Category Archives: Driving

Forgetful driver: 10 things I’ve learned so far

Sorry for the lengthy pause in updating this. It seems I’d totally forgotten that – while learning to drive – I should actually blog about it on here.

I’ve now had 8 two-hour lessons; I wouldn’t say I’m brilliant yet but definitely much improved from the terror of the first couple of lessons.

I’ve driven at 2 mph (known as half-clutching or feathering the clutch), 50 mph on a four-lane road (terrifying but much more dangerous to drive slowly). I’ve driven by night through Mayfair, Trafalgar Square and Putney and by day through Tooting, Brixton and Richmond Park (where we learned about speed control).

Here are 10 things I’ve learned since my last post.

  1. The fear in the first five minutes of each lesson will subside. After that it’s actually quite fun.
  2. Dual carriageways don’t mean two lanes of traffic going in the same direction. It’s defined as a road divided in two by a central reservation (such as grass, a barrier or markings in the road).
  3. Braking doesn’t always mean stopping.
  4. Changing down into first gear doesn’t mean you have to stop (quite useful when a light’s been red for a long time).
  5. You will stall. Lots. Even if you don’t do it in your first two lessons and think you’re not going to be one of those people who stalls all the time. If you stall, ignore the feelings of other drivers while you struggle to restart the engine. It will only rattle you.
  6. Skipping a lesson puts you back about 2 weeks in terms of driving ability as you forget everything, including where the gear-stick is and which way the indicators work.
  7. Driving in central London at night is not that scary after the first five minutes (see 1). And it’s all about lane discipline.
  8. Roundabouts are not for slowing down.
  9. Give men in BMWs (or similar) with a woman in the passenger seat a wide berth. They are almost certainly trying to impress her, which means they aren’t looking at you and will try to cut you up.
  10. But they’re not as bad as white van men. White van men are sent by the devil.

My only wish was that we’d seen Fenton in Richmond Park (although I’m not sure I’d have loved a herd of deer running out in front of the car):


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Filed under brake, clutch, Driving, Dual Carriageways, gears, Lessons, London, pedals, Roundabouts

“10mph… SECOND GEAR!”: Lesson 2

“10mph… SECOND GEAR!”

So screamed my driving instructor numerous times over our lesson. Actually screamed is unfair. He was very patient. Everything was fine when changing gear after starting, but ask me to indicate, turn at a junction then speed up and I would forget the speedometer, whizzing off at 20mph while the engine rattled around like teaspoons in a biscuit tin.

Also what is with the clutch? Sometimes you bring it up slowly, sometimes fast. What’s up with that? As far as I can remember you bring it up slowly for first gear but can bring it up faster in second. It’s so confusing!

At least I can remember how to change into first before stopping behind another car at the lights*:

“Break slightly… DON’T STOP THE CAR!

Clutch all the way down

Into first


Bring the clutch up slowly – find the biting point



I’ll get there eventually.

*ps if I’ve got this bit wrong and you churn your gearbox to bits/bash into the next car/infuriate your instructor don’t sue me!

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Filed under accelerator, brake, clutch, Driving, gears, Lessons, pedals

Driving Theory Apps

To spend, or not to spend. That is the question. Actually if you want to pass the theory test first time, you will probably have to spend a bit to swot up, either on a book or DVD.

After my driving instructor told me my 2002 book was out of date (surprise surprise), I thought I’d better get 2.0 on the Theory Test’s arse.

But how much to spend? The Official DSA DVD is pretty expensive – £13.89

So I plumped instead for the Driving Theory Test Lite by Deep River Development, a free app with 2 of the 14 test topics: Accidents and Alertness. I figured if it was good, I’d buy the full app for £4.99.

I did appallingly on accidents at first. I would have moved people with neck injuries unnecessarily and caused fires in tunnels. Luckily, the multiple choice means you can go over it again (you can choose to drop questions you’ve previously answered correctly) and once you get your test result, you can go back and look at useful hints and explanations for each question..

However, I noticed the latest update to the full app was 2011 and the most up-to-date DSA one is 2012. So eventually I bought the official one anyway. It’s just arrived – I’ll let you know how I get on!

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Filed under Driving, software, Theory Test

Elephants, bumper cars and £1 coins: my first driving lesson

What do zoo animals, bumper cars and pound coins have in common?




They all formed part of my first driving lesson.

Everyone else, apparently, just sat in a quiet side road. Not me. Terrifyingly, I actually drove round the block, which was very exciting. My first thought was “this is nothing like the bumper cars at fairgrounds!”

Ridiculous, sure, but it’s surprising how easily the pedals respond, particularly the accelerator.

Steering, however, is another matter and I found myself turning the wheel endlessly to make a right turn.

Here are my favourite insights from lesson 1.

1. The accelerator should be put down ‘the thickness of a pound coin’ at a time.

2. Gears are like animals in the zoo:

First gear = elephant (can carry the most dead weight but can only go 10mph)
Second gear = donkey (not as strong as the elephant, but faster)
Third gear = zebra (slightly weaker and faster than a donkey)
Forth gear = gazelle (fast but has to have the momentum to help carry the car)

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Filed under Driving, gears, Lessons, pedals

2 videos to put you off learning to drive forever

1. Happy Go Lucky

With his own obscure jargon of En Ra Ha, Scott from Mike Leigh’s Happy Go Lucky is a frustrated, lonely control freak and hardly the ideal person to spend an hour alone with in a confined space.


2. Peep Show

So, your estranged wife goes into labour. Your mate is supposed to drive you to hospital but is too drunk so it’s up to new driver Mark to find his biting point while the others scream at him. Only in Peep Show!

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Filed under Driving, Lessons

12 years of procrastination

In 2005, aged 23, I applied for my provisional licence. When it arrived, it sat in a box for about 7 years.

This Christmas, my brother made me a voucher for 2 x 1 hour driving lessons. He said he was ‘throwing down the gauntlet’. If I take my test by my 30th birthday there’s a vintage bottle of brandy in it for me. The voucher ‘expires’ on Jan 31st 2012, which is today.

The Direct Gov site has loads of advice for learning to drive. Basically, the main things you need to know before booking lessons are:

  1. You have to be 17
  2. You must have a provisional licence which consists of a photocard and a paper part.

That’s it! (anyone reading from the rest of the world, this is definitely a UK based blog so this may not apply at all where you are!)

If your provisional licence is ancient and the address is out of date (with no name changes and you still have both parts) you can tell them by phone and they send you a new one within 2 weeks.

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Filed under Driving, DVLA, Provisional License, Uncategorized

5 reasons I haven’t learned to drive… yet

I’m 29 and I’ve never had a driving lesson in my life.

Why not?

  1. I live in London – the traffic, narrow streets and general radio of nutters : normal people makes it a pretty scary place to drive.
  2. The transport system in London is amazing – between tubes, trains and nightbuses there’s no need to get behind the wheel.
  3. I grew up in London. See above.
  4. You can’t drink if you’re driving. May seem trivial but to me having fun at the party always seems more important than getting home from it.
  5. Actually, if I’m honest, I’m a teeny bit worried I’ll be crap at it.

This blog is going to follow the process of me learning to drive.

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Filed under Driving, Lessons, London, public transport