Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Dear Driving

Dear Driving,

I know you and I have not always got on so I felt it was important to take this opportunity to write. Today is a Tuesday, coming up to two and a half years since I got given a certificate stating I could legally get to know you better....and coming up to three years since I promised myself that I would never be a confident driver. Ever. This time two weeks ago, the furthest I'd driven on the motorway was one junction of the M4 to and from work at my old school. I'd made that journey countless times alongside a handful of others: journeys I practiced with someone else in the car and got used to. Journey's I felt confident doing. Working at Leighton Park, I insisted on practicing the one-motorway-junction-20-minute journey at least 3 or 4 times with my dad before diving (or driving) out on my own. This time two weeks ago, the longest journey I'd done was probably 40 minutes and that was to my grandma's and back and even the familiar roads filled me with butterflies as every new vehicle approached.

This October will be 3 years since I had my debut mention (albeit referred to as "A third person"....and albeit my only mention) in the local newspaper. No, I did not win the lottery or the prize for the biggest pumpkin in Britain (that happened to someone else though, I googled it). No, my debut was this: the car accident that managed to take my level 0 confidence in driving and knock it back further.

One of the cars in the above picture was my mum's and the one that I was driving, in preparation for my test, before this happened. Before a not so dear young man skidded around a corner backwards and crashed into us...the car...me. Long story short (for the long one, if you have forgotten, read the letter I wrote, linked above) we got out, just about, in not quite one piece and with a major part of me gone: any shred of confidence I had in cars, the road and you, driving. 

After that day came months of driving the same route I'd taken that day, up and down that hill, picking up little pieces of confidence that lay scattered down that road. A month of lessons where my instructor had to keep reminding me that I didn't need to drive in the bushes, that the cars in the other lane would stay where they should be, that the road wasn't as dangerous as I kept telling myself it clearly was. One failed driving test followed  (I will always blame the white van man who blocked me as I reversed around a corner) before Christmas Eve 2014 and the day I was told I could get into a car alone and drive wherever I wished. 

This time last week, for the first time in two and a half years, I left the safety of Berkshire, the county I call home, and drove my Boyfriend and I to Shropshire; a whole 132 miles, and 2.5 hours from home for a week away. For some, this may not sound like much, but for me, every turn of the wheels was a revelation. I sat in the drivers seat, Hugh beside me, and drove. I even went crazy and overtook cars on the motorway! That's right! I didn't just pootle along in the slow lane, I rebelled against my fears and anxieties and overtook the lorries! I met new roundabouts and roads and let Gertrude (the GPS...obviously) tell me where to go. I got us to a pub for lunch in a town I'd never been to or heard of...

Lunch Stop...Somewhere near Shropshire
...and finally, after much singing loudly, snacking hungrily and indicating muchly, we arrived at our destination.



For the week that followed, this last week that is, I have got to know you more, Driving. I have taken Hugh and I along winding country lanes, green fields stretching far and wide around us, and explored a place I never imagined I would dare to go alone, in a car! Yes, I found humour in counting the 10's of cars that overtook us every day and on every road. Why should I hurry? It's the summer. It's our holiday. None of this "places to be, people to see" melarky. Relax. Just drive. Something I repeated to myself each time a new car hooted and zoomed past only to get caught just in front of me in the same traffic jam, behind a tractor. 

I drove us to Shrewsbury where the parking was ridiculously expensive and the machine didn't like me paying in 5p's. I drove us up a bumpy track - after driving past it 3 times - only to find I was stuck at the top with nowhere to park, a dead end. I didn't panic. I didn't even panic when I was driving through West Midlands Safari Park towards a big Rhino standing in the middle of the road. 

On Sunday, I drove us home. Back along the windy roads, and round the many, many roundabouts and onto the motorway. We talked, Hugh and I, about what I could battle next: roads in the snow, in the fog, driving on the wrong side of the road in another country. Driving to London.

Yesterday, Monday, I did just that. Having unpacked the car on our arrival home, imagining we would take the train back to the big smoke, there was a change of plan. An opportunity. If I was going to do another new journey, driving a new route in my little ol' car, then when better to do it. As much as I love my parents, I could imagine the back-seat driving, seat clutching, imaginary braking and we all knew that would never work. Hugh, however. Well, I'd just driven to, around and home from Shropshire with him by my side. I hadn't panicked, I hadn't cried (apart from when I twisted my ankle but that's a whole other story) and the bonus of Talking Heads, Journey and Toto joining us just made it all the more enjoyable. So, once the car was re-packed and the music was plugged in, I got behind the wheel with Hugh next to me, and I drove to London.

(I even managed to reverse park but I won't go on about it, don't want to get too big for my car).

This doesn't illustrate my achievement but have a picture anyway.
A blog about driving just wouldn't be right without my car in it
Throughout the last week Driving, I've wanted to write to you. I've wanted to let you know that I think something has changed. I'm ok now. I'm taking baby steps. One roundabout at a time.

Pootling along.

So thank you for giving me the time to do so,