Wrench!… 11am, Friday morning. Finish what will be my final monthly report, click save and then turn on my ‘Out of Office’… for the last time. “Thank you for your email but as of Friday 29th May I no longer work here. Instead I will be travelling with my wife Maggie, on roads headed East. You can follow our progress on www.adventuresinyellow.com. Otherwise contact such-and-such for work related matters.”

11:16: Before I can switch off the computer, an appointment reminder pops up telling me I’m to be at my leaving presentation at 11:30; fourteen minutes to dash up to the other end of the site. That’s when I feel the wrench… The report had distracted me from the big event today but now I feel nervous as a little boy summonsed to the front of the whole school-hall assembly. Wandering up to the send-off, a career in the space industry flashes before my eyes; Head of Department for Product Assurance for all Earth Navigation and Science Programmes at Airbus Stevenage, the highs and lows of working on fantastic programmes such as MIRI, Aeolus and Earthcare. Buy-offs at subcontractors, overseas test campaigns, solving the myriad problems that dog the assembly and test of a satellite to get it fit for flight…

I ascend the staircase in the central office building to a brilliant sea of faces and receive my send-off. I will truly miss this great bunch of people.

Wrench!… If I thought leaving work meant no longer having to deal with crappy computer systems that complicate what must be surely a simple process then I’ve been dead wrong. I feel like wrenching this bloody computer of its desk and throwing it across the room. The culprit for this IT rage; an online visa application system for one of the countries we need a visa for before departure.

I patiently fill in the blank boxes on each of the four pages, each time being offered the choice of ‘save & continue’ or ‘save & exit’. All is well until the last page when I realize I need to upload a photograph. Not having an appropriate mugshot, I duly ‘save & exit’. An hour or so later, after an impromptu photo-shoot and a bit of cropping I return with the required imagery. I key in my access code from when I saved and exited and find that lots of the tick boxes have changed status; things like ‘have you ever visited here before?’ have gone from ‘no’ to ‘yes’ and a plethora of drop down boxes have reappeared to add the details of the visit. OK, so I click ‘no’ and it resets but I have to go through all four pages and carefully double check and correct multiple cases where these statuses have changed.

Finally I upload the photograph to gain the option to save and continue to book an appointment at the embassy to collect the visa. ‘All done’ methinks. I click the button and… am dumped right back to the login screen at the start of the whole process… Even worse when I try to track my visa, system says there is no application for this passport reference. I go back to edit the form and system says my application is in process… IT rage continues…

Wrench!… Maggie walks into the garage to see my headless body on the floor.  Fortunately, the head is still attached; it’s just disappeared under the engine of one of the 650’s. ‘Hi plum, can you pass me the 22-mil wrench?’ I ask. “That one… the big silver spanner…” The bikes are gleaming with new rubber and polish, all dressed for the road. Then, as a last minute thought, I decided to change the spark plugs. Mag’s plug is all grey and tan like it should be, but mine; black and sooty like the bike’s been running on coal instead of petrol. The magic of Facebook; I hit a few ‘groups’ querying the cause and the likely culprit is identified; a knackered Lambda sensor.

Up to now I had been quite happy in my ignorance, completely unaware that I was even the possessor of such a thing as a ‘Lambda sensor’. I did know that the bike has three sensors (air intake, engine and exhaust), which combine to profile the fuel injection by means I presumed involved magic or black arts but probably, when I think of it, involve a little CPU somewhere. Still, a new sensor is an expensive item so how do I know for sure it is definitely defunct?

I drop Steve Grover a line over at Motoscot in Luton (www.motoscot.co.uk). He suggests I pop over, I do and he plugs the bike into the ‘Hex -911’ diagnostic tool. Two minutes later I have confirmation when computer says that the Lambda sensor is not detected, which means it is broken for sure. Steve was a BMW service-manager for over 20 years and decided to go out on his own with Motoscot, specialising in BMW and Honda servicing and repairs. This morning, Steve stopped work on another job to fit me in and then refused to take any payment for his inconvenience.

We’ve not even left home and people are being kind…

Next up; departure is looming…

5 thoughts on “Wrench!

  1. Doesn’t a space rocket have a lambda sensor? Pah. and I thought they were supposed to be modern! It’s also a great thing (along with ‘Plenham chamber’) to throw into a game of Balderdash!!

    Liked by 1 person

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