26 june 2018






school photos







           All original writing

           2014, 2015, 2016, 2017,            2018        Ian McLauchlin



So it was time to pass the car down the family and that includes sets of keys. There are two sets of keys and I could only find one. I looked in the 'spare key' place. Nothing. I looked on the key hook, nothing. Toured the unlikely places and then the most unlikely places. No keys. Now I have standards and felt awkward handing over a car with only one set of keys.  So I phoned the main dealer.

"Spare key sir? You'll need to pay for the key code, you'll need to buy a blank. You'll then need to pay for us to cut it."

Anything else?

"Yes. You'll then need to bring the car in, leave it with us, while we don our pointy hat and wizard's cloak and, using spells and potions, re-programme the keys."

That'll cost just a reasonable amount then?

"Very reasonable. Let's say well over a hundred and any spare arms and legs you can offer us would be very welcome."

Time to call the experts. Mobile Car Key replacements?  Can you replace a Mobile Car Key?

"No, the mobile refers to  us, the key stays stationary."

When can you do it? No I'll be away then, can you do it when I get back? What, come to you? I thought you were mobile."

"Ah, that applies only to the lazy unaccommodating punter sir. I'm sure you're none of those."


Got back, unpacked and . . . . . found the spare key in my flight cabin bag! Oh bugger. (The spare was permanently packed in my cabin bag so that if there was a problem at the long term car park, I still had my own key.)  Still, I've committed to a spare key and, not being the kind to pull out of a firm committment, I decided a third key might still be useful.


The day arrives. Double checked that I wasn't lazy or unaccommodating, picked up daughter's car and drove to Exeter. I should have been warned by the fact that I was directed to the Old Exeter Mental Hospital Buildings . . . .

"Ok, here we go. Got the key?"  Yup, got it.

He had a van fully kitted out with workbench, cutting machine, electronics, computer, spare locks, tools, key blanks, sandwich box, customer chat up lines to put them at their ease and a ventilator (for the van, not customers not put at their ease.) Sounds  of grinding, cleaning up, polishing and sandwich eating. The first test of the day. It fits, it fits, you shall go to the ball. No I made that last bit up . . .  Now for the next bit, the one that all Responsible Main Dealerships, and all of the many others, said couldn't be done by a non- or apprentice- Wizard - the mysterious programming of the keys ceremony.

"Do you want to put on a cloak too?" asked the (non-mobile) Wizard?"

No I'll just watch you and marvel. I think he liked that display of reverence. In fact I wondered whether that's all he does it for . . .

The black cats were brushed aside and a multi-thousand pound box of tricks appeared in a puff of smoke, accompanied by the sound of firecrackers, the flashes of lightning and the spitting of cats. "This magic wire plugs into that invisible socket", he proudly announced. "This other end has a prestidigitatious plug which somehow magically attaches itself to this multifunction hand held eye of newt and toe of frog box. I mutter some obscure utterings, get a passcode from this card reader - sorry, 'gateway to the occult' device - enter various symbols provided by my friend in Uttoxeter (he charges the earth he does, but I don't care 'cos YOU'RE paying) and, Abracadaverer, the key is PROGRAMMED !!!!  Er . .  no wait a minute, let's try it again. What was the passcode again? Let's try something else. I know I'll use this other chip-containing butty. Ok, here we go."

The device spat out the code with a hideous reverberating laugh, stuck out its tongue (purple and knobbly) and sat down with arms folded. A nebulous speech bubble appeared from its middle ear which dropped the hint 'Better luck next time matey, if you're apprentice wizard-enough to dare to even think about trying again.'. Matey said "Oh dearie me (or words to that effect).The symbols they telegraphed to me were WRONG. I'll get back to them. Oh no, it's Saturday . . . ."

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And sure enough, nothing was gained.

OK. Perhaps the car needs starting to clear a few things. Clunk. Car wouldn't start. Magic box mysteriously re-connected and it quietly sniggered. Immobiliser locked. Good grief. It thinks I'm trying to steal my own (daughter's) car!  The air went suddenly cold and the ghosts of the Old Mental Hospital cackled.

