In the last entry I mentioned in passing the likelihood of technology biting back; its tendency to rear up on it masters. As I type this I face the dilemma of what to do with a car that is causing many hundreds upon hundreds euro worth of damage upon my bank account. A recently fixed timing belt problem has given way to a problem with high oil consumption, a 'soaked' ignition and a patchy performance, a number of breakdowns and much frustration and anxiety. And when one depends as much as I do on a car to get through an ordinary day's work, this is an unhappy situation to say the least.
I have loved driving ever since the day I passed my test. I had failed my first test, at about seventeen, taken in Belfast along unfamiliar and crowded roads, rather than the comforting well used routes of my own area. My then instructor - a sarcastic indifferent character who used to munch on sandwiches as he directed me impatiently to the home of the next student - casually remarked: 'Yes, I thought you wouldn't pass, you know.' Which comment I felt said more about him than about me. But my next time round a year later was with the genuis of driving instruction who had led many of my family members - first time - through their paces to an early and successful result. His first comment when I took my initial lesson with him astounded me: 'Well, you're not a bad little driver. No problem here I think.' This was the first encouraging thing I had ever heard with regard to my driving ability. So convinced was I by my last instructor that I was a hopeless case that to learn that I was just inexperienced but really all right with no reason at all not to succeed bolstered me immensely. Shall I give credit to my first tutor by implying that my being 'not a bad little driver' might have been down at least some way to him? I'd like to be churlish and say 'no'. My new instructor's method was very different and opened the mysteries of driving technique to me in such a clear way, I feel confident that he would've succeeded with me had I come to him brand new.
Thus the difference between the encouraging word and the discouraging word; the affirming, interested and informed tutoring of the one, the casual, sarky indifference of the other. What a relief it was that I finally passed the test though I was coolness itself. 'Didn't you hear what I said?' asked the examiner, 'I've said you've passed.' I was only relieved, however, not particularly pleased except that I had achieved one of the things that young people my age generally set out to achieve.
'Okay,' said my mother, handing me her car keys, 'Go out and drive around by yourself.' I told myself I was exhuasted by my trial and had no intention of being a car driver could I possibly avoid it. Being a fully qualified driver was one thing, but I hadn't any great desire to actually drive at this point. But she insisted. I took the car out, and as I trawled the roads and streets by myself, realized that my world had expanded in a delightful and powerful way. I could go where I wanted, when I wanted all by myself; no buses, no reliance on lifts. Me, myself. I had power over me and my journeys. And indeed activities, friendships, social life, and working life have all centred at some stage, and depended upon my ability, to master my own motorized destiny.
So, do I try for a new car? Do I patch up the old Zafira which has so far proved so completely right for my needs? Watch this space.