Mum rang just now to tell me that the car battery is flat again. I get the same call maybe 5 or 6 times a year and we always have the same conversation where she'll mention that some (non-mechanic) person has suggested it might be her alternator at fault and not the fact that she doesn't use the car enough to keep the battery charged.
As always I tried to establish what it could NOT be before we started speculating on mechanical faults, so I asked her when was the last time she used it.
"Oh, it's been a while now."
I asked her to be specific, then she suddenly remembered and said, "I took it out for a run 3 days ago".
Okay, I said, Where was that to?
"I took it to the supermarket to do a big shop".
The supermarket is about 100 yards from her apartment.
So I went over the same stuff I always do. That she needs to get the car up to speed over a distance of at least 10 miles once or twice a week. She was indignant, but couldn't really pretend that she'd managed to get the car up to 50mph on the village High Street.
She's currently ringing the insurers, as she always does, to come out and jump-start it. Last time they did this she rang me afterwards, triumphantly telling me that it WASN'T that she wasn't using the car enough because they'd told her that she'd left the lights on and had drained the battery. Because they'd said that she wouldn't have seen the lights were still on in the summer sunshine this became translated as "the battery went flat because it's summer, not because I did anything wrong".
She insisted that it's been a year since this last happened, but I reminded her that the battery had been newly installed this summer. "Yes," she said, "and it's under a 4 year guarantee, so we should get them to fix it". I tried to explain that the battery was behaving quite normally in discharging through lack of use. Any moment now she's going to ring me again.....
.... that was her - all smiles because she's talked to a lovely helpful insurance person who's sending someone out tomorrow.
I'm going to buy her one of those solar car battery chargers that you leave out on the dashboard. Maybe that'll do the trick.