Driving Miss Polly round the bend

Driving TestYou know all the stories that men have to tell about female drivers, well when applied to us, they are unfortunately true. In 1969, we had the bright idea that we should add driving to our list of life skills. We certainly wouldn’t let a little consideration like not owning a car stand in our way. No we needed to be able to drive and by golly that is exactly what we were going to do.

First things first, apply for a provisional licence. No problem so with the first hurdle out of the way, off we went to the British School of Motoring. ‘How many lessons would we need?’, asked the nice lady behind the desk. ‘Oh, six would be more than enough’ pipes up Pauline. Well when that nice lady starting laughing, nice went out of the window, ‘how rude’.

The day of the first lesson arrived and this time a very nice man turned up in his shiny A40 and drove us out to a quiet road. He told us to get in the driving seat, all the usual spiel about adjusting the mirrors etc., sometimes Pauline can be so embarrassing, she told him that it was fine as it was and that it was in a perfect position for putting on her lipstick and checking her hair. Now the best part, he started to explain about gear changing. She never listens you know, it was nothing to do with me, Pauline grasped the gear stick and then turned to look at the instructor and said ‘oh it’s come off in my hand, what do I do with this?’ She was holding two thirds of the gear stick in her hand. To the instructor’s credit, he just sighed and said lets change seats again and drove us back home. Our first driving lesson was quite short. Pauline took this as a good sign, she thought we must have really impressed the instructor and maybe six lessons might be too many. We still haven’t figured out how the instructor managed to drive us home with a stump as a gearstick. Still we thought he just must be the best driver ever.

Our adventure with the British School of Motoring continued. We invented the 73 point turn, how to reverse round a corner and end up on the wrong side of the road. Our emergency stop had to be seen to be believed, when he banged the dashboard, Pauline said ‘stop it you’re making me nervous’. When we got to lesson 22, the instructor put us in for our test, we failed. Can you believe they failed us for accidentally going up a one way street, the wrong way? I was with Pauline on that, anyone could have done it.

The number of lessons increased at an alarming rate and after every failed test Pauline would say, ‘I feel like at perfect fool’ and I would point out to her ‘nobody’s perfect’. When we’d had 93 lessons and the 7th test loomed ever near, we were a bag nerves. When we arrived at the Test Centre and saw it was the same examiner that we had on three previous occasions, we cringed. We pulled ourselves together, we had memorised every registration number of the parked cars outside so giving him the right information on that question was easy. Unbelievably, we managed to do most of the tasks you have to during the driving test, even managed to answer the questions on the Highway Code pretty accurately. At the end of the test the examiner told us we had passed, Pauline, who had kept a stiff upper lip throughout 6 failures, burst into tears, she can be such an embarrassment. I did have to put my foot down when Pauline started talking about the Advanced Driving test. For pity’s sake… quit while you are ahead girl.

Now here we are in the TRNC where our driving skills look nigh on perfect, probably only here though.

Polly Marples

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