Diary Of An ADI

A Driving Instructor's Blog

You couldn’t make this up.

Mike Bird, the leader of Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council, has apologised for saying that travellers are a “lawless society”.

Let me just set the record straight. Travellers (note that I said “travellers”) are filthy, lawless, putrid scumbags who deserve nothing. They are no better than the bags of shit they leave in the bushes of any site they illegally enter and deface. And the Law needs changing so that instead of the lengthy legal proceedings to move them off the places they criminally enter, JCBs should immediately be brought in to trash them and their caravans once and for all.

Not one single infestation of travellers (note that I said “travellers”) has a positive effect on those unfortunate enough to live within 5 miles of them.

The filth who have been involved in situations in Nottingham have gone so far as to cut down hedgerows to get into private fields, and no one is ever going to convince me that when these sewer dwellers occupy someone else’s property, the property owner should have fewer rights than they do. And every single one of them has left the most foul mess imaginable behind. I’ve seen them doing it time after time, going into the bushes to urinate or defaecate. There was even a situation last week where they had been moved on almost immediately and had dumped sacks of human waste in a Country Park car park (that was in a police report, by the way).

Other recent problems have been the closure of car parks, the cancelling of events after the scum moved in the day before, and there was even that one a month or two ago where they trashed Thwaites Brewery, resulting in the loss of thousands of litres of beer and damage amounting to around £100,000 (and they shit all over the offices – they seem to have a bit of a problem with being able to use toilets properly, since Thwaites would have had those). These are not isolated cases – they are the norm.

Councillor Bird is quoted:

I deeply regret any offence caused, it was certainly not intended or meant.

Like him, I’m not trying to cause offence, Unlike him, I mean every word I say. I’m just stating facts, and if anyone is offended by that, tough.

The article further states:

Phien O’Reachtagian, chairman of the Gypsy and Traveller Coalition, said previously: “His suggestion that communities are lawless is cause for concern from someone in his position.

“We’d be looking to make a formal complaint and liaise with police to see if a crime has been committed.”

O’Reachtagian might do better to address the problems which are staring him and everyone else in the face instead of trying to twist and defend the indefensible. This has got nothing to do with Gypsies or Roma. It’s the vast majority which are no more Gypsy or Roma than I am which are the problem. “Travellers” are not the same as Gypsies or Roma. And “travellers” are a problem.

In case O’Reachtagian tries his pathetic hissy-fit behaviour here, my comments are purely to do with those who are demonstrably lawless, who demonstrably piss and shit on private land, and who demonstrably leave skip loads of filth behind when they’re finally and justly – if very belatedly – evicted.

My comments are nothing at all to do with Gypsies and Roma – there’s a quaint Gypsy caravan which moves around Nottinghamshire (it’s been in Bunny and Stoke Bardolph recently), which stops for a day or two and has its horse grazing on the verges. They DON’T leave a mess and aren’t doing anyone any harm, and I would have no problem with them stopping outside my house.

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I updated this again. I’m still getting hits on the same search terms so I thought I’d give examples when I get them:

  • 13/10/2015 – “bribe driving examiner uk”
  • 14/03/2016 – “how to tell if your driving examner is corputed [sic]”
  • 26/03/2017 – “driving test how does bribe work woth instructors [sic]”
  • 26/03/2017 – “bribing driving examiner”
  • 28/03/2017 – “how much to bribe a driving examiner”
  • 12/12/2017 – “have someone else do my driving test”

I wrote this article back in 2011, but I’m still getting people finding the blog on the search term “how do I bribe driving examiner” or something equally lacking in good English and grammar.Bribery - it means handing over money

Look. If you are so stupid that you don’t know how to do this, ask yourself if you really should be driving a car unsupervised. Because you really shouldn’t. But since you obviously are that stupid, it means handing over money in return for a favour – in this case, a test pass even if you are a crap driver.

The simple fact that you’ve typed the question into a search engine means it can be traced back to you, and for all you know the agencies could be looking for people just like you. So well done for flagging yourself up to them as a cheat and a liar.

It’s hard to fathom how weak-minded someone needs to be to consider a criminal act such as this as a viable way to get what they want.

