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The Little Engine that Could – Anne Maher

Writing.ie | Magazine | Mining Memories

Anne Maher

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I got married on 24th July, 1984 and, like most Dublin brides coming to Westmeath, I didn’t arrive unaccompanied.  My Citroen Dyane also hit the gentle Killucan landscape, exploring its twisty rural roads, and leafy canal banks. To my delight sparks flew unexpectedly, in more ways than one.  Yes! Dare I admit, it was only a matter of time before my husband Colm came under the influence of Dyane’s charm.  It was such a whirlwind of romance, he fell head over heels in love with both of us. Now, Dyane’s were a rare sight in the Midlands at the time and it’s a well known fact that their manufacturing discontinued in the summer of 1983.  However, my snooty beige French Dyane stole the lime-light, giddily zig-zagging her way through the highways and byways of Killucan, Raharney and Kinnegad, interacting with the locals, turning heads and haughty necks wherever she went with her flattering continental roll-back-roof.  I guarantee you that there was no talk about shampoos or conditioners to tame fuzzy tangled hair in the early eighties.

In actual fact, Dyane turned out to be a brilliant car, that toppled along nicely.  It might not have had any glamour but it was spacious and comfortable, which was a great help when our four children arrived in quick succession.  In later years they insisted on throwing caution to the wind by squeezing into the hatchback for fun, two at a time.  Crazy!

I found the Dyane to be an extremely reliable and fuel-efficient car. When ‘not driven hard’ she totted up fifty miles to the gallon.  Colm was indeed captivated. After several years of nipping up and down to Dublin to visit relations, including Bray and Greystones and even longer runs to ‘Beautiful Bundoran’ in search of the Family Tree suddenly, the dented reddish-brown rust fairy kicked in, followed by an horrendous clapped out, dynamite sounding chuck-a-chuck, chuck-a-chuck.  The Dyanne was once referred to as ‘a washing machine on wheels’ in a an article in the ‘Irish Times’ but, despite a few narrow escapes, it was still my pride and joy; my first real purchase for which my mother had to act as guarantor on my behalf in the Allied Irish Bank, in Dublin’s Baggot Street in 1981.

With regard to our twice daily school run, our girls, now college-going, boldly remind me that our ritual morning prayer at the time was “P-L-E-A-S-E  G-O-D,  MAKE OUR CAR GO, TODAY AND EVERYDAY!”  If I was late collecting them from school in the afternoon, they automatically guessed that I might have had trouble getting the car started. So while their peers were safe at home either doing their homework, or with bums on sofas glued to the tv, our children quickly became hardy, adept at pushing the Dyane.  They not only survived, but thrived, although I guess I will never hear the last of it.

Seriously, I never imagined ever having to say goodbye to Dyane, but his Lordship took great pleasure in reminding me that I’d never pass the Driving Test in a rust- bucket.  Yes, sad to say, fifteen years or so down the road, Dyane was beginning to lose her youthful sparkle……and so was I.  The tortuous thoughts of undergoing the dreaded Driving Test, was enough to send me to a methadone clinic.  Dyane had been well looked after.  Colm worked his butt off trying to keep her road-worthy, and he did a pretty good job into the bargain.  He even found it therapeutic, while at the same time jeering me, that one of our children would be driving before I passed my Driving Test.  He was doing my head in, as I knew inwardly this could have proved to be true.

For the record, somebody ‘in the know’ who shall remain nameless, slyly claimed that the Driving Test Pass Rate had dipped significantly below the fifty per cent benchmark criteria of late and, with this in mind, I feared the worst.  I allowed those nasty butterflies to swarm around in my stomach for weeks. As well as that, all sorts of exaggerated crude jokes continued to be dished out regularly regarding my “L” Plate driving.  I was advised to wear a plunging neckline on the day of the Driving Test…..slip the Tester a few notes on the quiet….tattoo answers on my knuckles….wear a tight skirt to impress…..the list was endless, the jokes ludicrous.

Colm was very much a Toyota Enthusiast, and in all fairness a gorgeous grey Toyota Corolla was purchased and landed in the garden for me.  A very nice gesture indeed! But, with Dyane looking on, I had to quell my level of excitement.  The Toyota certainly had very fine qualities like a “heater” that actually worked which meant I could ditch the gloves from thereon in.  That was a bonus.  It also had many other intricacies which included a working radio and cassette player.  This was, by far, the lap of luxury.

I’ve chatted to loads of people and I get the feeling that Irish mothers in particular generally underestimate their ability to multi-task.  Not I.  I knew for a fact that I had the art mastered to a tee.  Normally, I’m fairly good at calling the shots.  Why all of a sudden should multitasking behind the wheel of my much loved Dyane be so bizarrely different? It wasn’t as if I had broken my arms or smashed my legs.  I felt confident that I would pass the Theory Test with flying colours, but the idea of a Practical Test frightened the life out of me, no matter how much I brushed up on my skills.  I was undoubtedly familiar with the roads and the test routes around Mullingar, but my confidence, or lack-of, was at an all time low, which only made things worse.   Sure wasn’t I on the road to Mass and School every day of the week, so I started to seriously practice my manoeuvres. “MIRROR, SIGNAL, MANOEUVRE” put me to sleep at night, and “MIRROR, SIGNAL, MANOEUVRE” woke me up in the morning. Bottom line…as far as I could see, the only one trying to trip me up was my very own Prince Charming.

In the meantime new neighbours arrived and guess what?  On of them happened to be a Driving Instructor.  The jokes about my “L” plate crisis continued to travel far and wide, but just before the red roses and wooden coffin was purchased for Himself, our new neighbour from down the road, cordially offered to help me with my three point turn, and my reversing around corners, kindly reassuring me that I would only pass the test when I was ready to pass, and with a little perseverance that wouldn’t be too far away.  It wasn’t and I did, and I’ll always be grateful to him.

It’s kind of spooky, but a car dealer was passing through Killucan one afternoon, looking for parts of a Citreon Dyane.  He was directed to our house, and he spotted my Liquid Love in the garden.  I have to say, they looked remarkably cute together, and he kind of twisted my arm promising me that he’d fix up Dyane’s corroded wobbly bits and look after her good and proper.  Somehow, I believed him.  It was like a collision of events so to speak.  To this day, they are living happily together somewhere on the Galway coast with a magnificent view of the Atlantic Ocean, and from the last photograph I received, it looks like Dyane is still putting a smile on people’s faces.  Dyane’s nowadays are as scarce as hen’s teeth, so all in all, things couldn’t have worked out better.

About the author

(c) Anne Maher, January 2012.

Anne Maher writes for the love of it. (mainly poetry and plays) It must be in the blood-stream, and it is a legacy she hopes to pass on.  She belongs to a writing group called “Scribblers” based in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, where all writers are welcomed with a ‘Cead Mile Failte.’ ‘Scribblers’ has published Four Anthologies of Poetry and Prose to date. Anne has also been published in “Riposte” and ‘Boyne Berries’ Anne live in Killucan with her husband Colm and they have four wonderful daughters.  Anne is also a genealogy addict, so if you drop in unannounced, you’ll have to lean hard on the doorbell.

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