Tag Archives: learning

My First Driving Lessons

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I have always avoided driving lessons as I live on a bus route into town and it’s expensive. But I was fed up of being stranded at bus stops and train stations.1341319584

The last straw was missing a friend’s wedding due to the three buses there and back.

Luckily around this time an acquaintance was overjoyed at passing her test. She gave me her instructor‘s number and I nervously called him up. He was booked up for the next month but came highly recommended so I said I’d wait.

I’d forgotten all about it when he rang. I booked for that Saturday afternoon! Watch out drivers, and pedestrians for that matter.

I had visions of me swerving all over the road, stalling multiple times and possibly doing myself and the instructor permanent injury. The last time I’d driven had been bumping along a farmer’s field in a battered Bedford van, with my father clinging to the door handle shouting “SLOW DOWN!!!” “CHANGE GEAR!!” and it culminated with me forgetting the braking procedure and flooring it with the clutch down. But that was ancient history…

I wasn’t expecting to drive as my friend said she had just been spoken to for her first hour. I had waited so long to start learning that I wasn’t anxious, just excited. I met the smiling grey-haired, smartly dressed man and he drove off. So far so normal. But then we stopped behind a parked car. He got out. What on earth was he doing?!

After seeing this picture I wouldn't drive with BSM! They don't have a good reputation.

After seeing this picture I wouldn’t drive with BSM! They don’t have a good reputation.

“Well get in” he said, grinning. Did he not value his life? I hoped this wasn’t some kind of crash course. Shouldn’t we be wearing helmets?

I was now nervous and went round to the previously forbidden seat. It felt weird to be behind the wheel instead of beside it.

John explained the moving off procedure. We were to go round a parked car and stop in front of it.

When I’d watched people drive it just seemed to be a case of accelerating to go faster, braking to stop, steering and putting the clutch down to change gear. How hard could it be?

But suddenly he started talking about the side mirror, the “sense” mirror, cyclists, pedestrians, biting point, changing between the gas and the gear pedal, indicating, steering, watching for oncoming vehicles and my heart started pounding and the sweat started running down my neck.

Following his directions I checked the mirrors, waiting for a clear road. I could already imagine a car coming up unseen while I was trying to work out what to do with the pedals. That would be it, my life over on the first lesson. Game over. The end.

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This learner driver in Aberdeen crashed into someone’s cellar.

I pushed the indicator the wrong way. How were you supposed to remember whether up was left and right was down? He changed it for me. My arms were so stiff with nerves that I couldn’t steer gently. I swerved out and he corrected the wheel for me. He helped me steer round the car and then told me to stop. He put the indicator on the right way for me and I checked my mirrors. He hadn’t mentioned how hard I needed to brake so naturally I just assumed that you simply press the pedal fully-down immediately.

There was a pause. “I think I’ve got whiplash” he said, a little rosy-cheeked.

Surprisingly he persevered and I learnt to brake gently and gradually and co-ordinate the clutch with the accelerator. We even went up to 30 miles an hour from 15. Every time I was on the road some impatient driver would be tailgating, angrily glaring into my mirror. I jerked the accelerator a bit to get away from one and John said “look, I don’t care if they honk their horn, you maintain your speed and forget about them, everyone was a learner once and they can overtake if they want.” Still, I didn’t like it. We headed out to the countryside and I nearly had a heart attack when a tractor appeared out of nowhere over the hill towards me.

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“Hang on, you’re going into the ditch” he said, helping me with the wheel. I was terrified. My arms were as flexible as tree branches and glued to the wheel in the quarter to three position, my eyes fixed on the road in front, my ankles aching with tension, my clothes sticking to me. I was yanking the gear-stick about madly and the clutch kept disappearing from my foot as the instructor took over.

“Careful, you’re going into the side of the road again” he said. “You don’t know how deep that puddle is so don’t go there.” From the passenger seat it looked like the car was always on the left of the middle line. It isn’t. It’s right on it. It looks like you’re driving in the middle of the road but the instructor assured me this was correct and you aren’t. Every time a vehicle came towards me I thought it was going to hit me.

“You were scared of that tractor weren’t you” he said grinning. I nodded.

“Keep your eyes on the road” he said, grabbing the wheel as I relaxed a bit and looked at him. I didn’t do that again.

Then he tried to teach me how to come out of a closed junction. I don’t like them as there’s so much to keep in your head to do. There was someone tailgating again and he was saying a string of instructions, something like “clutch, brake, mirror, look, indicate, slow down, go further forward you’ve stopped too soon again”. I had a brain freeze so he took over.

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It was much faster than a bicycle and more responsive. I had the sensation of being on a horse when it jumped and felt pretty powerless, trusting that I was doing it right. It is pretty scary when you’re in something which appears to move of its own volition with very little direction from you. It had been drilled into me that cars were dangerous. They killed you or other drivers. When I was in sixth form a girl killed her friend by going too fast over the hill I was going over now, crashing into the wall at the side.

