Saturday, 6 June 2015

Ninja Driving Update

At last, at last, at long "&*!+ last.

         I have been given the go-ahead by my local IAM group to take the test. It's all in the works at the moment, but I will finally be taking the test and, if I pass it, I shall get what my mother always called a sticky-foot to prove it.
          Things moved quickly once I was given a new Mentor, Mike. An interesting man, Mike. A retired company director, he designed and manufactured components for oil-rigs. He volunteers at his local hospital, has been a racing driver (as a hobby, I think), and has a pilot's license. At the moment, when not at the hospital or helping people like me, he's learning to drive a bus - 'I always wanted to drive a bus.'
         My last mentor was a retired para-medic, whose tales of thrills and spills in an ambulance entertained me hugely. I'd recommend the IAM course to anyone, but I think especially to writers. You meet such great people, with stories to tell.
         Mike is a terrific teacher too - he says he's spent his life managing people and trying to bring the best out of them. The practice has made him very good at it. My first drive with him was for assessment, and I was feeling a bit weary of the whole thing, since I didn't seem to be making any progress. At the end of the drive, Mike turned to me and said, "Well, that was wonderful! Much, much better than I'd been led to believe! If you took the test tomorrow, you'd pass it."

        This was a surprise, and immensely cheering. We have, nevertheless, spent some weeks practicing: joining and leaving motorways, reversing round left-hand bends, approaching and navigating roundabouts, three-point turns, parallel parking and reversing into marked bays. This last one, I have to admit, I'm still not very good at. Mike admitted that neither was he. "It's much easier if there are cars for you to reverse between." It is.
          I practiced commentary, which I enjoy now. It sharpens observation. You just call out the hazards you spot as you drive along. This really means calling out every single thing you see, since every damn thing, except possibly the pigeons on the rooftops, is a hazard. Lights red in distance - car coming up behind, lane 2 - junction to left, car - parked car, brake lights - cyclist - dog-walker - car reversing, driveway... I called out all the road-signs too, to circumvent the nasty little habit examiners have of suddenly asking you what the last three road-signs were. If you've called them all out, you'll have a better chance of remembering them, and you've already proved that you've seen them - so there's little point in quizzing you on them.
         Mike assured me that the actual examiner - a police driver - would not be nearly as demanding as the examiner I had to impress in order to be put through for the test. This always seems to be the case. It's harder, in my experience, to please an agent than a publisher. It's harder to please an audition panel than an audience. The real examiner would not be looking for by-the-book perfection, but only expecting me to show safer-driving, better car-control and  observation than the average driver.
          While we were driving, one day, a flash nit in a Porsche badly cut us up in his desperation to overtake despite the narrow road and on-coming traffic making this a very poor decision. He then had to crowd back in front of us because of oncoming traffic, braking hard to avoid running into the car in front. (He only had room to do this because of the safe gap I'd left between me and the car in front of me.)
          Reader, I remained calm, merely commentating, as I slowed,  that I was dropping back to let the big eejit have plenty of room. 
         From a safe following distance, we wryly observed the eejit's swerving and hard braking as he careered on, overtaking and cutting in, no doubt congratulating himself all the while on what a fine driver he was, and how he was showing up all us noddies crawling along at the speed limit.
          Mike said, 'If this had been your test, I can guarantee that character would find the Police at his door by the end of the day.' Seeing my puzzlement, he added, 'Your examiner will be an acting Police Officer. He don't let that sort of thing pass.' So beware, flash eejits in Porsches. You never know when the little Micra you cut up is taking part in an Advanced Test, and the passenger is the Polis.

          Came the day of the Pre-Test Run. This was my third. And, I passed it! Finally.
         I knew exactly what speed I should be doing at any time, and kept to it. In the motorway section, I got up to 60 on the slip-road, and slotted smoothly into the traffic.
         I kept up a commentary on the traffic in front and coming up behind, and remembered to say 'Lane One and Lane Two' instead of 'slow lane' and 'fast lane' (which is a no-no. There is no 'fast lane.' The speed limit is exactly the same in all motorway lanes.) There was no lane Three, since this was the M54, with its concrete slabs, like driving over corrugated iron.
          I overtook a lorry, first checking traffic coming up behind me, and looking over my shoulder to make sure nothing was lurking in the blind spot. On passing the lorry, I used the off-side mirror to check that I could see the entire front of the lorry before moving back in front of it, without slowing down.
          I signalled at the three hundred yard sign, waited until I was fully on the slip-road before cancelling the signal, and brought the speed down to the new limit. "That was lovely," the IAM examiner purred.  Which was nice. And a change from his usual remarks.
         I think there are only two  - maybe three - 'Stop' signs in the whole of the West Midlands, and the IAM examiner makes sure that he takes you past one of them. Last time I failed to spot it, even when he guided me round in a circle for a second go. This time I spotted it from the top of a steep hill, and said (commentating):
"Stop!" I came to a dead halt at that sign, put on the hand-brake, and counted, 'One elephant, two elephant, three elephant, four elephant," in my head before releasing the brake and going on. (When it was safe to do so, of course.)
          When we got back to Mike's, after I'd been given the go-ahead for the real test, he said, "Gimme a hug! Lovely! That Stop sign was lovely! By the book - you did it by the book. Handbrake - four seconds!"
          So, there we go. Next, I hope I'll be able to report that I'm a bona fide Advanced Driver.

Late breaking news. I've just been given a date for my test - the real one. It's a week today, on the 13th.

8 comments:

madwippitt said...

Woooohoooo! Good luck - we'll be keeping fingers, toes and paws crossed for you - although we're sure you'll be just as brilliant! :-)

Susan Price said...

Thank you, Madwippit and wippits. Back paws and front paws crossed, please - I need all the magical help I can get!

Joan Lennon said...

You will be AMAZING! Looking forward to seeing photos of you in your Ninja costume!

Nick Green said...

It's always easier when four actual elephants cross the road at your Stop sign.
I too hate those flash harries in their overtaking Porches. So did my dad. But he had a special way of dealing with them. He drove a Ford Savage. Looks exactly like a bumbling Cortina. Has a 3 litre engine hidden inside. If a Jaguar overtook, he would be duly humiliated before the next bend.
Of course I don't condone that behaviour myself...

Nick Green said...

It's always easier when four actual elephants cross the road at your Stop sign.
I too hate those flash harries in their overtaking Porches. So did my dad. But he had a special way of dealing with them. He drove a Ford Savage. Looks exactly like a bumbling Cortina. Has a 3 litre engine hidden inside. If a Jaguar overtook, he would be duly humiliated before the next bend.
Of course I don't condone that behaviour myself...

Nick Green said...

It's always easier when four actual elephants cross the road at your Stop sign.
I too hate those flash harries in their overtaking Porches. So did my dad. But he had a special way of dealing with them. He drove a Ford Savage. Looks exactly like a bumbling Cortina. Has a 3 litre engine hidden inside. If a Jaguar overtook, he would be duly humiliated before the next bend.
Of course I don't condone that behaviour myself...

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Lavis Laln said...



High techniques of driving ar instructed in Advanced Driving faculties. UN agency ar forever divided into room and on-track lessons, and last from hours to days.
[www.topnotchdrivingschool.com] that has the simplest skills like accident shunning and skid shunning, among others vichle.

Advanced Driving Course