We have been running a K-reg Saab for several years. Everyone said they were reliable, but this one was constantly needing to have bits replaced or otherwise sorted out. Then, early in 2004, it started stalling. One garage looked at it, with no joy. We took it to a specialist on the other side of Bristol, who fixed the problem for a week or two. They had no idea why the problem should come back. We didn't have the time or the energy to keep on paying people to fail to fix the problem, and it continued to get worse. Various other parts broke or wore out.
Eventually, we had enough and started looking for a replacement. The main reason for getting the Saab was because we needed a large car to fit three teenage boys across the back seat. However, we do so few miles these days with all three boys that it really doesn't make sense to make this a high priority.
We looked at a Corsa and decided it really was too small. Then we nearly went for a Vauxhall Aguila, but the dealer wanted a decision before we were ready to make one. After trailing round numerous dealers, we decided that a Totota Yaris provided a suitable balance - small and economical to run, but not too small to squeeze the boys in at a pinch, and not too small for the weekly shopping.
We were about to buy a reasonable second-hand model, as we always do, when the salesman made us an offer we couldn't refuse. After thinking about it for a day, we didn't want to refuse it, and for the first time in our lives decided to buy a new car.
When we looked at the figures in detail, it turns out that we are paying only a little more each year to buy the Toyota than we were spending on repairs to the Saab, we get about twice the mpg we managed before, and it costs a lot less to insure. Plus, driving around town and parking is so much nicer. Sue still misses the Saab, though.
We aren't really cutting-edge technology people. Sue is addicted to little electronic things that make irritating noises when she needs to do something, but mostly we avoid technology until we can't avoid it.
However, living in a house with a TV (owned by Steve!) and three boys, it was inevitable that we would accumulate thousands of Video tapes - some pre-recorded and some with recorded TV programmes. It was a nightmare: you never knew what was recorded on what tape, how long it was, or if some other vital programme has been recorded after the first item on the tape.
Enter the DVD re-recorder. Sue bought it for Paul, as a joint birthday and Christmas present. It is absolutely brilliant. We wouldn't quite say it has revolutionised our lives, but it has made a small part of our lives so much easier.
For a start, you can start to record a programme, and then a little later start to watch the programme you are recording from the start. So if we get in later than planned and there is something people want to see, we don't have to rush tea or have boys wanting to disappear halfway though because the programe is about to start - we simply record the programme and then start watching it when we are ready, maybe ten or fifteen minutes later. Plus, you can fast-forward through the adverts, and it has a really nifty trick - you can choose to watch at 1.3 times the normal speed.
There are several other neat features. Space on the DVD is managed like files on a computer's hard disk, not like recordings on a video tape, so you don't have to worry about recording over something you want to keep - recordings are kept until you choose to delete them. All the free space on the DVD is available for recording (you don't end up with several spaces in between programmes you want to keep). There is a menu showing you all programmes you have recorded on the DVD with a date, channel and perhaps the name, so you can tell at a glance what is on any DVD. And when you put a DVD in the machine, it tells you how much free space is available. It's simply brilliant.
Paul was invited to a reception with the Prime Minister at Lancaster House on 21 February 2005. The invitation said the reason was "for services to the voluntary sector", but we are not entirely clear why Paul was chosen. Crisis Centre Ministries is known to various parts of the Home Office and the ODPM; or perhaps it was through Paul's chairmanship of Voscur (Bristol's Coucil for Voluntary Services) - or perhaps for something completely different.
The picture shows Mr Blair at the reception. He gave a good speech, saying all the things you would expect, but only spent a short while meeting people before dashing off to get to another high-powered meeting. Perhaps it was a good thing: if Paul had passed on all the messages people had given him for the PM, he may well have been locked up; and Sue reckons that a picture of Paul shaking hands with the man who took us into the war could be grounds for divorce.
If you look at the picture, Paul was standing just in front of the pillar you see behind Mr Blair's head. There were about 400 pictures taken that evening - we haven't checked all of them to see if Paul can be seen in the background.
We are delighted to report that Alan passed his driving test on 17 May 2005 - third time lucky. Thanks to all those who were praying for him.
You can read the latest on Sue's Health Page.
One possible reason why the skin has been playing up is because Paul has a 'hormonal imbalance' which causes him to start sweating without any good reason. This really irritates the skin. The doctors can't find any good reason for this, and there is supposed to be a referral to an endocrinologist, but no news of any appointment as yet.
Otehr ongoing issues include an arthritic finger, which makes touch typing and shaking hands rather painful; and an odd toenail, which is growing out at the wrong angle. There may well be a problem with the skin underneath, but they can't say what...