Mocks, idiots and beer

P. put me through my first mock test today, gaily saying that he’d never passed anyone on their first full mock. Fortunately I’d just had one lesson’s worth of knocking the rust off, built up over the past week thanks to a lack of driving. It takes me time to get back into the routine of checking all the mirrors before signalling or moving off, simply because it’s not something as yet that I do every day.

I felt I’d cocked it up good and proper, and at the end my mouth could have been used as blotting paper it was so dry. And I fully expected not to pass, after stalling spectacularly at a roundabout because I left signalling to late on the approach, so my hand was nowhere near the gears when it most needed to be.

But P. said it was a borderline pass: nine minor faults, all connected with operating what is still an unfamiliar piece of machinery, and none in the general areas of road sense. He said the stall was the borderline element, on usage of gears, but as I’d then gone round the dual roundabout combination of B&Q and St Mary’s smoothly and confidently, he was inclined to come down on the side of a pass.

Part of it was me just thinking about junctions more: with previous criticism about undue hesitation (I’d actually spent most of the week thinking about how to improve my approach to junctions), I was more inclined to go for it at give way signs and the approaches to roundabouts. And just before I stalled I was hoping to carry on, rather than having to stop.

So I have to improve on using the car. And I have four weeks in which to do so. P. told me to go ahead and book my test for late March, which seems so short a time after our first lesson in late November – potentially just four months between me first getting into a car as a driver and being able to fail my practical test for the first time…

With nerves a very real possibility, I fully intend to find some more willing victims to ride shotgun as I build up driving experience in that time: I need to be able to cope with the nerves of having someone I don’t know as well sitting in a car while I try something that is only gradually becoming second nature.

Taking me from 28 lessons to 27 lessons to go, C. cycled over in the late afternoon so I could drive over to Ryde and pick up Jimjams from the rink. I don’t know what it was about the evening, but the journey from Newport to Ryde was a matter of avoiding loads of cyclists riding with no lights. Idiots every one. Even as a kid I’ve never ridden a bike without lights in the dark because you simply can’t be seen, and of course since I’ve started driving I now believe in a high-visibility jacket too because I’m more aware of a car driver’s restricted view (not that it makes much difference to the elderly drivers, who still can’t see the glowing ball of fluorescent yellow).

It was worse on the return journey with two cyclists on BMX bikes riding two abreast, only one with lights, and the one without lights alternating between pavement and road, including an amazing decision to shoot straight across the front of the car from the pavement just before a set of lights. With a constant stream of cars coming the over way it was impossible to pass them, if only because their direction was unpredictable.

With about three hours’ driving behind me for the day, I was quite tense, and once back at C.’s we walked to The Cedars in Wootton for a pint of Gales HSB, still one of the finest pints in the UK despite a change of ownership to brewing giant Fullers. It’s worth hunting down, but finding a pub that keeps it in good condition all of the time is still a challenge.

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