I drive an automatic, not the usual manual or stick-shift as most people drive in Europe. Automatic transmissions are great, especially for city driving; just go and stop, none of this tedious clutch business. I thought I’d miss driving a manual car and the extra control it gives, and I was worried that I’d keep pressing the brake thinking it was the clutch, sending me through the windscreen every time I wanted to change gear. I soon got used to it though and started to enjoy the overall smoothness of driving an automatic. However, my enjoyment changed to sheer hatred of it after an unfortunate event on Christmas Eve, of all days. To bore you with the technicalities, the ignition system of the car only works if the gear selector is in the ‘park’ position. Some kind of electrical contact is made in ‘park’ mode which allows you to start the car. Now over the last couple of months, this electrical contact underneath the gear lever hasn’t been working properly, meaning I have to give the lever a bit of ‘gentle persuasion’ in order for it to make contact and start the car. Anyway, I was on my way back from a night in the pub with some old friends [staying sober obviously], and I was having the same old trouble with the gear selector, it just wouldn’t go far enough forward for the ignition to work. So, I decided to push it a bit more than I perhaps should have done, and to my dismay, the darn thing snapped clean off. It was like something from The Three Stooges. So I was stranded, on the first hour of Christmas Day, with an immobile car, all because of a millimetre gap between two bits of metal. I was glad that I managed to get a lift home, but the fact that I didn’t have a functioning car anymore played on the back of my mind over Christmas. On Boxing Day, we returned with a crow bar and some pliers; I was gonna get the bloomin’ thing home, whatever it took. We managed to start the engine with the help of the crow bar [it wasn’t a pretty sight], but then we had the problem of getting it into reverse and then into ‘drive’; luckily, the pair of pliers just about did the trick, and I was able to get it home without towing it. Anyway, I think I’ll stick to manual cars in the future.So, all that was hassle that I didn’t need over the Christmas break, which otherwise went OK; I got many nice presents including a few books: The Language of Media by Lev Manovich and The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking, the latter of which has been making my brain hurt for the last few days. Here’s a transcript from one of his lectures on the beginning of time.