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It's Never Too Late

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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 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

Lesson 5 - STOP!

27th July 2017

Carl AshwinInstructor Man is a wily fox and I knew this already but little did I know what he would have in store for me today, a mock driving test!

We met in a different location today, Charminster! The focus of the first part of today's lesson was negotiating some of the more narrow residential areas. Charminster has a few roads where you feel inclined to breathe in but we then moved on to Victoria Park in Dorchester. Its an area I know quite well. As a schoolkid I lived in Poundbury Crescent and walked through Vic-Park to get to DMS and then later, Hardye's and then later still The Thomas Hardye School. The roads in Vic Park have parking on both sides and some blind junctions so it was good practice for me in control and safety. We made our way from Vic Park over to Poundbury, up through Normandy Way, down onto Poundbury Road and suddenly found ourselves in the Wessex FM car park. We did a reverse into a parking space manoeuvre and that was the moment Instructor Man unleashed his devilish instrument of torture.....a clipboard!

He told me we were going to do a mock test and he would mark it for me as with a real test. Suddenly I felt the pressure. He had a copy of the actual test form to work on. Whilst getting ready to leave the car park, Dave Goulden and Justin Gladdis emerged from the building to come and have a chat. We said goodbye and then the fun began. Driving out of the Wessex FM car park and up to the junction with Poundbury Road, I stalled it as I had selected the wrong gear. Still, we had come to a stop so not all bad!

What followed was a largely routine but somewhat edgy drive round. Though Instructor Man is an old and trusted friend, suddenly with his clipboard and official form he was a stranger making little marks on his sheet even when I hadn't done anything remarkable.

We went back to Vic Park and went over some of the roads visited earlier and generally drove one of the test routes before making our way back to the Wessex FM car park. That's when he gave me the verdict.

I had a total of 9 minor faults which would have meant a pass BUT unbeknown to me I had picked up 1 major fault. This was at the junction of Coburg Road and Maud Road where to my shame I had not noticed a STOP sign, painted road instruction and white stop line. Therefore my old friend told me I would have failed the test.

He did however assure me that aside from that one error, he was pleased with my progress. I confessed that I simply hadn't seen the sign and in truth, that can mean the difference between a safe journey and a trip to hospital. A point well made and very much understood.

We then drove from Wessex FM back to my home with no instruction from him. It was a smooth relaxed ride and even the dreaded roundabouts didn't trouble me today.

For next time though, I just need to remember to STOP!

Posted by Carl Ashwin at 8:16pm

Lesson 4 - The Hills!

18th July 2017

Carl AshwinWhat could Instructor Man possibly have in store for me in lesson 4? We’d arranged to meet earlier than usual and at a location leading to a frighteningly busy junction which in turn lead to the dreaded (cue thunderclap!) Football Ground Roundabout. Trickier was to come…..

It should be noted that I have started to really enjoy driving though why we persist in messing around with gears when we have automatic cars is beyond me but hey, it is what it is.

Instructor Man clearly had plans today. These plans involved more roundabouts….which I am more comfortable with but also hill starts and reverse parallel parking. Now, if there was some sort of Government contract I could sign to say that I, Carl Ashwin do solemnly swear to never attempt to park my vehicle by means of reversing next to an already parked vehicle, I would sign it!

Back to the plot, we were on our way to Wareham in no time today before we found ourselves on what very much looked and felt like army land…..because I think it actually was. We found our way back to Osmington with just a few hairy moments due to the somewhat narrow roads before making our way onto the mean, hilly streets of Preston. Instructor Man had plans that involved some three-point turns (no major issues there) and some practice hill starts and gear changes. This was a bit rusty of course but then he unleased the full horror on me – “we’re going to do Boot Hill!” (cue thunderclap…..again!)

Boot Hill is one thing but you have the delights of Asda junction to negotiate beforehand. Though to be slightly anti-clamactic, it all went reasonably well. Not exceptional but no cars were wrecked. We continued on towards the roundabout that would take us down towards The Causeway and took a right.

Eventually we ended up on the Granby. As if the horror of Boot Hill and Asda Junction hadn’t been trying enough, Instructor Man now wanted to do parallel parking. Again, I gave it a go. It was not great so I had another go and it was better.

We made our way down Abbostbury Road, stopping at the lights before crossing Swannery Bridge and onwards to home.

I enjoyed todays lesson and as for Instructor Man’s evil plot to thwart my plans to drive, he hasn’t won yet!

So onto my song choice for today’s lesson. In honour of the focus on hills lets step into the always bizarre world of Kate Bush.

Number of stalls: 1

Posted by Carl Ashwin at 7:59pm

Lesson 3 - Turn Around Bright Eyes!

12th July 2017

Carl AshwinTuesday could be summed up in one word – rain! It was with some relief therefore that I discovered my lesson was postponed until today (Wednesday). Thankfully the weather today was a little less…..wet.

