Buying cars rather than attending the TUV conference: a confession

I do not do humour often (I am in the TUV) but here goes:

The TUV conference was on Saturday and I am afraid I was not there. However, this was in no way due to my falling out with the TUV, but rather due to a minor family drama.

Our cars have been named by our children after Thomas the Tank engine trains. Gordon, the family estate car has done over 200,000 miles (Emily, the smaller car is little better). Originally Gordon was a BMW: however, I suspect the Bavarians who manufactured him are all now retired and quite possibly have died of old age. Unfortunately on Thursday and Friday Gordon started making very odd noises. To be fair he had been making noises for more than a year: a sort of thudding noise on acceleration. This noise had not, however, been a major issue: the turbocharger on the diesel seemed to have given up working a few years ago rendering acceleration a relative concept and as such this odd noise was rarely apparent. There were problems going up hills and going onto the ramp at the ferry but I had produced a number of Baldrick-esque cunning plans which had solved these minor irritations.

The new noise was more worrying and seemed pretty constant. I decided to ask my father who knows everything about cars and is just as pathologically mean when it comes to spending money on them. This conversation went somewhat as follows:

Me: Dad there are strange noises coming from the back of the car on acceleration and indeed all the time.

Dad: It is the half shaft (Dad may as well have been speaking Welsh).

Dad then advised: sell the car and buy another one. From my father this is as surprising as the pope saying become an Orangeman: my father just does not do spending money, least of all on cars.

Much as I respect my father I was obviously going to ignore this information. The car was still going (sort of) and I had a TUV meeting to attend. However, Elenwe also spoke to Dad. This resulted in something of a family disagreement centring on the necessity of buying a new car immediately; the non necessity of the TUV conference and assorted dire consequences of me not buying a new car.

I had the cold and did not intend to speak at the conference and was weakening a bit under the combined pressure of assorted relatives (my mother joined in as well). Furthermore since I am the main driver of Gordon I was a little concerned about sitting at the side of the road. Dad had helpfully explained that when these half shaft things fail, the car stops.

So on Saturday it was decided that we had to buy a car.

Some people enjoy going to car dealers. I have friends who go as a sort of hobby and try assorted cars with no intention of buying them. I could denounce this as immoral or such like but in reality I simply find it bizarre. Car dealers treat me like an idiot with no money: a perceptive analysis probably based on my poor dress sense and cheap shoes and watch. Apparently car dealers look at such things as cheap accessories (women regard shoes and watches as accessories – I regard them as things to keep me from getting wet feet and a thing to tell me when I have missed meetings respectively) and decide on one’s ability to buy cars based on this.

Anyhow we entered the realm of the car dealer. Clearly we only went to one shop. Elenwe had decided over many months – changing her mind every few weeks- what sort of vehicle was appropriate. Indeed her indecisiveness and my encouragement of it had been a useful tactic to avoid this dread day of car purchase. Unfortunately the tactic had become something of a substitute for a strategy and now the tactic had failed.

The dealership was shiny and had large glass windows: I believe this is standard and allows one to look at the cars. Had I been at the TUV conference I would at this moment have proposed banning car dealerships and reintroducing the horse and cart. In addition there was a coffee machine. This is a clear sign of decadence. Clearly a proper Ulster car dealership would serve only tea. Furthermore it is obvious that the coffee is paid for by people buying cars. Hence, my money was going to be used to pay for your coffee.

The car dealer proved worryingly pleasant (he probably had recently finished devouring a baby). He let my offspring crawl all over the assorted cars (probably eyeing them as his lunch) and was nice to my wife (he must be a fool – I have never been nice to my wife and look how successful a man I am).

Anyhow we then had a test drive. This consisted of Elenwe driving this car. As I am into ships I will describe it in nautical terms. Essentially I regarded it as HMS Vanguard. A great idea but obsolete long before she set sail and large, heavy and expensive. However, it had a stereo and heated seats which seemed to delight my wife and offspring respectively. I sat taciturn in the back hoping that the Rapture might occur and I might be taken away from this experience. Alternatively sudden death might also have been a good thing. Elenwe might also have liked it as the death in service payment would have allowed an even more expensive car to have been purchased.

Further “good things” about the car according to Elenwe were its automatic gearbox whereby a computer (or an evil republican) placed in some indeterminate part of the vehicle decides which gear to be in. I have always been a bit fuzzy on gears apart from the fact that higher gears tend to mean greater economy and that is always a good thing – it being good for the environment (unimportant) and cheaper (important). Another excellent factor was the cars blueness. Apparently blue in cars is good according to my wife. I might have hoped this represented a political awakening albeit in left right terms I have lefty tendencies. Or maybe Elenwe was interested in blue as in Orange and Blue (complete with drum solo). However, this was not the attraction. Apparently blue is prettier or some such nonsense.

Anyhow the nice car dealer invited me to have a drive after Elenwe’s drive. This was pointless as I had already resigned myself to the fact that I had missed the TUV conference; was going to have to part with money and was having one of the worst days of my life. In reality of course I knew that the dealer was simply trying to get me away from the children so he could eat them. However, I managed to prevent that and drove the battleship which actually turned out to be more like an oil tanker. To be fair it did not make clunking or thudding noises and was capable of at least some acceleration. All of these represent something of an advance on Gordon: though most cars probably do.

Eventually we got back to the dealership and began the process of haggling about the price. To compound my misery I am no good at haggling: my parents were not farmers and as such I cannot do it. Elenwe who is a farmer’s daughter seemed in danger of offering the dealer more money than he asked, such was her enthusiasm for the car. Eventually, however, the process was concluded and we left: much poorer and with a new car to be collected at some unclear date in the future.

The only good point was that my eldest son was sad that Gordon was going. Maybe there is hope for Ulster in him: anyone that resistant to change must have a future in Ulster politics.

This author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.