That’s right now. I’m trying to learn to drive.
When I was a kid I remember announcing to my mother that I was never going to be “one of those losers who only learns to drive when they’re like 27”
There were lots of contributing factors that made learning to drive impossible, but they were all governed by the fact that I had no money.
I won’t go into any depth, because who gives a fuck, right? The point is it that I’m 26 now and with my 27’th birthday fewer than two weeks away, I can finally afford to learn to drive and finally live in a household that owns a car. I provide the cats and Ideal Brown provides the car.
The weird thing about learning to drive when you’re a powdery relic is this: you have no yard stick by which to measure your progress. How many lessons have you had? How was your lesson last week? How many times did you stall/break on a roundabout/feel compelled to deliberately drive through a massive pothole to jounce your instructor? Do you get shouted at? Do you get congratulated? Does your instructor guide you as much in the art of not damaging his car as he does in releasing the clutch gently?
To be honest I’m surprised by how frequently I’m reminded not to do things that damage the car, seeing as I’ve not done anything to warrant it. Yet.
I just didn’t think it would come up- because OBVIOUSLY. Obviously you shouldn’t back into things, or drive in the wrong gear, or pull away with the hand break up, or grind kerbs. If I do any of these things, I know it’s wrong because a) I’m not a moron and b) my instructor would no doubt send kittens streaming from his arse in protest.
I’ve had six lessons. After every one I have the bitter stale stench of nervous sweat upon me. And I feel ashamed of that. Ideal Brown says “how was your lesson?” and I say “Okay. I got bollocked again” and he makes consoling “aw” noises, but it’s fine; I know I’m going to fuck up. I know I’m going to get bollocked. I know this; every week I expect it. What concerns me is that my instructor seems always to be surprised when, as a learner driver, I fuck up whilst driving. A car. In rush hour traffic. Sometimes on double roundabouts.
Every bollocking is 100% deserved but while I’m chastising myself, I have noticed that they always come about at the 17:40 mark, when EVERYONE EXISTING IN THE GREENWICH MEAN TIME ZONE IS TRYING TO GET TO SOMEWHERE FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE.
Actually, to be fair I had a truly horrible 11am lesson two weeks ago. Apparently the learner driver before me had emptied my instructor’s Cup Of Tolerance and left a bag of sand in his vagina, which dried up his Well Of Patience.
I don’t do myself any favours; I’m a 26 year old “artist” with we-can’t-hire-this-person-to-represent-our-company hair. I have a tattoo on my finger; the cardinal sign of an irresponsible bint who has no respect for her probable handshakes with potential future-bosses. It smacks more of “I don’t know what it is to have to do anything” than “I’m making it on my own and am allowing myself to look a pig while I go about it”
Speaking objectively, I wouldn’t even want to teach me to drive. I’d roll my eyes at me. Nevertheless, I work really hard at enabling bad hair decisions that have no professional ramifications.
So every week, when I inevitably get shouted at, I’m aware that I’m paying someone to do it to me, which makes me desperately want to know that I’m on the right track. Also, I haven’t had a boss in a while, so getting stick really puts kinks in my concentration. I huffily think “I work very hard to earn the bare minimum so I can get by with awful prospects and an unstable future so that I don’t have to have a dickhead tell me what to do. THANKS”
The problem is that I’m drawing a blank on progress. You don’t get many “goods” because it feels like getting congratulated for correctly driving the car you are in control of is akin to congratulating someone for wiping their arse after shitting; it’s just the done thing and to not do it is wrong. Unthinkable even.
Next time I get SHAT ALL OVER IN TRAFFIC* I’ll silently congratulate myself for finally being able to afford to pay someone to do it.
*I wrote this two weeks ago; I did not silently congratulate myself. I really needed a wee and really just wanted to go to the loo more than anything else.
Man, isn’t cycling great?
I’m dying to go for a bike ride, but I still have a halved golf ball sized lump of gristle on my shoulder where I landed on it 10 days ago. Lady Gaga would be jealous on my authentic shoulder horn, I’m sure. I’m prone taking spectacular falls trying to do totally unremarkable things: like cycling up a 2 inch high piece of pavement.
That’s not to say that I’m avoiding a ride because of the lump. The lump is only the tip of my pain iceberg, which I think would explode if I went over so much as a speed bump with all my upper body weight leaning down on my drop bars. I just peed a little bit imagining it.
As long as it’s grey, I’ll be alright. I hope that those buoyant sun shiny spring mornings arrive in time with my regaining the full use of my arm and shoulder.
We meet loads of horses when we go out cycling. It’s as if someone shook a box of animals over the countryside or something.
After our print course on Saturday, we decided to cycle another 17 miles to Will’s family home in Newton. I think the last 2 miles were actually spent getting from the outer edge to the centre of their sprawling land. It’s pretty and big and pretty. With loads of cows.
Our friends with common sense were already at the lake side cabin (having opted to drive; the pissing rain and rattling wind hitting their cars as opposed to their face/chest/knees). This was good since they could get going with firing up with grill (big plus points to Will and Cal here!)
We were scarcely out of Fenham before we received a short burst of hooting and were signaled to pull over. Two policemen climbed out of their car and I thought “I wonder what they could possibly want” and assumed they were going to be really helpful about something, though I couldn’t fathom what.
Instead, we were reprimanded for running a red light. I cycle ahead of Brown because of my crawling pace and he shouts at my back:
Often helpful things like “don’t forget, it’s your next left!”
Annoyingly obvious things like “If you pull your breaks, you will slow down, so if you want to stop you must pull your breaks, because if you slow down you will eventually stop”
And oddities like “Go, Candy. It’s a green man anyway”
I’m an obedient monkey, so I GO if I’m told to. Also, a conversation about what I should and shouldn’t be doing in traffic is a fast route to spontaneous combustion, so I’d rather argue/question (and mostly thank) later.
