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Taking the test one more time

South of the border
Taking the test one more time


HOW I envy Padraic O’Malley from Clare Island. No bureaucratic nonsense or draconian measures bothering them there. Cars kept permanently on offshore islands are exempt from the NCT. That’s also on my ever-lengthening pie in the sky list of good reasons to move there.
And, despite its glowing reputation as the cleanest, the best, and now nicest town to live in, I’ll gladly pass Westport on my way to the ferry in Roonagh.
And, if last Wednesday morning is a reliable indicator, then Westport is also the most comfortable town in Ireland to sleep-in in. Not a covey in sight as I drove through deserted streets. Not a child up or a cow milked. The place looked as black as Johnny Cash’s wardrobe.
It’s a mystery how they ever allowed the Department of the Environment build a test centre here. Every banger and diesel guzzler in the county converging on it and spewing out more smoke emissions than a TVO engine pulling a trailer of wet turf. How did Councillor Christy Hyland let that slip through the by-laws?
Registering the septic tank and introducing household charges is one thing, but nothing has a more grating effect on the Irish psyche as the dreaded NCT. It puts us in a right tither and normally sane people lose the run of themselves entirely.
The NCT waiting room takes on the atmosphere of a torture chamber betimes. A Killadoon lady borrowed my left knee and right shoulder on Wednesday gaining an additional inch of leverage in order to get a better view through the glass pane barrier as the tester (we’ll call him Sylvester, but only to protect his identity) put her car through the warm-up drill.
When Sylvester introduced the pedal to the metal she took on the demeanour of someone having root canal treatment where there was never a canal.
When not making facial expressions of sympathy towards her car’s discomfort at the vice-grip of Sylvester, she regained her composure just long enough to essay a few texts updating a roll book of friends and relatives following it on twitter. She even fielded a phone call from someone looking for a live update. A progress report on how Sylvester was progressing if you like.
“I’m watching him here Margaret. He has a yoke in under it and will ya say a prayer that I’ll pass,  and I’ll call to Market 57 for your marble cheese board on the way home if I do.”
She passed and she flashed poor Sylvester the most inviting of flirtatious smiles as he handed her the keys, and off with her as promised to Market 57. My old reliable Skoda passed too.
And well it should with all the candles Bríd lit, the good luck wishes from Aunt Peggy in Manchester, but above all the mechanical genius of Martin on Abbey Street who gowned and hand-held me through this most traumatic of procedures.

The Live Michael show in Galway
ANOTHER of the year’s big chestnuts are about to drop. The Michael Commins Music Festival takes place on November 4 and 5 in the Salthill Hotel in Galway.
This event has carved out a permanent niche for itself in the annual social calendar. It’s up there now with Reek Sunday, The Connemara Pony Show and The Dan Paddy Andy Matchmaking Festival in Lyrecrompane.
Its appeal has more to do with Commins’ universal popularity as it has with the star-studded line-up on both nights. Even biting dogs wag their tails when Commins goes on the road.
On Sunday night the legendary Gene Stuart takes to the stage. So too does Dolores Keane and no doubt she’ll sing Galway Bay on the edge of the bay.  
The brother Matt is there too as is Anne-marie O’Riordan, Kevin Prendergast, James Kilbane, and Ann Kirrane will warble you way down upon the Swanee River. Monday night features Philomena Begley and her blanket, High 5 with Michael English, Hugo Duncan, Sam O’Doherty, Paddy O’Brien, Matt Keane (again) and P J Murrihy. It’s commonly referred to as the All-Ireland Final of music now. It’s just Commins doing it best as always.