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Strange games and more car suffering

I watched an unfamiliar billiards game on TV today – hold you jokes, I only have five channels to select from (one of those keeps running some documentaries about deer – !?!?), there is very little to choose from…

The game is called Snooker, which sounds familiar, for some reason. There are many balls of different solid colors, each color having points value associated with it. Red balls – of which there are a dozen initially – bring 1 point, black ball – there is only one – brings 7. The cue ball is recognizably white. Points are totaled up, player with the most points wins. The weird thing is that until there are red balls in play, balls of other color are put back in play after they are holed, carefully placed in their original locations by an “umpire” who also announces the point count all the time. I am not sure whether you have to hit a red ball in between of going for other colors (while there are reds in play), but it surely seems that way. Never seen this game before, but it appears to be a very popular sport here. One of the best players recently passed away, and all newspapers were abuzz… Anyone is familiar with it? Feel free to email.

Next stop in the getting-the-car epic is insurance. Which took very little time to procure, but generated a lot of questions beforehand.


Vauxhall requires proof of insurance before allowing me to drive the car off the lot. An original document, no less. Which is supposed to reflect the exact car I am buying. So, in effect, I sign up for buying a specific car, obtain its registration information, call insurance company, initiate the policy, ask the agent to mail the proof of insurance overnight to the dealer, and only come to pick the car after the dealer receives the letter.

And the reason for this trouble? It’s the so-called “road tax” (less than £200), which plays the role of registration sticker, and which, apparently, cannot be procured by the dealer without insurance proof. My office-mate suggested that if a dealer sells me a car that costs £10K, they should splurge on a 7-day insurance policy in order to handle the road tax, but I guess I am not that lucky.

On a different tangent, Vauxhall dealer did not ask for a deposit and faxed me a completed order form with words “Verbal Order” where my signature should appear. I am officially perplexed as to how both the strict and the lax coexist in a single process.

Inexplicably, Citroen would not require me to have a proof of insurance. Well, I was, in fact, given an explanation, but it still sounds inexplicable. Since the car I was interested in at Citroen was a “demonstrator” (i.e., commonly used for test-driving), it is already registered, the road tax is paid for, and if I decide to pay for the car in full, the dealer could not care less whether I have it insured or not. Huh? While I get the “not-caring” part (obviously, when there is no financial stake in the car on the part of auto/financing company, the dealer has no stake in what happens after I drive away), it is the “already-registered” part that gets me confused.

One obvious assumption that I have to make is that registration of the vehicle is not attached to a specific person, and can be passed on from a dealer to a customer. Yet, this assumption hardly helps me connect the dots. Does it mean that I could drive the car under whatever insurance the Citroen dealer already had? Why am I given existing registration information by Vauxhall to put on the insurance policy so that the car can be registered? Is there life on Mars? Someday, we’ll be able to answer definitively.

By the way, insuring a single small car would cost me almost £1500 a year. Being a foreigner with no history – in this case, actually, with no proof that there is no claim history – rears its ugly head again. This one can be remedied, though. If Geico provides me with a “letter of experience”, and if UK company accepts that as proof that I have been claim-free for X number of years, the premium goes down considerably…

Another curious nugget of information is the fact that each car requires a separate insurance policy. There is no such thing as a single policy covering multiple cars… You still get discounts for insuring with the same provider (and I actually do get a discount, since I have opened a “house contents” insurance already).

Anyway, my frantic phone-calling and faxing of last week yielded financing opportunities with both Citroen and Vauxhall, as well as the personal loan with NatWest, which definitely has better terms than any auto financing. So I am paying for the car in full at the dealership.

And the winner is – tam-tarapam-param-pam-pam – Vauxhall Astra. I should get it on Thursday. Even though I liked Citroen a bit better, saving money on a “starter” car makes a lot of sense, and Vauxhall comes in almost £3K less. Plus, my office-mate had nice things to say about Astra, which helped to soothe the sting of going for a “dull” car.

On a totally unrelated note, I may have mentioned already that when I came to UK at the beginning of October, I had forgotten my umbrella at home in New Jersey. Curiously, I was never outside in the rain throughout my first two and a half weeks here. Last Sunday, when packing my bags for the return trip after Becky’s party, I forgot the umbrella yet again. But, when the bags were already in the trunk of the car and we were about to drive to the airport, my lovely caring spouse realized what had happened and the umbrella was placed in a bag. When I arrived on Monday, I did not unpack the bags, but rather quickly showered, shaved and changed, and went to the office. On my way home that night, I got drenched!!! It surely would not have happened, had the umbrella stayed in New Jersey. It hardly merits mentioning that I carried the damn thing with me all day today, with nary a drop of rain…