Friday 1 December 2023

One more post on this before moving on

Although it might seem a topic of very limited interest, my posts on number plates have generated some positive reactions. So one more. Then I want to write about something else.

I've just written an email to my friend Coline in Scotland, explaining that the SHE in my personal registration refers as much to my new car as to me. If passing drivers could somehow guess the name of my car, they'd surely agree that SHE was a reasonable contraction of SOPHIE. As it is, they will probably think it refers to the withered old crone at the wheel. Hey ho. 

To round this topic off, some readers may have wondered why I haven't simply gone for a plate that spells out either my name (so some variation on LUCY) or my initials (so a plate that includes LM). The simple answer is that nowadays 'Lucy' is quite a popular name, and the best takes on it have either already gone, or are on sale at ridiculously inflated prices. This one, for instance, which I spotted a short while back:

In common with all plates that were used before the current style was introduced in 2001, this example carries a 'vintage premium' and would therefore be a bit more costly than anything more modern. Still, the LUCY element is clear. Even the string of 3s is pleasantly eye-catching. 

But even so. Almost £6,000? I'll pass. £6,000 would buy me many other things. I'd prefer to have those instead. Or just save the money for the inevitable repairs and replacements that will crop up if you're a homeowner. 

Besides, SHE flies the flag for lady drivers in general. It's not egotistical, and doesn't give my name away. I'm inclined to some caution here. I've got a feeling that in the wrong time and place it might be unwise to name oneself too clearly. I don't want to park my car in some unfamiliar town, and return to find it damaged by some vandal who had a grudge against all females named Lucy.  

Thursday 30 November 2023

Way more interesting than Bitcoin, or gold bars languishing in some vault

The corrected form V5C (showing that OO15 SHE belonged to Miss Lucy Melford) came back quite quickly. Next day I went down to Caffyns Volvo at Eastbourne and got them to make up new plates for Sophie, and fit them for me. I also brought away a spare rear plate to stick on the caravan, which at that moment was with the dealer at Ashington for a service and other work. Here I am, posing with a rear plate at Caffyns, salesman Harrison taking the picture with my phone:

The plate looked a bit cloudy because its protective film hadn't yet been peeled off. It soon was. I sped off to the Hillier Garden Centre a few miles away for a spot of lunch, feeling very conspicuous. 

And I dare say some people would have noticed the new registration, but not very many. It seems to me that people drive around fully preoccupied with their own thoughts, and really it's only in slow traffic queues, and in car parks, that fancy number plates are ever likely to catch the eye and get remarked upon. In any case, as I've explained before, the prime reason for wanting a plate like this is not to draw attention to myself, but to make Sophie (otherwise just another anonymous grey car) stand out from all the other grey cars around. The registration she now has is also very easy to remember, which is an advantage when using a parking machine that insists you press umpteen buttons to input the registration number when buying a ticket. 

Despite my denial of any show-off motive, I am very pleased with the new plate. This was the finishing touch my new chariot needed. I'm minded to keep this plate for all my other cars in the future. With that in mind, Sophie's original plates have been carefully put away for that time - six or seven years hence - when I'll be looking for my next car. 

Just before the trade-in, I'll ask the DVLA online to put OO15 SHE on ice and reinstate KR16 WFX. The instant that is done, the original plates have to be fixed onto the car. Then at my leisure, I can transfer OO15 SHE to my next car. 

I'd better confess that throughout my life I've been fascinated with car registration numbers, and have always had an eye cocked for anything unusual. That's how I managed to spot 'A1' - one of the very first, if not actually the first, numbers issued back in 1903. I saw it in December 1992 at Seaford, on a rather humdrum (and grubby) Rover Sterling:

This prestige number, which deserved to be on a much more illustrious car, was probably being 'carried' by the Rover for just a short while, and would soon (as intended) end up on a Rolls Royce or similar. 1992 was well before the days of simple and easy online transfers. Moving plates from one vehicle to another meant a mass of paperwork, and you'd need a vehicle to park the plate on, in between the old and new limousines.

