I had my first driving lessons this week.
At the age of 37.
I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long.
When all the kids at school were learning to drive, my attitude was always that I’d not be able to buy a car if I learnt, so there was no point. Besides, neither of my parents drove, so it wasn’t really a big deal.
The thought that taking lessons would be inconsequential if I couldn’t afford my own wheels pervaded through university and my early working life. Then commuting became the norm. I’ve always lived close to public transport – in two homes I’ve enjoyed the mixed blessing of having a bus stop on my door step, while another had clear line of sight to a railway terminus. And with most of my travel to places other than work being made much more enjoyable with a bottle of ale in hand, driving has always looked like an expensive hobby.
Throughout all these years I received strange looks from people when they discovered that I couldn’t drive. Some wondered if there was some deep-seated reason, like a tragic road accident that prevented me from wanting to get behind the wheel. Others – most notably girlfriends’ fathers – treated me with a sense of suspicion, assuming me as some sort of lesser man due to a lack of motoring prowess. But it never really bothered me.
Why become a learner later?
Almost five years ago I became a dad for the first time. And despite the excellent public transport provision to our local hospital, I needed to call in a lift when all the contractions and controlled breathing started. At that point I suddenly realised how inconvenient not driving could be. It was something of an antisocial hour and meant involving an additional party in the proceedings. Yes, it was all planned and yes, my other half gets on very well with my family. But do I think she’d rather I hadn’t had to invite them around to see her panting and waddling in the throes of labour? Absolutely.
Of course, since then we’ve had to buy a car. My other half can drive, you see. Life with a little one is a lot easier with a motor, but life where the driving responsibility can’t be shared between parents can prove a little fractious. Over the last few years, I’ve been able to drink at every party we’ve attended, been the more enthusiastic adult I spy participant and had the ability to sing along to the Frozen soundtrack as Kristoff/Hans/Olaf with a level of gusto that might have been prevented by a need to concentrate on the road.
Add to that the facts that I work for a car insurance firm, am credited as editor of a motoring blog and pay for a family membership of the Volvo Owners’ Club, it really is time I pulled my finger out and got myself a license.
Getting behind the wheel for the first time
Selecting a suitable driving school was actually remarkably easy. I just looked for some testimonials from people who looked like they were over 25 years old. There weren’t many. Whether that’s because we’re a rare breed or because teaching older learners is something of a specialist skill, I can’t say. But early signs are that I’m very happy with the choice I’ve made.
I’ve really enjoyed it so far. It’s been occasionally terrifying. There are great swathes of stuff to remember and I’m struggling to get my two feet to work independently of each other, instead flapping about like a would-be motoring merman. But – I think – it’s going in. Slowly.
It’ll take time getting used to speed and transforming a set of jerky routines learnt by rote into comfortable, controlled actions. However, a week ago driving a car was little more familiar to me than operating a train.
This week I know how to get moving and can turn left at junctions.
Who knows – in a few months I may be a real man…