You may remember me from such posts as Confessions of a non-driver where I declared my complete dis-interest in becoming a driver. Well… this week I passed my driving test.
Circumstances required that I drive – a four mile school run, a seven-year-old, and a bike don’t really mix. A couple of months ago I bought myself a beautiful blue car with silver stripes and drove around Norwich a few times with friends supervising.
(I should clarify, when I say beautiful blue car I mean a T-reg Peugeot 106 Zest, the really basic model with no power steering, and when I say silver stripes I mean many, many, many scratches.)
Of course my friends are not driving instructors and so, armed with a hefty tax rebate, I booked myself onto a 5Day intensive driving course. At £899 I was seriously hoping I’d get my money’s worth and I have to say, I was not disappointed.
I turned up on the first day to sit in a waiting room with 12 other learners (mostly a decade or so younger than me) in silence while we waited for the course to start. It was tense, none of us really knew what to expect. We moved through to the training room where we had an introduction to the course, what to expect and some basics of driving. This was obviously aimed more at the complete beginners but, as someone who’s done lessons before, it was still good to have a recap.
At 10am we headed out to meet our instructors and take our first practical lessons. My instructor Andy had the day off to swan about London being a tourist so I got to drive Stuart’s lovely brand new Citroen DS3. Compared to Toucan (my Peugeot, yes I named my car) this was a delicate butterfly. You stroke the brake pedal gently and the car lurches to a stop, the wheel turns almost too easily, the diesel engine make stalling a rare occurrence. That afternoon the waiting area was buzzing with conversation. Who’d had a go at the dual carriageway? (Me.) Who stalled the most? (Not me.) Who hit a kerb? (Me again.)
The day finished with a classroom based lesson covering information to help us pass our theory and hazard perception. It sounds boring but honestly, it was fun. There was a bit of banter with Luke, our teacher, and we still learnt a lot.
The rest of the week followed the same format – an hour’s lesson, four hours driving and another couple of hours of theory in the afternoon, with some breaks chucked in. I was happy to swap to Andy’s Peugeot from the second day, it was much more similar to my little car and I just felt more confident driving it.
There were ups and downs for everyone throughout the week, but we all made good progress and by the last day most people had a driving record full of ticks. We took our theory tests early in the morning on our fifth and final day. I think three people out of the 13 failed, and all of those were let down by the pesky hazard perception. I passed, of course.
I took two mock tests on that day, each time with a different instructor. The first I failed thanks to a couple of silly mistakes (who cares about fucking bus lanes and speed limits anyway?!) and the second I think was a pass, but with a few minors. I had my test booked for the following Wednesday and left the course feeling happy and confident in my driving ability.
Of course, in the four days I had to wait before my test I managed to convince myself that I was a terrible driver and could never possibly pass a driving test. I would make a silly mistake, get a grumpy examiner who would fail me just to be mean.
Wednesday morning arrived and I was scared shitless. As I drove to the test centre I made just kept fucking up, I was a terrible driver! Obviously I got all of that out of my system though (OK, not all, I managed to clip a kerb and mess up on a mini roundabout during the test!) and I passed with just three minor faults!
So now I’m a fully-fledged driver. Since passing I’ve managed all the scariest parts of driving on my own – parking, dual carriageway, night-time driving – and it is fantastic! Why on earth did I wait so long to do this? Now all I need is a good driving CD…