Not for me, I hasten to say! It's for Fiona, my car. She needs a new automatic gearbox.
I mentioned the humming noise that began a few months ago, which still hadn't been traced and fixed. We'd been thinking of wheel bearings, and driveshafts, and differentials, and other components of the transmission. But not the gearbox itself. Well, very recently there had been a few issues with gear-shifting, when starting up from cold. I reported these, and today the Volvo dealer made a few checks specifically on the gearbox.
The oil level in the box was correct - but there was clear evidence of burnt oil. It appeared that some electro-mechanical bits had not been letting the gearbox oil circulate quite as it should, and heat and wear had been the result. Made worse, of course, by towing the caravan so much. The gearbox was still good for a while yet, but the recommendation was to replace it in the next few thousand miles. The dealer's quote was £5,015. This was £3,353 for the automatic six-speed all-wheel drive gearbox, £115 for gearbox oil, £711 for labour, and the remainder was VAT on each of those items.
If Fiona were just an old runabout, I'd be sourcing a reconditioned auto gearbox, getting it installed, and possibly passing her on for cash so that I could buy another car to get me around in. But she was not an old runabout.
This was the car bought with a ring-fenced inheritance from Mum's brother Des, which I scrupulously spent to the penny.
This was the car that Mum (unusually) approved of my buying - an impressive, luxury car that would be a fitting memorial to her brother.
This was the car that was built for me at the Volvo factory, in accordance with my personally-chosen specification. It was in fact the top specification possible in January 2010, plus more. In a sense, I created Fiona.
She had been my faithful friend and reliable companion in many, many adventures all over the country. I had a lot of family sentiment invested in her. And I owed her a huge amount of personal regard and loyalty.
Fiona was only five and half years old. Given a new gearbox, she might easily go on to live her full expected lifespan. There were plenty of old Volvos on the road, and they generally looked very good for their age. If Fiona were a dearly-beloved horse or dog with some life-threatening illness, £5,000 would not be too much to spend on her.
But - but - I did not have the money. On hearing the verdict, my eyes filled. I must have looked stricken with despair. But I recovered. She need not die. It was basically a matter of money - ways and means must be found.
I discussed an alternative: trading her in, as she was, for a new car. But the figures predictably did not add up. I could not afford the monthly repayments needed to have a spanking-new 2015 version of Fiona. Even though the deal would of course reduce my day-to-day running costs, the fuel consumption being better, and the ordinary servicing costs coming free for three years. I sat in the showroom car. It was swish and high-tech. But at the same time, I was quick to realise that the differences between this car and mine were only superficial. The salesman could offer a cracking deal. But it was no good. It made no sense, even if I'd been able to meet the cost. What, £462 a month for four years? And then a final settlement payment? Beyond my reach.
I told them that I would think about all my options over the weekend, and I drove away. How lovely it was to sink into Fiona's familiar driver's seat! She was warmed up, and all the way home her performance was smooth and faultless. But there was still that humming noise to remind me that something must be decided. At least we now knew where the hum was coming from.
By the time I got back home, I knew that I'd be having that new gearbox with a bank loan to fund it. I fired up the PC and looked at what my bank could offer in the way of a £5,000 loan. And I tweaked the loan period to produce a monthly repayment that struck a good balance between getting rid of the loan quickly, and affordability. £176 a month for 30 months seemed about right. This would have no effect whatever on my day-to-day standard of living. It would however restrict my monthly savings by £175 each month for the next two and half years.
I read the terms and conditions, then applied online, and got immediate provisional acceptance. I'm now hoping there is nothing in my credit history to deny me this loan - there shouldn't be; and there certainly wasn't when I last obtained Experian and Equifax reports in late 2009. Obviously, the gearbox replacement can't go ahead before the loan is actually signed and sealed, and the funds have arrived in my account.
So - if all goes well - Fiona will get her transplant and live on to a ripe old age.
But I'll be £5,289 poorer by June 2018. That means some of my expenditure plans must be postponed. Probably no new laptop in 2016. And less ambitious caravan holidays for a while - I won't now be going to Shetland in 2017.