Driving You Mad

Let me start off by apologising to you good people – I’m sorry. I feel that this relationship we have –yes, it is a relationship – is not a healthy one. Don’t try and pretend otherwise. To use a decorating metaphor; it would be like painting over the cracks in your house. And what happens when you do that? Well, the cracks will eventually come through, worse than before – maybe even letting dry rot set in. Before you know it, you’re desperately trying to flog it to anyone who’ll offer the best price. That last bit probably only applies to houses, though.

I don’t want you to blame yourself. The fault lies completely with me. I am selfish. Week-in and week-out I’m here; whinging about how useless I am (a regular occurrence) or bemoaning my inability to handle social situations (again, frighteningly frequent) or generally complaining about my many short falls (noticing a pattern, yet?) but where are my manners? How are you doing? What’s new with you? I never ask these questions. What sort of one-sided affair is this? It’s certainly not the picture of harmony as presented to us by the likes of Richard and Judy, Jamie Redknapp and the pop star Louise or Fred and Rose West. Hardly fair is it?

I sat myself down to write the article this week and suddenly became aware that I was using you to vent my frustrations with the world. It’s certainly not what Wet, Wet, Wet used to sing about. So, here I am – a foolish column writer, metaphorically stood outside your house, in the pouring rain with a half-dead bunch of begonias, saying sorry for not paying you enough attention. That’s my problem you see; I’m not very good at observing my surroundings – just ask my driving instructor.

I finally learnt to drive two years ago, after a lifetime of listening to my friends banging on about the benefits of being in control of your own life or the merits of the Nissan Micra over a Citroen AX. I decided to bite the bullet and learn. How hard could it be? Turns out: very hard, especially when you have no interest in cars or driving, whatsoever. On first seeing me, I think my instructor, Phil, was excited – there I was; a bright young slip of a lad, probably a petrol-head at heart, willing to learn and eager to hit the open road. I think his dreams came crashing down when I showed him the Janet Jackson CD I’d brought for us to listen to.

In many ways my journey from clueless learner to official driver was a lot like the Rocky films – but in reverse. I started reasonably well and got considerably worse and more afraid of other drivers as the weeks went on (not that Rocky was scared of oncoming traffic). My first lesson was probably my best, but to be fair, we were in the B&Q car park and Phil was doing all the pedals. Still; my wheel turning was second to none – I didn’t cross my arms once. Well, once but it was fine; there was nobody on that part of the pavement. The worse lesson was probably the one where I had to hold the clutch to turn right on a steep hill. I can’t remember exactly where it took place but I bet the smell of burnt clutch still hangs in the air.

Miraculously, I passed my test on the second go. I would have passed first time but the test co-ordinator asked me to show her how to put the heater on so I did – full blast. Twenty minutes in she had to turn it off because she was starting to stick to the leather-effect seats. Plus that 27-point turn probably didn’t help matters. I remember telling Phil that I had passed; the look on his face was less of a proud father, more of a murderer who had successfully managed to destroy the evidence. It was a momentous day. I’d like to say we kept in touch but I tried to ring him a few days after and it seems he’d changed his number. C’est la vie, as B*Witched used to say.

But anyway, enough about me; how are you? Oh, we’re out of space. Sorry.

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