Learning to Drive

Me? My dad gave me lessons on the beautiful country lanes (deathtraps) round Seascale  In the Lake District. One day, after sitting in the car for a few minutes, looking out of the windshield at clear blue skies, listening to a grinding, whirring sound as it slowed and faded: The sound (I think you’re there before me) of  front wheels that no longer have contact with a road surface, but which are running free and gradually losing momentum. They were able to do this as the fuschia Hillman Avenger .. It was the 70’s! ..  that we were sitting in had come to rest, yours truly behind the controls, at an angle of 45 degrees after taking on a dry stone wall and fence. My Dad turned to me, stiffly – It may have been the whiplash – and said. “Right! I think that’s enough of that!” We swapped places, he reversed it back onto the road and he never mentioned it again. It was however the end of my father’s tuition.

Avenger – almost the same colour!

 So it was at the age of 26 while living in Bromley by Bow in the East End of London that  I eventually learned to drive. The streets of Whitechapel, Mile End, Old Ford and Stepney being my training ground. I must confess, I had my doubts about my instructor: not because she was a woman, but because one memorable lesson she told me (This is true!) to drive up the off-slip of the A12, Blackwall Tunnel road just to the north of East India Dock road. All my instincts said ‘This doesn’t look right’ and I voiced my concern but she wouldn’t have it; till we got to the apex of the tight loop that the road makes to find two lanes of traffic bearing down on us. I think it probably prompted the quickest three point turn I’ve ever done.

My first car was a 1971 1.8 Marina coupe: GLD 967J. It was like shit off a shovel that car…. I tuned it: well fiddled with the carb jet and float – as if it made any difference. It still did what it wanted. I remember the day I bought it and went to pick it up. An icy December morning, I was also moving flats from Bow to Sudbury Town, Wembley. I had to tube it at what seemed like the crack of dawn, from Bow to Ickenham to collect it, then drive (my first solo drive!) down the A40 into and through central London back to Bow to load up, then back  through central London and A40 again to Wembley.

Look at that! 1.8 Coupe. Like poetry in motion. Sorry that should read pottery in motion

Incidentally, you know the stretch of road that runs from Kings Cross, past Euston, Baker Street and finally onto the flyover at Edgware Road? Well I’d not been driving long when one night, coming back from Hackney I managed to get from King’s Cross onto the A40, without a single red light! (Okay some were a bit amber, even slightly red-tinted…) But, honestly I stayed within the law. Mind you, I didn’t look at my speed. Couldn’t do it now of course. Too many new sets of lights. Like I said: shit off a shovel.

© Andy Daly  2010

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