So we had the police, a quick burst of driving rain and then plain sailing.
I arrived. I showered. I gorged. I fell asleep. The life and soul of the party; that’s me.
It’s a wonder I even awoke the following day; we slept in Will’s grandmother’s house and it was bliss. Her bathroom is so clean, you wonder if it just got redone. I could clean for ten years and my bathroom would never be as shiny.
*sigh* I want to go to there.
That last image is what you see when you wake up on West Side Farm.
And THEN we somehow missed the big cabin clean-up, but bumped into Sue (Will’s mom) who fed us before we set off back home again. It was ACE.
Well, I’m sore.
We did 37 miles in total, from Fenham to…I don’t know where. A bridge past Prudhoe, I think. It didn’t matter to me then. I left Ideal Brown to phone Willy-Man to arrange a meeting place for lunch while I silently had a word with my thighs. I had to make a deal that promised food within the hour followed by gorging myself all of Sunday otherwise (they said) they wouldn’t take me any further.
Unfortunately that soon to be digested something was to be at The Duke of Wellington in Newton, which, while incredible was still a while away. About another third of the outward journey over a 310ft climb through Stocksfield.
I love that my Pashley Britannia can get me pretty much anywhere, if slowly. It definitely helps that I’ve had the gears lowered (the cheapest and fastest option if you want to start getting up hills on your Great British Tank)
I took mine to Edinburgh Bicycle in Byker and it was done in a day. The guys there are really helpful and never make you feel like a dick for asking silly questions (which I do). I definitely owe them a packet of biscuits.
Hopefully I can get my old rusted Raleigh Royal fixed up for next Summer. Ideal Brown wears Rapha and the wind in his 2 cm long hair. I wear 20 kilos of beautiful lugwork and thighs that can crack open coconuts. We need to meet closer to the middle and that means more speed and less ding-dong bell.
Yesterday Ideal Brown and I decided to combat a nasty hangover with a “quick” “nip” out to Wylam.
Truth be told, I’m not blown away by the smell of the Tyne in drier months, so reaching the countryside stretch of our journey was a pleasure.
I got attacked by bugs, ignored by bees (yes!) stumbled upon a tea room and museum of George Stephenson (?) and am now rocking a semi-permanent version of my worst fashion trend, colour blocking – by way of a shorts tan. Ossam!
Two weeks ago I went on a bike ride in the warm wet. I left with a tickle at the back of my throat and came home with a cold that wanted to claim my lungs and use them as handheld hoover bags.
Being in Newcastle, we’re more or less 15 miles from the end of the coast to coast cycle route. This means an easy 30 mile bike ride along the Tyne River to the coast and back.
Cycle the Newcastle side and it’s mostly green and only a little bit shopping complex. Although unpretty The Royal Quays is still an oil painting compared with the Tyne Tunnel and a perfect stop-off should you need anything from the GAP outlet or indeed, the Land Rover store. Oddly, the Land Rover store seems only to accommodate the folk who don’t need or want a vehicle, but require overpriced emblematic eyewear, unsightly bicycles or (a real stunner) a Land Rover badge. On a side note, if being part of the Land Rover club is so important, you would think that buying a badge wouldn’t gain you entrance to such a clan unless you’ve been given one when you bought say, a Land Rover.
Anyway, we cycled the Gateshead to South Shields route. It was fun, but then playing Goonies always is.
We managed to catch a storm cloud and ride with it in the pissing rain all the way to the coast. We saw some fantastically unsettling beach front public art (below) and a small chav asked me if I got my bike in a happy meal.
Given that my bike has a name, a kick stand and a half decent paint job, I’ve made a habit of photographing it on our outings.
After wanting one for ages, I finally got my Pashley bike in May. The wait ended up working out really well because they released the limited edition Britannia, which comes in three colours (one of which is red, wouldn’t you know it?)
My daily commute is all free-wheeling one way, and grunting and puffing the other. That’s Newcastle, I guess. Full of lumps. It makes a sweaty, wheezing fat girl of us all.
Last week the tension in my front break just gave away as I was approaching a traffic light. It felt like the whole thing became disconnected. It’s fixed now and working again, but the very first thing I thought was “this has happened because you’re not a nice enough person”, which in turn upset me more than the scare of not being able to stop precisely when I needed to.
I don’t go out of my way to screw with people, although I do like to bait the accountant at work and I’m not averse to calling people cunts when I think it’s due.
Nevertheless, after phoning both Evans Cycles and Pashley, I almost wished I crashed so they would get bad press for being unsympathetic, negligent twits. The fuckers.
I guess that last thought reaffirms the first one I had about not being nice enough.
All that aside, I really adore my bike and although it may not seem to be the case right now, I feel like a happier person after I take it for a ride.
I go past loads of cows on the moor, which is incredibly cutesy and happy-making.
Sometimes they do moos.
I love this. I wish he’d visit Newcastle- although I have to admit that I haven’t seen thaaaat many potholes about.
I was caught by one just yesterday- my bike bounced around to the extent that my bot lifted off the seat (Ooer!) That’s fine if you’re expecting it, but if you’re not you tend to pull a silly face and emit a sort of “hiff!” sound. Similar to the one you make when you try to climb a stair that isn’t there.
Today Sue, Sally and I rode home together. We went as far as Brandling Park and then we split up from there. It was fun, especially since Sue and Sally sacrificed a smooth ride in favour of a pretty bike, so we all pant as we crawl up hills at a snail’s pace on gorgeous albeit unsuitable bicycles
If Sally wore a helmet and didn’t look so pretty (jet black blow-dried hair, monochrome striped dress, non-chav subtle tan, perfect smile) I would’ve totally felt like I was one of the Goonies.