I remember quite clearly my first driving lesson. Walking down Nelson Avenue, the unmade road where we lived, to meet the driving instructor who would not venture anywhere near our home for fear of getting stuck in the mud! I had a pretty good idea how to control the car as I was fanatical about driving, and at just 17 years old, it was my prime ambition – to pass my driving test.
“Drive to the top of the hill and stop at the T-junction,” said my driving instructor. Scocles Road led up to the small and picturesque village of Minister-On-Sea, famous for hosting the oldest Abbey Church in England, built around 650AD. But it was no mean feat, a hill-start, without rolling backwards, with slick use of the handbrake, clutch and accelerator! By some miracle, I managed to do this without kangaroo-ing the vehicle!
The dreaded driving test
After 12 driving lessons, I took my test in Canterbury, and passed the first time! That was another miracle because during the test I made a left turn when the examiner told me to take a right! I had an excuse – I’m completely deaf in my left ear. I should have asked him to repeat the instruction but was too nervous to ask. Oh well.
One of the first cars I bought was a Ford Zodiac. In those days you could pick up second-hand cars quite cheaply – I think I paid about £50 for it – if I still owned it today, and it was in good mechanical order, it could be worth £20,000! Mind you, I had to save up for it – and the going wage for the work I was doing was £5 to £7 a week!
This particular car was great for the love life! With a bench seat in the front and a gear stick on the driving column, your girlfriend could site up close while you stretched out your arms on the steering wheel – really cool!
The price of cool!
One memorable day, I was driving down the A20 towards Dover with my girlfriend at my side. Following me was my mate Robin, with his girlfriend by his side – except he was driving a Robin Reliant three-wheeler! Yes, his name really was Robin. You can imagine how good that made me feel driving in my Ford Zodiac with a top speed of 100mph. I was cruising along at 60mph so that Robin could keep up, when suddenly I noticed he was overtaking me! He had a broad Colgate Toothpaste grin on his face. I was not impressed, neither was my girlfriend. After all, I was driving a Ford Zodiac that could do at least 120mph! I put my foot hard down on the accelerator pedal, and the connecting cable broke! I had to pull over on the hard shoulder with a lot of embarrassment!
My girlfriend got out of the car, saying something like, “What do you call that then! We’re finished!” And she stormed off!
I learnt a lot of lessons in my teenage years – about not trying to be cool all the time! It never pays off! Mind you, it’s a lesson I’m still learning!