Driven to Distraction: I am a Driving Instructor!

Nobody tells you, when you’re holding your newborn in your arms, that in about seventeen years or so you’ll be screaming, ‘Brake! Yes, now! For Christ’s sake, brake!’

You will scream a lot of other things at them before then, of course. Things like ‘Bloody well tidy that room or I swear I will set fire to every single thing I pick up off the floor!’

But none of the things you scream will be as important as, ‘Brake!’

‘BRAAAAKE!’ saves lives and insurance premiums.

I have been teaching my younger son how to drive. It is an interesting experience.

Truth to say, I’ve only screamed about braking once. It was as he was driving down a local hill wide enough only for one vehicle. The hill is steep; something similar in Val d’Isere is a black run.

We were running late to meet his friend as a result of quite a lot of practice of reversing into a bay in Lidl’s car park.

As is the case when one is distracted by one’s personal life, he lost concentration. It was only as £51,000 worth of  Audi Q7 came toward us at speed that I realised he was thinking about other things and had to issue the instruction urgently.

“I assumed she would brake and move over into that driveway,” said my son, not unreasonably.

I explained that, in a world where we are all careening around pot holed roads in lethal hunks of metal  fuelled by our gigantic egos and busy schedules, we can be responsible only for our actions. What other people do is down to them.

“ ‘To assume is to make an ass of u and me,’” I trilled.

“Not this again,” he replied, “who was Jerry Belson anyway?”

Teaching Theo to drive is something of an education for me.

In the first instance, I’ve had to reacquaint myself with the Highway Code which, I’ll be honest, I haven’t read since 1986.

My memory of important details like the national speed limit has always been dicey. It’s taken three driver awareness courses for me to finally be confident I know how fast I may legally travel on a dual carriageway (my SP30s  have all been on dual carriageways: A31, A35, A338).

I had trouble taking all this stuff in the first time around. I think that was in part down to my driving instructor.

His name was Simon and he was a strawberry blonde former Royal Green Jacket. I was destined to fail my test. Twice.

Having a good-looking ex -soldier teaching you all the important manoeuvres and educating you in the ways of handling his standard combat weapon is absolutely no incentive to pass.

And now my dad will read this and all will become clear.

Yes! I knew I was driving too close to parked vehicles! I did it deliberately! And yes! It was wrong to cut up a hearse at the roundabout at the bottom of Brentwood High Street, but it was looking dangerously as though I was going to actually pass!

Theo and I are both hopeful that he will pass first time. He because he is desperate to be independent and on the road alone at last, and me because I don’t know how much longer I can sit beside him with the knot of tension in my stomach.

It is so hard to relinquish control, but that is what you have to do when your child is in the driving seat. I am learning what it is to be a fatalist.

I knew it was not our destiny to be mown down by a giant Audi, which was why I had to take back control by yelling at him to brake.

As for his driving test on Wednesday? Que sera sera…

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  1. Double de-clutch you say? Back in 1968 the tester made you wave your right-arm out of the window to signal your half-formed intentions to change direction.

    Guess who decided to use his left hand to change down from 3rd to 2nd whilst waving his right arm to any who cared to notice? Fail!

    Oh well, lessons were 10/- an hour back then . . .

  2. Good luck Theo, I hope you pass when you’re ready to. Learning to drive and passing the test is the easy bit. The real test comes when you get out on the road on your own and find out you’re surrounded by a vast number of morons who choose to make up their own selfish rules. I could have been killed on Sunday (as a pedestrian just about to cross the road) when a mindless idiot drove by at high speed on the wrong side of Holdenhurst Road, Bournemouth, on
    the wrong side of the “keep left” bollards, almost colliding with a motorcycle and another car before screeching round the corner into a side road. Theo, I wish you the best of luck as a new driver and hope you will always be safe. Hope your mum recovers from the ordeal too.

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