made a mistake and not realised I didn’t have an ensuite bathroom – but clean and quiet. And it had been incredibly cheap; for one nights stay it would do the job. It’s proximity to the park was great too; and supposedly close to the restaurants and bars (although I did get a bit lost and struggled to find the main area).
Cismigiu Park is definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in Bucharest. There’s a lovely lake and great spot to have a drink
overlooking it and the trees. An oasis in a busy city. I’ve since taken two lady friends there since; it’s a very romantic spot.
Bucharest does have many similarities to the so-called most romantic city in the world, Paris: it seems the dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu copied many aspects and there’s even an Arc De Triumph.
In the evening I went for a wander and admired some of the beautifully lit buildings on the Calea Victoriei such as the National
Art Museum, the Romanian Athenaeum and the Central University Library, and passed Revolution Square, where Ceaușescu delivered
his last speech. I ended up getting a little lost and didn’t find the main restaurant area I was looking for. Getting hungry, I popped into what looked like a nice local restaurant, only to find out later it was Hungarian. Still, I enjoyed the food.
I managed to find a few bars but being alone and not speaking much Romanian, and having to get up early the next day, I just sampled a few local beverages and headed back to the hotel.
The next day I flew to Madrid.
This was another quick stop; I’d decided that after so much travelling I wanted the last few days to rest and had found cheap flights to Madrid and on to Tenerife the next day. I spent a few hours wandering around the busy Spanish city but was tired from
travelling and there was some kind of festival going on; the streets were packed and after finding some interesting buildings and
taking a few snaps decided to go for some food. A few drinks and an early night, then I was off to Playa De Las Americas, in Tenerife.
I spent 4 days on the wonderful Canary Island and enjoyed myself thoroughly.
I’d been a bit worried I might get bored on my own, especially now I wasn’t travelling so much. The first morning the weather wasn’t great so I passed my time exploring and found a good internet cafe and caught up with the goings on of the world. It brightened up later and I was happy to read a good book by the pool.
In the evening I decided to hit the nightlife.
I’d been a bit scared going out at night on my own in Turkey and Romania (in Bulgaria had stayed with family in the village so hadn’t gone out – the local wine was enough to keep me happy!) but in Tenerife figured that there’d be plenty of English tourists and I’d be able to merge in and get chatting to someone – hopefully a hot young lady (being single at the time).
I turned up at the infamous Veronicas Strip – and found it empty.
Was I too early?
Possibly… it was about 10pm. People on holiday often go out much later; particularly since the 2008 economic crash – people would get cheap drinks at home/the hotel and go out later.
I wandered into the first bar and sat down at one of the many free chairs outside – the place was deserted.
An eager young barmaid walked up to me to ask what I’d like to drink. I ordered and when she returned with it I asked her where everyone was. She seemed as confused as I was; it was normally busier by this time of night, and this time of season, apparently. As it was, people did start showing up over the next hour, but even by midnight it could hardly have been called busy.
She was very friendly though and obviously quite bored, so we both passed the time chatting, when she wasn’t serving customers. She was pretty enough, but only 16, and there was just no chemistry; yet for the next 3 nights I came to that bar for at least an hour for a pleasant chat with her.
I found a night club that evening which was somewhat busier, and enjoyed a few cocktails, becoming ‘more talkative’, shall we say, and found myself looking at random pictures of myself and strangers on my phone the next day.
These things happen.
The weather disappointed me again though, and as the day wore on, didn’t seem to be getting any better.
I decided to hire a car. Catching a lady at a local rental firm just about to leave for a siesta, I managed to get a cheap car for 24 hours, and headed up mount Teide and emerged above the clouds at 2000m (6 and half thousand feet) to beautiful vistas of cloud enshrined pine trees and glorious sunshine.
Fortunately me for, the last two days were wonderously sunny and warm and I chilled by the beach and pool, making the most of the
remaining 12 hours car hire and visiting a couple of local recommended beaches, the beautiful cliffs at Los Gigantes (literally, ‘The Giants‘). I wasn’t bored or lonely; I had my book during the day; in the evenings I chatted with my barmaid friend and later allowed the cocktails to do their magic and loosen my tongue to chat to random strangers. On the last night I ended up exchanging phone numbers (and a few kisses) with a pleasant lass from Newcastle. As you do.
Thoroughly entertained and relaxed I headed back to the UK and reality.
So if you want to travel alone, I can recommend it; just do your research, learn a few words of the local lingo, and take a good
In the spring of 2014, my MX-5 guru friend James had fitted a ‘new’ (less than 50,000 miles) replacement engine to my beloved fifth MX-5, Maggy.
Maggy was back!
I was driving with a smile again.
There’s just something about the simple pleasure of driving an Mark 1 1990’s MX-5. The Japanese designed it with ‘Jinba ittai‘ in mind,
meaning ‘Horse and rider as one‘. And it’s worked – it feels like an extension of your body. There’s a great book about the MX-5’s story available at Amazon: Mazda MX-5: The Complete Story.
People often joke that it’s a bit of a hairdressers car. Most of those haven’t driven one. Or are wannabe hairdressers.
