Rate the Date – Mr A’s take on Direct Line Icy Roads

A few weeks ago I was invited to take on the skid pan in Kettering with Direct Line. As it was a night away from the kids and the sort of thing Mr A would love I asked if I could bring him too, Direct Line kindly said yes and that he could probably get a quick lap of the skid pan. On the day another blogger dropped out so Mr A was lucky enough to get the full experience.

The end of the clip says it all really, don’t you think?

My account is over on my other blog parentshaped.co.uk, but I’m handing over A residence to Mr A today: Continue reading

Lewis Hamilton does the school run

Have you seen this yet? If you have ever driven kids in a car you really must. I just love the absolute look of bemusement on Lewis’s face when faced with two primary age passengers, and all their non stop antics.

What do you reckon?  How distracting do you find your kids when driving? The film was made by Allianz to raise awareness of road safety. I think having Lewis in the driving seat, as an accomplished driver, really reinforces the challenges of driving with children in the car, and how important it is to stay focussed. Continue reading

Ad Watch: Hyundai ‘Live Brilliant’

There are three ‘live brilliant’ ads, featuring a man, a woman and a child’s perspective.

Live Brilliant Kid

I find the use of children in car ads fascinating, part nostagia for my own childhood, part parent nodding along at the extent to which children influence our purchasing decisions, and part media analyst nodding at the way that whole package is neatly represented here.

Continue reading

Five tips on how to drive safely around Europe

Dad and Miss L as I crash into them at Legoland

My first experience of driving abroad was at Legoland Denmark age seven. 30 years later and at Legoland Windsor it transpires I’m still no better at Lego cars or left hand drives…there was the overtaking of a caravan in France, after which I promised Mr A I would never overtake again…there was trying to drive a manual, left hand drive on the left side while hot and pregnant in Tuscany, after years with an automatic…there was nearly hitting a deer on honeymoon in Canada…

I’m a really good driver in the UK, but driving abroad has never come naturally. So I am studying the tips in today’s guest post from Allianz very carefully. Continue reading

Simple Steps to Make your Car More Efficient

Could you imagine life without a car, especially with kids? How would
you cope with all those supermarket trips, school runs and general ferrying about that
are part and parcel of modern parenting?

The downside of car ownership these days is the cost. If it feels like every trip to the
petrol pump is like taking out a second mortgage, perhaps it’s time to look at making
your car, and your car use, more efficient.

Polish your driving skills

Your driving style affects fuel consumption and may increase wear and tear on
expensive parts like the clutch. Driving at a consistent speed, when possible, and
breaking and accelerating less will help your car’s efficiency, as will using the right

When you’ve been driving for years it’s easy to slip into bad habits. If you need to
brush up your driving skills, consider an advanced motoring course or assessment.
Get more information from the Institute of Advanced Motoring.

Plan your trip

Planning the time and route of your trip can also help with efficiency. Try avoiding
rush hour traffic and streets with speed bumps, if possible. Also consider whether you
need to drive at all. Perhaps you can walk, ride a bike, or lift share with a colleague or
another parent.

Keep your vehicle maintained

Finding time to regularly maintain your vehicle, or paying someone to do it for you,
is a wise investment. As well as improving road safety, it will also mean you’re less
likely to incur expensive damage which costs a fortune to fix.

Regular maintenance will also improve fuel efficiency. The air filter, engine oil
and tyre pressure all affect the amount of petrol you use, so check these regularly
and change parts when necessary. Fancy tackling some of these maintenance tasks
yourself? Invest in a Haynes manual and save pounds on garage bills too.

Don’t carry excess weight

Clearing out your car is a quick and simple way to increase fuel efficiency, especially
if, like me, you tend to treat your car like a giant second handbag. Leave all those
bikes, scooters, skates and extra child seats at home when you don’t need them.

Still haven’t got round to removing the roof box off after that Bank Holiday break?
Take it off and leave it at home. Roof racks and roof boxes make the car less
aerodynamic, which means you use more fuel. If you need to carry heavy or large
items, use the boot whenever possible.

