My first driving lesson was brilliant. I actually had it on the morning of my seventeenth birthday, so keen was I to break away from the confines of pedestrianism and public transport. Thrilled at the the prospect of the be-roaded world which now beckoned, I could barely contain my enthusiasm when the doorbell rang to announce the arrival of my instructor. His name was Mark. He had been chosen on the grounds that my friend had been taught by him and passed first time, but also because he was, in Lizzie’s words, “well fit.”
Upon opening the door, it was a relief to find that he didn’t disappoint. In the eyes of my mother, he was a scruffy youth in need of a belt and a hairbrush. In my eyes, he was a god. After some annoying questions from mia madre about boring things like costs and insurance, I was finally allowed out of the house and into the dark blue Mini whose features excitingly included racing stripes and, as I was to discover, a narrow music selection. Mark was the frontman of a band, with the enigmatic name “The Way – because, like, you know, everybody’s just trying to find their way through life, yeah?” Needless to say, I was deeply impressed.
We looked under the bonnet of the Mini and he talked about screenwash while I glazed over and nodded along happily. Then, finally, I got into the vehicle and enjoyed a particularly erotic moment when he adjusted my seat so that I could easily reach all the pedals. Seatbelt on, mirrors adjusted, key in the ignition, and we were off. Like the majority of learners, I completed the obligatory 100 yards of kangaroo hops. This habit died hard. One of my father’s favourite anecdotes involves a practice session in one of those car parks at St. Ouen’s where, amid a lot of outrage and frustration, I kangaroo hopped solidly for about 45 minutes without managing to get the car into gear once.
In hindsight, Mark probably did quite a lot of pedal control. Anyway, off we went, speeding at an impressive 12 mph through a residential area with only a couple of forays onto the pavement. There was a minor incident where I underestimated the width, direction and speed of a cyclist, and then a funny-slash-awful moment when I lurched out mistakenly into oncoming traffic. However, driving and surviving never really seemed to be the focus of my lesson – it was more about commenting on The Way’s album. Which, looking back, was really quite terrible, but at the time I don’t think I’d ever found anything so moving or emotionally raw.
Unfortunately, over the next six months I discovered that Mark had both a girlfriend and a child (by a different girlfriend, incidentally, but no judgement) and also burped a lot more than the average human, so my crush somewhat abated. Therefore when the day of my test arrived, I was ready to let go. Installed in the Mini, I drove around a nice old man called Barry who was sporting a blinding hi-vis garment accessorised with tattoos and bifocals. Reader, I passed.