Bribery of driving examiners has less than a 0.1% chance of succeeding. However, the risk of jail (or deportation if you’re not from the UK) if you try it is so high, it is pretty much guaranteed. It’s far easier – and cheaper – to learn to drive properly and to take and pass your driving test legitimately. Just look at some of the idiots who have been prosecuted – two morons in this story, lots of them in this one, two more here.

One thing that’s becoming apparent is that the people most likely to consider paying someone else to do their test for them are usually from countries where fraud and corruption is a part of the political constitution. It’s also apparent that those most likely to take money from these idiots and then to try to impersonate them (even though they look nothing like them) come from those same communities!

Let’s try this in big red letters to see if it helps some of the stupid ones out there understand it better:

IT IS EASIER AND CHEAPER TO PASS YOUR TEST LEGITIMATELY THAN IT IS TO TRY AND BRIBE THE EXAMINER OR TO PAY SOMEONE TO IMPERSONATE YOU.

IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY – WHETHER IT IS IN THE EAST OR THE WEST – YOU MAY WELL FIND THAT EVERY ASPECT OF GOVERNMENT IS CORRUPT, AND EVERYTHING CAN BE OBTAINED IF YOU PAY THE RIGHT MONEY TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE. IN THE UK IT IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE. THEREFORE YOU ARE TAKING A HUGE RISK.

YOU ARE PROBABLY DESPERATE TO DRIVE SO THAT YOU CAN GET A JOB. IF YOU GET CAUGHT TRYING TO CHEAT YOU’LL BE LUCKY IF YOU EVER WORK AGAIN IN THE UK.

EVEN IF YOU FOUND A CORRUPT EXAMINER (HIGHLY UNLIKELY IN THE UK), AND ASSUMING THAT YOU GOT AWAY WITH IT (EVEN LESS LIKELY), THERE IS A GOOD CHANCE YOU WILL END UP KILLING SOMEONE BECAUSE YOU STILL CAN’T DRIVE.

How can I tell if my examiner is corrupt?

Or, as it was asked to find the blog, “how to tell if your driving examner [sic] is corputed [sic]”.

Ask him. If you end up in handcuffs in the back of a police van, then he obviously wasn’t. Or you didn’t offer him enough.

It’s cheaper to learn to drive properly, you idiot.

Can I get done trying to bribe an examiner?

Or more accurately, “can I get done tryong [sic] to bribe a [sic] examiner”?

See above.

Does bribing the driving examiner work?

Or, as was asked to find the blog, “does bribimg [sic] driving examiner work”?

See above.

Is it easier if I get someone to take the test for me?

If you get away with it, and if the person you choose is any good at driving, yes – but only in the sense that you won’t have to bother learning to drive properly. However, it will mean that you are still a crap driver and you may well end up killing someone. Paying someone to take the test for you is more expensive than learning properly. Your chances of successfully gaining a licence this way in the UK are almost zero, and even if you did initially get away with it, at some point they will catch the person you paid, trace all those he worked for, discover you were one of them, and take your false licence away. You will then be fined, perhaps imprisoned, or even deported if you are not a UK citizen.

If you’re still so stupid you want to try it, go ahead. And watch me laugh when you get caught.

Some idiot found the blog today on the search term “have someone else do my driving test”. Sorry, mate, but unless you get real you’ll be a loser until the day you die.

How could they catch me?

Look. This is the UK, and they take fraud very seriously. There is a special Fraud & Integrity department at DVSA which specifically looks for and investigates cases of bribery.

In any situation involving deception, you have the best chance of getting away with it if you are the only one involved, and the only one who is aware of it. By paying someone to take your test for you, or by trying to bribe an examiner, you are automatically increasing the number of people who know. You can control what’s inside your own head, but you can’t control others, and those other people – the test sitter or the examiner – are going to be involved with many like you also using their dishonest services. You can’t control any of those other people, and all it takes is for one of them to get caught, and the entire fraudulent network is immediately identifiable. Something as simple as someone being pulled over by the police for driving erratically could be enough to spark an investigation. The Fraud & Integrity group could even set up sting operations. Anyone an examiner has tested is known by name, and can be traced through their licence.

You would always be living in hope you don’t get found out. But eventually, you would be.

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UK Mean Monthly Temperature - 2017It seems to have escaped everyone’s attention yet again, but if we draw a horizontal line on a graph of temperature versus time of the year at, say, 10ºC, there is a tendency for the actual temperature to be below 10ºC in winter and above 10ºC in summer. It’s funny, I know. But as far back as I can remember, that’s the way it’s always been.