Perhaps A1 was so eye-catching that nobody could miss it. But I believe my own powers of observation are keener than the average, and I always think this following episode is the proof. In the later 1980s I began driving a Nissan Micra, F807 FGT. It was a great little car, and I drove it for years, but I always thought its registration number was somewhat nondescript. Nevertheless this was no barrier to my spotting the car that bore the very next number, F808 FGT. This was in May 1995, at Woolacombe in North Devon. I was about to drive past, then saw it, stopped, and took a few photos:

The other car was also a Nissan, and must have come originally from the same dealer in London. The owner of the other car wasn't around - disappointing! - and so I drove on. But I think these pictures back up my assertion of having eagle eyes - for car number plates anyway!

And what a coincidence, that both cars should end up at the same seaside resort, on the same I wish I could have talked to the other car's owner.

I'm unlikely to have a repeat performance with OO15 SHE. When I last looked, OO14 SHE and OO16 SHE were still available for purchase, and I'm thinking that they may remain unsold indefinitely. Despite being very number-plate aware, I've never yet spotted a SHE registration. There must be some around, but they seem to be extraordinarily rare. I've seen some HER registrations, most recently in September 2022 at Montrose in Scotland, on this Audi: 

But no SHEs. It may be that SHE registrations are not the first choice of the average lady looking for a personalised number plate, who may be concerned about a negative reaction from a certain kind of male motorist. Certainly, SHE plates make a statement. But the simple reason might just be that no man is going to buy a SHE plate for his own car. And if he buys one for his wife or girlfriend he is more likely to go for something that spells out her name.

I did wonder what kind of lady owned that Audi, and put FM11 HER on it. My guess is an independently-minded professional lady of some consequence. 

Many plates you see offered for sale on the Internet - there are several websites, as well as the DVLA itself - attempt to spell out a name, or a particular word, not often with great success in my view. There has grown up a letter/number equivalence, so that - for instance - the number 3 can be taken to be an E, and 4 can be a A, and 5 can be an S. It isn't a perfect correspondence by any means. Personally, I think it leads to some very obscure or contrived names or words. And yet people will pay very good money for some of these plates. Here's a selection that I saw recently:

The fact that these were discounted suggests that the seller had not found many buyers, and I'm not surprised. Even the discounted price is a small fortune. 

The DVLA have a huge selection of unissued plates that you can buy for a few hundred pounds. But they do try to identify plates that might sell for considerably more in one of their regular auctions. The idea is that the proceeds from these auctioned plates will raise money for the Treasury, and relieve the taxpayer of a little tax. One website, - apparently one of the oldest and largest - has sent me details of the October 2023 DVLA auction, the last held 'live' at a hotel so that you could physically attend. (The November 2023 auction was entirely online, as will be all those to come) The October auction revealed what some of the more desirable kinds of plate actually sold for, and possibly why:

Gosh, he does look emotional! There's clearly more to this plate-selling business than meets the eye. Now look at what these plates made.

There you go. This one auction raked in over £4 million for the Treasury. Here's the full roll call:

You frequently see plates like the ones above on Range Rovers and the like. Now you know what the drivers might have paid for them.

I hasten to assure my readers that I didn't lash out anything like £11,000 for OO15 SHE. It was admittedly the most expensive plate I've ever bought, but it cost less than £1,000 by a clear margin. That said, I do wonder that the DVLA didn't see any 'auction potential' in it. Or if not the DVLA, then one of the independent online firms, who are always on the lookout for plates they can sell at a profit. 

These firms will tell you that the right number plate is a sound investment, as generally speaking they have always increased in value. I certainly didn't buy mine as an investment, but I do feel I'm unlikely to lose money on it. In any case, a number plate is fun to own - more than can be said of Bitcoin or a gold bar. Besides, ownership of a registration plate is not going to significantly harm the planet.

I'm simply going to enjoy displaying my new plate, and not see it as a means of making money. It doesn't matter if nobody ever takes much notice. It does matter however that I won't easily forget what the registration number of my car is, and can spot it from a hundred yards.

By the way, it looks fine on the back of my caravan, as well as the front end of Sophie.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

A mixed anniversary

Yesterday, 27th November, was the anniversary of three very different things.