Keeping cool

When you’re driving on a hot day, avoid using air-con at low speeds as it increases
your petrol consumption. Instead, open the windows if you need to cool down.

If you’re driving at speed however, the opposite applies. Open windows increase
drag, which in turn increases fuel consumption more than using the air-con would. So
windows open at low speeds, air-con for motorways.

Shop around for fuel

Changing petrol stations could be one of the easiest ways to make your car more
efficient. Saving a few pence a liter might not seem like a big deal, but when you add
it up over a year, or even five years, imagine what you could buy with the money.
Jimmy Choo shoes anyone?

Keep your eyes peeled for offers when you’re shopping. Often supermarkets reduce
fuel prices if you spend over a certain amount in store. Alternatively pay with a cash-
back credit card, so you’ll earn while you spend. Use petrolprices.com to find the best
deals in your area.

Choose an efficient car

Start the way you mean to go on. Choose an economic vehicle that suits your driving
needs and it’ll be easier to be efficient. Take into account fuel efficiency, insurance
costs and taxation. Maintenance is another consideration. Can you do the work
yourself, or employ a local mechanic to do it for you? Some vehicles need to be
maintained at a dealership, which will considerably increase maintenance costs.

For all-round reliability and efficiency a Volkswagen is a great choice. Polos and
Golfs are perfect family run-arounds, whilst a Passat Estate has the space and power
to cope with anything a modern family requires. Five seats not enough? The seven-
seater Touran is one of the most economical people carriers out there.

Featured guest post written by Susan Pinna, a freelance writer and copywriter from the UK. She currently lives in Puglia, Southern Italy.

Cars I have loved.

When I was little we had a Renault 5…

How many years have you been driving? asks Mr A, busy trying to sort out our car insurance.

‘Er how old am I again?’ I have to ask these days as I realised I was telling people I was a year older than I am earlier this year. ’35. Right, so 17…nearly 18 years.’

Mr A carries on working out how much the insurance will cost on the new car he has his eye on and I start thinking back over the cars I have loved and driven. I wrote a post a while back about seeing a Mini Metro like my mum drove, it is funny how many memories cars evoke when you see them. Continue reading

Car Primer: The Honda Civic 1.6 Diesel

I’ve been saying to Mr A I might start writing about cars, he thinks this is faintly amusing, but I think there’s mileage in it. Forgive the pun. No seriously, I do think car reviews are entertaining reading, if a little bamboozling.

So, I’ve digested some for you, put on your sunnies and headscarf, let’s test drive the Honda Civic 1.6 Diesel reviews. Never be caught out without an opinion in car focussed chat again

Who is it for?

Firstly I have never been sure if Honda Civics are boy racer or Granny cars. The Sunday Mirror put me right:

The Honda Civic definitely isn’t a car for your gran.


Apparently this is because it can hit 60mph in 8.3 seconds. Although they argue Gran might like the fact it is very intuitive and easy to drive. Honda Civics did have a phase of being souped up for boy racers. But The Sunday Times reckon:

this Civic will find favour for its impressive family values. And for the first time it will attract attention from those looking for sparkle in their runabout

If I think ‘family hatchback’ I think VW Golf, right or wrong?

Wrong, according to The Sunday Times:

What the Civic’s rivals can’t claim is better economy. Most buyers will opt for the 2.2-litre diesel engine, which is 10bhp more powerful than before and more than 10mpg more frugal, giving class-leading fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions figures.

And in the words of The Sunday Mirror

The Civic’s giving VW’s Hatchback some stick


But what’s it like to drive?

The new suspension means it feels supple without any loss of that racy road feel

The Observer


 just the faintest hint of a baboon in heat

The Times


an ambitiously low centre of gravity, making the car seem to sniff the road like a beagle on the scent

The Times


In conclusion a fast, but easy to drive, sleek looking hatchback that is rivalling the competition, particularly when it comes to efficiency.

Comissioned post