Yoda in the Skoda

There was a Mondeo in Bellmullet. Test, no tax, “….she won’t need much….” after that it was all Ballina, Ballycastle and Castlebar. Passats, Hondas and heaps of Insignias. There was Insignias everywhere. All washed, looking good, but dead inside. “Engine light on, not sure, probably just a sensor…” which is Chinese for that oil seal yoke that blows the engine that everyone suddenly knows about and is dying to tell you only after you buy it. Been there, done that, burnt the fuckin t-shirt. One lad had a Skoda for sale but had no keys. The car was locked but you could look in the side window and if you liked what you saw you could tow it away. No tax, test, and no logbook “…hence the price…” 

On went the dream. A Kia in Limerick. A Tuscon in Crossmolina. Cars in the North at crazy cheap prices til you add the VRT and the wonderful Nox. An Avensis in Headford. A Focus in Roscommon.  Lads offering PCP. Sure PCP is easy. Almost certain to get it. Here’s one now, a nice 1 litre, affordable, reliable, guaranteed. Call today, drive away. Yours by lunch, no credit crunch. Take the wheel, enjoy the steal. Want to go far, then buy this car. Sure that’ll do, time to get out of the dregs, into the big leagues, shiny at the football pitch with the child, big shtuff. Here we went, just a case of picking it up. There was breeze, a bruised sky, and an uncertain salesman. Yeah, them deals were a while ago, where’d you read that?  

– Internet. 

-Oh right. See. Well. Let’s try.  

We tried. There was paperwork. Questions. More questions. Questions about questions. Bit like giving blood. Then there was forms. Beloved forms. Upload this, scan that, make sure it’s this date and from these places only. Now we’ll think about it. Hit submit and we’ll be back within 48 to 72 hours and we might need more. Depends on if you fucked it up. No car today, no steal of a deal or fancy wheels making lunch time reels around shiny new leather roundabouts of long term debt and wonderful guarantees of reliable travel. 

Back to Donedeal. Even the Skoda with no keys was gone by now.  

The phone rang, then. The dealer that bought the Peugeot. Christ, Jesus, why’s he ringing me? Didn’t I tell him it didn’t work? He was hardly wondering about the weedkiller in the engine? 

I answered with a tentative, hello? Like I wasn’t sure who it was. Casual, innocent, blameless in this whole mess.  

He didn’t buy it, asked: ‘Have you got a new car yet?  


‘Are you still lookin for somethin? I met your oul fella downtown. He said you were lookin…’ 

‘I….am. Well, just waiting on a PCP….’ 

‘I have a yoke here for ya.’ 

‘Oh yeah?’ 

‘Yeah, two months test, tax, and in good shape. I’ll call around and show to ya.’ 


‘Are you at the house?’ 


‘Sound….I’ll be outside in two minutes.’ 

And he was.  



#3 – Close encounters of the dashboard kind.

This fella had an occupy Galway look and a navy car for sale. We were outside Supermacs when he pulled up in the newly washed wagon. He had wiry hair and a red face with busted blood vessels, a shabby beard, and the confidence of a bad Russian gambler. Rasputin job, selling cars on Donedeal. He didn’t even say hello, just went: ‘I think I’m selling too cheap.’

         We let that settle, cars went by in irritated combustion. I looked down, noticed a broken light, asked: ‘What’s that?’

         ‘It’s nothing. Something simple. No problem to fix.’

         ‘Can we take it for a drive?’


         On the road, there was a myriad of symbols on the dash. Airbag, warning lights, something else. There was a noise in the engine too, bit like it was grumpy or ready to explode. And the tracking was off. There was a kind of a lazy sense of swaying back and over on the road, like you’re on a boat in choppy water. The gears were stiff and it was a hard work trying to accelerate, like the car didn’t want to, like it was saying: Stop! Leave me alone.

         The oul fella was with me, full of sage advice and comments, like: ‘This could be another ball of shite.’

         ‘Do you rekcon?’

         ‘Well the dashboard is like a Christmas tree with all the lights so that’s a bad start….’

         ‘Needs an airbag too.’

         ‘And a few other things by the sound of it….’

         ‘Great to have a dashboard at least, not like the other yoke.’

         ‘Yeah, I suppose they should be in every car really when you think about it….’

         We thought about that, took in more noise and mechanical anxiety, then decided to turn around. Pulled in at a layby. Checked the glovebox and found the car manual. Looked up some of the faults. There was talk of stop engine immediately. Bring vehicle to your nearest dealer. Red lights are critical issues. I looked up.

