Fitting farewell to the Mondeo as fate takes us on a pilgrimage
Ford Mondeo Zetec Five-door, 1.6-litre TDCi (114bhp, six-speed, €200 road tax). Price from €23,950
Sometimes, not often, fate shows its hand in the course of a test drive. I think it did with us on this occasion. I started the week testing this 1.6-litre diesel version of the Ford Mondeo. It was a farewell drive because the next Mondeo I'll test, if God spares me, will be a brand new one later in 2014.
However, on this occasion, fate determined this should be the car I would drive to say goodbye to two men.
We left Bray at 3.25 on a heavy-traffic afternoon with the intention of paying our respects in Cork city and Waterford.
Time was not on our side, but I will say this: previous governments may have buried us in debt, but the road to Cork is testament to how much this country has changed for the better.
We arrived in Cork where tears were shed and memories revived.
Death at this time of the year brings its own edge to grief.
How did we get to Cappoquin from there?
Initially with ease. The Mondeo swept over the kilometres of good road; despite the fact it is coming to the end of its tenure, it remains a driver's car with an excellent chassis.
We talked about the recently deceased, the car, the roads.
We stopped for nature and a cup of tea, met RTé's queen of the afternoon, Maura Derrane, had a chat, a Kit-Kat, a cup of tea and followed her directions to Dungarvan.
Fate caught up with me. Without sat-nav and accompanied by a front-seat passenger with the homing instinct of a lemming, we criss-crossed Waterford.
If only we had completed Maura's instructions. One impulsive dart to the left when we saw the sign for Aglish made it a night to remember.
Fate was intent on keeping us late. We got to meet half of Waterford in the dark. People were so trusting. A lady out for a walk directed us as best she could to the proper route. We passed Kereen's pub three times. Or was it four?
Another man out with a flashlight gave us detailed directions. Our eyes glazed over. Too many lefts and rights.
We got to Cappoquin but were so late for the prayers a woman and a man looked closely at us when we asked for the funeral home.
Then we had to find Aglish -- again. Fate was ahead of us. It led us up boreens with grass in the middle of them, over strange bridges, through junctions without signposts. It was like a rally of the dark back roads. Silently I enjoyed driving in a sort of timeless zone. What a final test for a car. This was a proper way to bow out.
I reckon we made more looping figures-of-eight than an ice skater as we crossed and re-crossed our paths.
We laughed at ourselves. We sensed this was a sort of ritual. A proper pilgrimage.
We spoke of the man to whom we were now travelling to pay our respects, Liam O'Connor -- the man who kicked the ball to Seamus Darby in 1982. We said a little prayer for his soul and talked about others who had passed on, including Ford's Eddie Nolan, to whom I had earlier paid my respects.
Eventually, we arrived, paid our respects to Liam and graciously, I felt, accepted the ribbing about the Irish Independent's Motoring Editor being completely lost.
Silently, we thanked fate. Because of our lateness we were truly privileged to be taken to the bosom of a grieving house, to be shown warmth and love and loaded with sandwiches, tea and sweet cake. This was a real farewell.
Then Linda drove ahead of us for a long way into the blessed night until she was sure we couldn't go wrong on our journey back. A bittersweet day, but as we cruised up the motorway, we agreed it had also been a fitting test of a car. They are pricing the Mondeo from €23,950 so people will buy, even with a new one less than a year off. It wouldn't be top of my shopping list but there is value there.
I wonder what fate has in store for the next Mondeo drive?
My side of the road
All I want for this Christmas:
- The first wish has to be that we all travel and arrive safely wherever we go. But let us be brutally frank. Some of us won't. We'll drink, or speed, or take chances. I wish it was different.
- I wish carmakers would stop mesmerising me with so many buttons on their dashboards. I've counted up to 30 on some. They are a distraction, and a frustration.
- I wish, oh I truly wish, people would stop using the outside lane of motorways as their own. I know I whinge about this regularly, but what else is there to do?
- I wish people would stop running red lights. I've seen a huge increase in this of late, especially at heavy-traffic junctions where they know they'll have a longish wait.
- I wish all carmakers would pay far more attention to the seats they make. The difference is an ould back threatening to ruin the day, or one feeling quite good about itself. I'm amazed at the difference between automakers.
- I wish, in vain I think, that people would give up using mobile phones at the wheel.
- I wish tolls could be reduced. I really have sympathy for daily commuters who have to pay the guts of €6 to get to and from work. On top of fuel and everything else, it is a €30-a-week burden. Do the maths: €30 a week is €1,500 a year after tax. For most people, that is €3,000 before tax. Any chance of a couple of hours toll-free once a week?
Finally, I wish you a happy and safe Christmas.