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Machines have a way of breaking down at the worst possible moment. It's as if they have minds of their own and a malign sense of humour.

Steve Dub It's half term so the car's decided to pack up and die. First there was an ominous creaking sound then a loud clanking.

in Carmarthen Perhaps I should have acted on the first creak, but where cars are concerned I have an ostrich mentality. I like to stick my head in the sand until the last possible moment to stave off what is likely to be a large bill.

But, once the children were expressing alarm, I knew it was time to act. "It's like a Wacky Races car," the oldest exclaimed, spurred on by a DVD of the 1970s cartoon bought for me as a joke birthday present.

I didn't feel quite as glamorous as Penelope Pitstop and Peter Perfect was nowhere in sight to offer free mechanical aid, so I resorted to muttering under my breath.

"The clanking noise is coming from underneath my seat," yelled the youngest in alarm.

Having visions of the car splitting in two and me driving off with the middle child in the front seat separated from the youngest and oldest in the back forced me to pull over. I got out and peered under the car, gave the exhaust a rattle and the tyres a gentle kick.

"What is it?" asked my son, who at eight still has blind faith in my ability to sort out the world's woes.

"Not sure," I told him breezily. "We'll head home and ring the garage."

The local garage took pounds 20 to tell me it was something to do with the suspension but they weren't sure what. A man in overalls advised me to take it to the dealership of the foreign company that made the car.

"Thanks," I said.

Later I try to ring the dealership but my mobile phone keeps dying. It won't charge up. I take it to the local mobile phone shop where I'm told by a teenager that nothing seems to be wrong with the charger or the phone.

He rattles the connection despondently and says sometimes these things happen for no apparent reason and maybe the battery has just worn out. I know the feeling.

Here was I thinking few things in life were certain except machinery. Machines are logical things designed by engineers which expert mechanics trained to deal with them should be able to mend. Apparently not.

Machines can stop working for mysterious reasons at times which seem suspiciously deliberate.

Well, at least the timing of my car and phone is good in one sense. It's nearly Halloween, just the time to start getting superstitious and believing in malevolent forces.

The first place I'll send the children trick or treating will be the garage, followed by the mobile phone shop.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 27, 2010
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