         They were all red.

         Time to head back.

         Himself was waiting, against the wall, vagrant hitchhiker look now, or like a man waiting for a bus to go working on a fruit farm full of convicts. He walked over. Saw the manual on the dash. Didn’t like that, asked: ‘What is story?’

         ‘Tryin to figure out those lights.’

         ‘Simple fix, simple. Some cleaners triggered the sensors under the seat and caused the airbag fault. Fix no problem.’

         ‘We’ll pull up over there.’

         And we did. He said: ‘I have this car a long time. No issues. Drives like a dream.’

         ‘Can you open the boot?’

         His face went vague, unsure and he said: ‘Ok, I think I know how.’

         Took him some effort, but he found the lever, popped the boot. We all looked at it like we knew something about engines, then I went for proactive and pulled the dipstick for oil. Wiped it with a tissue and then dipped. Pulled it back up and there was barely a drop on it. Maybe a slight sliver at the bottom of the tiny ball but far from enough. Your man was in right away with: ‘Easy fix, some oil, no problem. This is not an issue. Drives like a dream. Yours for fifteen hundred….’

         ‘Fifteen hundred what? Half price Roubles?’

         ‘Euros. Yes or no? You want? I have big demand…’



Nice warm chips.

He was late sixties maybe. Galway accent. Denim jacket. Beard. Kristofferson look.

Bonnet open, Toyota, side of the road, hoping something might happen. He’d been there a while. Contemplating the engine, listening to the scream of the traffic on the bypass.

I pulled in. Asked him the rhetorical: ‘Everything ok?’

‘The car just stopped.’


‘I was driving down the road and it just cut out.’

It was getting cold, and dark, and supremely dangerous. We stood there. I said: ‘I can try it.’

He gave me the key. Put it in the ignition. Turned it. It went: clackclackclackkkkkk.

It reminded me of something. Maybe the Astra when the starter went. Or the Mitsubishi after the alternator broke. Or maybe it was when the engine went on the Insignia. Could have been that time with the Avensis too. Either way – there was no tools. No expertise. No hope. So I asked: ‘Do you have breakdown insurance?

He shook his head in a way that said the car should hardly be on the road at all and never mind that fancy stuff. There was nothing for it only give him a lift into town and try find a garage. On the way, I asked him: ‘Had you plenty of petrol?



‘I don’t know.’


‘Well there was a quarter tank in it when I left Galway.’

‘And is there much in it now?’

‘A drop. I think. Maybe I ran out of petrol?’

‘Where were you goin anyway?’


‘From Galway?’

‘Yeah. I was goin to take a left at Clara and up through Tullamore and into Portlaoise and onto Carlow then down to Bunclody and into Wexford.’


But I might turn back now.’

‘If you get goin.’

‘That’s right. Do you think will I?’

‘Get goin? I don’t know. I doubt it.’

”The oil light was on too.’

‘For long?’

‘A good while.’

‘And did you check it for oil in Galway?’

‘No….maybe I should have?’

At the garage, they had some ideas. None of them that good. Rain coming now. A bitter bite, white hot sky and clouds. The guy’s name was Jack. He took advantage of the Supermac’s across the road. Got a large chips. Came back. Sat there. We both thought. Eventually he said: ‘Them are nice warm chips.’

‘Was it not a bit ambitious leaving Galway this morning, for Wexford, in a car low on petrol? And oil?’

‘It’s not my car, see.’

‘Who owns it?’

‘I just borrowed it. Think will I get home?’

‘I’m not sure.’

‘I might get the bus back.’

‘And what about the car?’

‘I’ll have to sort it out I suppose. Do you know anyone with a truck?’

Now he was thinking. I had a myriad of numbers from previous breakdowns. Chanced one of them. He was working. Said he could be there in twenty minutes.

So we went back to the car and waited. Jack still working on the chips. The sky still working on the rain. The traffic doing its best not to hit the Toyota. Loads of beeps. Incredulity. Exaggerated swerves. Jack said: ‘Tis a busy spot here.’


And then the breakdown truck came. Hazard lights. Chains. All that. Got it loaded up. A big puddle of oil on the ground from underneath. The driver said he knew a garage and would get Jack to a bus or a train or whatever he needed. Jack tried to give me €50 for my trouble and I said no. And off they went.