DAY 53: Learning to drive without bursting into flames

23 Oct

“I’M 35,” I confirm to instructor Rob, as he sizes me up in that inexpert way chaps have.

I run through the excuses for him: I was a passenger in a drink-driving crash; I moved to London for 13 years; I was drunk all the time; I was one of those people who “just shouldn’t drive”…

None of those apply anymore, which just leaves: “I’ve put it off for so long I’ll probably be really shit at it.”

At 17 and 4 months I was the sort of knockabout scallywag who’d put their hands over your eyes for a hoot when you were barrelling down the freeway, cider bottles rolling under your seat.

By 17 and 5 months I was dreaming of tree trunks crashing down from the sky, plummeting into crackling pits of fire, reaching out an arm for help, sickening crunching noises and darkly revving engines.

The net was cast wider during waking hours. I cringed when walking under scaffolding, expected a knife in my ribs from passers by, waited for someone to plant their hands in my back and shove me under a tube train. It’s safe to say I’d lost that dumb fearlessness teenagers are equipped with to get them through rote hi-jinks and humiliations.

Eighteen years on I was comfortable playing the leaden passenger, only weak pulses of electricity flickering through my slumbering frontal lobe. It was only when I realised this had become a metaphor for my life that I dreadingly, slowly, pulled that finger out.

“Shall I get in on that side?” I ask Rob reluctantly, nodding at the driver’s seat. I get the sort of response you’d expect from a condescending old bugger, but quickly we warm to each other. Whereas I’d feared my trouble would be driving with my foot on the brake till we both felt sick with a coat-hanger under my shirt, turns out my only problem is staying under the speed limit and not circling roundabouts with gay abandon — and Rob bloody loves it.

“It appears we had the same French teacher,” he says, as I relax so much I fail to notice the car in front of me is braking and I let rip with a few profanities.

Rob’s looking to buy a house in the area, so we go hooning around the neighbouring village checking out likely spots as he swoons over the scenery. We overtake the local steam train ad nauseum so that he can reminisce over his old days as a train driver, and choose whichever unidentified roads look more beautiful.

What a lovely day out, we both agree.

Keeper? Lemme attit!

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