Sometimes you’re driving down the road and big fuckin stone cracks your windscreen. But it’s ok, cos the insurance will cover that. Sure didn’t I do that before? Your man came out especially and changed it in Val’s car park in Athlone on a Tuesday morning. Didn’t cost a cent, free, covered, standard, normal, we love stones in insurance companies, the way they hop off the roads, keeps us all busy, kept going, how’s Val getting on, sure isn’t great?

            And here comes the NCT. People say prayers for you when you’re going for the NCT. Normally I’d need them, and maybe even a mass, or a visit from the pope, but today felt alright in the unbreakable Ford Focus. Brought her to Corrib Oil for a fast wash. Usually there’s a queue of lads in impossibly priced cars reading phones and waiting for the Polish lads to do the fancy waxy waxy and make the money wheels go shiny shiny. But no line today. Cost of living, time of day, something. Parked her up over the big grate for the running water, said give it a blast lads. Went to the shop to get cash, talked to a woman at the door about life, the rain, and The Guggenheim Grotto. Then the car was ready and it was time to go. I hadn’t been to Westport in a while so I asked the oul fella, how long do you think it will take to get there?

            He thought, said: ‘Almost the same as Castlebar and a bit with it….’

            Irish estimations. You have to love them.  We sat in and he asked: ‘What happened the windscreen?’


            ‘What kinda stone?’

            ‘Dunno, from a truck on the M50.’

            ‘Well fuck.’

            ‘Probably be grand. Sure the insurance’ll cover it….’


            We took off, around the town, down High Street, sailing along. The wide Castlebar road. The tight corner at Keel Bridge. Took a left at Partry and followed the winding roads. The crack seemed to grow all the time, like solar powered misfortune. We got there on time to be twenty minutes early. Parked up, waited. A Mondeo in for a retest. A Volkswagen with no tracking, an Insignia for sale outside. They called in the Focus, ran her through, came back and said the car was perfect except for the windscreen.

            Not the end of the world. The insurance will cover it. Everyone knows it’s standard on the insurance. I’ll just ring them up and they’ll come to the house and change it and it’ll be all free, and easy, and simple, and standard. So I rang them, casual, easy going, friendly, assumptive. The girl on the phone was nice, helpful, calm and efficient. I was looking at the wall, thinking about something else, when she said, actually no, that’s not covered. We removed it at renewal. You have to specifically request it anymore. Sorry about that.


            I asked around for advice. One fella said I could try and fix it but the crack was bigger than a 2 euro coin so that was out. Another lad suggested I change the number plates with some other car and try swing something like that and most official places wanted somewhere between 200 and 300 euro to replace it. Then the apple windscreen fell on my head and I was inspired by a ground breaking idea.

            I rang the insurance back, innocent, inquisitive, vaguely confused, like an Irishman in New York, pretending he can build skyscrapers. I’d swear twas the same girl that answered when I said: ‘Just wondering, eh… can I add windscreen cover to my policy…?’

            No, Michael, she said. No.

Well fuck.



Tolls and Chicken Rolls.

When you’re in Athlone and you go to Monksland and you cross the Westmeath border, then you’re into Roscommon, which is part of Connaught, which is the first taste of madness as you go into the West. The breeze is like a tiger’s roar as you get petrol at the station just off the roundabout and prepare for the plunge into the edge of the European abyss. The roads along the way get steadily more yahoo. Time and death warp and battle over the green fields and volatile clouds. Now it’s rainy, now it’s sunny, now there’s hailstones and here’s Ballinasloe. A bulging town of something half cooked and overdone. A burst of rich elite and roaring poverty, all trying to buy chicken rolls in Corrib Oil. That hospital with all the people in pyjamas outside and the statues of the Virgin Mary and the sweetshop newsagent and the thumping stone floors like stubborn, immutable faith in Rosary beads and unsure doctors and vague tragedy and the smell of gloopy porridge.

