The World According To Damien
in a World gone mad – one sane voice emerges…

Damien on… Waste In The West

Specifically – cars. Before I left the cold, wet, overpriced misery of Britain (yes, I remembered to turn off the lights) for warm, friendly Thailand, I drove a seven-year-old car. It was worth three grand, but in order to have time to GET that amount (since I would need wheels right up to the time I arrived at Heathrow) I sold it and bought a banger (clunker). It cost me £75.

It had several months M.O.T. (for non-Brits – this is the mandatory road-worthiness certificate) and was pretty much street-legal. In fact, all it needed to make it a good car was a new fuel non-return valve, a new hazard-flasher switch, a new radio aeriel, a retaining-clip for the battery, a small plate welded in the driver’s floor pan and a new thrust-bearing for the clutch.

All of which would have cost about £800 in the Uke – which for a car worth at best £250, would have been uneconomical. Hence its low price. Less than the taxi-fare to the airport – which is where I would have ABANDONED it, had a friend not wanted it (he got a train to the terminal, where I simply GAVE him the keys and paperwork).

Yet here in Thailand, the car would have been fixable for about £200 – and been worth about TWO GRAND! Why? That bloody M.O.T.

You see, back in early-Sixties Britain, there were still plenty of pre-war jalopies on the road – many of which were WIDOW-MAKERS. Thus H.M.G. began a VOLUNTARY roadworthiness scheme. It was called “Ten Year Tested” – which speaks for itself.

But the voluntary scheme begat a MANDATORY one and the original ten years slowly reduced until, by the Seventies, it had reached its current point – THREE years. And what started as a check of the basics soon turned into a seven-hundred-item list. At which point, running a car more than three years old became majorly EXPENSIVE.

F’rinstance, when my seven-year-old car was just four, the M.O.T. station’s computer decided it needed a new catalytic converter. Apart from a single blue puff when you cold-started it, it was fine. But… TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY POUNDS! AND the new cat reduced my power, to boot.

Which is why Britain THROWS AWAY thousands of perfectly good vehicles every year. They GO, are perfectly safe and – if their owners have (pointlessly) cared for them – are GOOD CARS. But in modern Britain, they are just not financially VIABLE. Thus Blighty’s scrap-yards are LITTERED with cars that for all practical purposes have YEARS of use left in them.

And this is just another example of the difference between Britain and Thailand. Obviously, cars with SERIOUS defects are undesirable – they KILL people. But as is usual with British legislation, things have gone TOO FAR. As a result of which, there you can buy a beautiful shiny Jag for a few hundred pounds – whereas here, a tatty twenty-year-old Toyota will cost you TWO THOUSAND.

And that is because when you take it to a Thai M.O.T. station, they kick the tyres – and if the doors don’t fall off, they start filling in the certificate! I love this country.

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