First, it was the 17th anniversary of buying my caravan in 2006. I needn't show pictures of it, as it featured in a recent post (Swansong of a caravan on 21st November). It was then new, and was jointly purchased with M---. We both put up an equal amount of money. But it was bought in my name, and I was the formal owner. When M--- asked for her money back in 2009, as we were (by then) unlikely to go caravanning together any more, I simply returned what she had contributed. My status as sole owner was unchanged. But of course, I was now free to use the caravan exactly as I pleased. And as this blog can testify, it has been the means to visit places all over the country ever since. Truly my hotel bedroom on wheels. 

Second, it was the 15th anniversary of buying the Slow-worm, my thick but flexible silver necklace. I'd seen it in a shop called Enigma in the centre of Bournemouth. M--- had long had one of her own, which I had admired. Now I could have one for myself. But I decided to get her opinion before buying. So it was late in the afternoon, when it was getting dark, that I led her to the shop. To my surprise and pleasure, she bought it for me. I've always thought it was in the nature of a conciliatory gift, as we'd had a fretful exchange earlier that day. Whatever the reason, it was a lovely gift, and one I have treasured ever since. It goes with anything: any outfit, any hairstyle, and almost any other item of neckware, so that I often pair it up with something else, most recently Starfishie. In fact, here I am yesterday, wearing both Slow-worm and Starfishie: 

My fringe has got way too long, but Anne's coming to do my hair tomorrow afternoon, and I'll look neater afterwards.

The third item was more concerning. It was the 4th anniversary of my fainting at home, and waking up on my back at the threshold of the bathroom, with my head in a pool of blood. I'd obviously hit the door frame on my way down, and cut my scalp with gory results. The curious thing was that I had no recollection of falling. One moment I was on my feet: in pain, but fully aware. The next moment I was waking up, as if coming out of a deep sleep, the pain gone but conscious of a curious wetness and stickiness. Of course one side of my head was dark with congealing blood, although it looked far worse than it was. I had the presence of mind to take some photos: I knew that would help me get urgent medical help. Then I cleaned myself up, washed the bathroom floor, and set off on foot for the local doctors' surgery in driving rain. 

The photos got me the immediate attention of a doctor, although he told me it was a job for A&E at the hospital in Haywards Heath. I trudged over to friends Jo and Clive, looking like a drowned water rat by the time I got there. After toast and coffee, and a good cry, Jo drove me to the hospital and stayed there for hours with me until I was seen. We passed the time doing downloaded crosswords on her phone. I am forever grateful for her loyal assistance and companionship on that long afternoon. The outcome was some of my hair snipped away, and the wound glued together.

In the four years since, I have still not been able to recall anything about the fall, and the moment of hitting my head. Nor have I dreamed about it. Perhaps a kindly amnesia. I deduce that I was unconscious from pain before I lost my footing. I suppose that's evidence for thinking that once the mind blacks out there is nothing, and - effectively - existence stops. The only similar experience I have had was when on the operating table, nodding to the nurse and anaesthetist, and remembering nothing whatever after being injected and then asked to count to ten. (Apparently I got as far as 'one') Perhaps that's how dying will be: a sudden cessation of consciousness. No warning. No fading out. Not even the apprehension of a black void. Just an abrupt cut-off. 

As my head certainly took quite a crack, I've been watching for signs of impaired mental function ever since. I'd expect difficulties with thinking, with counting, with sustained concentration, with remembering names, and generally increased forgetfulness. But so far there hasn't been anything to make me worry. So maybe I've got away lightly. I can't believe there has been no lasting effect, particularly as I'd already thumped the back of my head on rocks down in Cornwall in April 2016. This would have been the second trauma to the head in the space of three years. Well, fingers crossed that there are no more such accidents!

Sunday 26 November 2023

Sunsets and moon haloes

Yesterday was a remarkable day for a fine sunset and, later on, a moon with a halo around it. 

