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It's Never Too Late


Proving that if at first you don't succeed you should try, try and try again, Carl Ashwin gets back behind the wheel in an effort to pass his driving test.....but will he ever understand roundabouts?

Lesson 10 - Slipping Away

12th October 2017

Carl AshwinBefore I get onto the details of this weeks lesson, I need to let you know that I HAVE BOOKED MY DRIVING TEST!

Now, there are only three people who know the date and time and that is how it will stay for now. None of my colleagues at Wessex FM know when it is and even a visit from our CEO didn't crack me. So, my test date is approaching!

There were two areas of focus for this weeks lesson.

The first was the Dual Carriageway to practice overtaking and entering and exiting on long and short slip roads. I'll be honest, the business of joining the Dual Carriageway from a long slip road does rather feel like a 'put your foot down and hope for the best' situation. My first attempt was a little dodgy with me looking to the right to see what was coming whilst not seeing that the front of the car was about to cross into the right hand lane! After a few more attempts though I was soon making good progress and we eventually made our way into Dorchester and into Fairfield Car Park to attempt some bay parking.

My first attempt was basically flawless. Claire was impressed but me being a curmudgeon in training wrote it off as beginners luck. So we tried it again and it was again fine. At last, we've found a manoeuvre involving reversing that doesn't make me want to go back in time to visit myself in a former life and have a few words about my behaviour coming back to haunt me later on down the line (that bit makes perfect sense to me but you may not fare so well!).

Until next Tuesday then when I think we might be trying to reverse round corners again!

And so to my song choice for this lesson. I have to thank Andrew in the Wessex FM office for suggesting this one!

Posted by Carl Ashwin at 3:04pm

Lesson 9 - It's Behind You!

14th September 2017

Carl AshwinI'd started my lessons dreading roundabouts. Having done quite a few of those by this point they have become much less of a worry. I've been using public transport for many years and one way you can have some virtual practice at roundabouts when you're sat on the back of the bus is deciding when you would go at a roundabout. Considerations for busses are a little different I'm sure but the basic rules must be much the same.

Now though the focus has to go on manoeuvres. The business of turning in the road (or the three point turn) as it is more commonly known doesn't give me any cause for concern but when it comes to reverse parallel parking or reversing round a corner, my blood runs cold. And so it was that this would be the focus for this lesson. I'd also asked to visit Victoria Park in Dorchester which has some cracking blind junctions....if you like that kind of thing!

So we started in Vic Park and it was all about dropping down into first gear on the approach to pretty much all of those junctions, edging out slowly and then going when I felt safe enough to do so. All went well here. Claire then took us down Coburg Road towards the junction with Maud Road, passing my old school (DMS) along the way. I already knew about the STOP sign that was waiting for me having previously failed my mock test with Instructor Man on this one junction so no problems here. This was as far as my luck would hold for this lesson however as we then went on our way to start practicing the reverse manoeuvres.

Claire has a system for reverse parallel parking which actually makes perfect sense but applying that to the practical element is not so easy. For starters I instinctively look to my mirrors for guidance, rather than out of the back window. You might think that looking out the back window is a little hit and miss (less unfortunate turns of phrase are available) but Claire had proven that my results were better when doing it this way. My first couple of attempts were hopeless.....and frustrating. My third however was much better. I believe that as with roundabouts, further practice will improve my results and my mindset.

We also stopped on Castle Park to practice some reversing round corners. Again my temptation is to use mirrors and again, my results are better when physically looking out the back window so my first attempt or two were poor but then things improved.

For my next lesson we'll be taking on Dual Carriageways which I did a little with Instructor Man so hopefully won't be too much of a newb on this.

And so to my song choice for today, well, finding a song about reversing in a car isn't the easiest task so I've gone lateral and gone for a song about me (or my life) in reverse.


Posted by Carl Ashwin at 9:34am

Lesson 8 - To The Left, To The Right

8th September 2017

Carl AshwinI think my lessons with Instructor Man had set me up well and built my confidence up.....though perhaps I was starting to feel a bit too confident. I was starting to take junctions a little quicker than was ideal for starters so that's where we started this week.

Claire has like a hundred mirrors in her instructor car. At first I thought she might be uber-glamorous (and she may well be!) but these mirrors serve a very different purpose. They are there so she can see what I can but also so that she can see what I'm seeing. Hang on, that makes NO sense! OK so basically Claire can look around the outside of the car using the mirrors in the same way I do as the driver but she can also watch where I am looking. This in itself is quite sinister because it effectively gives her a window into my sight.....and all in the environment of a driving instructors car. Who knew?

The problem is that I was either using mirrors I didn't need to use or not using the correct ones at the correct time. So if turning left it's good to check your rear view and your left wing. I was also checking the right wing which Claire has pointed out is unnecessary (I hope spell check rendered that correctly!)

Equally when turning right it's good to check your rear view and your right wing. Finally when observing a change or signal from the driver in front, it's all about checking the rear view mirror before taking any action needed. SAFETY!!