In 2017, for example, the mean UK temperature for each month is shown in the graph above. Notice how spring and summer was warmer than autumn and winter.

Let’s add 2018’s data so far to this graph.

UK Mean Monthly Temperature - 2017/18The only anomaly – if you can call it that, since February and March were a lot colder than last year – is July. Nevertheless, this is sufficient for the amateurs who go under the title of “reporters” for rags like the Daily Mail and The Sun to get their rulers out, draw a line through May, June, and July, and start predicting that we’re all going to die because by October it’ll be above 60ºC. Of course, come September, they’ll be predicting the usual Ice Age accompanying “the coldest winter on record” (and that’s an actual quote from at least one of those two comics over each of the last three or four years).

Yes, it’s been hot. But it’s not like we haven’t had hot spells before. Just like when it’s cold, it isn’t like we haven’t had cold spells before, either. And it goes up and down throughout the year as we pass through the seasons. Furthermore, even though it has been hot, this year’s “hot” has been quite pleasant most of the time (and I hate hot weather) since it hasn’t been accompanied by the usual humidity we tend to get in the UK.

Here’s the same chart with 1976 added to it.

UK Mean Monthly Temperature - 1976 addedFair enough, this July was about 1 degree hotter, but other than that there’s nothing much different. Christ, I was in a maths lesson at school in June in ‘76 and it snowed on the 14th (or was it the 12th… whatever), and it’s not done that since!

When you look through the data from 1910 until the present, July had the same mean temperature recorded for 1983. It was slightly hotter in 2006, and almost as hot in 2013. Other years have simply fallen within the range.

There’s no question that average temperatures have risen over the last hundred years or so – especially since the 1950s – but that doesn’t mean that any new high or low is a sign of Armageddon. Most of it comes down to the Jet Stream. The last few years, it’s spent summer down by the equator, flinging low pressure system after low pressure system at the UK. This year, it’s vacationing somewhere up near Iceland, and fairly consistent high pressure is pulling air up from Europe. It happens.

Sometimes, I’m embarrassed to be British. We moan when it’s hot, we moan when it’s cold. We moan when it’s wet, and we moan when it’s dry. We moan if it’s a crap summer, and we moan if it’s not. For f*$k’s sake, get a life, people. It’s been one of those “glorious” summers just over 50% of the twats out there voted to go back to in 2016. Enjoy it – you might not be able to afford the next one.

Just remember. In a couple of months it’ll be bloody cold again. And probably wet – just like it was before it got hot this year.

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Silver Birch - summer 2017My article about early leaf drop in Silver Birch trees is very popular – but it has really peaked this year (2018).

My own trees started going yellow this time around in mid-June. After a lot of research, I concluded that it was due to heat stress as a result of the prolonged warm weather and low rainfall we have experienced. I know that some places have had torrential downpours, but it isn’t enough. The temperature has remained pretty much in double digits the whole time, and has been in the mid-20s and low-30s most days for almost two solid months, and with no end in sight.

I commenced deep watering right after I found it as a remedy in June, and it has worked like magic. Right now, I simply set the sprinkler going for about an hour in each of three separate locations, and I do this each night (next year, I’m going to install deep-watering spikes to help the water get deeper into the soil). I have also found a way of watering and fertilizing at the same time.

When trees are stressed as a result of high humidity and low rainfall, they can’t get enough water and begin to shut down just as they do in the Autumn. It doesn’t kill them unless it happens year after a year, but obviously you can take steps to deal with it once you notice it.

My Silver Birch in 2017One thing I have noticed with the benefit of hindsight is that the foliage on virtually every Silver Birch I have seen this year is thinner than in previous years (that’s also true for a lot of other trees I’ve seen). The leaves are actually smaller. The reason I say “hindsight” is that about a month into deep-watering and my tree has put out some significant new growth and the leaves on that new growth are much larger, and just like the photo I took last year.

Note that we have no hosepipe ban, and I wouldn’t be doing this if we did.

Once I commenced the watering, the yellowed leaves all fell over the next week or so, but no more were produced. Right now, not a single leaf has fallen in the last month at least and the whole tree is green with the aforementioned new growth. It is also producing fat catkins.

