'Having blue rope in your boot has got nothing to do with wealth'

9 am. My three sisters and I are in a taxi, heading towards Pestana Palace Hotel where my brother is staying; he’s invited us to join him for breakfast on the terrace and spend the morning in the hotel grounds before we fly home from Lisbon this afternoon.

'Having blue rope in your boot has got nothing to do with wealth'

We cannot get there quickly enough; a brief Google search has just revealed that the hotel, a restored nineteenth century palace, boasts five stars and a list of former guests that includes Prince. 10am.

We’re lying by the outdoor pool which is set in lush gardens. London sister is lying on the sun lounger beside mine but she keeps turning her head ever so slightly this way and that. She’s wearing dark sunglasses, but I know her eyes are darting about behind them.

She always gets a bit fidgety when she’s got a flight to catch but more is going on: secretly, I think she’s hoping to bump into Madonna.

I’m a bit fidgety too - I’m worried about my car, which I parked at Cork airport 10 days ago. I’m not concerned about the fact that I’ve been told, “it might have a bit of a sticky brake pad”.

I can’t fret about my car’s imaginary problems, not when it has so many real-life ones. Like decrepitude and the fact that it hasn’t had any exercise for over a week.

“I’m worried about my Nissan,” I say. “Madonna was amazing when I went to see her live,” my sister says. “I bet no one here has a length of heavy-duty blue nylon rope in their car boot,” I say, “apart from me.”

“I think Blonde Ambition was her best…” “Perhaps the real benchmark of wealth,” I interrupt, “is how far away you are in your life from a length of blue nylon rope.” “...live tour ever,” she says. I get up and walk to the poolside.

“Sista,” my brother says, joining me at the edge of the pool, “having blue rope in your boot has got nothing to do with wealth.”

“So what’s it got to do with then?” I say. “In your case, lifestyle choices and erratic personality,” he says. But he has a personal driver called James so I take no notice.

9pm. Half a mile from Cork airport. I am having trouble with my lifestyle choices; my Nissan is resisting any efforts I make to create a forward-moving momentum.

The resistance seems to be coming from the back. It’s like someone has tied the boot of my car to a concrete bollard. There’s a funny noise coming from the back too. 9.05pm. I get out of the car and check the back for something glaring, like a popped tyre.

There is nothing glaring. I think I will gently push through the resistance. Perhaps, after ten days of idleness, my Nissan’s muscles have simply forgotten how to work. 9.10pm. I’m giving my Nissan some gentle encouragement.

I’m doing this by driving it, that’s all, regardless of its continued resistance. It is an uncomplicated approach but I have a good feeling about it because of what I know about muscle memory.

I put my hazard lights on. The going is very slow and I am holding up traffic. Plus, the funny noise has become identifiable as metallic and grinding.

9.20pm. I pull into the side of the road; my uncomplicated approach has failed. All it’s produced is a burning rubber smell, which I think I should ignore, if only for the reason that the thought of not ignoring it is much too frightening.

I need to adopt a different approach. But first I need to think of one. 9.21pm. After careful consideration, I have formulated a new two-point plan. I am going to accelerate my Nissan suddenly, after which, I will simply drive the shit out of it.

9.22pm. I am accelerating. I’m driving it very very hard. 9.25pm. Hard is not translating to fast. 9.30pm.

Might be good to check my rear view mirror to see how many cars are bearing witness to the trouble I am having with my new two-point plan, my lifestyle choices and erratic personality.

In the mirror I see sparks shooting up into the air behind my car and cascading down in glittering showers. Can’t say how many cars there are, what with the showers.

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