I'm not alone in my observation - in fact I might go as far as to say that it's universally acknowledged - that there are certain professions where integrity is flagged up but only occasionally practised. Politicians, estate agents and (dare I say it?) some less scrupulous members of the fourth estate come top of my list of those who, early in their careers, have made a pact with the devil. Recent experience has added the silver-tongued car salesman to that inglorious roll.
But - as they say - needs must when the devil drives.....
And it was only a short drive that took us to a used car patch on the side of the busy 'A' road that snakes along the border between England and Wales and where a suitable 'pre-owned' vehicle had been spotted.
There was no obvious sign that our man practised the dark arts; no pentagrams, sigils, goats or overt signs of faerie witchcraft, just a shabby shopfront behind a windblown patch on the Welsh side of the road in a has-been town. Out front a line-up of vehicles of 'a certain age' gathered dust, their windscreen banners exclaiming virtues: 'Air conditioning!!' 'Air Bags!!' 'Stereo!!' 'Electric Windows!!' and the inevitable optimistic prices. Not promising.
Our man lurched unenthusiastically from his sales office proffering help. I resisted the temptation to ask the first question that sprang to my lips, the naive 'Does it, ermm, go?' I tried harder. Mileage. Yep, it had mileage. Service history. MOT. Possibly. Cam belt? (Always a good 'un). We jiggled the steering wheel and stepped on the brakes, checked the mirrors and played with the petrol cap release thingey. We got the engine turning and it sounded OK. We stood around in the way of car buyers the world over, kicking a tyre occasionally and squinting along the bodywork. We were not actively being sold this car. This was a take it or leave it situation.
We ran out of questions and in the ensuing silence our man admitted he had a bad back. This non sequitur was followed by 'Used to be a builder'. This was somewhat reassuring. Not a dyed-in-the-wool car salesman then. Arthur Daly he wasn't. A couple of telephone calls, a couple of questions and a little negotiation later and this W reg. Peugeot estate was ours - or more correctly will be our son's.
A deposit changed hands in the office - a shambles of a room with, incongruously, a chiller cabinet and the trappings of butcher's shop in the corner. Obviously they do things differently here. We will drive it away on Friday with fingers crossed, a 3 month warranty and a reassuring 12 months MOT.
I hope we don't regret this.