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The Access Irrigation Fertlizer DilutorLet me introduce you to my new toy – the Access Irrigation Static Dilutor.

One of the most popular posts on the blog is the one about Silver Birch Trees shedding leaves in the middle of summer as a result of nutrient deficiency in the soil. The remedy involves applying fertilizer and watering it in so the trees can get at it.

In 2018, though, another cause of premature yellowing has surfaced. The prolonged hot weather has stressed many trees, and the remedy for that is deep watering.

Ever since I found the solution to the nutrient problem I had toyed with the idea of semi-automating the fertilizer/watering process by combining the two and applying it via a sprinkler system. Indeed, I toyed to the extent that I bought a cheap Venturi mixer – which should have worked, but didn’t. I concluded that my water pressure was not sufficient to provide the necessary lift in the Venturi, because I just couldn’t get it to suck anything up. So I gave up on the idea for a year or two until 2018, when watering became such an issue in its own right.

I started Googling and many things came up, but they were all on a small scale – watering plants in greenhouses or by drip-feeders. But there was an American dilutor which apparently did exactly what I was after. You put your fertilizer in the mixer container, connected it to a tap, connected the other side to a hosepipe, and let it do the mixing before sending it down to your sprinkler or spray nozzle. The problem was availability in the UK. It came in various sizes, and the only one carried by any UK-based seller had a capacity of one pint (damned American units), which is no bloody use at all except for window boxes or greenhouses. The next size up was only available from American suppliers, so apart from the $100+ price tag, there was also the $100+ shipping fee – not to mention whatever UK Customs & Excise (who have become very sharp of late) slapped on it when it came into the country.

I was just steeling myself to order the American product, but while I was searching for the best price I accidentally came across the Access Irrigation Static Dilutor. It hadn’t come up on any of my previous searches over the last three years, and even when it did this time it hardly stood out until I followed the link and read the specification sheet and user manual. As an aside, whoever designed the Access Irrigation website decided to use images of text for product titles instead of just plain old searchable text. As a result, Google isn’t indexing them and normal search terms like  “inline fertilizer dispenser” or “fertilizer dispenser using sprinkler” don’t stand a chance.

Access Irrigation were very helpful with my pre-order questions, so I went ahead an ordered it. It came next day.

Gardena ZoomMaxx SprinklerI’ve also recently bought a new sprinkler – a Gardena ZoomMaxx. Depending on water pressure it can water over a range of between 3m and 18m, or an area between 9m² and 216m² in an almost circular pattern (though the pattern is adjustable). In my case, with a water flow rate of 7L per minute (which is classed as “low pressure”), it was able to cover an area of around 80-90m² – which is about 5 times what my old bar sprinkler could manage.

The Access Dilutor consists of a thick plastic bottle which can hold about 9L of liquid. A screw-fit head assembly consists of a Venturi unit with a choice of Hozelock or GEKA fittings (Hozelock fitted as standard, but both types supplied).

For anyone who is interested, a Venturi is so-called because of the Venturi Effect. This is where a fluid flowing through a constriction in a tube creates a pressure drop, and this can be used for various effects. I became familiar with it when I was still at school, because we used small Venturi devices connected to laboratory taps to produce a partial vacuum when filtering liquids using conical flasks. In the case of the Dilutor, water flowing from your tap goes via the Venturi and down to the sprinkler head, and the pressure drop created inside the Venturi is used to pull liquid fertilizer from the bottle and into the main water flow. There is a bit more to the device than that, though, because as the fertilizer is removed, it is replaced by clean water to keep the bottle completely full. Since the fertilizer solution is more dense than water, this clean water sits on top, so you have a distinct border between fertilizer and water. Access Irrigation says you should use food dye if your fertilizer is colourless so that you can see when it is all used up. In my case, my mixture contains chelated iron, so it is almost black. Incidentally, this is why they call it the “static” dilutor, because you mustn’t move it when you’re using it, otherwise the divided liquids get all mixed up.

Until I tried it I was sceptical, but it really does work. The Dilutor is supplied with a range of nozzles which fit on the end of the dip-tube that carries the fertilizer. This allows you to control how quickly the fertilizer is used up. In my case, since I wanted to irrigate for an hour at each of several locations, and since my water flow was 7L/min – or 420L/hour – I used the light blue nozzle corresponding to this volume of water (edit: I have since changed to the grey nozzle, which uses the fertiliser more quickly, my logic being that I want to get the fertiliser on the lawn, then make sure it is watered in properly). I was doing my first run in the dark – literally – and using a torch the border between the black solution and clean water was dramatic. It was all used up in slightly more than one hour.

