It's just over a month since I picked up my Lexus hybrid, and I've already driven over 1500 miles in it. So, what do I think of the hybrid experience so far?
The short answer is that I'm loving it.
I am really enjoying not having to fill up with petrol every few days. I can get well over 450 miles out of a single tank without any effort at all. Even with the driving style dial set to normal, I'm getting around 61 miles to the gallon on a commute that includes long stretches of motorway driving. If I stay off the motorways and go cross-country instead (as I did last Friday to avoid the inevitable end-of-term traffic on the M4—the tailbacks for the Almondsbury Interchange had already reached junction 17 by lunchtime) I get around 74 mpg, which I find astonishing.
I've now spent many hours in the driving seat, and my first impression of a very comfortable driving position has not altered. Inside the car it's much quieter (particularly at low speeds, and we'll get to that in a moment) which helps to reduce fatigue when driving long distances. The reduced levels of cabin noise also mean that the audio system does what it does very well. It's nice to finally have a DAB radio so I can listen to BBC6Music and Radio4 Extra in the car. Other things that have made me smile include the keyless entry and ignition (at least, they did once I'd replaced the batteries in the key fobs, as the car showed a "key battery low" message several times), a steering column adjustment system that actually lets me get the wheel into a comfortable position, and having a sunroof again. I hadn't realised how much I'd missed being able to pop the roof for a bit of fresh air.
The biggest surprise I've had so far happened when I drove the car at night for the first time; the headlights, particularly on full beam, seem to be an entire order of magnitude brighter than the Juke's. They illuminate the road ahead as well as the lights on my old 350Z did. The foglights also seem to be better, and I made good use of them yesterday, which was the foggiest morning I can remember for quite a while.
Now that the weather is warming up again, I've had the sunroof and the windows open and I've realised just how quiet the car is when it's in EV mode and just using the electric motor; when I'm doing less than 20 mph in the business park, or the local supermarket car park, it's virtually silent. It's weird, but it's the future. And that seems a good way to sum things up.
It's Sunday afternoon, and outside the Sun is shining. It's a welcome change from the heavy rain and hail that arrived a week ago (when there was even snow, further north). The advent of spring has resulted in an unusual burst of domestic activity by me this weekend; I've done the laundry and the ironing, I put up some bookshelves, and I vacuumed the house, upstairs and down. I've even started to clear up the living room, which looked like I was in the third week of a particularly disruptive poltergeist attack. I knew I hadn't tidied up in a while, but when cleaning starts to blur into archaeology it's past time to get busy. I've managed to clear away most of the stacks of books that had accumulated on the floor by my reading armchair, and the recycling bags are gradually filling up. I've even registered my new car at the local Sort-It centre so that next weekend I can take a bunch of old electronics there for recycling. Spring cleaning is very definitely under way.
I've been amazed by the amount of dust that had accumulated since the last time I went round with the vacuum cleaner. It wasn't that long ago, surely? Okay, it might have been a month or two, or perhaps three, but the size of the dust bunnies that had built up under the bed was remarkable. There was a thick layer of dust on the shelves in my bedroom and I found myself wondering just where it all came from. At this point you're probably thinking about the old chestnut that most household dust consists of human skin cells, but that turns out not to be the case; more than half of it comes from outdoors. As there are several very active quarries within a few miles of here, I wonder if what I'm seeing is, in part, pulverised rock from local blasting? When they set off charges, it throws big clouds of dust into the air. Even so, I suspect a lot of the dust in my house comes from textile fibres; some of my carpets could really do with replacing, as they were fitted when the house was built back in 1990. I'm thinking of switching to hardwood floors where I can, but that particular project is on the back burner for now.
Nevertheless, the cleaning has had a noticeable effect. The coffee table is clear and I've made good headway on the dining table, too. And rock dust or no rock dust, I've got the windows open to let in some very welcome fresh air.
The only trouble is, I know what comes next. Spring means that it'll soon be time to start fixing up the garden...
The flicker of resilience that's crept into my thoughts today is not something that I'd expected to happen as a result of cleaning the house, but I'm sure that it was doing the housework that caused it. It's been a most welcome surprise; I think I needed to feel like I achieved something today.
I've been at a low ebb for the last couple of months. I've come down with every stomach bug that's been going around. My weekends have been spent indoors, and recently they've featured frequent afternoon naps. I've been so down, in fact, that I've been considering going to see the doctor about it, but I think I'm just following my normal pattern: my low points usually come in phases, and they often arrive at the end of winter. The evenings may be getting lighter, but when the clocks go forward I usually feel like I'm still wrapped in the gloom of deepest winter. It takes a while for my dopamine levels to respond to the extra daylight.
Sometimes my low points herald the start of better things. It's twenty four years ago today since I moved out of my house in Milton Keynes and the curtain closed on a part of my life that now feels like ancient history. I was not sorry to leave MK behind. As soon as I started working for CBL in Filton all those years ago, I felt like I belonged here in the South West, and once I'd moved in to this house that feeling got stronger. Sometimes my anxieties become so overwhelming that I lose sight of what I'm capable of, or of how lucky I am to live somewhere like this. I need to work on my personal resilience and remind myself that I've been through big changes in my life before—and rather than being disasters, they seem to have worked out pretty well.
I don't think it could have possibly been more painfully obvious yesterday that the tradition of All Fools' Day is something whose time has been and gone. Real stories in the news have become so ludicrous and fantastical that any amusement to be gained from fictitious ones has long since been replaced by irritation, if not outright, bleak despair. On a day when SpaceX boss Elon Musk decided to release a rap song about a deceased gorilla, scientists announced that dubstep puts mosquitoes off having sex, and an actor who plays the President of the Ukraine on a television show has ended up as a front runner in the polls to elect Ukraine's next real president, what's the point of trying to decide whether stupid stories are true or not?
Satire isn't necessary any more. Can we just quietly agree not to bother with April Fools any more, and get on with stopping the real fools from breaking anything else, please?
There's an interesting essay over at Nautilus (which has become one of my go-to sites for discovering interesting and thought-provoking articles) about the geometry of thought, which reveals that not only does our hippocampus represent thoughts in a three-dimensional space, the smallest individual cells of this cognitive space appear to align against a hexagonal grid. Fascinating.