21 October 2014
It was an inauspicious start to Tuesday. Hurricane Gonzalo was creating havoc outside when I got up, wind, rain, leaves blowing about the garden and lots of noise. Unfortunately I had my driving theory test booked so, much as I wanted to, I couldn’t just sit in my pyjamas drinking cocoa all morning. As ever, I left with plenty of time to spare but, when I got out on the road, it looked like a car park. Normally I’d have walked but, with the weather, that didn’t seem like much of a plan unless I wanted to be blown off the Big Bridge so I waited for the bus. And waited….
When it finally came it was crowded. The traffic was barely crawling and every set of lights was red. I stood, squeezed into a corner by other bodies getting more and more anxious. At one point I thought I was going to be sick but that was mostly the smell of the overweight man pinning me against the luggage bay. The ten minute journey took half an hour and I was now officially no longer early.
My test was at ten but they said to arrive quarter of an hour before that. I made it by the skin of my teeth. For a moment I thought they were going to tell me to go away and rebook but they didn’t. Once I’d shown them both parts of my driving licence I had to put all my possessions in a locker and actually show them I’d switched my phone off. They even made me take off my fuel band in case it gave me me answers (if only it could) and take off my jacket to show I didn’t have anything written on my arms. Seriously even air travel isn’t that strict.
After this I was shown into a small room with banks of computers in little booths. A woman sat outside watching everyone through a large window. She was stern faced, eagle eyed and looked suspiciously at everyone. By this time my nerves were at defcon ten. I took a few deep breaths and pressed the mouse to start the introduction to the test.
Once I’d read all the instructions I started the practice test. This turned out to be mostly picking out triangles from squares and circles. Then it was on to the real thing. Of course I’ve been practicing on an iPad app for a while but there was no fancy touch screen, just a mouse to click and it all looked very unfamiliar. There are fifty questions and you have to get at lest forty two right. Sounds easy eh? At home I’d even managed to get one hundred percent a few times. Now I wasn’t at home though.
Things began well, I read the questions carefully because they slip in a few trick ones, and was sailing through it. Then came a few nightmare questions. First there were stopping distances. Now, on the road I can visualise them but I cannot hold numerical information in my head so I can’t remember the figures. There were two of them. I guessed. Then came the motorway questions. Whose idea were they? You’re not allowed to drive on a motorway before you’ve passed your test so you have no experience to go by, just theoretical knowledge. Some I knew from my practice sessions, a few more I didn’t and again I guessed. Next came a couple with a scenario and some questions. They hadn’t had that in the practice test and it threw me a bit. By this time I was beginning to think I’d probably failed and I hadn’t even got to the hazard perception bit.
In the hazard perception part of the test you get fourteen video clips of driving and you have to click the mouse as soon as you spot a potential hazard, something that would make you slow down, change direction or stop. There are no practice tests for this on line, at least not that I’d found. If you press too often you fail that clip. If you don’t press quick enough you lose points. There are one or two hazards in each clip. I tried to pretend I was actually driving and the mouse was the brake. This was hampered slightly by the very poor quality of the video clips. At time it was like driving through snow. In fact one of the clips was driving through snow. I did my best but, as I thought I’d failed the first part, I imagined it would all be in vain. At least I’d know what to expect next time.
Finally it was over and I walked out of the room feeling defeated. I collected my things from the locker and went to the desk to get my results. The woman looked at me unsmiling and handed over a piece of paper. Oh dear! It wasn’t until I got out into the corridor by the lifts that I actually looked at the piece of paper she’d handed me. Unbelievably, I’d passed! Thank heavens I won’t have to go through that again. Just the practical test to go then but I’m not ready for that yet awhile.
My original plan for the day had been to walk to town. Do the test, have a coffee and a walk through the parks before walking home. When I left the test centre the sky was deep blue and the sun had come out. It would have been a prefect walking day if it wasn’t for the wind. As I walked out of the revolving doors it grabbed me and almost blew me up the street. Luckily I was heading that way anyway.
Of course I popped into Costa for a celebratory latte. For once I didn’t get a takeaway, I sank into the comfort of their leather sofa and sipped appreciatively, glad to be out of the buffeting wind. Sadly I couldn’t stay there all day. All too soon I was back out on the street heading for the shelter of the Bargate. Frankly I was surprised to see the flag on the roof still attached to the flagpole.
In the precinct the lovely red maple trees were blowing about so much it was hard to take a photo. Outside WestQuay a young man was valiantly trying to make a sand sculpture, a dog I think. With the wind it was going to be an uphill battle.
I did make it to the Enchanted Park but it was far too windy to enjoy walking through. The hydrangeas are beginning to skeletonise but they were blowing about too much for decent photos. There were a few flowers, a pretty pink camellia and some windswept dahlias but I couldn’t get them to stay still.
Eventually the futility of photography with Gonzalo in town became too much and I headed through the trees to the bus stop. On the way I noticed the maple that provided such glorious autumn colour last year is steadfastly refusing to give up being green. Personally I blame the Indian summer.