‘Vegans just don’t drive the same vehicles as meat eaters’
Michael Harding: I find meaning driving around with white leather under my arse
‘In rural Ireland a car is a symbol that represents the owner’s personality. I can instantly tell the solicitor from the hippy, or the young teacher from the surfer’
I had a lovely walk along the riverbank last week. The spring air was intoxicating and the little buds on the trees cheered me up. And because I need more exercise, and I need to get out in the fresh air more often, I resolved suddenly to sell the Skoda.
Not that I intended being without a vehicle. In rural Ireland a car is a symbol that represents the owner’s potency, status in society, and personality. Even a person’s dietary habits can be discerned by establishing what type of vehicle they drive.
On the streets of any village I can instantly tell the solicitor from the hippy, or the young teacher from the surfer. The fact of the matter is that vegans just don’t drive the same vehicles as meat eaters.
Although I’m not sure what the Skoda Karoq reflects about me, apart from the fact that I’m from Cavan and I like doing business with a garage I know. Brady’s of Cavan sold a Volkswagen to my second cousin, Father Pat Grey, when he came home from Nigeria in the 1960s, and what was good enough for him is good enough for me.
And my Skoda has white leather seats. Because I’m the kind of person who finds meaning in life by driving around with white leather under my arse.
But after the heart attack I realised that more exercise would be essential; so why not sell the Skoda and buy a camper van, and chill out on the beaches or along the slopes of Donegal’s lovely hills.
A camper van would open up the world. I imagined myself parked on summer evenings at the ocean’s edge. Or by the lakeshore, close to old monastic ruins and holy islands. I imagined walking around lakes and along beaches with aerobic ferocity, and stir frying vegetables in a wok at the edge of the sand dunes, and washing down fresh fish with a glass of wine before retiring to bed in the back of a dainty van.
A comforting scone
So off I went to Thompson Leisure, a dealer in motorhomes not far from Lisburn, in the hope of swapping my Skoda for a big white camper with a double bed like Mr Focker in the movie.
The dealer had a vast yard, off the A1, with hundreds of white motorhomes lined up in rows and prices displayed on the front windows. And even though I love my Skoda and its leather seats, I thought it would go a long way as a downpayment.
I asked the young salesman if it would be possible to purchase with euro.
“No bother,” he said.
“And would it be ok to trade in a southern-registered car?”
“And what about importing a camper to Leitrim after Brexit,” I wondered.
“We can do the paperwork,” he said.
But I got a terrible shock when we started talking money. The only thing remotely near my price range was an 07 Citroen Relay van, converted into a two-berth camper, with couches and curtains, and low milage on the clock. It was lovely but I had no idea it would be so expensive. So in the end I had to drive away in the Skoda.
On my way home I stopped into the Slieve Russell hotel and parked beside a red Porsche with huge wheels and Fermanagh registration plates. I was so envious that I decided to comfort myself in the foyer with a fruit scone topped with butter, cream and jam.
“That’ll not do your heart any good,” an old man laughed, as he watched me from his wheelchair.
“Are you staying in the hotel?” I wondered.
“I am,” he said. “We’re on a break. The daughter got us a junior suite for the anniversary.”
“Is it big?” I wondered.
“Ah look,” he said, “it’s as big as a small hospital. With windows down to the floor so I can sit and watch people on the golf course.”
Later I went for a walk around the grounds to work off the jam and cream. Along the avenue between green lawns I noticed his wife pushing him, in the chair. At the grass verge she stopped. He stood up from the wheelchair and the two of them negotiated their way, hand in hand, to a bench beneath a majestic chestnut tree.
They sat close together on the bench, like teenagers in love, as the golfers strutted along the fairway, and I made my way slowly back to the carpark.