Being on the radio generally means you get to listen to a lot of music and it got me thinking about what songs I would choose to represent my driving lessons so far. My first lesson would have been The Beatles with Drive My Car thanks to Instructor Man confidently handing me control of the vehicle. My second lesson, entirely focussed on roundabouts (see Lesson 2 blog for more) would easily be The Average White Band with Let’s Go Round Again (and we did!). This, my third lesson however has been a mix of roundabouts and more importantly some three point turns. My song choice for this lesson is………..at the end of this blog (see what I did there?)

Instructor Man who by this point is becoming a Stig like figure protected under a cloak of anonymity has very good taste in music but I’m sworn to secrecy.

So today we encountered more of those pesky roundabouts and my confidence is definitely growing in this area. It’s all down to feeling comfortable with my own control. Yes, we did some focus time on three point turns and even a bit of the old reversing around a corner and I think I did OK generally. Not an expert but quite smooth I think.

We did some parking and even stopped at a garage and I filled up for the first time and no, I didn't go a single penny over the amount I was told on the meter....those steady broadcast ready hands have other uses it seems!

We also did the Swannery Bridge junction in Weymouth and the dreaded Asda junction but it was a left turn in towards North Quay so not too bad. A quick trip through town and back along the sea front saw out a smooth lesson.

I will say this though. Experienced drivers couldn’t wait to get around me today. Let’s say I was driving through a 30 and coming towards the end of that zone. In spite of the fact I too would speed up to the road we were on, some people just couldn’t wait to overtake and speed off even though I was going to be headed for the same speed. It seems foolish to me.

So then, onto the song that most fits this lesson…if you’ve gotten this far. In honour of our three point turns, it can only be…….. 

Posted by Carl Ashwin at 8:30pm

Lesson 2 - The Day of The Roundabout!

7th July 2017

Carl AshwinOn reflection it was a schoolboy error to admit to Instructor Man during lesson 1 that I didn't much care for roundabouts. He had warned me that for my second lesson we'd be focusing on these....a lot! So as Thursday dawned I woke up with that same sense of dread I used to get when I was at school and it was the day of a French lesson. As the afternoon approached however I started to feel quite excited about my second lesson. I was buoyed by my first lesson and hadn't stalled even once so I felt with Instructor Mans sure and calm guidance I could nail this one no problem. Little did I know....

Instructor Man picked me up and drove off in the direction of The Trumpet Major and on to Came View Rd where we stopped for a debrief. With his trusty clipboard and mighty pen, Instructor Man set about drawing a roundabout and explaining the various lane layouts. Yikes! He really was intent on doing a lot of these today. We pulled away with me at the wheel and did a few circuits of Came View Road and Casterbridge Road with some stopping and pulling away to get me in practice for the upcoming roundabout-a-thon on which we were going to embark.

Soon enough we were leaving Came View Road and taking a left onto the A352 where there are a couple of nifty little roundabouts ideal for the terrified learner. The obstacle I had to overcome was a combination of acceleration, braking, signalling and looking around me to be sure what was on all sides. Things were a little bumpy at this stage but Instructor Man knows no fear and calmly dispensed his learned words "Drop into 2nd gear, you must". OK he didn't exactly say that but for the purposes of entertainment, let's go with it.

Over the course of the next hour or so we took in Stinsford, Football Ground, Monkeys Jump (no, I don't know why it's called that either), Top-o-Town and by the end I was starting to show improvement.

At some point though before my new found confidence I broke my spell and stalled the car. In fact I did so 4 times throughout the lesson which caused me to say some words I wouldn't use when on the radio! Instructor Man laughed it all off in that confident way of his.

Before very long we were making our way down to Weymouth and this time took the bypass and the Southill exit from....yes....the roundabout before making our way back in towards Weymouth and onto those dreaded King Street lights where traffic turning right seems to line up with the lane for straight ahead, before heading onto home.

Overall it was a positive lesson and my handling of the roundabouts felt noticeably better. Though I was annoyed at the number of stalls, I guess it happens to all drivers from time to time. Hey-ho.

Number of stalls: 4

Until next time then.

PS: Almost forgot, we passed Julian Fellowes house on our travels. It's very nice and quite befits the man who writes Downton Abbey. If you're reading this Julian then yes, I shall be delighted to come for dinner.

Posted by Carl Ashwin at 5:58pm

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2017 (6)

Recent Posts

Lesson 6 - I Went Down To The Crossroads

Posted by Carl Ashwin

1st August 2017 10:57pm

Lesson 5 - STOP!

Posted by Carl Ashwin

27th July 2017 8:16pm

Lesson 4 - The Hills!

Posted by Carl Ashwin

18th July 2017 7:59pm

Lesson 3 - Turn Around Bright Eyes!

Posted by Carl Ashwin

12th July 2017 8:30pm

Lesson 2 - The Day of The Roundabout!

Posted by Carl Ashwin

7th July 2017 5:58pm

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