ON THE way to the dog groomer’s I realised that my car’s dashboard had been possessed. Before me the dials twirled like Regan’s eyes in The Exorcist, whirling to the furthest point, stopping, then bouncing back and forth.

Warning and other lights flashed on and off and then all fell to nothing meaning I had no idea what speed I was doing. The other dials – revs, temperature, oil limits – are meaningless to me at the best of times so their deadness did not worry me.

In fact, after the initial shock I got used to the dance macabre in front of me as the car was still going forward and no strange sounds issued from its innards.

I should have known something was bound to go wrong for I had boasted the previous week to Miriam that it just looked after itself.

She had asked me if I regularly checked the oil, or something similar. She may have been prompted into it by Pierrot who had come to put my battery on overnight charge when it failed to start.

Opening the bonnet he looked in astonishment at the hole in the under material and putting his hand in pulled out bitten chunks.

‘Oh, it was only a mouse Pierrot,’ I reassured him. ‘That was made a few years ago but I’m sure it’s long gone. Don’t worry about it – I don’t. Actually I’d forgotten it was there.’

That may have been the giveaway that I never, ever open the bonnet. It was Pierce who’d found it when the windscreen wipers ran out of water.

The car itself is bashed and scraped – only two incidents my fault – and yes, filthy, inside and out. A sparrowhawk likes to sit above it on the struts of the courtyard roof so the spatters are large and solid. I leave it outside sometimes when the rain is particularly heavy and that sees to it.

Believe me, I blend into the motoring scenery in rural France.

I bought the ubiquitous grey Ford Focus estate I think nine or so years ago after writing off my beautiful 4x4 in a triple somersault into the fields.

‘And do you get it serviced every year?’ asked Miriam. ‘Erm, it’s been serviced once I think,’ I replied. ‘But it’s passed its Controle Technique every two years so it must be okay.’

Definitely put up to it by Pierrot.

Miriam has variable eyesight so trusts herself to drive no further than a few surrounding villages and one town. She has no interest in the inner workings of what gets her there.

Pierrot nurtures and cossets all his machinery with the care his ancestors once lavished on their work animals.

Anyway, back to the possessed dashboard. Google tells me it could be the alternator or even the battery but I think it’s a loose wire of some sort. Or a bulb type thing has gone.

Neither of the garages in the village have machines for electric testing so the cars are taken off to Castel. The euro signs roll with each kilometer.

January/February are horrendous months for bills. Tax, plus an advance portion, is demanded; social charges the same, and of course the oil in the central heating was almost out.

And joy: Twelve months after the initial storm damage, the repairers have finally come back demanding the €2000 euros up front the insurers sent me before starting. The euros I spent.

I have almost enough to send them a cheque, or will have, next month, and as they’ve kept me waiting a full year then they can wait. Fair’s fair. Non?

But a garage bill was not in any of my equations and just couldn’t be factored in.

I’m a great believer in ‘things’ resolving themselves if you leave them be. And so two days later I drove into the village. The dials all moved up to where they should be, the lights stayed off.

It was only on the return journey that the manic whirligig began and I drove home in my personal disco. Again the car drove as normal and no grinding sounds came forth.

So it came down to a simple choice – car or heat, both vital. I went for heat and ordered just over a half tank of oil which still came to €600.

For an afternoon I felt sorry for myself. I know that I will never have a smart new car again with leather seats, which led me on to all the other things I will, or can, never do again.

Seeking diversion I read my updated papers online. In England in 2018 a young homeless man had frozen to death on the street and he wasn’t the first.

Refugees were still drowning in their makeshift rafts; the DWP withholding benefits from patently sick and dying men and women; queues continuing at the food banks….on and on it went.

At least I still have choice, which these people do not. So feeling rather shamefaced I berated myself for my snivelling thoughts.

For me, if life follows its usual pattern, something will turn up. Others will never be so fortunate. Once more I counted my blessings.