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A PHYSICIST WRITES . . .
I feel I’ve picked up some useful tips related to motoring this year, so let me share them with you. If your windscreen-washer nozzles need adjusting for optimum height of the spray on the screen, remember to do it with the engine running so that the maximum voltage is being applied to the pump-motor. Otherwise, when you next try to clean your screen on the move you may find you’re giving the car behind a wash instead.
Also, use the strongest pin or probe you can find for the purpose, inserting and holding it with your fingers right up against the washer nozzle. Supposing nevertheless it breaks off inside, you could try attracting the broken end out again with a magnet or else pushing it through into the spray head. And in future leave well alone.
How good is your vision? Whether or not you normally wear spectacles or contact lenses, it’s easy for your eyesight to drift gradually away from 20/20 vision without your being aware of the change. You can test for one likely cause of this with binoculars, if you have a pair handy. First you need to optimize them for your eyes (with specs on or contacts in if you wear them): look at a distant scene while turning the focus ring to give a sharp view with the left eye, then rotate the right eyepiece until you have a matching sharpness for the right eye. Rest your elbows on a firm surface if you can, to keep the image steady.
Focusing the binoculars now on a distant object such as a tree or a number-plate, can you see its details more clearly than when you look at something similar that’s around eight times closer to you, without the binoculars? (I’m assuming that the binoculars are marked 8x.) If so, then your eyes very probably need optical assistance, or your lenses require updating! But even if you can’t see a difference, there may be other defects in your eyes that could be corrected — or even a disease that only an ophthalmologist can easily detect — so an occasional check-up is well worth-while for anyone.
By law you must display a valid tax disc. So if yours is due to expire at the end of this month, will you be slipping out at midnight on Hallowe’en to swap discs? Or will you try to remember to do this within a day or two before or after, hoping you won’t be penalized? This year I had the idea of installing the new disc in place as soon as I obtained it and Blutacking the old one to the windscreen alongside (until safely after expiry). Unless there’s an obscure law against displaying two consecutive discs at the same time, you can’t go wrong.
By the way, I read about someone who first was caught by the police on about the third of the month, having forgotten to renew her licence, and then three months later was fined again apparently for the same crime, by the DVLA. Their argument was that the first misdemeanour was actually one of not displaying a valid licence, and now they were dealing with the failure to renew. One offence for the price of two!
Here’s another tip that might save you from a fine (or two): as a general rule, avoid driving into Reading town centre — but if you have to, be aware that some of the on-street parking signs were changed recently, seemingly with the intention of catching you out.
Many of the signs now appear in one of two formats. The first says something like: “Mon–Sat, 8–6.30, 1hr” (and then as always, no return within the same time interval). The other might say: “Permit holders or Mon–Fri, 9–5.30, 2hr”. When you’re visiting and parking within the days and times printed, it’s clear that you have either one or two hours’ parking time, as stated. But suppose you’re staying on into the evening or making a Sunday visit — do either of the signs allow you to park then? You might well look at the second sign and take it to mean: if the permit holders have left me a space, I can use it for as long as I like. But the result is that you will very likely get a ticket!
I was suspicious of the second type of sign when I first saw them, then I read complaints about them in the local paper and finally I addressed a query to Reading Borough Council. A long technical answer came back which I will summarize for you. The first sign is a restriction for the days/times printed only, and you may park freely outside them. The second sign is effectively a permission for the days/times only, and you must not park at all outside them.
And how are we supposed to distinguish between these almost identical displays with their quite different meanings? The reply didn’t really explain, but I think it boils down to that little word “or”. It’s effectively a code word telling you, “Get out of here by 5.30 on Friday OR you will be done.” At least, that’s how I now try to remember what the second sign means. Reading, how friendly you are to visitors...
[Footnote: at least one victim of the second type of sign won an appeal against his ticket on the grounds that the wording of the sign is misleading — and most or all of them have since been reworded.]
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