103. Freedom Through Car Hire

Freedom Through Car Hire: We rented a car for the whole of July in Ireland, a zippy little French number made by Peugot. It’s microscopic by American automobile standards, which means it’s a very reasonable size and gets great gas mileage without a fancy hybrid engine or fuel made from leftover stew or fry vats. It’s also just small enough to suffer Ireland’s impossibly narrow country lanes, the kind that frequently have you whipping through the small gap that’s left between a jagged stone wall, an oncoming tractor towing an extra-wide, extra bouncy trailer full of mud, and a friendly old man in a tweed suit with two dogs following behind him. At home, we’re impulsive road-trippers in any season, so having a car again has erased the frustration that comes from most of this trip’s daily reliance on crooked taxi and rickshaw drivers. On the other hand, it’s taught us a lot about how we communicate with each other. On this point, I’ve been doing all of the “driving,” and Amy’s been doing all of the “navigating.”

Me: Was that it? Was that the road we were supposed to take?
Amy: I don’t know, what did it say?
Me: Skibereen. It was the road to Skibereen.
Amy: Yes, that was it.
Me: You’ve really got to start looking at the map every now and then.
Amy: Hey, cut me some slack! This is how I navigate ok? This is my style.
Me: You mean we pass the road we’re supposed to take and I say “Was that the road we were supposed to take?” and then you say “What road?” and then you look at the map?
Amy: Yes.

To be fair, the road signage is absolutely impossible here. On highways and popular routes, it’s fine enough and works as well as any other country, but as soon as you head for the hills it’s nothing but nothing except for the occasional sign that always points the wrong way, twisted around by gusty winds and restless youth, directing you anyway to towns that don’t actually exist any more. In three weeks we’ve both improved immeasurably at driving and navigating, which are probably more aptly described as hurtling and guessing. When it’s worked though, my God how it’s taken us to the absolute heavens of this country, especially the jaw-dropping mountain passes (as above).

Having little access to CDs or fancy Mp3 accessories, we’ve also learned the hard way that Irish radio is bollocks. If you haven’t ever watched BBC programming or read a Nick Hornby novel, that means it’s crap. What I’m really trying to say is that it’s rubbish. Every one of the FM radio stations in this country are essentially talk radio stations that happen to play about an hour of music sporadically throughout the day. Otherwise it’s non-stop chatter about nothing, like double murders and the small village of Romanian gypsies that recently took up residence inside of Dublin’s M50 roundabout. When they do get around to the music, it’s the same heavy rotation that starts with a 1998 scorcher from the Goo Goo Dolls, followed quickly by that song from Grey’s Anatomy, middled with a techno remix of recent Madonna, almost concluded with a wild card song that’s, oh I don’t know, probably going to be by Whitney Houston or U2, and then finally, always, finished with the alleged most popular song in the nation, something called “Big Girl, You Are Beautiful,” by someone called “Mika.” This means that the country that produced Joyce, Yeats, Swift, Frank McCourt and countless hours of that precious, lilting and fiddly folk music is currently obsessed with a song about plus-sized women heading out to the club for a drink and a wiggle. I’m not opposed to the idea, mind, but three weeks of it and our ears are bleeding a little. I feel like I’m getting a little off topic here though; Ireland’s been lovely with a car, we’re surely going to miss it in China.


  1. furey says:

    China? I heard you were going back to India.

    “I pity the fool who told me them lies.”

  2. S says:

    I think you need to cancel your subscription to the Atkatsh Times.

  3. Kirstie Alley says:

    Mika happens to be my new favorite recording artist.