As I remarked to Claire, regarding my old friend the roundabout, I get frustrated at observing experienced drivers not signalling on roundabouts in the correct way effectively leading to a pot-luck situation that to me appears akin to basically closing your eyes and going for it. I'm sure that's not the case for the individual driver but what about for the drivers behind you or coming round from the right? Can everybody tell what your intentions are? If you don't signal it suggests you are headed straight on but as I have seen many times, that is by no means a firm indication of a drivers intentions. This worries me a little.

I mentioned to Claire my old gripe about driving. This being that I can be a brilliant driver but I can't account for the driver heading towards me at speed. Claire, being a driving Samurai took this entirely in her stride and countered that if I were driving safely, it would give me the time and decision making space to react appropriately to the situation. Well, I couldn't argue with that!

For our next lesson it's a mix of manoeuvres including the truly terrifying reverse parallel parking and the palm sweating thrills of reversing round a corner. We'll also be tackling some of the trickier junctions using Victoria Park in Dorchester (you have been warned!)

And so to my song choice for this lesson. The title of this blog would suggest perhaps a Stereo MC's song but instead I'm going for one of my fave M.J songs instead.

Posted by Carl Ashwin at 7:54pm

Lesson 7 - All Change!

31st August 2017

Carl AshwinWell it's been about a month since my last lesson and so today I was expecting to be a little rusty. One big change is that Instructor Man is now Instructor Woman! No, hang on, let me rephrase that because it gives quite the wrong impression. I'm not for one moment suggesting that Instructor Man has made some major life choices, simply that I've changed instructor. Phew!

On the approach to my test, Instructor Man, who is a personal friend, recommended I change to Instructor Woman aka Claire Norman (other driving instructors are available - keeps the lawyers happy) who will help polish up any remaining rough spots. So I met Claire in the car park outside Wessex FM today and we drove off to Coburg Road before switching places and doing some paperwork. Then we were on our way once again.

With the month break it's been interesting seeing the little details that I have forgotten such as which mirrors I'm checking and which gears I'm selecting for certain conditions and, as Instructor Man had sagely warned me, Claire was right on it! This could well be the driving equivalent of Boot Camp!

Armed with more mirrors than a fairground attraction, Claire is a driving Samurai. She can look where she needs too and keep an eye on where you're looking as well. There is no escape. So we identified a number of action points from todays session that I need to do some work on.

It has been nice to be out driving again after a break. Zipping about today was a reminder of how convenient driving can be.

I stalled a couple of times but Claire's car has one of those nifty things that restarts the engine for you automatically so you can be on your way much quicker.

As well as general driving today we did some focus on reversing round a corner, reverse parallel parking and three point turns. I think the three point turn business is OK but I definitely need some more practice on the reverse manoeuvres (which I still think are inherently evil).

So it is that we'll meet again next week for more. One thing I do now need to take action on is booking my test so we have that magic date to work towards.

My song for todays lesson is something of a classic from Canned Heat - On The Road Again. Take it away........

Posted by Carl Ashwin at 2:59pm

Lesson 6 - I Went Down To The Crossroads

1st August 2017

Carl AshwinI'll be honest, my mock test last week and the fact that I failed it with one major fault has weighed on my mind. Having been quite comfortable with my lessons I quickly started to feel the pressure from Instructor Man as he whipped out his clipboard of justice and slipped very comfortably into the role of examiner. He's a wicked man.

Last week we began to tackle some of the more densely populated streets and I had a feeling we might well be doing more of the same of this week, and I was right! We tackled the crossroads of Poundbury. By the way, the deliberate lack of road markings is NOT helpful to the learner driver!

Last week I failed my mock test by not stopping at a STOP sign. This week as we headed down Coburg Road towards the junction with Maud Road I knew it was coming. I stopped this time but Instructor Man wasn't convinced. He asked me to pull up on the left and asked whether I had stopped. I insisted I had stopped momentarily but long enough for me to gauge the flow of traffic from the left and right. Instructor Man advised that I should bring the car to a full stop and wait for a few seconds.

We also the tackled Victoria Park and Monmouth Road which is pretty much lined with traffic on both sides. I should say thank you as well to the many courteous drivers who flashed their lights to let me through!

We ended up winding our way down to Weymouth after some reversing round a corner in Manor Park and Instructor Man seemed reasonably happy.

As for my song choice this week, it has to be a classic to go with the many 'Crossroads' we encountered (though I accept that being from Birmingham I should probably choose the theme tune from the classic TV soap of the same name).

Number of stalls: 1.

Posted by Carl Ashwin at 10:57pm


2017 (10)

Recent Posts

Lesson 10 - Slipping Away

Posted by Carl Ashwin

12th October 2017 3:04pm

Lesson 9 - It's Behind You!

Posted by Carl Ashwin

14th September 2017 9:34am

Lesson 8 - To The Left, To The Right

Posted by Carl Ashwin

8th September 2017 7:54pm

Lesson 7 - All Change!

Posted by Carl Ashwin

31st August 2017 2:59pm

Lesson 6 - I Went Down To The Crossroads

Posted by Carl Ashwin

1st August 2017 10:57pm

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