Previously, and as I have pointed out in my article about summer leaf drop, I was dissolving solid ericaceous fertilizer in water (which takes a couple of hours), and using this as a concentrate in five watering cans-full each liberally spread over 10-20m² (about half an hour overall), then watered in using a bar sprinkler for about half an hour in each of five locations to get the coverage. Overall, it was maybe 8 hours involving frequent interventions by me.

Now, using a liquid version of the same ericaceous fertilizer, I can make up a full batch in the Dilutor in about three minutes, and just set the sprinkler running for an hour. Then, I make another batch, move the sprinkler, and repeat. It only takes a couple of hours now to get the same coverage – and I’m doing a lot more irrigation because of the heat stress problem this year.

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Statistics - it doesn't have to be complicatedI first published this back in 2012 after someone had found the blog on precisely that search term!

Passing the driving test is a skills-based event, so probability doesn’t come into it – not in any way that could be manipulated or measured, anyway. But I had another one recently come to the blog via the term “the probability that a person passes their driving test is 75%”.

The problem here is that people get probability and statistics mixed up – and they don’t understand either.

Every test centre has a pass rate. These are all statistics – measurements of what has actually taken place – and any given test centre might have a pass rate anywhere from under 30% all the way up to 80% or more. Why is this?

Mallaig - north of nowhereTake Mallaig in Scotland, for example. It is a tiny fishing village in the middle of nowhere. It has something like 10km of roads in total, no dual carriageways, one roundabout, a total population of about 1,000, and is 140 miles away from the nearest motorway (it’s actually only a few miles north west from the place where Connor MacLeod was born in Highlander). In the business year 2017/18 a total of 21 tests were conducted at the test centre there, with a pass rate of 71%. In contrast, Nottingham has three test centres, and between them there were over 20,000 tests conducted during the same period, with a pass rate of about 45%. Nottingham has a population of over a quarter of a million, lots of dual carriageways and complex roundabout systems, a busy city centre, and protracted rush hours vying with overrunning roadworks and ever-changing road restrictions. Similarly, Bradford’s three test centres conducted around 15,000 tests, even though it has a slightly larger population than Nottingham and similar types of roads. However, one of its test centres had a pass rate of just 37% in the same period.

In 2012, Bradford – well, one of the test centres there – was highlighted as having the worst pass rate in the country at less than 30%. Bradford’s problem at that location is that there’s a high sub-population of non-UK nationals. As unpalatable as it might be to the politically correct mob, non-UK provisional licence holders have a tendency to want to go to test before they’re ready, and they will often do it in their own cars without ever having had any formal training in the UK. And they do it again, and again, and again, test after test, with no training in between tries. All large cities have this problem one way or another.

I’ve got just such a pupil right now. There is no way I would ever let him go to test using my car the way his driving is, and I have told him he needs more lessons before he tries again. But he won’t listen, and keeps going in his own car after taking a single hour with me each time. It’s hard to put this into words, but he hasn’t got a bloody clue how to do even the simplest of roundabouts, and when he encounters one with lanes marked on it the lines may as well not be there. In fact, in his head, they aren’t there. As soon as he realises it’s a roundabout he panics and – poof! – the lanes just vanish as far as he’s concerned. He is in his 30s and has driven for many years in one of those places where you are “able to drive” if you can put your head down and accelerate into heavy traffic and weave around hundreds of others all doing the same. It’s also one of those places where the men will never admit that they can’t do something, even when it is completely obvious to everyone – including them – that they can’t. He simply cannot get it into his head that he hasn’t got a cat in hell’s chance of passing his test until he sorts this out. But he’s got another one booked even now.

DVSA actually publishes pass rate data by ethnicity – something which surprises me, given the risks of misinterpreting the data to suit personal agendas – and if you look at the lowest rated Bradford test centre, the pass rate among those identifying as Asian or British Asian and Black or British Black is 34.5% whereas among those identifying as White it is 47%. You have the same skew in Nottingham under those same headings, and pretty much everywhere else. It’s a big difference, and although the data don’t go into finer detail, I would lay money that it is the non-British element within those groups which is pulling the figures down. Where the ratio of non-UK to UK is higher in any given community, the overall pass rate in the location covered by that test centre is so much lower.