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The second time I got in the car I felt more confident and couldn’t wait to have another try. I’d almost mastered clutch and accelerator control so we did more complicated manoeuvres. I went round a deserted landscaped island to get roundabout practice. These back roads were nice and quiet. I didn’t like other vehicles. You didn’t know what they were going to do and that scared me. You knew where you were with an empty road, no need to panic.

We did turning right across oncoming traffic. I realised that once again my clothes were sticking to me. I was particularly scared of cyclists and waited for them to whizz past, checking that there weren’t any more anywhere. I stopped in the road to turn and he put the indicator on and took the wheel off me, steering us in.

“We could have crashed there” he said, “someone could have gone into us because you slowed down but didn’t indicate”. pa-7654772

My heart sank. There was still a long way to go but it was only the second lesson. There was another risky moment when we came out of a side road and I swerved a bit, not knowing to move the wheel back earlier. Then I over-corrected and almost went into a car waiting in the side road on the left.

I realised there was a lot to think about. People make it look easy but it’s not until you’re doing it yourself that you see there is quite a bit of preparation to do to pass a test.

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Apart from that all went well and I got unintended hazard perception training when someone almost stepped into the road without looking. Luckily I’d anticipated that and had already slowed down. It could’ve been much worse – a learner driver was actually caught up in a shooting in August. Driving is a lot about anticipating and as a cyclist I had learnt that a surprisingly large number of people, both pedestrians and drivers, could be morons.Henderson-Road-Crossing-2-300x195

We went up to fourth gear with me happily cruising at 40 miles an hour. “You’re at the upper limit, no faster than that” John said. “You’re a thrill-seeker aren’t you, you love a bit of speed I think.” I was surprised to hear that, going fast was scary because I had turned the wheel a bit too sharply before and the car had veered out a little in my lane, something which didn’t happen at lower speeds.

I did two types of hill starts beginning in first and second gear. They were nice as you didn’t need to find the “biting point”, the sound the car made when it was ready to go.

At the end of the lesson the instructor commented that I wasn’t ready for my test yet (that much was obvious) but that I’d made a lot of progress.

He is putting his car in for a service due to learner drivers . He also has physio every three months for whiplash. Learners must drive him up the wall (and round the bend).

I might watch the BBC’s “Barely Legal” drivers programme for tips.

Watch out road users…

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Filed under Driving, Life of Lydia

Work Training Day

82203-343x343-Bad_morningToday I woke up at 7.30. This hurt as I normally do not have anything to get up at the crack of dawn for. After a coffee to ressurect me from the undead I went out into the snow. The roads were clear, so I left half an hour for a 25 minute journey. Once again I had the misfortune of a driver who waited behind buses instead of overtaking them, meaning that a 25 minute trip took 40 minutes.

When I got to the company, to my surprise, the main receptionist was unaware of where the course was in the building. She asked for the teacher’s name and I did not have it. I showed her the text I had received reminding me of it. She told me and another course candidate to go to the first floor and turn left. He was a young man with a round face and black hair. I was in an ironed shirt and work trousers, while he sported baggy black jeans and an Ed Hardy t-shirt proclaiming “LOVE KILLS SLOWLY”.

“A woman joked “why don’t you just have them, nobody else wants them””

We stood in a queue for a while, and I wondered where the teaching room was, as I couldn’t see one. Finally we got to the desk and there was a lot of confusion over what we were here for and where we were supposed to be. I showed them the text but it still did not help.

While they were deliberating amongst themselves a lady joked “why don’t you just have them, no-body else wants them”. Exactly the sort of ignorance from someone who is fortunate enough never to have been unemployed.

Eventually we were directed to the right floor. We were greeted by a tall angry blonde. She was a curvy lady wearing glasses and a skin-tight black dress. “You’re late” she informed us, “I’m not sure if I can take you. I’ll just check.”

She came back and said that she had been given permission to let us in. It emerged later that we were a full three minutes later than the 15 minutes allowed. We explained that we had spent this time being sent to the wrong floor and she apologised.

I hadn’t been looking forward to the training session. I pictured dropouts lounging back on the chairs smelling of weed, tobacco or poor hygiene in line with the standard Jobcentre experience. To my surprise this wasn’t completely the case.

We went round the room introducing ourselves and giving some history. First off was a suited, 50-something man with glasses. Bob was a sales manager with plenty of experience in different areas. He told us he had faced a lot of age discrimination and he believed this was stopping him getting a job because interviewers just looked at him as being ripe for retirement.

Next was Bogale, a Politics and International Development graduate who had been a maths teacher in Kenya and was originally from Ethiopia. He had been in the UK for four months but his English was pretty good. He was interested in being a Teaching Assistant.