Yes, the original 114bhp 1.6 litre engine isn’t exactly powerful, but it’s enough to feel nippy in that light and brilliant chassis. And my 150+bhp BBR turbo has the perfect amount of power to turn that grin into an insane cackling.
I was happy.
But I still had to get rid of the damn beamer, and the RX-7 was still being rebuilt.
I’d disliked the BMW 3 series convertible almost immediately after buying her; although it was bloody powerful, it was heavy, and
I didn’t like the way it handled. It was also a bit too ‘flash’ for me – I’d happily drive a supercar, but only a 20 year old slightly battered looking one!
I’d tried to sell it back to the dealers, but summer had been ending and there was low demand for convertibles, so when they finally got back to me with a price, I hadn’t been sure whether to laugh or cry.
Needless to say, I’d kept her.
It was now spring of the following year and the perfect time to market a convertible. Up she went on Autotrader. 2 hours later, I kid you not, Sytner BMW ring me.
The same Sytner BMW Nottingham that I bought it from, who had previously offered me a pathetically small amount to buy it back.
Not so now. The model was in demand, and they were short on stock.
I still had the boot leak problem. Surely they knew about that?
I neglected to remind them.
They bought it back at a very reasonable price. I checked their site a few weeks later and saw that they were trying to sell it for £3000 more than they’d gave me, about £1500 more than I’d bought it for the previous year!
So, stock take.
Maggy, the MX-5 BBR turbo, love of my life, all fixed, running beautifully – very happy.
Dull & Unreliable BMW – SOLD.
“The Mistake I Had To Make” RX-7 – being rebuilt.
So I needed a car with rear seats. I could use the girlfriends Lexus RX300 from time to time, but I’d already made my mind up to sell the RX-7 once I’d got it back from being rebuilt – I just couldn’t trust it anymore and for some reason, even though it was Maggy’s big sister, she’d never made me smile in the same way – so I needed a suitable replacement car.
I bought a Volkswagen Scirocco 2.0 litre turbo petrol with 200bhp on tap.
Surely this was a sensible choice?
Fuel economy: estimated 36-40mpg; better than the Alfa Romeo Brera I’d had
Backseats: small, but suitable for children
Reliability: basically a VW Golf, so excellent
Looks: Almost as beautiful as the Brera
Fun: More fun to drive than the Brera
I’d only got rid of the Alfa Romeo Brera due to the disappointing and almost dangerous turbo lag, and it’s poor fuel consumption. The Scirocco (AKA ‘Siri‘) was a very similar beast, yet with similar if not better fuel economy, a nippy responsive petrol engine, and an apparently better ride.
At the end of March 2010, I decided to travel alone, for 10 days, to 5 different destinations.
Originally I’d planned more countries, but expensive and time concerns put me off: I didn’t want to exhaust myself, I still wanted to enjoy my time and not be constantly travelling.
Nor would I be entirely on my own; the idea was to meet up with my ex’s family in Bulgaria where she was holidaying with my daughter, so I could see her for a few days.
My original grand plans had been to start on the Italian east coast and get a ferry across to Croatia or Greece, then work my way up to Turkey and Bulgaria before travelling onwards.
I hadn’t realised how time consuming and expensive the boat connections were.
The next plan was to fly to Athens – I’d always wanted to visit and to this day still haven’t had the chance – and get a sleeper train through the Greek mountains.
Research showed the trains to be slow, unreliable and uncomfortable. Connection information was sketchy, and the flights to Athens weren’t ideal either.
Ok, lets start in North Greece, in Thessaloniki.
Nope, flights were too expensive.
Greece was scrapped. I’d already visited two or three Greek islands, I could give this country a miss this time.
Turkey, however, was a different proposition.
Istanbul held some weird fascination for me; the diverse culture, turbulent history and geographical significance of the ancient city as it’s role of gatekeeper between Europe and Asia, beckoned to me.
Plus the flights were cheap.
I was a little scared of travelling on my own there, especially after reading about the various conmen that befriend you on the street and you end up going for a friendly drink with… in a bar in which you find the door closing on you before being presented with a huge bill for the drinks. Don’t pay up, and you get beaten up.
And I was indeed approached by said conmen within 10 minutes of taking a stroll down the popular Istiklal Street to Taksim Square. True, I was alerted to their dodgy intentions by the somewhat unorthodox greeting of “Hi, wow, you have such blue eyes!” – especially from another man – but his friendly chatting was surprisingly skillful and disarming, especially with the background story that he wasn’t local himself (allegedly being Syrian) and therefore on his own, but offering background knowledge on the area and being able to suggest where to go when he ‘bumped into’ an old friend who also wasn’t Turkish, but happened to be working there so could name a few drinking establishments we could all go to…
So just be careful. I’d read the warnings online beforehand, but as a tired traveller, and with an Englishman’s ridiculously polite inability sometimes to just say ‘no‘, you can easily find yourself in a tricky situation.
