So you decide to learn to drive in London? People tend to say that that’s brave, that surely its expensive, and that the traffic is a nightmare! Well yes, those people are right, however, I needed a driving license so **** it, I learnt to drive in London.
What did I do first? I bought a car first before any lessons, because why not? I can never say no to a good deal and that’s how I ended up with Wilba (as of my previous post, all vehicles need names, and I have declared that my car is a women called Wilba). After that my theory test was easy enough. I downloaded an app and went through it all on a friend’s advice and it really helped. My biggest tip is to make sure that you practice the video examples and as I passed with 73 out of 75 questions right I must know what I’m talking about!
Then onto actual lessons…
My first driving instructor was alright in the car, but the lessons were only a hour at a time, and he soon began to mess me about regarding timings and cost so I scrapped him and went for Red driving school instead. I got a local instructor called Abdul who, bless his heart, was lovely, but if I am honest was not rough enough around the edges for me. Now don’t get me wrong, he was great, but I felt that I was the one who was correcting all my mistakes, when what I really needed was someone telling me off and giving me some tough love (all a reflection of me not him!) I’m also fairly sure he didn’t understand me due to my accent, which made for some interesting small talk…
We started lessons right in the middle of Ramadan in the evenings. Every night he’d end up asking very politely if it was okay for us to pull up to the local mosque at sunset for 10 mins so he could pray. Of course I said yes, especially as that little break gave me 10 mins to have a sneaky peak through his instructor aid book and ask questions about manoeuvres we weren’t even learning about yet. Was I the perfect student or just a wannabe pain in the arse? Who knows, and he would no doubt be too polite to tell me!
At this stage, I still hadn’t driven my car and so she was just sitting pretty on my street, looking at me longingly, and waiting for me to jump in and go for a drive. Additionally, as the money I was using for lessons was what I would usually use on train tickets to go and see my old man, it was the longest time that I hadn’t seen him for some years. While I could hound all my friends (with driving licences) to get in the car with me so that I could practice – I couldn’t really ask people to drive down to Kent and back with me on a regular basis!
I am incredibly thankful for everyone who spent any time with me in the car, and especially to my old pal Sophie who went out of her way very early on to help me when I couldn’t drive my own car yet but needed to get down south.
My Auntie Vera (who I called the dragon) was who I would stay with when visiting my Dad and was a peaceful harbour between my London home and being able to see the old man for the max amount of time. She started as the dragon but its safe to say we soon softened towards each other and she became a bit of a mother figure and advice giver for me. Vera sadly became sick very quickly over this year but even when she was very clearly unwell she was helping me out, for example, when I told her that I was going to get on the buses to look at care homes for my Dad and she told me that I couldn’t do that, that it was too far and buses were too few and far in-between, and that she would drive me down instead!
Let me paint the picture. Imagine an old Nissan Micra that is more tape then car, and Auntie Vera driving while not being able to look over her shoulders or to her right hand side. Then me sitting in the passenger side declaring when its safe to go on junctions and giving directions! Despite that there were only a couple of times that she scraped the curb (shh don’t tell anyone!) and having her help and opinion about the homes was invaluable. That was probably the last time she drove and shows that she was forever thinking and acting for the benefit of other people. I will never be able to thank her enough for what she helped me with these last few years.
First time I ride in my actual car is the day before her funeral. At this point I’d had about 10 hours of driving experience with an instructor and felt it was safe enough for me to actually drive Wilba (with a licensed passenger of course!). The journey ended up being a very dark one and involved 15 mins with a car full of passengers that had responses from both ends of the scale. Stephen, my mother’s husband, who is constantly brimming with enthusiasm and encouragement was gushing with compliments of how good my driving was, while my mother was the complete opposite. She was not happy when I was stuck for 10 mins at a hill start between one way passing traffic and couldn’t get the car started without stalling. Every family member had their hands out the window waving traffic on while I struggled, only for me to then realise that I was in second gear and not first! Thankfully, we were soon on our way, and that lesson was learnt (kind of).
Dad moved care homes Feb, car bought March, lessons started April and jump to my first test in June.
Fail. I stalled on a roundabout, and had a total of 4 minors but what got me was a dropped kerb. The instructor asked for a parallel park in front of a driveway, and biggest tip I can give, check that little extra mirror the instructor has so you can see that kerb and not do what I did.
The July and we have my second test. This was a S*** show compared to my first, to be fair I only had 6 minors but it felt so much worst compared to the first. Took the wrong turning on the satnav, the back windscreen wipers where broken so when she asked to demonstrate I couldn’t. I couldn’t front park into a bay and the instructor was pretty darn dry. But I passed! And then drove the 4 hours to a wedding in Weston super mere.
As this is a blog post, I could make a cute bit about top tips to learn to drive, but let’s face it, I waited until I was 27 and anyone reading this probably drives already. My next challenge is actually having my dad in the car, and let me tell you that comes with all its own tribulations. Now wait with bated breath for part three lol.