Abdul had dropped out of an accounting and finance degree because he was going to live in Turkey, but it didn’t work out. He was keen to work in a call centre. He had worked for five years in a variety of jobs. His family ran a cake business in Iraq. He had a short black beard and was shy but laid-back, wearing a woolly hat and casual clothes.

Shabeeb had been a forklift driver for two years until he had been fired. He wore a cap, a big grin and casual clothes. He spent most of the class asking when we could have a break/go home/whether he had to be there the next day as well. He had a great sense of humour and made us all laugh.

Jamie was the guy I came up with. He was on a part-time I.T course at university and was looking for administration work.

Miss Bradley had done work in I.T, admin and sales and was a DJ by night. She was slim with long dark curly hair and a ready smile. She had been forced to drop out of university due to a custody dispute with her “psychotic” ex-partner. It reminded me of my experience of working in family law.

Ms Begum was a full-time mum and had worked at a call centre for British Gas. She was looking to get back into work and had the right qualifications. She was keen to work in customer service. Everyone in the room except her and Bob were in their late 20s or early 30s. They were a pleasant, friendly bunch.

The teacher said that she would not “tret” us any different due to what we had done in the past, we were all the same in her eyes. She had a talk about “elf” and safety in the building. I felt bad for smiling at this when she told us how an employer had told her she had failed a Family Learning teacher interview due to her strong accent. She said she felt like suing them.

She also disclosed that she was a trained counsellor, and that she’d naturally done this all her life, without realising it.

She told us to beware of stress once we got work, as due to the recession their had been a sharp increase in hospital admissions. I remembered how stressed I was when I worked three jobs, seven days a week. Stress can creep up on you and accumulate if you don’t release it regularly. Mrs Begum said that when she was stressed at work she had no outlet for it, as when she went home she had the kids to deal with.

Make time to relax for 20 minutes before you go to bed each day. Think about your day and what stressed you out and whether there is anything you can do about it, in which case do an action plan. If there isn’t, let it go.

Stress happens when we’re caught in between fight and flight mode. If we are prepared and have action plans and lists to tick off, we know what we are doing when, and can relax more. This is how I could be responsible for all the medical files in a department. My day followed a certain structure and I had time deadlines for tasks. I’d always keep in mind the next item on the to-do list and work my way through it. That way I wasn’t running all over the place wondering what to do next.

As soon as I’d said I was an English language teacher I noticed Tibuk’s eyes light up. We had a chat and it turned out that in my last job I was teaching the very syllabus he needs to learn! I may be able to give him lessons to prepare him, although of course I will need to see if I can fit it around work when (note I said when, not if – Positive Mental Attitude) I get it.

The day was actually really useful, even though I got a First in Careers Development whilst doing my degree. I learnt that I am weak on the personal profile in the CV, and what to put in there.

She asked if anyone knew what CV stood for. Everyone looked like she’d spoken another language, which she had. I informed everyone it was curriculum vittae, was Latin, oh and by the way vittae meant life, so literally it was curriculum life, which didn’t seem to make sense. There was a stunned silence for a moment.

This week is full of training and interviews! After applying for 5-10 jobs every day for a month I have two to look forward to. One is for a graduate position. I just sent off an application pack for another one. I am also thinking about applying for the Royal Mail graduate programme. I will keep you posted!

Work Training Day 2

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Today I discovered that criminal records were holding two of the members back. One for GBH, the other for breaking and entering. Both were misdemeanours of their youth which still count against them. One of them had a great sense of humour and we said that he should be a comedian because he made everyone laugh. It is a shame that their past could prevent them from moving forward with their lives.

Everyone in the group was easy to get on with. There was a supportive sense that we were in this together, although when I got an interview at lunchtime someone was a bit too keen on knowing what it was for! I once told someone about a job that I was applying for. She applied first and got it, so I’m more careful now.

Keep throwing yourself at the job market. The Jobcentre-referred course was great and I would recommend it to anyone. You think you know how to apply for a job, but it is not as simple as it seems. Every phrase can be read into, and it is all a carefully formulated plan. I am now going to re-do my CV, and I’m prepared for my interviews more thanks to plenty of practice.

Again I would recommend agencies – I have found getting an interview with them much easier and they are a foot in the door to permanent work.

I am encouraged by the course and am actually looking forward to interviews for the first time. It’s simply a matter of preparing yourself – getting the ID documents, dressing for success, preparing for competency-based questions (Explain how you dealt with a difficult situation) using the CAR/STAR method (if you don’t know what it is ask to go on the course!) and brushing up on the skills you’ll be tested on.

I’ve spammed the job market for a month and I’m only just starting to get results. It may take time but if you ensure that your CV and interview preparation and skills are in line with what is needed you will be fine.

Good luck fellow jobhunters! Keep on it!

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