'You live in a quiet area,’ said mum. Then the car was broken into
‘Why don’t ya tie it up with string?’ and other bad suggestions for car-tastrophes
Niamh Towey with her car, which now has a back window and a fully complete exhaust system
“Why don’t ya tie it up with a string?”
Tying it up with string is not something I ever imagined having to do with any part of my car, but these were exceptional circumstances, and it wasn’t a bad suggestion.
It all started so innocently. My mother decided to come to Dublin to spend the day doing high-brow things such as going to Kilmainham Gaol, drinking wine, visiting parks and then drinking more wine.
The wine thing went to plan, but the rest? Not so much.
I parked the car in the War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge – not far from Kilmainham – and told Mum to put the handbags in the boot.
We strolled around leisurely for an hour, having a little mini-photoshoot in among the rose bushes, not a bother on us.
“Aren’t ya lucky to live in such a lovely quiet area, Niamh?”
“I know, there’s never any hassle around here,” I said, while at the very same time out in the car park some little toerag was smashing my back window and helping themselves to whatever they could find in the boot.
So while we lolled around admiring the boat houses like two big eejits up from the country for the day, both our handbags and our plans were on their way out the window.
We ended up spending hours cancelling cards, talking to gardaí and negotiating with insurance companies – and that was only the start of it.
My mother wasn’t going to let our misfortune ruin a good opportunity for a chin-wag with her sisters though, oh no. If the third world war was reigning down around them that lot would still find a corner in which to laugh loudly and guzzle gin.
There was a problem, though. The sisters were in the city centre and we were in Kilmainham without cent.
It’s only about a 40-minute walk to the city centre, but we decided the most sensible course of action would be to drive my smashed-up car into town.
So there we were, after sitting on Thomas Street for over half an hour while some sort of parade passed – it was Pride weekend, not that we knew that. When the traffic finally started to move – bang – we were met with Catastrophe 2.0.
My exhaust fell off. Not the handy kind of completely fallen-off, clean break sort of amputation. That would be too easy.
It was hanging off; dragging loudly along the ground and creating sparks as I drove. Coupled with the boy-racer howl and shards of glass poking out from the back window, it was quite the spectacle. We could have passed as some kind of macabre float.
My mother was in knots laughing while I had no other choice but to keep driving into Stephen’s Green on one of the busiest days of the year, making an absolute holy show of myself with the noise.
When we eventually got into the restaurant on Dawson Street where the sisters were waiting, they had us sorted: two large glasses of wine, a fresh €50 note for each of us and comforting tales of their own vehicular woes.
“Can’t ya tie it up with a string?,” asked my Auntie 1, palming off the scenario as a kind of ya ya, whatever, big deal moment.
“Why don’t you park it outside the house with no window and hope to god someone robs it?” asked Auntie 2. “ You’ll be glad of that insurance money. I was so glad when my first car was taken.”
Auntie 2: “Do ye remember that old Fiesta I had with the dodgy ignition that I had to start with a bang of a rock? I used to keep that rock in the car just to start the thing.”
Auntie 1: “I’ll never forget when that bloody Starlet went up in flames on the Mullingar by-pass and poor Sean was in the back and him only a toddler.”
Auntie 2: “Or what about the time I hit the deer in Phoenix Park in the lashing rain in the middle of winter and those eejits came over to me ‘oh don’t worry the deer wasn’t hurt’. Feck the deer! My door doesn’t close!”
Auntie 3: “Well nothing beats the time I tried to run over that fella who I caught hanging out my back window there on the quays and him after pulling the CD player clean out. By god, did he run.”
I’m not sure was if it was the wine or the laughter (or the fifties), but I felt infinitely better after hearing their sagas.
I toddled off to the car park in my white jeans, climbed under the car and yanked the remainder of the exhaust off and put it in the boot.
It was banging and clunking around like a dead body with every turn I made and the roar off the engine was quite the display – but I got her home.
The car has a back window now and a fully complete exhaust system – and she passed the NCT for another year. I’m proud of that old car, despite the theatricals, and so glad I had my aunties that day.