The by now slightly deflated Apprentice-Wizard had another spiffing idea. "I'll call my old mentor, the Grand Instructor who had the presence of mind to leave the industry just as it was getting complicated. "How're yer doing me old mate?  Yer, yer, it's starting to rain here too. Well it's like this. Got a problem wiv this car see. Yes, yes I know it always happens with me. Any ideas? OK, let's give it a go."

Trying hard to give a reasonably lucent translation from Wizard-speak, I was given a glimpse into the dark arts. "It's like this yer see guv. Yer turn on the ignition and leave it on for half an hour. That clears the immobiliser lock. Job done."

In human-speak that actually means 'Job not done till it's actually done, then it's only done if you can start the car and get home.'  I was beginning to get ever so slightly angry. As you can tell, it takes a bit for that to start to happen . . . .

"Fancy a cup-o'-tea guv?" Trying not to make it too obvious he's a Wizard (failed).


That was the longest half hour for a long time. "Shall we start it now guv?" No give it another 5 minutes.

Clunk. Nothing.

"Well you could phone the AA."  It's taken me a lifetime to try not to be too accommodating and to develop some magical assertive powers, and I'm nearly there. No YOU phone the AA.

"They'll be here within an hour and a half. You could try phoning the main dealer." No YOU phone the main dealer.

"Fancy another cup-o'-tea?" Is that the only magic potion you've got? "Well, you could use the toilet . . . . Top of stairs, turn right."


"Tell yer what, while we're waiting we could try . . . . " By this time I'd switched off, in order to protect my sanity, in this location of all places, and his skull.

All at once, well spread over an hour and a half, what should appear but a yellow van, sponsored by Alcoholics Anonymous.

"How yer doin', me old mate? Thought it sounded like your address. Haven't seen yersince, well, yesterday afternoon.  What is it this time?"  You need to remind yourself that AA often need car locksmiths and vice versa.  Then the need to reminisce took hold. "Remember that old Ford Consul. When was it . . . 1972 was it? Yer, not only did we have to pick the car lock, it was the old style handcuffs that tested you wasn't it. And not long after that, the Queen couldn't get out of her car after a long boring visit to Tiverton. Boy were they glad, and a little bit jealous, to see you and yer flowing robes . . . . "  This went on for many magic eaons. Then it was decided that I, NO YOU, should call the Main Dealer.

"Just got this car and immobiliser's locked. Yes. Locked. Won't start. You had the car last week to change the starter motor. Yes. Any chance you could let me have, er, the immobiliser code? Yes. Yes he's here."  Hello? Yes it's me. Yes it's my car. "By the way, how do you clear the immobiliser lock?" Manufacturer says 4 hours with ignition on. It's usually between 1 and 2. "OK I owe you one, thanks matey." Strange how all these blokes are called Matey.

The man from Alcoholics Anonymous couldn't believe his luck. A local call out, a chance to chat with yer mate on company time, feign sympathy towards an unknown member of the public never likely to be seen again (DV), no need to wriggle on your back in the dirt, and clean hands into the bargain. It doesn't get any better than that. Magic.

It'd been some time since the yellow van arrived and absent mindedly the Wizard (description now wearing thin) turned the ignition key. Engine started!!  Well yes, 1 to 2 hours seemed about right. Yellow-van-man disappointed and went on his way.

"Just programme the new key and we're in business ", said the re-invigorated conjurer. "Then the original key."

Er what about the third key that I eventually found? "Where's that?" At home. "Oh. That won't work now."


SO TO SUMMARISE, I turned up with a working car and possess two working keys. After three and a half hours of magic show, some rain, a meeting with Alcoholics Anonymous, a cup-o'-tea, a toilet visit (luckily I'm not an airline pilot) some friendly and not so friendly banter, I reach the promised land. At a cost of X pounds and I'm still in Exeter. WIth a car that now works, and two working keys.  Funny, that sounds suspiciously like 'back where I started' but in Exeter . . . . .

But looking on the bright side, I am promised a free local re-programming of the third key, sometime, later. And If I'd gone to the Main Dealer, I would have had to pay more than 2X pounds and I'd have been without the car for the best part of a day!

So all's well that will end well soon.          I hope   . . . . . . .

(PS  I never did take up that offer. The will to live kicked in . . . .)