The next day I adopted a trick I’d read about online to avoid eye contact in the busy streets: wear sunglasses. It was pretty sunny anyway so I didn’t look daft, and it worked well – I merged into the crowd, not looking like a tourist as I looked around without anyone being able to see my darting eyes figuring out which was I was supposed to be going.
That’s when I really started to enjoy Istanbul.
There was so much to see. I wandered around the Golden Horn, hopping on the tram and taking in all the sights. There’s the huge
and impressive former church and former mosque Aya Sofya (now museum), the 17th Century Blue Mosque with it’s six minarets and
the formidable Topkapi Palace, home to generations of sultans and their wives, closeted on the famous harem.
I also visited the Basilica Cistern, an amazing underground water storage system created by the Byzantine empire in the 6th century. That was simply stunning.
I’d learnt a few words and basic phrases in Turkish; the usual ‘hello‘ ‘can I have’ ‘please’ ‘thanks’ and ‘bye‘, etc. Saying these little words to the various people I met at the tourist attractions and cafes resulted in huge smiles of appreciation at the effort to speak their own language, so I was glad I’d tried.
I got a boat down the Bosphorus, the sea separating Europe and Asia. I drank some of the hot spiced apple tea that is sold everywhere as the cool breeze wafted by us as we sailed under the Bosphorus bridge and then back down the Asian coast. I’d actually hoped to get a boat to the other side so I could have visited Asia, but in my short time there hadn’t found anything suitable.
I sampled ‘Balik Ekmek‘, basically a fish sandwich; the fish was fresh out of the sea and fried in front of your eyes -delicious.
My favourite attraction though in Istanbul were the Hamami – the Turkish Baths. I decided to visit the oldest first, Çemberlitaş, built in 1584.
You can just enjoy the steam room and relax, choosing a self service option to clean yourself, or a number of message or scrub options. I decided not to opt for a full massage but paid a ridiculously small fee from some massive bearded half naked Turkish guy to grin at me hugely and ramble incoherent (to me) Turkish at me whilst scrubbing me down rigorously and then throwing cold water at me.
It was very refreshing actually; especially going to lie down on a hot slab afterwards and enjoying the atmosphere and history of the place.
The next morning I decided it was worth getting up early and visiting another steam bath in Istanbul before catching the bus to Bulgaria. I decided to visit Cağaloğlu Hamam, built in 1741. The haman was featured in the film Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom. I opted for a self service clean this time round.
I figured that the 10 hour bus journey probably wouldn’t be so great; the only other bus journey of that length had been from Sharm el Sheik in Egypt to visit the pyramids at Giza, and that was horrendous. Mind you, the toilet had been out of order and I was suffering from food poisoning and it’s, erm, related side effects…
However, the journey wasn’t so bad. There was a toilet on board; but that too was out of order. Fortunately the bus made regular stops so my pea-sized bladder didn’t struggle too much. I also got chatting to the Bulgarian chap in front of me, who spoke excellent English; seems he’d lived and worked in Luton for a couple of years. The world being small, it also transpired that he was from a village in Bulgaria I knew well – having sold a house to a South African chap we’d remained in touch with during the years we’d ran a Bulgarian property business.
So the journey passed relatively quickly and I ended up in Rousse, which lies on the Danube river in North Bulgaria, without much
fuss. I met up with my ex’s family and spent a relaxing 3 days with my daughter. She was only 3 at the time and I’d never spent much time away from her, usually taking her for a day or two at the weekend and also popping by midweek for an hour or two to see her, so it was lovely spending some time with her in the warm Bulgarian sunshine and seeing the house we’d bought a few years back, now for sale. We went for a walk around the rock caves at Ivanovo and the fortress ruins at Chevern.
I then hopped in a minibus across the Danube and into Romania, to spend an evening in Bucharest.
Continuing on from part 1 of this post, ‘To juice or not to juice‘, we had tried the VonShef juicer and although it was a bargain for the price and would be an ideal solution for many, it just wasn’t up to our demanding carrot juicing needs!
Determined to find the right solution, my girlfriend spent many hours reading through UK and Polish juicing and health forums, product reviews and guides.
This juicer promised to deliver everything we wanted – slow pressed healthy juice and no need to chop up carrots!
We always look around for the cheapest price, taking into account any cash-back deals through TopCashBack. I don’t recall which was best at the time as prices seem to fluctuate, but there’s currently a good deal on Amazon and a few for sale on eBay for less than we paid.
When it arrived it was like an early Christmas for my girlfriend.
Unpackaging the contents of the box, she wasn’t disappointed, and kept bringing me parts with a big smile on her face saying “ooo its so small!” and “FEEL the quality!”.
It did feel pretty solid. But would it meet our expectations?
Well, it looked the part – surprisingly small and in a lovely deep red colour (here’s ours in red, there’s a silver one and I believe you can find in black and white too).
We powered her up and started juicing.
The results were very good. Carrots could be fed in whole. No more time consuming chopping! And the results were better than the VonShef; still some froth, but plenty of beautiful juice and NO clogging this time! And it was sooo quiet!
