I’ve been having a good few days. Three paycheques came through one after another in a week and I’m relatively rich. Work is going well. I finally have wifi in my house and I’m beginning to feel as if this is home. I have also been being “good”. I’ve been walking and exercising and I have counted calories every day for a week.
This evening, I went into Longford (after 5 weeks in my little village, Longford now feels thumpingly and throbbingly urban – it’s basically the Bronx to me now). I had a few errands to do, the first of which was to go to Boots and weigh myself. I have lost nine pounds (four kilos) this week. Yippee! The first time since I was juicing a year and a half ago that I managed to stick to a diet for a whole week and I’m feeling hopeful. Hope is painful. But it’s wonderful too and I’m very excited.
I drove around Longford – I picked a few things up in Dunnes and then Lidl and finally went out to Argos, where I ran in the door just before the shop closed and managed to get the towel rack I’d been promising myself for weeks. (My life is so glamorous and exciting.)
I got into the car and started the engine, or rather I tried to start the engine. It made a funny noise and stopped. And it did this again and again. I just couldn’t get it going. I sat in my car despairing for a while. I was going to have to ask for help.
I know people criticise straight men who refuse to go to gay bars, but I have to say I understand it. They just wouldn’t know what to say or do. It’s like me and cars. I hate talking to strangers about cars. It makes me feel uncomfortable and emasculated and ashamed of myself. I really, really didn’t want to ask for help.
I used to have jump leads. When I drove my sister’s car, the battery frequently ran out because I used to spend hours sitting in the car eating chicken fillet rolls with mayonnaise and cheese please and chocolate muffins while listening to the radio. It was good that I had jump leads because when I used to flag people down to help me jump start my car, they never had any. So I decided to walk to the local petrol station and see if they had jump leads. They didn’t. It was dark and drizzling. I was wearing just a t-shirt and was freezing and feeling sorry for myself.
I walked back to my car. Argos is in a retail park on the outskirts of Longford. Argos and everything around it was closed. There’s a McDonald’s still open not far away and there were a few people there and I decided I would ask one of them to help me. I started to prepare the car so I wouldn’t have to open the bonnet in front of someone else and fail. But I couldn’t find the lever to open the bonnet. I googled and found a video. I pulled the lever indicated on the video. I suddenly found myself horizontal. The lever didn’t open the bonnet. It controlled the driver seat back. Luckily, my sister was more skilled at googling and she sent me a much better YouTube video and I found the lever, opened the bonnet and found out where the battery was before I went to ask someone for help.
I asked a young man in a jeep in the McDonald’s carpark for help. He was delighted to help but didn’t have any jump leads. Luckily, his girlfriend did. He went to get them from her.
We hooked the two car batteries together. I turned on my engine. Except I didn’t. It still wouldn’t start. The man with the jeep and the girlfriend told me it wasn’t the battery. It’s probably the starter motor. Oh no! I worry about my little car, Julian. He’s elderly and I don’t know how long he’ll last.
I sat in my car, alone in the car park, and googled starter motors. According to the internet, a new starter motor costs between forty and nine hundred euros. Wow. Here’s hoping it’s a forty euro problem.
I didn’t think I would find a mechanic in Longford at 9:00 on a Thursday night. I decided to get a taxi and leave my car in the car park for the night. I got out my mobile and logged onto my Hailo app. They don’t have Hailo in Longford! What kind of savagery is this? I was going to have to physically call a taxi, like it was 2013 or something. I googled taxis in Longford.
There aren’t any taxi firms here. I had a choice between different men. I could call “Paddy’s taxi” or “Thomas’s taxi” or “John’s taxi”. How would I choose? Eventually, I fairly randomly chose Paddy’s taxi. Paddy was busy but he would call Peter and he would come for me.
Peter, an older man, picked me up outside McDonald’s. He was curious as to how I’d got Paddy’s number, as I’m not a local. I told him I looked it up on the internet and he said that he’d heard Paddy was on the internet now, but he wasn’t himself. He told me he’s usually called Pedro because he used to work for Bórd na Móna. I’m not sure if I don’t understand the joke or if he just didn’t finish the story, but I enjoy the mystery.
He was surprised I was going to my village as he lives there too and he hadn’t heard of me yet. He’s a stranger himself, as he’s only been living there eleven years and he moved from Lanesborough (21 km away), but he says that the village is a very welcoming place, once people get used to you. He likes it because it’s well outside the hustle and bustle of Longford without being far away from it.
He was very kind. When he heard about my car he rang a local mechanic at nearly 10 pm, telling him my name and where I was from and whose house I was living in and everything else he’d gleaned about me from our conversation, then he passed the phone to me so I could describe the problem with the car, which I did, trying to sound rural and heterosexual on the phone (What the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t I just be me?) The mechanic will meet me tomorrow. He might even come by and drive me out to the car.
As I got out of the taxi, i saw people looking at me from inside the local pub. You wouldn’t often see a taxi in my village. I have no doubt I’ll be the talk of the village tonight.