Non-British Asian/Black people taking tests tend to be older, have families to support, have low-paid jobs (carers or security, for example), are desperate to get a licence to improve their prospects, and are isolated from their larger family and have no financial backup beyond their wages. They also tend to have many years’ previous experience of driving – albeit badly – and believe they are capable of passing the test over here. Habits are deeply ingrained. Whites tend to be 17-24 year olds who are only learning to drive because its the next thing they need to do in their lives, who haven’t driven much before (if at all) and so don’t have habits to break, who probably won’t get a car for the next year or two anyway, and who can often sponge off mummy and daddy for the lesson fees. It’s not a clear cut division, but it is the tendency nonetheless. And that affects the statistics.

You can already see how complicated this is. A test centre’s pass rate is meaningless except for comparing that centre’s performance over time, and it has no clear bearing on the rates from other centres in other parts of the country because other factors are involved. For example, Bradford’s apparent “improvement” since 2012 is highly likely to have been a deliberate manipulation to make it look better following the bad press it received back then. As an illustration, Mallaig’s pass rate could go up to 90% or fall to 20%, but that would not affect Nottingham’s statistics unless the change were the result of something which affected everyone in the UK, and in a quantifiable manner. I mean, imagine DVSA adding a motorway element to the test. Mallaig’s nearest motorway is further away than London is from Nottingham, so they couldn’t possibly do it, but test centres like Nottingham Watnall and Chilwell – which are both right next to the M1 – would see it affect on their pass rates.

Car with L plateStatistics are a statement of what did happen. They are not probabilities – a prediction of what will happen.

If someone takes a driving test having never driven before, and never having had any lessons, they will fail – no matter what their test centre’s pass rate is. Statistically, the centre could have a 100% pass rate, but someone who can’t drive has a 0% probability of passing. It follows logically that even if someone has had lessons, unless they’ve had enough to make them good enough they will still fail. Only when they have had enough training to make it possible for them to pass a test does probability enter into the equation – but even then it is still not something you can assign a definite number to, because so much depends on nerves, road conditions, events on the day, and so on.

All you can say is that if a candidate can drive to an acceptable standard, and doesn’t do anything stupid on their test (for whatever reason), there is a high probability of them passing. That probability is much higher than the pass rate at the test centre they’re using, but definitely much less than 100%.

If they can’t drive to an acceptable standard, the probability of them passing is close to 0%.

DVSA is not looking for perfect drivers who don’t make any mistakes. The criterion they are using is that the test candidate should be safe enough to drive unsupervised so that they can then gain more and more experience over time.

What are the chances of passing a driving test?

If you can’t drive, they’re approximately zero – you have no chance whatsoever. If you’re a good driver, your chances are very high. It’s that simple.

So my chances are better if I take one or two lessons?

If you can’t drive well enough to pass the test during those lessons, your chances of passing a real one are still almost zero.

Take the parallel park exercise as an example. If you can’t do it during lessons, you’re not going to be able to do it on the test. The same goes for every other aspect of driving that might result in a serious fault on test if you don’t do it properly.

What are the chances of passing my driving test after failing the first time?

Your chances of passing have nothing to do with your previous attempts. If you can drive without your instructor intervening on lessons, you’ll probably pass your test. If you can’t, then you will probably fail it.

Too many people go for their test before they are ready – especially when they’re desperate for a UK drivers licence. Some think they’re ready, some want to be ready, and some just don’t want to (or can’t) spend any more money. Then they fail.

If you’re not ready you will fail. Even if your dream came true and you scraped a pass, you’d be dangerous on the roads.

Yes, but what are my chances of passing second time?

Exactly the same as they were the first time if you still can’t drive properly.

I can drive, so why did I fail?

Assuming that you really can drive, it might just have been a bit of bad luck on the day – some other road user doing something you didn’t expect, or that you’d never had to deal with before. It happens.

However, a lot of learners mistakenly believe that they are better than they are. Many take their tests based on how many hours of lessons they’ve had (in turn, based on how much they could afford). The risk of failing is much higher if you approach your test that way.