We’ve been using for two or three months now, and we are happy to report success. We are juicing about 5 days a week, getting through approximately 8kg of carrots, 4-6kg of apples, 1kg of beetroot and 20 grapefruits a week.
And it’s coping admirably.
We are now chopping the carrots a little to help – it copes with whole carrots but you can see that the unit is under some pressure and the plastic parts are being strained – we are slicing each carrot into 4 pieces (not much effort) in an attempt to prolong the products life.
The juicer has a cap system, whereby you can close the cap and put water in the system to rinse it, and open to cap to wash it through. This works well, but if you are planning on making one stronger flavoured juicer and one milder, consider making the milder one first, as the flavour may remain unless you wash the whole unit properly.
The unit does get warm after about half an hour. However, its rare that we need to juice for longer than that. If you purchase a different juicer to the Kuvings, ensure it has good ventilation near the motor; the VonShef we had previously didn’t.
Being a slow juicer, it’s not fast in it’s operation – but the time saved in chopping fruit & veg that we had to do for the VonShef, and indeed, many other pricier models, is huge and more than compensates – especially to be able to have healthy, slow pressed juice. It’s relatively easy to clean too – it even comes with a brush and a handy circular tool to clean out hard to reach areas.
Ok, it still struggles a bit with leaves. But from all the research we’ve done, most juicers do, except those specifically developed for leaves – and then those ones struggle with harder vegetables such as carrot.
If you are juicing celery, rhubarb, or anything with long fibres, then these must be chopped into short pieces to break the length of the fibres. Due to the nature of the vertical juicer, with a 90 degree angle going down, long fibres can cause the juicer to clog and even become damaged. If you want to regularly make juice mainly with leaves, celery, wheatgrass and other fibrous vegetables, then you may need to buy a horizontal juicer.
So perhaps it’s true – if you want an ideal, complete solution – you do need to spend £3000 on a ‘proper’ slow press juicer rather than a masticating juicer (see the first post, ‘To juice or not to juice‘).
In the real world, I’m sure most people would be happier to compromise and accept an occasional use handy product such as the VonShef at around £66 or a great little regular workhorse Kuvings Cold Press Juicer for around the £300 mark.
Get juicing people!
Some tips for you:
Immerse carrots into cold water 30 mins before juicing in order to soften/moisten
The slow juicer is slow – if you want good results, give it time to process the food through the auger. My girlfriend will only add more into the machine when she sees that not much more pulp is coming out. If you feed in food too fast, you’ll notice that the pulp is wet; i.e. you’re not extracting as much juice as you could
It’s good to mix up the soft and hard products (i.e. carrots and apples) bit by bit when feeding into the juicer – the harder carrots will then push out the soft pulp from the apple left overs
If you do regularly juicing, invest in a composter bin – make use of all that pulp leftover
You can also use the almost dry pulp leftovers to make your own home made flavoured vinegars (may post later on that!)
Because my wonderful logic had deemed it was the perfect car.
Maggy – the 5th of my MX-5s – was my perfect car; in terms of looks, the way it drove and the smile that was instantly plastered onto your face every time you drove her, and the performance – but she only had two seats. And a tiny boot.
I had a daughter and a girlfriend – I needed back seats. I also missed the convenience of having a hatchback.
The RX-7 met the criteria.
It had back seats.
It had a hatchback.
It looked like Maggy (pop up headlights, yay!!).
It handled like Maggy, yet had more power.
It was Maggy’s big sister!
What could possibly go wrong?
Don’t answer that. I’m still trying to sell the f**ker as I write this.
How could I have been so wrong? I’d made a spreadsheet and everything. It had even had a pretty colour scheme!!
Ok, subconsciously I knew I was making a mistake. But perhaps I needed to make that mistake… one more time. Lily from How I Met Your Mother puts it perfectly:
“OK, yes it’s a mistake. I know it’s a mistake, but there are certain things in life where you know it’s a mistake but you don’t really know it’s a mistake because the only way to really know it’s a mistake is to make the mistake and look back and say ‘yep, that was a mistake.’ So really, the bigger mistake would be to not make the mistake, because then you’d go your whole life not knowing if something is a mistake or not.”
The biggest concern with buying this ageing supercar was the reliability of the unique Wankel Rotary engine, and expense if
something went wrong with it.
The second was rust. I didn’t want a repeat story of the Nissan 300ZX (see My car history part 5: The Power Years), a similar vehicle to the RX-7 (I also considered the Mitsubishi GTO and the Toyota Supra – both too heavy and expensive).
So if I bought an RX-7 with a recent rebuild and a warranty, and with sound bodywork, preferably freshly imported from Japan (where they don’t rust), then I wouldn’t have a problem.
Except they were bloody expensive. I had to compromise.
I found and purchased ‘Becks‘ (Becky, the RX), a rust free, 2004 imported model, with a recent engine rebuild. No warranty, but the guy who was selling it had rebuilt it himself in his own time; yet he worked for a Mazda & Ford specialist. He had an excellent reputation on the expert forums and promised to help with any problems I should experience.
He’d live to regret that.
I still hadn’t shaken off the Gremlins.