Howya, toll. Two euro please. Fuck the toll. Often if you check the yoke down below there’s some change from the last fella that fired all his coins at it until the barrier opened. And then he fucks off in case some imaginary hidden army jumps up and Sonny Corleone’s him for taking more than two seconds to drive on. Many’s the day I checked and got a fistful of five cents, an odd golden batch of sub euro sweaty stuff and even a shiny Willy Wonka euro coin. The English and the lads from the north are cat entirely. Always throwing in pound coins some kind of 20ps that are no good to anyone but I do bring them home anyway in case they come pure rare and worth millions and sure who knows, lads. But nothing today, they’re on to me now, I think. The ones working there do have it cleaned I think and call it a tip for themselves. For watching people pay to make a thick stick go up and down all day. They must be under serious pressure. Even gave themselves a raise lately. So now when you use your card the (computerised) female voice in the speaker says: Thank You, and what you found depends on how you answer. The days I find money I say thanks yourself. The days I don’t I tell her to fuck off. She doesn’t care either way as far as I can tell so I just keep going.

On to Loughrea, passed Athenry, down the M18 and into Tuam. It’s usually dark by now and the roads get narrow and the cows are chatting among themselves in the fields while these headlights with engines breeze by going to God knows where or why. Eventually the car kind of drives itself and the windscreen turns into a cinema of stuff like lost all Irelands and great drinking sessions and lads you haven’t seen in a long time and you wonder should you ring them or do ya even feel like talking anymore, or does anyone, and after a while the petrol light comes on and the wheels talk to the tar outside in a loud friendly grumble and you’re cresting over hills and getting ready to touch down, and how’re ya fixed for a bagga chips.

Stargate Athlone

 He got out on a Friday, mad for drink, craic, mayhem. First place he found was a closed restaurant and decided to rob it. Kicked in the door, American Roadhouse style, got into the kitchen and raided the presses, cabinets, anywhere that looked like it might have money or a key to a safe or even just a box of change to keep him going. He found nothing but half drank bottles of wine and buckets of margarine. He took the wine, and left the buckets. Broke back out through the window and decided he needed a car.  

Our carpark downstairs was his next port of call. Not sure how he found it. Instinct maybe, fluke, or he followed down some innocent tenant that opened the secure gates like an invitation from car robbing karma world. He was well drunk now, not in a fit state to discriminate car models.  Which was good cos there was a few. Fancy new SUV’s, BMW’s, and one or two electric yokes. After that, it was all downhill. 10 years old and better. There was even a Corolla covered in dust and cobwebs that stirred envy and nostalgia in anyone born before 1995. It was the older cars he went after. No alarms, simpler to hotwire, probably easier to drive too as he’d been in jail when the newer ones were invented. He hit a Fiesta first. Got two euro worth of change. Then went for the Peugeot something. 203, 303, who knows. There wasn’t much in that, maybe a jacket and a pair of shoes and an old bottle of water. He broke the window in disgust and kept going. Eventually he found a Polo and somehow got it started. I suppose it was time to go at that stage. Cameras, nosie, broken glass, curious passers-by. The Polo was small with great power, which was good because he didn’t know how the gates worked. If he chose the exit gate it would open automatically but, if chose the entry gate, he’d have to drive right through it. He chose the latter and smashed into it with a loud clang and clatter that oddly woke nobody. The gate itself looked wounded, knocked, twisted like it was trying to do yoga and got stuck half way into the waiting street. He went again, and again, and again until it gave and landed on the road and he was able to speed off in the front wrecked Polo into the wine drunk night. Guards by now had been notified, made alert, told what was happening. The people at the restaurant had called first, and now this Fast and the Furious effort going on in the nearby carpark. They had an idea of who it was. Had been known for this kinda thing. They knew it would be an eventful weekend. Just didn’t expect it a few hours after he was released. It wasn’t that hard to find him either. Once someone put in the report of the car on fire about five miles up the road it all came together like a Sherlock jigsaw. They arrested him close by. Still with the wine, burnt clothes, and the few euro he stole from the Fiesta.  He woke up the next morning again, back in jail, charged with more of the same as before and sure twas all the one. Great night out altogether.