What is the best time of year to take your driving test?

There isn’t one, any more than there’s a “best time of day” to take it. If you can drive – and don’t make any serious mistakes – you will pass, whether it’s at Christmas or in summer, morning or afternoon.

What are the statistics that somebody will pass their driving test 2nd time?

That term has been used to find this article. If you can’t drive properly, your “chances” are exactly the same as they were the first time. Passing the test is about ability, not chance.

What are the chances of passing the driving test third time?

That term has been used to find this article. The simple answer is that your chances of passing your test are the same every time you take it if you assume that your ability remains constant. If you get better at driving, your chances increase, but they only become “good” once you can drive well.

The likelihood of passing your driving test is based on your ability, not probability. People who fail at their first attempt are usually better prepared for the second. However, some people are simply not prepared at all and are just gambling on scraping through every time.

If the probability of passing your test is 75%, what is the probability of passing in under four attempts?

Someone found the blog on that search term. I suspect it is a maths question rather than a driving one, but I will answer it as though it were the latter.

Passing your test is not based on probability. If you can’t drive, then you have no chance of passing, and the probability is effectively zero. As your driving ability improves, so does the probability that you will pass. However, it is impossible to put a number to driving ability such that the probability of passing can be calculated, and even if you could, you’d then have to factor in other equally unmeasurable numerical representations of any number of unpredictable events on the day of your test which could shift your chances of passing either up or down the scale.

Just for the record, and as I’ve just explained, the probability of passing your test is not 75% in the first place. And whatever the outcome of your first attempt, that has no measurable bearing on what happens on subsequent tests. It is quite possible to only just fail one test, then fail miserably on one or more of your following attempts.

Generally, most people do improve between tests, but so many other variables are involved that general improvement in the candidate’s ability might not show up as a reduction in driver faults. I’ve seen people fail with perhaps two faults – one of which is a serious – and then pass their next attempt with maybe 9 driver faults.

Does everyone have the same chance of passing their test?

Everyone has the same opportunity to pass – they’re all being tested to the same standard. However, everyone is different, with different abilities, and success in the test is governed by ability.

Since I’ve been doing this job I have encountered people who, quite frankly, should be prevented by Law from ever going near a car. Frighteningly, I know of at least three of them who have passed their tests – one of those has had numerous minor accidents related to emerging without looking properly, and another did so much damage to her car in the fortnight she owned it by keep reversing into her gate post (three times that I know of) that she has given up driving and got rid of the car.

Aren’t you at fault for teaching these people to drive?

Believe me, I think about that all the time. I wish that we were allowed to tell people that they should give up the idea of driving. I have my own way of dealing with it – but I know that they just go and find someone who will carry on teaching them, and they take test after test until they pass.

I had a guy a couple of years ago who failed five tests with me (he’d failed several before). He refused to do more than a single one hour lesson before each attempt because he’d already “spent enough”. He argued that he failed on something different every time, and so all he had to do was not make that same mistake again and he’d be all right. He wouldn’t accept my explanation that his “different” mistakes were due to the same underlying issue, which if dealt with would increase the likelihood of him passing. That was in January 2014, and it was the last I saw of him. Well, until November 2014, that is, when I saw him coming out of the test centre as I was going in with a huge grin on his face. While he was with me, he spent £230 on lessons and £310 on tests over three months – pro rata, he would have spent a further £500-£800 in tests by the time I saw him nine months later in November.

This is how these people are. You can’t tell them directly that they can’t drive. And even if you did, someone would still teach them.

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Our Silver Birch in June 2017This post has gone ballistic in 2018! Listen up, people: this year it is the hot weather and lack of water which is likely the cause of your problems.

The high temperatures combined with lack of water leads to heat stress – and yellowing or even shrivelling of leaves – in trees. I’ve written about it separately here.

The original article dealt with chlorosis and nutrient deficiency, also leading to leaf-yellowing and shedding. Whilst this is still an issue – indeed, it may even make heat stress problems more likely – it is the hot weather causing trouble right now (end-July).

The following is the original article – edited periodically since 2014 – dealing with premature leaf drop.