The engine started to die.
Andy, the builder, was mortified. He’d rebuild many RX-7s and never had a problem before. What had I done to it?!?!?
He offered to help but was a long way away in Guildford. I tried an RX-7 specialist closer to home and after running a compression test, presented me with a bill for £4000 to rebuild it.
I drove to Guildford and left the car with Andy.
Meanwhile, to fuel my car buying urges, I helped my new girlfriend to find and buy a suitable car to replace her beloved Toyota Rav4. She didn’t want to get rid of it, but for reasons beyond our control, it had to go.
It had been a 2004 American model with a 2.4 litre engine and for a 4×4/SUV it was surprisingly nippy. The UK 2.0 litre version felt rather underpowered. She tried a Honda CRV and was thoroughly disappointed. Time was ticking, and we spotted what look like the
perfect upgrade – a 2001 Lexus RX300.
This was a significantly more powerful 3.0 litre vehicle, and a step up in terms of luxury. Heated leather seats, SatNav, sunroof; all the luxurious Lexus works. We had initially been put of an RX300 due to the thirsty fuel consumption, but this was a rare LPG conversion. The RAV4 had also been an LPG conversion and had performed excellently.
Sadly the Lexus didn’t live up to expectations. Don’t get me wrong – it was a damn good car. But we’d fooled ourselves with MPG
expectations, and the laid back luxurious style of the car couldn’t match the sporty eagerness of the little RAV4.
However, it would reasonably meet our requirements for the next 8 months and proved to be an excellent work horse…
The Gremlins still lived inside Maggy the 5th (my 5th and supposedly perfect MX-5, a rare BBR turbo model).
James (my much relied on MX-5 guru friend) had rebuilt the top end of the engine after she’d cooked herself but unfortunately had found the bottom end had also suffered considered damage. It wasn’t economical – plus he just didn’t have the time – to try and repair that too; we might as well source another engine. But first we’d try the car as it was, just in case we could get away with it…
She drove beautifully!
But quickly earned the nickname Smokey Disaster 2 (after the disastrous Maggy the 3rd AKA White Lightning AKA Smokey Disaster; see my earlier car history).
Smoke puthered out of her, due to the damage to the bottom end. She stank.
Then I recalled that the MOT has expired whilst she’d been away being rebuilt!
Of course, with that level of smoke coming out of her, she failed the MOT emissions test miserable.
James agreed to source me an engine and scored a blinder with a £150 low mileage lump – it had only done about 75,000km – i.e.
around 47,000 miles. Some poor sod had wrote of his low mileage pride and joy MX-5, but the engine was intact.
Poor James was up to his eyeballs in work, a house move, and trying to sort his own MX-5 out. He didn’t have the time to fit it, and then winter approached… I was going to be without Maggy for a few months.
My heart sank.
Not helping matters were the fact that the Gremlins had hopped into the beamer.
In the first month, I took it back to the dealers three times for problems with the headlights.
Then I took it in for a leak in the boot.
Then an issue with the roof not latching.
Then the boot leak returned.
The list of problems mounted. I was at BMW Sytner Monday or Tuesday mornings (the days I worked from home) dropping her off at
least twice a month for the next few months. I got to know the receptionists (I could have easily fallen for the young blonde ;))
and service guys. I made the most of their coffee machine and raisin toast.
Thankfully, the warranty covered everything – oh, except for the steering misalignment problem, but due to all the hassle I’d had,
they fixed that at a reduced price.
So much for a reliable BMW.
I’d had already decided that I wanted to sell her, but couldn’t until everything was fixed.
Meanwhile, I’d got back into motorcycling, due to the girl I was seeing at the time. I did the 1 day CBT test and got myself a Yamaha YZF R125 – the baby R6.
It was a beautiful looking and handling bike. Sure, it sounded a bit whiny but you could get up to 84mph without too much fuss. It was light and easy to handle and I took every opportunity to pop out to the shops or bank with it; I was loving the traffic jam skipping abilities and parking conveniences a bike gave you.
My girlfriend then took me along to a bikers meet, at MFN – Miles From Nowhere, or perhaps Middle of F**king Nowhere?! We had an
hour long convoy cruise beforehand with her riding her Honda CBR600, her friend/landlord a big cruiser and a guy we met up with
enroute chilling on his Harley.
Riding in convoy on the windy Derbyshire country roads was a great experience.
I started taking my full test. Squeezing in a couple of hours one or two evenings during the week, and a full or half day on Saturdays where I could, over a couple of months I managed to get my full bike license.
And in August 2013 bought a Ducati 749S Superbike!
And after 2 minutes of riding her, dropped it, shattering my brake pedal, pride, and confidence.
As our close group of friends would say, “These things happen“.
They do. It seems that most bikers have dropped their bike in the first year of ownership.