I saw the sunset at Dell Quay on Chichester Harbour, from various points above (and on) the shingle foreshore, from the quay itself, and from the pub there, the Crown & Anchor, which seems to have been built expressly with sunsets in mind. It was in fact originally put up in the sixteenth century for the use of merchants and the working locals. Dell Quay was then a major South Coast port. Even today it's not hard to imagine small sailing ships tying up there, and a small army of thirsty men unloading its cargo. Nowadays Dell Quay is, like most of Chichester Harbour, one of those roosting-places for the boat and yacht set. More on them below.

I'd been here several times before, the previous occasion being in early February last year, when I found a path that took me to a viewpoint above that foreshore, where willowy trees with twirling branches silhouetted themselves against the setting sun:

There was a single boat out there on the mud. The air was cold and very clear, and in the fading light the water looked very mysterious. The sunset was gone all too quickly, and I promised myself that I would come again, with more time available for the pictures I wanted. 

I achieved that yesterday, arriving in Sophie with over an hour to play with. It was another chilly afternoon. I'd used my Leica X-U with its fixed 35mm lens for the pictures taken back in February 2022, a camera I later sold so that I could buy the more-versatile Leica X Vario (LXV)

I wanted to find out what LXV could do with the same scenes. Its zoom lens could go from 28mm to 70mm, and therefore offered me much more scope. But it was a slowish lens, only f/3.5 at maximum, although that wouldn't be a hindrance so long as it was pointed at the sunset. I think it acquitted itself pretty well. Here are some of the results:

The sun's light was orangey and rather too strong for my eyes. But photography demanded a resolute approach. And the sun soon went down.

The quay itself didn't provide too much in the way of worthwhile shots, apart from these:

So I turned to the pub. I wanted a coffee anyway. It was a welcoming place in the gathering twilight.

I got a fine view of the afterglow from the window at the end of the bar, before being asked to move because the table was booked and needed to be laid.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a pub for the boat-and-yacht set, or their friends, and I couldn't help noticing how it was filling up with persons in the twenty-five to thirty-five age bracket, and their children. You know, 'young professionals'. West Sussex's finest. 

They didn't however seem especially happy, even though noisy enough. While ordering my coffee at the bar, I overheard more than one over-serious man-to-man conversation about office matters that nearly got me yawning. And on a nearby table, a young woman was speaking to her young man in a rather severe way, as if telling him off, or at least giving him instructions. He was taking it like a sponge, without standing up for himself, and might have been cringing. I wondered what he'd done to merit such a scolding, and why he wasn't trying to justify himself as men used to do, even when very much in the wrong. Perhaps it was all about what he hadn't done. Or maybe she was just a bossy young woman, who had realised that in the modern world men were on the back foot and could be pushed around. 

I have to admit, it does seem quite easy to get one's way with the average man. But then I have become naturally more assertive and self-confident with advancing age, quite different to how I once was. No doubt many of my generation would say the same.

It did strike me, though, that these young pubgoers weren't having much fun. It seemed to be hard work for them. Perhaps they'd all read too many books about psychology. Perhaps they felt doomed, as if the world had already been utterly ruined by my generation, and they were now the unlucky inheritors with nothing extra special to look forward to. 

Coffee drunk, I went outside onto the decked side-garden, to secure my final pictures:

The maximum aperture available when LXV is zoomed out to 70mm is only f/6.4: the above shot had to be taken at ISO 3200. It's a cropped version of the picture I took, so its defects are magnified; but a lot of fine detail has still been captured, and the colours are good, so I have nothing to complain about.

It was getting too cold to linger, so I walked back to Sophie, parked up the lane, fired her up, and was home within the hour. That could have been the end of the day's shooting, but as bedtime approached I got urgent texts from friends Jo and Clive bidding me to look outside at the moon, which had a halo around it. An unusual sight indeed! LXV was no good for night-time shots of the sky, but my phone was usable, and I got this:

The small dot at four o'clock is a planet - Jupiter perhaps. Well, I'd captured the halo, but the picture wasn't a patch on what the eyes could see. I made two copies and worked on them, to bring out more of the halo, and this was the result:

Not exactly a natural rendition! But I'm now thinking that in frosty conditions there must be several haloes, most of them normally invisible. Even if this is tosh, I've surely come away with some striking images.