In New Zealand there are two things about me that people think are very strange. The first is that I am vegetarian. “Oh. Do you eat chicken?” No. “Fish?” No. “So you don’t eat any meat or fish? What about sea food?” No. They then look at my husband with pity, as if to say, “Why didn’t you marry a nice normal girl who eats proper food?”
The second thing is that I don’t drive. I did have lessons when I was a teenager, but I failed my test three times, and then I moved to London when I was 19, and in London you just don’t need to drive, so I never learnt. Then last year I moved to a tiny little town in New Zealand, discovered there is no public transport at all, and realised I would have to learn to drive or become a recluse.
So, I have been having lessons for the last six months, and yesterday, I had my driving test.
For the last fortnight, I have been waking up every morning with a feeling of dread at the thought of my driving test. When I booked it, I felt very confident that I would be able to pass, but the spectre of those three failed driving tests of my youth raised its ugly head, and I started worrying that I was just one of those people who would never pass their test. “Don’t worry so much,” my friend said, the night before the test. “Even thick people can drive,” she said reassuringly, quickly adding, “and you’re clever, so you should be fine!” as she realised what she’d said.
Yesterday, I was up at the crack of dawn, and was picked up by my driving instructor at 9.30 am. My test was scheduled for 11.45 am, so I had over two hours to work myself into a panic. We drove around, and I started to feel calm again, thinking “I can do this.” Then my driving instructor’s other pupil, who took her test before me, failed. “Now, I don’t want you to worry” my instructor said. “She failed because she broke the give way rule. Twice.” My mind went blank. Give way rule? I can’t remember the give way rule! Aaaargh!
Then it was my turn. I took a couple of deep breaths, and wished it was possible to have a quick vodka to calm my nerves (apparently, that’s frowned upon) and started to drive. And do you know what? It wasn’t so bad. My driving was okay, although I didn’t think that I was driving as well as normal. When we arrived back at the test centre, the examiner turned to me and said, “You did quite well,” and then started filling in the test form. I sat there thinking, “Quite well as in, congratulations, you’ve passed?” Or, “Quite well as in quite well but not good enough?” She looked up and said, “You were a bit juddery in places, though. I expect that was nerves, was it?” “Oh yes”, I said. Because who’d say, “No, not at all. I’m just really crap with first gear.”
So, she scribbled away, and I sat there too scared to ask how I’d done in case she said I hadn’t passed. For 5 minutes. Then my driving instructor came over, and they chatted between themselves, as I sat there trying to look at the paper-work to see if there were any clues as to whether I’d passed. Then I saw it, written there at the top of the piece of paper.
At the grand old age of 38, I can drive.
Right, I’m off to the beach. Byeeeeee.