2 minutes, however, was pushing it…
My problem had been a lack of familiarity with the ‘dry clutch’ found on Ducati’s of that ilk, and not being yet being used to
the weight and balance of the bike. As I’d pulled away at a tight right hand turn junction, on loose gravel, I’d panicked at the
‘grinding’ sound of the dry clutch, and worried about over revving on the low grip gravel, had backed off the clutch without compensating with the throttle, and stalled it, whilst turning. Not being used to the bikes balance I hadn’t realised she was going over until it was too late to put my foot out, well, at least in the right place!
So down she went.
It seems most Ducati owners had also broke their brake pedals in the process of ‘binning it’ too. Crappy plastic design. I found a suitable metal replacement for the brake pedal and a replacement clutch cover from eBay (as I had dented mine in the drop) and got back on her.
But my confidence had took a blow and I gingerly pootled around, terrified of every right hand turn. Eventually I got used to the dry clutch and the weight of the bike, and opened her up.
Wow. What a machine. I’d easily hit 95mph in 3rd gear – I probably could have in 2nd to be fair – and there were 3 more gears to go!!
However, she was still somewhat of a beast to handle, and hard work. Popping to the shops and the bank as I had on the 125 was more of an effort. For a start, she weighed a ton in comparison, and getting her out of the garage was quite an effort. The same with parking her in the tight car park at the bank. And I wasn’t enjoying the thumpathumpa sound and vibration (particularly with my injured tailbone – will write a post on that in the Health & Fitness section later) of the V twin engine. I preferred the Japanese high revving scream to the Mafia machine gunner Italian. Perhaps I should have made the natural progression from my R125 to it’s big sister, the R6.
By then though, autumn was setting in and it was getting colder and rainy. As a fair weather biker only – I had bought her for fun, and the occasional traffic and parking advantages – I tucked up Daisy (Daisy Duke ;)) in the garage and put these musings aside for a few months…
Being into our healthy eating, we decided we needed a juicer in our lives.
Because juicing, and consuming fresh fruit and vegetables in a liquid format, is an incredibly healthy way of taking in vitamins and
minerals – and tasty, too! One of our favourite juices so far is carrot, strawberry and basil – beautiful!
But let’s go back a step – the key to juicing is to purchase the right juicer. So which juicer is right for you? Well, if you aren’t going to be
juicing frequently, are on a tight budget, you aren’t so bothered about the amount of enzymes and vitamins your juice will contain, and are happy to consume the juice immediately after making, then a bog standard centrifugal juicer will do the job.
These work by spinning at high speed (centrifugal force) and chopping the food produce with a sharp blade. There are plenty available at low cost (£30-£60) from Amazon, Argos, eBay etc. The main problem with these type of juicers is in both the quality and quantity of the juice produced. You won’t get the maximum amount of juice available from your produce and it will be quite frothy. You’ll struggle to get any juice from leaves. The mechanism also results in a lot of heat produced that effectively destroys all those enzymes and nutrients you were hoping to extract! The juice also needs to be drank more or less immediately else it will go off. They are also loud in operation.
A much better option is a cold press juicer, or masticating juicer.
There are numerous debates/arguments over which juicer is technically a cold press or masticating juicer – one article insisted that you couldn’t buy a true cold press juicer for less than £3000 and that all the other so called cold press juicers are really masticating juicers – but basically the technology we are talking about doesn’t use high speed and centrifugal forces and a blade to chop the fruit and vegetables like the cheaper variant, but rather turns the produce slowly and presses it into an auger to squeeze and extract the juice and nutrients within more efficiently.
The cons? They can be expensive – when we first looked, the cheapest
were retailing around £130 (but good news – there’s a great one for only £50 – more on that later) but after reading the Amazon reviews we were a bit put off from all the problems people were experiencing with these low end models. Even the ones around £280 didn’t sound ideal.You also need to chop the fruit and vegetables into much smaller chunks than you would in the centrifugal juicer; this can be very time consuming. There are a (very) limited amount of models available where you don’t have to chop your food so much but these are few and far between, and normally very expensive.
However, good news – we found the perfect model! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The pros of a slow press/masticating juicer are that you extract more juice, especially from those healthy green leaves, and there’s less ‘froth’. Because the juicer is operating at a lower speed then the operating temperature is reduced (warning: check operation times before purchasing, some can only run for 10 mins before getting hot) and your nutrients and vitamins aren’t destroyed. The resulting juice will also last for 2-3 days, if kept in the fridge.
So we decided that this was the type of juicer for us. The problem was in choosing the right one. We wanted something that was a convenient size, easy to clean (a key point – these juicers can be pretty hard work to disassemble and unblock) and of a decent quality to
be able to use regularly and not overheat and to have a decent lifetime.
It seemed all the juicers in the £130 – £280 price range we’d been looking at suffered in some way or another that would irritate us, but we really didn’t want to spend £300+ on something that we didn’t know or not at this stage whether we’d use or not.
That’s when we found the VonShef 150W Slow Juicer selling for only £55 from Amazon (plus a hefty £12 delivery charge, but still significantly cheaper than the competition)!
We assumed it would be terrible.
