Sit down. No, I mean it. Sit down, because what I am about to tell you will shock you. I no longer own a Skoda. I bought my first in 1989 and, save for an ill-advised dalliance with something more mainstream in 1993, have driven one until very recently.
My last, a robust, ultra-reliable Felicia estate, was still going strong at 82,000 miles. It had only one drawback. Mrs Steele, with her amazing ceramic hips, now only drives automatics. Automatic Skodas do exist but I couldn't track one down, so now I have a Kia.
Typing "Skoda" into The TES Scotland archive search yielded 23 hits, 21 of them linked to articles written by me. The other two, which I confess to missing first time round, mentioned the marque and me in the same sentence.
(Michael Johns, whoever you are, I am really sorry I didn't catch your Big Brother spoof when it was fresh in August 2001, even if you did cast me as a car manual-reading pain in the erse).
Note that the archive only goes back to 1994. There are bound to be several more plugs for quality budget Czech cars before then. In all the time I dropped the Skoda name into a piece, I never made fun of their reliability (they almost never broke down) or their driving dynamics (they handled very well). Clearly, just writing "Skoda" was enough for some people.
I once watched a television programme about the making of Doctor in the House. Apparently, in one episode the writers decided to refer to a bedpan cupboard at every available opportunity. Nothing funny happened concerning the bedpan cupboard, but every time a character said "bedpan cupboard", the audience laughed. I think you know where I'm coming from.
Since I've dropped one shockeroony, I might as well drop another. So here goes. English teachers have got something right that science teachers haven't. The former know that there are hundreds of thousands of worthy pieces of literature out there but don't attempt to make pupils read them all.
Instead, they strive to give pupils the skills to appreciate and criticise a small body of work in the hope that these skills will serve them well in later life. This might not always work but the intention is good. In science, we know that there is a fascinating body of knowledge out there and often try to impart as much of it as possible, with scientific skills coming second and the development of informed attitudes abandoned by the roadside miles back with a puncture - something that never happened to my Skodas.
I generalise, the way lifestyle car magazines generalise. They don't like Kias. So far, I like mine.
Gregor Steele's Kia has ABS, EBD, air-con and parking sensors.