Last year, I visited a customer in Swindon. When I arrived at the office, I noticed some water dripping from the underside at the front of my car. I didn’t have time to investigate or get my hands dirty so I subconsciously hoped it was just condensation from the air conditioning unit and tried to forget all about it.

After work, I managed to navigate Swindon’s world famous roundabout of roundabouts and finally locate my hotel. When I parked, I noticed the temperature gauge was reading high - very high. Sure enough, I got out of the car to see steam pouring out of the bonnet and was greeted by the familiar smell of anti-freeze.

I still didn’t want to get my hands dirty so I opened the bonnet and just stared at the problem, hoping that would miraculously fix it. Then I checked in to my room and rang the AA. I introduced myself to the operator as ‘Hi - my name is Norman and I’m an alcoholic.’

The AA man duly arrived before ‘The One Show’ had even finished. We both stood looking at the engine knowingly before he asked: ‘Now, Sir, what seems to be the problem ?’

‘Well, I think it’s pretty minor and easy to fix. It’s just the top hose has perished and needs replacing.’

‘Oh I see, Sir. Why do you think that ?’

‘Well, when the engine was running, steam was pouring out of the top corner of the radiator - right there where the water hose joins.’

‘OK, Sir. Thanks for that. Please could you just turn the engine over for me so I can take a look myself ?’

Engine on. Water and steam billowing out. Smell of anti-freeze. Temperature gauge rising.

‘Whoa ! That’s fine, Sir. Engine off now, please. Well it’s not your hose, Sir. The problem is over here. It’s your bleed screw, Sir. Look (flips the screw from the middle of the radiator). This bleed screw has sheared off in half. Quite a common problem on this model. Seen it a couple of times now.’

I felt a little sheepish (but very relieved that a solution was in sight) and the man from the AA, James, filled the radiator with 13 pints of cold water and I followed him to a local garage where we parked and he kindly drove me back to the hotel so I could wash my hands.

The next morning, I walked into the customer’s offices to be excitedly greeted with ‘Oh good - glad you’re here. We have got problems. Serious problems. Performance problems. On production.’

‘Ah OK - what seems to be the problem ?’ ‘Well it’s the database, you see. It’s the hard disk - 99% busy. Partition 27b on logical volume 7 is overheating. Oh and another thing that might be relevant - the hit ratio is right down at 72.7%’

‘OK - thanks for that. Do you think you could just start the system up for me and I’ll take a look myself ?’