We checked the reviews. Yes, there were a few bad ones – but there always are; with user reviews it’s always a case of trying to work out whether the problems the user reports are genuinely problems, specifically for yourself rather than the individual reporting it. For example, some users complain about the juicers being difficult to clean. However, all juicers are difficult, to some extent, to clean. Difficult is a relative term. Reading the reviews for this juicer we could see that plenty of reviewers said it was easy to clean and we were able to dismiss most of the negative reviews.
For £50, we decided to give it a try. If it didn’t deliver, well, we would learn a lesson, but it was better than being disappointed with a £300 model. Being our first juicer, it would give us a feel for them and help us making a better and informed decision on purchasing a higher quality one that met our specific needs in the future.
We ordered the juicer and it arrived only a few days later. It looked good. Plastics were reasonably quality, if not amazing.
We started making juice.
It wasn’t bad!
Especially with fruits – a little bit of froth but the waste product was reasonably dry, and it seemed to be extracting juice well.
However, carrots were what we really wanted to juice. Would it cope?
Yes.Just about. The main problem was that the carrot pieces would regularly clog up the juicer, particularly in the recess underneath the auger. Appreciating that it was the cheapest ‘slow press’ juicer on the market, we accepted this, and kept cleaning out as necessary.
Just to note that you need a lot of carrots to make a reasonable amount of juice. To make about 1 litre, you need about 3 to 4kg of carrot – that’s a lot of carrots to chop into small pieces!
We carried on using the juicer, on an almost daily basis, for the next two weeks. We had great fun experimenting with wierd and
wonderful combinations and make tasty juices. The device struggled with leaves, but we expected that. We kept unclogging the device, getting a little frustrated, but battling on, and generally pretty happy with it.
Then things went wrong.
We noticed it was getting pretty hot. The constant clogging was causing a strain on the motor. After just over a week, we noticed a crackling electrical sound and saw a puff of smoke. We immediately turned the device off, feeling it was rather warm, and thinking it had
overheated. We cleaned it and tried again the next day and it seemed okay for a few days. However, we noticed again that it was getting pretty hot, which it’s not supposed to. So we let it cool off again.
However, it started to regularly overheat – very quickly – and we heard the crackling sound a few times. We investigated further and found that juice was leaking out of the bottom – probably due to it becoming clogged too often at the recess at the bottom of the auger – and that juice was running down onto the base of the unit and down past the rotor/corkscrew component and into the motor housing.
We contacted Designer Habitat via Amazon, fearing that they wouldn’t be interested – the reviews had warned that they weren’t particularly helpful.
However, they were extremely helpful and agreed for us to return the item with a full refund!*
I should now defend the VonShef!
If you’re going to juice 2 or 3 times a week, maybe carrots once a week, or you keep a close eye on it clogging and making sure no juice runs into the motor housing, then it’s a great juicer for the money. It’s certainly better than buying a centrifugal juicer for the same money. If you’re not juicing every day and don’t want to spend a small fortune, then I would definitely recommend one – you can buy it here.
But it didn’t quite meet our needs, and we had fallen in love with juicing.
We needed a mightier beast that could cope with our carrots! The other problem we had found with the VonShef was the amount of time we spent chopping fruit and veg – especially those damn carrots. You need a lot of carrots to make a decent amount of juice, and they have to be cut into small baton size pieces. I recall chopping carrots for about 45 minutes whilst my girlfriend chopped fruit and started feeding into the juicer. It look two people almost an hour to make that juice. That’s a long time.
So we wanted the much sought after and elusive juicer that would allow us to insert food more or less whole. Where would we find one??
I will post our findings shortly…
*It seems that although Designer Habitat did respond quickly and say that they would refund us within 2-3 days I never actually checked this – and it seems they hadn’t! I contacted them again one night and they responded the next morning apologising and saying that they had now refunded me and it would show in 24 hours. And it did. So: not bad service after all. You just might need to chase them, in the event of issues 🙂
During the electrical problems I was having with my ‘perfect’ and ‘reliable’ MX-5 BBR turbo, AKA Maggy the 5th, I had had the
Alfa Romeo Brera a good few months (purchased Christmas 2012), and I enjoyed driving her, and it wasn’t giving me any of the
reliability issues my mates kept jibbing me about regarding Alfa’s previous reputation.
Nonetheless, she was disappointing me in a couple of areas.
First of all was the power delivery. When the turbo kicked in, you got a lovely surge of power and a thump in the back that felt like more than the 210bhp on tap. The problem was the delay to that delivery of power – a serious turbo lag issue. Looking back at some of the previous cars I’d owned and driven – the turbo charged 220bhp (in theory – it was producing less than 200bhp in reality) MX-5 and the Imprezza I’d driven on a track day – I had loved the turbo lag. However, that had been a half to one second delay, enough to build anticipation before the lightning struck.
In the Brera, it took more like 2 seconds – particularly if you’d not dropped down a gear – and this made it frustrating and potentially dangerous. Several times I’d go to overtake and not have the power until too late. Once I recall pulling out across a busy junction which I’d been queuing at for ages and almost causing a crash because she’d delayed too long in spooling up the turbo to shift that big heavy diesel lump out of the way!
