Monday, 12 November 2007

Driving me crazy

Auntie Ivy struck terror into my heart and bowels this morning “I’m going to start driving lessons again!” she chirruped happily as she slopped hot water all over my work surface as she attempted to direct the kettle into the cafetiere. “I was watching that programme last night with that woman from the Royle Family who kept failing her test but then that nice Dr Who started teaching her and she passed!”

She meant of course the BBC comedy drama starring Jessica Hynes and David Tennent that was on last night – she has a habit of mixing up her programmes and never gets actors names right. We once bumped into Eastenders' Laila Morse in Sainsburys New Cross and she kept calling her Big Mo which did not go down too well.

“If she can do it, I can!” she continued as she whisked the milk. I remember well her attempts at learning to drive. She became a champion for learner drivers everywhere and, quite simply, knew all there was to know about driving, especially as she got 99% in her written test. All of us experienced drivers didn’t know what we were talking about and got everything wrong. When she failed her test it was such a shock to her system – she’d failed on just about everything. Predictably though, after a few days, it all became the driving instructors fault and whenever we were out in the car she would pour scorn on the other road users. Things came to a head when I was driving her and my mum somewhere and the two of them were gassing about something – I tended to turn off when the two of them got going. Anyway, Ivy stopped mid sentence and said “Why have you stopped here?”. I looked from her to my mother and said “Because the red lights tell me to”. Sure enough, there were two red lights halting my progress along Peckham High Street. “Oh.” said Ivy “how long have they been there?”

The remainder of the journey was spent with both mum and Ivy giggling their little socks off at not being aware of a set of traffic lights that had been there for a very, very long time. Quite worrying when you think about it. But she found Mr Rush “in the paper” early last year and he tended her and nurtured her, right up to and including when she failed her second driving test in March of this year because she was “doing 50 in a 20 mile per hour zone”. Outside a school. Her only comment was “well, it was half past ten in the morning, the kids should have all been in their classrooms!”

So, as you can imagine, I was filled with trepidation as Ivy outlined her plan for the next few weeks: a couple of refresher lessons and then I’ll put in for my test. “I’m going back to Mr Rush, he’s so very patient and never shouts at me when I make a little mistake”. Honestly, I’d hate to have her nerve in my tooth. The “little mistake” she made was when she panicked on a roundabout and ended up sitting on top of the lovingly planted pansies. The Council Parks Department worker had fled for his life when he saw the white Peugeot from “Pass and Go” mount the pavement. Quite what Mr Rush was thinking when he put her forward for her last driving test is anyone’s guess. I should imagine he’ll be rooted to his seat in terror when he hears Auntie Ivy chirrup “Hello, I’d like to book some more driving lessons please”.

“I’ll be able to take Little Un out for drives and be able to go to Morrison’s without waiting for Jim to be bothered. A nice little run around, that’s all I’ll need” she was getting quite dreamy on the sofa, clutching her coffee mug as she saw herself pootling along, headscarf covering her silver curls, whipping in and out of parking spaces effortlessly.

Before you start to think that I’m being incredibly derogatory about my aunt and her ability to drive because I am such a perfect driver – I’m not. I passed my test on my fifth attempt and found the whole experience a dreadful one. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of independence that being able to drive would give me. My instructor John said that I alternately drove to fast/too slow, was too hesitant/too carefree, drove to close to parked cars/hogged the middle of the road and was very kind to pigeons. I used to slow down when I saw them in the road.

I failed my first test because I showed no regard for other road users, my second because I was too hesitant and slow, my third because I had an argument (and lost) with a bus and my fourth because I drove a little too fast. What did these people want from me? My fifth instructor was the one who took me for my first test which threw me completely. I’ve since told other people who are stressing over their tests to just go with the flow and do the best you can. Easy to say, harder to do. I swear that I only got through my fifth test because of an enormous sense of “oh, I don’t care any more” and 2 Kalms. Sssh!

And I’ve had a few disasters in the past 16 years I’ve been driving – mainly to do with directions and getting lost. I went to Surrey Quays a few years back with my mum (there’s a theme developing here) and I took the wrong turning off St James’ Road and ended up going through the Rotherhithe Tunnel. I went round Leman Street police station three times and nearly ended up at City Airport twice. I then saw a sight that cheered me to my very core: the stone and blue turrets of Tower Bridge! I was in St Katherine’s Dock going over some cobbles at the time and joyously told mum that we were more or less home and dry. “We don’t want Tower Bridge though do we?” she said in a confused voice “We do if we’re going to cross the river!” I said, relief flooding my body. “What? Do you mean we’re north of the river?” she screeched. Being north of the river, for my mum, was like a Man United fan finding himself sitting in the middle of the stand at Man City’s stadium. She had to be put to bed with a large cup of tea and a copy of Gulliver’s Travels.

Sat Nav doesn’t help me either. I argue with it. Seriously. It tells me to go left and I go right. Which defeats the whole object really. And the first ever Sat Nav I had didn’t say “okay, right well you haven’t listened to a sodding word I’ve said and now you’ve gone wrong so just take the next sodding turning I tell you okay?” (or however they politely say it) – it got just as lost as I did until I laid my frazzled head on the steering wheel and it started babbling utter rubbish. So last Christmas I got a super duper Sat Nav that says “to correct your route, please take the next right” whenever I go wrong. Which is frequently, because I still argue with it. I think it’s even started to anticipate where I’m about to go wrong because the second I take a different turning to the one it told me to take (because it’s never right, let’s face it) I can hear it give a deep and weary sigh. One of these days it’s going to give me such a rollicking, I can feel it in my bones.

But who can blame Auntie Ivy for wanting to try again? I am so pleased that I persevered and didn’t “sell out” and swap from manual lessons to automatic ones.

Naturally, I’ve asked her to tell me the dates and times of her lessons so I can keep out of the way.

1 comment:

crash course said...

My heart goes ot to the good people of Nunhead and my heartfelt respect to Mr Rush.
It can be very difficult to enable someone who is not a natural driver to pass his or her test... from a moral aspect not just a teaching one.
If it's any consolation a number of people I've taught that came in such a category have gone on to have many accident free years of driving. As I type this I'm giving Him thanks because for some it is miraculous!

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Nunhead, London, United Kingdom
I'm a mum of one, wife of one and owner to several dogs, a variety of breeds and sizes. I live in the up and coming area (or so they say) of Nunhead and have mad neighbours, strange friends and certifiable relatives. I shop locally, although I do defect to Sainsburys once a week - shoot me now local shopkeepers.