C. took me out for a second driving lesson on Sunday, to a quiet and flat stretch of road next to the Turfwalk in Totland. The Turfwalk was a stretch of tree-lined grass at the top of Totland Bay that fashionable Victorian society used to promenade along. It is now a stretch of tatty grass dotted with odd trees and shrubs, and whose sole purpose is to harbour the excrement of man’s best friend. Walk there now, and it’s like stepping into a minefield of dog turds.
But the stretch of real road allowed me to practise starting the car and setting off, and negotiating minor obstacles, and we shortly set off up a particularly winding hill road that eventually joins the main road to the Needles. At no more than 20 miles an hour, the typical speed managed by learners like myself and a good proportion of Island residents. I stalled a lot on starting, and especially when on a second run up to the Needles from Totland war memorial roundabout, C. decided to try to get me to try hill starts. That really is running before I can walk…
Then Jimjams called, needing collecting from Yarmouth, and we drove what was for me an exciting journey of 20 or so minutes in the dark to pick her up. I cruised the Honda into the parking bay with all the finesse of putting a 72ft canal boat into a river bank… C. drove us home. I’d been driving for about 90 minutes and was a tad twitchy.
I had little time to reflect. On Monday, P. my new real driving instructor, took me out for my first full lesson. He was quite brilliant at explaining the principles, and in getting me to learn the knack of a smooth start and of shifting gear to third (I’d spent most of Sunday juddering accidentally into fifth). Some of it has stuck, and I’ve since been able to move the Honda around on the driveway without stalling.
I got praised for my steering, which I can only put down to zipping the ride-on mower around apple trees, and for my reactions when I noticed a motorcyclist appear out of nowhere at a roundabout and braked in time. I have yet to learn to also hit the clutch at the same time as the brake to avoid stalling, but P. did that using the dual controls.
I fell pretty good about driving after this and can’t wait till the next lesson. I feel very lucky to have a friend who has the patience to get me out there for my first lessons, and also to have an instructor who is so clear and who I liked within minutes. And that first lesson in a car park already seems a very long time ago.