Sadly my Dad had passed away a few months before. I was in the process of trying to sell his low mileage (37,000 miles I believe?) 2002 Ford Mondeo 2.0TCDi. It had 130bhp compared to the 2008 Brera’s 210bhp yet responded in a much more satisfying
Secondly, there was the fuel efficiency.
I’d bought a diesel to try and cut my extortionate fuel costs driving from the East Midlands to North Wales and back regularly
Perhaps I shouldn’t have bought a 210bhp 2.4 litre turbo and gone for a sensible 2 litre BMW diesel as my colleague Dave would constantly tell me. Perhaps he was right. But the official ‘combined’ MPG figure for the car was around 40mpg which was significantly better than anything else I’d owned – the 300ZX getting only 17mpg and the MX-5 BBR turbo achieving somewhere between 27 and 32mpg depending on how I drove her – and I always drove her hard – it would be rude not to!
In real life though, I couldn’t get better than 34mpg, and that was driving like an old man with cataracts. Realistically I was getting 31mpg – not the sort of fuel consumption I was hoping for.
However, she remained problem free.
Unfortunately the Gremlins returned.
But not to the Alfa.
They’d jumped off Maggy the 3rd (AKA Smokey Disaster), riddled the Nissan 300ZX for a bit and rusted her away, then hopped back
onto Maggy the 5th.
My electrical issues had gone, but now she was starting to overheat.
In Dec ’12 she overheated on the way to my cousin’s wedding. Fortunately I’d managed to cool her down and get my brother who was passing to lend me some water and then my Dad came by and I followed at a snails pace and made it on time. The problem then
appeared to be a fault with the radiator cap, and once replaced (saved by eBay yet again!), didn’t overheat any more.
Until it got warmer in the summer of 2013.
She overheated a few times. A few remedies were tried, but to no avail, and eventually, the engine went pop.
The original Mazda MX-5 engine is an incredibly solid lump, and will easily do 200,000 miles without issue. Some say it’s over engineered, making it perfect for turbo charging – although of course over doing it will cause the engine life to shorten. This one was turbocharged, but mildly, and with a Mazda approved BBR kit – so it should have lasted longer than it’s current 110,000 miles.
Yet it hadn’t. Although I’d bought a rust free and in theory well looked after car, it seemed it’s garaging had been the only TLC
it had received – the engine hadn’t been so well looked after; we found various botch jobs and evidence of tampering or previous
repair of the head gasket.
Fortunately, my good friend – nay, lifesaver car guru – James was on hand (yet again, bless him) and took her away to rebuild the top end.
But summer 2013 was here!! And I didn’t have a working softtop!
I was missing the feel of the wind in my hair (facial hair, I should say).
And the Brera’s sluggish turbo lag and subpar MPG performance were bugging me. If she’d been a bit on the slow side but got 40
plus mpg, I might not have been so bothered. But what was the point of having a slow diesel if it’s not economical?
I’d also got into my first potentially serious relationship since my divorce and although it was early days, realised that it was likely in the future that I would need a car at weekends to go places with my daughter, future long-term girlfriend and any kids that she may have.
So the solution was clearly a convertible with rear seats!
The only thing that was clear was that I’d not learnt my lesson.
In July 2013, I bought my second 3 litre BMW convertible (335).
I argued with myself that this was a sensible decision. It was a metal hard top convertible so would be quiet on the commute. And
although it had a large and powerful engine (think it produced about 320bhp!) it was a 2008 BMW; the brand being known to achieve the some of the best MPG figures for the power ratio at the time; besides, I was earning good money, and even though I still had to drive to North Wales, it was only once a week now.
The engine had two turbochargers so pulled very nicely, rather than the flat performance of the 2001 BMW 3 series convertible I’d
had back in 2007/2008.
Of course, after a very short time (2 weeks??) I’d decided I didn’t like it.
It was too heavy.
It wasn’t economical (well duh!).
I didn’t like ‘the image’ – it was a little too flash and people wouldn’t let me in at junctions again – flashbacks to Porsche ownership!
The hardtop took waaaay too long to operate. The thing I love about the MX-5 is that you can pop the hood off in about 1 second
and raise it in 2; even if you’re moving – so great at traffic lights when the sun pops out or the breeze/rain steps up. In the beamer it took about 10 seconds, and although in theory it was operable when moving, it was restricted when you went above 10mph – so I dare not operate at traffic lights. I did a couple of times and resulted in queuing traffic honking at me which was rather embarrassing.
You also look like a prat sat there with your finger on the button waiting for your fancy metal roof to fold up/down on your flashy shiny BMW – you can almost feel the stares.
With a £1500 MX-5 you just don’t get that.
Then of course I ended up single again, and with the MX-5 AKA Maggy the 5th back and running (plus a few more cosmetic tweaks, such as black alloys and new rear lights) was using that when I could.
I decided to try and get rid of the beamer ASAP – would the dealers take it back?
Only at a RIDICULOUS cut in price.
So I considered selling privately… it was still summer… the world economics were improving… I’d got it for what I considered a reasonable price so perhaps I could sell it quickly and not loose out too badly…