Nicola Hamilton30 September 2013

TG learns to drive - intensive assessment

It's day one of a week-long intensive driving assessment. This may be a tall order...

Today I sat behind the wheel for the first time in a long while. As I made myself comfortable in the little black VW Polo I noted that everything was as I remember from eight years ago; steering wheel in front, three pedals at my feet, gearbox in the usual place, driving instructor to my left and Chief Examiner of the Driving Instructor's Association in the back... oh.

No pressure then. Thankfully Jim Kennedy, the lovely Scot who has taken on the challenge of teaching me, and DIA man Mike Frisby are both delightful and made me feel quite comfortable as they explained it wasn't a test, but an 'assessment'. Though I'm not sure that's actually any better.

Jim talked me through the ins-and-outs of the little Volkswagen before explaining the standard cockpit drill; doors, seat, steering, seatbelt and mirrors. So far, so standard.

"And now in your own time I would like you to start the engine and drive off when you think it's safe to do so."

Right.

So I dialled up 4,000rpm, dumped the clutch and pulled a cheeky little J-turn out of the office car park, before snapping shut the throttle at the first corner and collecting up the resultant lift-off oversteer with a graceful dab of oppo.

Well, that's what happened in my head. But it all (sort of) came back to me fairly quickly, and I slowly pulled away from the BBC with a quiet confidence.

"At the bottom of the road, Nicola, I would like you to take a left." There was traffic at the bottom of the road, so we waited there for quite a while before Jim gently prompted me to go, "that bus is stationary there Nicola, I think it's safe to proceed."

Jim's very brave. 

Off I went to the left.

I'm not going to lie: a lot of my ‘assessment' this morning is a bit of a blur. I may have been cool as a cucumber on the outside (ish), but inside I was screaming at the sight of every big red bus and each cyclist (there are definitely not as many bikers in Ireland, or anywhere else in the world. Combined).

But as I travelled slowly through the many sets of traffic lights, I noticed that Jim didn't hover his feet over the dual pedals quite as much as my old instructor did when I attempted to learn as a teen. My confidence began to grow and so, after we - slowly - turned into a residential street, I think my fabulous turn in the road surprised everyone. Including me. 

While in the quiet back streets, Jim also asked me to reverse around a corner and parallel park. These two maneuvers...er, may need a little bit of work. On which I'll update you as they turn out less random.

After that, the standards were pretty much covered. Yes, I did think I'd broken the Polo during my somewhat enthusiastic emergency stop, and yes, it took me a little while to gather myself after it, but I think I nailed it. So, apart from the fear of all other traffic and the inability to do two-thirds of the standard maneuvers, I feel like I'm good to go.

So what's next? Well, I have fifteen hours of lessons over five days to bring me up to scratch. This may be a tall order. Stick with me, and I'll fill you in on how I get on...

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