Driving

07:39

The prophet Britney once said that there's only two types of people in the world, the ones that entertain and the ones that observe. I guess the ones that observe don't have to have as many driving lessons as I did.

Friends and family know that I have harboured one true ambition in life since university. There is one pipe dream that keeps me going through the slog of day to day life. One goal to aim for and one hope in my heart. Somewhere deep down I dare to dream and believe that one day it will come true: I will own a car, and live somewhere I can park, and drive to an out of town Asda to do my grocery shopping, then come home with my stuff in the boot.

I'm 27 this year and this still seems impossibly grown up. Imagine! Being able to bulk buy! Being one of those people who sees canned goods on special offer and being able to stock up! Being able to buy MULTIPLE WINEBOXES AND KEEP THEM UNDER THE STAIRS! (Having stairs with a cupboard under them is my second most ambitious fantasy). Sometimes I order my groceries online just to imagine what it would be like. It costs £4 to get delivered even though I live a fifteen second walk from a Tesco Express. I tell my boyfriend it works out cheaper over the week. I'm lying. 

It was with this dream in mind that at the tender age of 21 I first embarked on my goal of learning to drive. I was apprehensive - I had, after all, managed to be the only person in my year 6 class to fail my Cycling Proficiency - but how else was I ever going to get to go to an out of town Asda? The wineboxes and frozen pizzas weren't going to drive their way to me.

It was a painful three years that I spent learning to drive after that cautiously optimistic first lesson ('don't worry! It's always hard to pick up at first!' 'Do you think I can do this in 20 lessons?' 'Er, maybe.') Over that time I had three driving instructors, each more ridiculous to the last, except not because the second one I had was the most ridiculous human being I have ever met. I can't actually remember what her name was but let's call her Tracy because even if that wasn't her name it should have been. She was about 65 and had the longest, most decrepit acrylic nails I have ever seen in my life. They were hot pink with diamanté gemstones at the end. She horrified me, but at the same time I completely idolised her. I never had acrylic nails before I met Tracy and by the end of our time together was getting them done every three weeks. 

Tracy was sort of an unqualified therapist more than a driving instructor. We'd drive round the cul-de-sacs of Mitcham at 15mph whilst she asked me about my dating life and shared long stories about her daughter's upcoming divorce and subsequent scandalous pregnancy. Tracy saw me through it all; I failed my first driving test and she left me at the side of the road by Morden tube station, sobbing, because she had a nail appointment 20 minutes later.

On the day I failed my first driving test, through a twist of fate (COUGH using my more talented and connected friends to my advantage COUGH) I managed to meet Gabrielle. Yes, THE Gabrielle of 90s fame. She told me it would be okay and I'd pass next time and you know what? Later that night she performed 'Dreams' in front of a small assorted crowd (I swear, this actually happened and wasn't a hallucination, I actually swear) and I thought of getting in the Nissan Micra and driving home from Asda. Dreams CAN come true.

The great soothsayer Gabrielle was right, I DID pass next time. But she didn't predict that it would be nearly a year later before I took the test due to the fact I scheduled at least five tests in the meantime and bottled out of Every. Single. One. 

The week before the test actually happened I moved house, which despite being totally seamless I managed to make incredibly stressful (see my future biography, titled Personal Change? Zero Chill! for further details). Hours after moving I sat on my bed alone contemplating where my life was going. I was in a new houseshare. I was a month from starting a new job in a new career. Little did I know I was in the room next to the person who would soon become my new secret lover (and then boyfriend). But I still didn't feel ready to take that test. Asda was slipping away from me. What if I failed again? I couldn't expect a 90s star round every corner to motivate me to carry on. Who would it be next time? Louise Redknapp? 

My reverie was disturbed by Tracy ringing me to cancel my driving test because her scandalously pregnant daughter had finally given birth. 'It's in a week,' I said. 'Can't you do my driving test then? I've booked the day off work'.

Tracy rung up and phoned me NO FEWER THAN THREE TIMES throughout the rest of the day to let me know what a selfish cow I was and that all the times she'd been on my side about my dating fiascos she was lying. In particular? It WAS unreasonable to stop dating someone as they took 20 minutes to get from one end of Clapham Junction to the other. Oops. I was fuming and at that minute I knew I was going to find a new instructor, do the driving test and pass. 

So I did. I can't remember his name either but it was something normal (Simon?). I did a lesson EVERY DAY THAT WEEK and you know what? I bloody passed. I did that out of spite. I hope you know that Tracy wherever you are.

Sadly the story doesn't quite end with me driving away from that Asda into the sunset. Three years down the line I haven't got back behind the wheel since passing the test and dream at least once a week about being forced to drive and having forgotten how. Oh well. What an achievement that I even passed. One day I'll get my dream. Thanks Simon! And Tracy, I hope you sorted your nails out. 

PS as I'm sure you've noticed this is my first blog in a year. I want to start blogging again. I'm never going to spend another year stopping doing something I love (writing) because I'm too tired and too worried people won't enjoy it and too focused on my stupid allegedly adult life.
I dedicate this blog to my friend Martyn. I'm sure many of his other friends have also been going through tweets and messages over the last few days. I was struck by his comments about my blog, the way we first met. I love writing so much. So why do I not do it?!! I need to take a leaf from his attitude. Just DO IT and #bemoremartyn.
And oh, Martyn, I hope you're reading this somewhere (in 50 years or so once you finally get time after reading all the other thousands of tributes). So many people much closer than I was have said it better than I could. But you were an EXCEPTIONALLY special person who touched my life and many others. You will live on forever in all of our hearts. X

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