Friday, April 13, 2007

The continuing driving test theme...

Having extracted some comedy mileage out of my mothers awful attempt at driving yesterday its only fair that I should describe my own.

And in a true spirit of Friday lazyness I have not written one word of this but instead have lifted it word for word from my official biography, hosted on the excellent web site.

So, the story goes ...

Hilton Lodge was the second most nervous person I have ever met, a small rotund gentleman with thick glasses and a habit of sitting forward in his seat like a small child on his first roller coaster ride, Hilton Lodge was Cookridge’s only driving instructor, so I booked two lessons a week with him.

In a rare act of stupidity my boss at work had offered to pay for my driving lessons and did not put a limit on the number of lessons that he’d pay for, so I initially booked 20 lessons at £5 each.

I still remember that first lesson. Hilton Lodge (yes his christian name really was Hilton) turned up at the door in his beige dual control Austin Allegro and the very first thing I noticed when I sat in the car was the picture of a second world war Lancaster bomber sellotaped to the dashboard.

At the time several of my friends were also taking lessons with Hilton Lodge, it was the done thing to take driving lessons with Hilton Lodge as soon as you were seventeen, and we all noticed the Lancaster bomber on the dashboard, but none of us ever dared ask him what the relevance of it was, I suspect that he’d coloured it in during one boring afternoon with no bookings and was proud of his work, or maybe he really was a wartime bombing ace even just in his imagination, who knows.

He drove the Allegro to a quite street near the cricket field then told me to get out and swap seats, I sat behind the wheel of a car for the first time, and started the engine. At his command I lifted my foot off the clutch and nothing happened for a few seconds because of course he was actually controlling the clutch from his side of the car, but then we started to move –straight across the road to the opposite kerb.

“Turn the wheel, turn the wheel, turn the wheel” he gabbled in quick succession, all the time bouncing his chubby little frame up and down on the passenger seat. This amused the hell out of me, he was getting quite excited by the fact that I was going to crash his car after just three seconds of driving and I couldn’t help but turn my head towards him and laugh.

“Don’t look at me, look at the road, at the road, turn the wheel, turn the wheel, turn the wheel” he gabbled on and on, and I wrestled with my laughter and the steering wheel and managed to swing the car away from the opposite kerb only to oversteer it and point it back at the kerb that we’d started from,

“turn the wheel, turn the wheel, turn the wheel” he bounced up and down and was almost shouting now, “straighten up, straighten up, turn the wheel, turn the wheel”

This was just hilarious and the best five pounds that I had ever spent on behalf of my company, then came a variation,

“change gear, change gear , come on, faster, change gear, second gear, second gear”

Change gear already ?

We’d only just started the lesson and he wanted me to change into second gear, we hadn’t even got the car going straight yet and he wanted me to go faster ?

It was all over too quickly, that first one hour lesson was brilliant, I was a danger to everyone in cookridge, even the ones who had wisely stayed indoors, we managed to get the car into second gear at one stage and kept it straight sometimes for up to ten yards at a time, I overtook a bus when it was parked at a bus stop and caused the Corona pop man to brake suddenly when I shot out of a side street without looking and continued on my way on the wrong side of the road.

Hilton Lodge was shaking visibly when he dropped me off at home, so much so that he had trouble signing my appointment card and instead of writing out a receipt for the company’s five pound expenditure he just tore the receipt out of the book and told me to fill it in myself.

I thanked him and told him that I was really looking forward to my next lesson tomorrow and he looked at me in horror having just realised that he’d booked two lessons a week for me.

It got better, after about five lessons I could keep the car something like straight and even got up to third and sometimes fourth (top) gear, these were exhilarating moments when we rushed down the ring road at an incredible 45mph and the Allegro screamed in pain and begged Hilton Lodge to make me slow down.

Hey thats just a snippet, like those annoying "free" computer programmes that you download from the t'interweb only to find that they are only free for 30 days, the rest of the story is embedded in the "Workdays" chapter and can be found here - and it really is free.


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