If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Monday, 24 October 2011

Skoolboy Error

Well, up until midday on Sunday it was a wonderful weekend. I collected both daughters and the partner of one, and we travelled to her old University town on Saturday for the graduation ceremony. The whole thing was in Latin, which I rather liked, being something of a traditionalist, and it was fun trying to keep up with what was being said. D1 was duly doctored, we had a pleasant lunch with her Mum and new partner, and then after checking into the Travelodge and having a 'freshen up' (which for me meant a quiet lie down with a book, OK a snooze) we met again for an excellent meal in the city, overlooking the river. Quail for starters, Wood Pigeon for main. Good game, good game. The weather was kind, and everyone agreed it had been a wonderful day.

We set off on Sunday morning and got about half-way to the house they all shared when I decided to get the car filled up for the journey back to the West. £66-worth of Shell's finest on board, and off we went. Six miles later, the car started to misfire, I pulled into a layby, and before the wheels had stopped turning it had conked out for good.

Anyone who has done what I did will have guessed by now. Coincidence? No. Dirty fuel? Unliklely. Look at the receipt ... oh fucksticks.

Yup, having juggled successfully with unleaded for the bikes and diesel for the car for many, many years, having laughed at people who couldn't tell the difference between a green and a black nozzle, who didn't realise that diesel and petrol smell completely different, I made the cardinal error for diesel car owners. I had filled it with unleaded. And then driven it six miles.

This was the point at which I learned that my RAC Recovery subscription (meant to get you to your destination if you break down completely) doesn't cover pilot error, and that a 10-mile tow to the nearest suitable garage is all they will do in these circumstances. Having said that, they had a truck to us within 30 minutes, the garage took around an hour to drain the tank, flush the fuel lines and get the car running under its own steam once more, and a couple of hours after my "Doh!" moment we were on our way again. The only damage was about two hours of a lovely day lost in hanging around, just over £200 for the drain and flush, and £66-worth of perfectly good unleaded taken out and earmarked for the owner's Jag, I should imagine. Thank God for credit cards, because I was spent up.

I blame motorcyclists. I really do.

When we pulled into the petrol station, there were a couple of classic bikes there, a tidy BSA and a Velocette. At the pump next to mine was a very nice 1966 Triumph Thunderbird, and I had a chat with the owner before I reached for the nozzle and ... I think in those few minutes my brain had defaulted to bike mode, that's all.

I was chatting with a guy on a Land Rover forum many years ago, and he told me the story of his father-in-law, who had committed the same silly mistake. His punishment was that his son-in-law made up a sticker to go above the fuel filler, reading "It's Diesel, You Tit".

I've got one on order.


  1. My nightmare since switching to a diesel Landrover, and what has given me a severe case of OCD every time I fill up!

  2. Commiserations - that was brave, admitting to the world that you're not infallible.

    OK - here's the answer - and it's a Triumph too!


  3. Julia - big, brightly-coloured notices help, although they don't exude any kind of cool. But OCD people must choose :)

    Joe - I am monstrously fallible and I don't care who knows it. Thanks for that link. With only 44 hp but 74 ft/lb of torque, that's going to be some slogger! Brilliant with a sidecar, but I can't help thinking that any diesel bike is a huge and costly exercise in missing the point, though.

  4. That girl is holding a red nozzle in a rather provocative way - what on earth is she offering?

  5. No idea, but it's the worst bit of Photoshoppery I have ever seen.


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