P is for Parallel Parking

The Lovely Wife and I are in alignment with many things but there is one thing that we differ in considerable terms and that is cars and driving them. It is a source of huge amusement to me that the one of us that has a sports car that is ‘fun’ to drive is her. For me, the solid workhorse does perfectly fine thank you. It needs to get us from A to B as comfortably as possible; I ask no more of it.

I have never been keen on driving and long years of commuting on the M25 has not endeared me to it any more. When treated to the offer ‘would you like me to drive?’ the answer is almost always a firm ‘yes, thank you’.

I have never been that fussed when it came to cars, and came to driving late. This is partly due to the disaster that was my first driving lesson, where my father, in a fit of enthusiasm that his newly turned seventeen-year-old son wanted to learn to drive, took me for a lesson in his beige Ford Cortina estate in an empty car park in the Team Valley in Gateshead. It did not go well. I did not actually hit anything but my natural lack of coordination combined with the fact that – faced with the reality – my Dad could not cope with anyone else behind the wheel of his car, meant that patience was quickly worn thin and that was the end of any attempt to teach me. Since my mother had never learned to drive and we could not afford driving lessons that put paid to any attempt to learning in my teens. Then university came along, and the last thing you want in Oxford is a car, so it had to wait until I had started work for me to finally work up the enthusiasm to learn. So, for many months that followed I would have lessons at lunchtime, picked up at work. Needless to say, I had many, many lessons with two different driving instructors – although I deny any responsibility for the retirement of the first one. I just was a bit of a slow learner.

My first test was a failure because I was too hesitant. The second test, on a swelteringly hot day, I failed because I overcompensated and was too aggressive. I have seen in my life what I like to refer to as Goldilocks syndrome, and driving tests were no exception so, thankfully, as with my relationship history, third time was just right.

At the time that I was learning to drive the skill of parallel parking was being introduced as one of the manoeuvres that you might be called upon to perform. I was, and still am, awful at parallel parking. It was my main weak spot and I was dreading it coming up in my test and I was sure that if it did it would be the cause of failure. As it turned out I did not need it to come up to fail, but in none of my three tests was the skill tested. In retrospect, I need not have worried. No one is particularly comfortable with change or the introduction of something new, and that includes the test examiners as well as those taking the test. Or maybe they just saw the fear in my eyes and took pity on me. I don’t care, I was just glad to finally pass. Although I think unleashing me onto the roads of Britain was a mixed blessing. Certainly, a friend of mine saw his life flash before him as a passenger as my little white mini careered onto my first dual carriageway. But I was lucky and I have enough miles under my belt know to decree myself vaguely competent. But I don’t have to enjoy it, so if you offer me a lift I’ll accept, with honest gratitude.