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.
- The fear in the first five minutes of each lesson will subside. After that it’s actually quite fun.
- 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).
- Braking doesn’t always mean stopping.
- Changing down into first gear doesn’t mean you have to stop (quite useful when a light’s been red for a long time).
- 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.
- 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.
- Driving in central London at night is not that scary after the first five minutes (see 1). And it’s all about lane discipline.
- Roundabouts are not for slowing down.
- 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.
- 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):
“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
Brake again DON’T STOP THE CAR UNLESS YOU NEED TO!
Bring the clutch up slowly – find the biting point
10MPH! SECOND GEAR!”
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!
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)
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!
Filed under Driving, Lessons
I’m 29 and I’ve never had a driving lesson in my life.
- I live in London – the traffic, narrow streets and general radio of nutters : normal people makes it a pretty scary place to drive.
- The transport system in London is amazing – between tubes, trains and nightbuses there’s no need to get behind the wheel.
- I grew up in London. See above.
- 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.
- 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.