Back in 2014 our silver birch tree began to yellow and drop leaves mid-June! We were worried, and Googling for an answer was next to useless. Most of the technical advice was North American, and focused on the Bronze Birch Borer (a beetle that feeds on white birches), or the perils of trying to grow trees in either a desert or a swamp. Our trees had none of the beetle infestation symptoms other than leaf drop, and although the British never shut up about the bloody weather, we were not growing ours in anything other than normally-drained garden soil.

After a lot of research, and sifting out the crap, I discovered that yellowing/leaf drop can be caused by two different things. You can’t do any harm if you just apply both remedies. [Note that as of 2018, there are three things to watch for now that heat stress is also in the frame.

The problem we had was characterised by bright, canary yellow leaves – just like in Autumn – which began falling off the tree. As I said, it started in mid-June, and although the yellowing wasn’t as widespread throughout the tree as it is during Autumn proper, it was worrying all the same. I can’t honestly remember where I found this now, but somewhere in the hundreds and hundreds of forum pages and obscure “ask the expert” sites rattling on about the bloody Birch Borer I came across two ideas that made absolute sense, and which can be implemented without calling in David Attenborough and Rentokil.Fertiliser and Iron Treatments

Summer leaf-drop and leaf yellowing is caused either by a deficiency of nitrogen in the soil, or a deficiency of iron (or a combination of the two). It affects many plants – not just silver birch trees.

Nitrogen deficiency is resolved using ericaceous fertiliser (for lime-hating plants, which is what birch trees are). It is available from various manufacturers, such as Miracle-Gro, and can be bought from most decent garden centres and from many online retailers (including eBay and Amazon, where I get mine). It only costs about £5 a box, and there’s enough to manage a decent sized tree for at least half a season. You can also get liquid and slow-release varieties. (Update – take a look at my new solution to watering and fertilizing at the same time).

Normal fertiliser is no good – it has to be the ericaceous stuff – and you just dissolve it in water and spread it around the tree. Remember that the roots extend outwards quite a long way and you’ll need to cover a wide area, but concentrate on the drip-zone (the area covered by the branches). The slow-release granules of the same fertiliser are just sprinkled on the ground and watered in, and they apparently work for up to 3 months.

Leaves suffering from chlorosisLeaves that look like those in the images here are suffering from iron deficiencyknown as chlorosis.

Leaves are green because they contain chlorophyll, which is green. Simplifying the issue, chlorophyll allows plants to convert light into energy. Chlorophyll contains iron, so if there isn’t enough iron you get less chlorophyll. That’s what you can see here.

This problem is also easily dealt with using sequestered (or chelated) iron, such as Maxicrop, shown above. It comes as a liquid, and you can mix it with your fertiliser and water it in all in one go.

Close-up of leaves suffering from chlorosisAny soil nutrient deficiency may also lead to new leaves being small and misshapen, instead of the classic Birch leaf shape. Some of ours were like that in 2014.

In our case, after a single application of fertiliser treatment in 2014, leaf drop stopped almost immediately once the already-dead leaves had fallen. The tree even threw out some catkins, which had been absent up until then. In 2015, I started feeding every few weeks from March with both fertiliser and iron and we had no leaf drop at all. In 2016, it was the same, with very fat catkins hanging from the branches, along with quite significant new growth. In May 2017 our tree looked like the photo at the top of this article, and here’s a close-up of the leaves from that year. Does that look healthy, or what?

Close-up of our tree's leaves in June 2017An additional treatment for the longer term is to water-in iron (ferrous) sulphate periodically. This replaces iron in the soil, too, but it also acidifies the ground over time, which is good for ericaceous plants. It’s also very good for your lawn – iron sulphate is a moss-killer and a grass-greener (it’s sold for these purposes).

You have to bear in mind that when trees and plants die back in winter, the leaves they shed return nutrients to the soil as they decay. In urban gardens, concerns over appearance mean that people usually sweep up the leaves as soon as they fall – so nutrients end up being removed from the garden and transferred to wherever the refuse collectors take them. Obviously, your trees and plants suffer the most, which is why you need to give them this extra help to recover what they have lost.

Well, I say “obviously”, but it’s funny looking back, now. I used to think that if you planted a tree you just forgot about it and let it grow, when it turns out you need to look after them almost as much as you would a tomato plant or an ornamental cactus! Judging by the increasing number of hits I get on this article, a lot of other people are discovering the same.

A final few words. You have to keep the treatment going about once a month between March and September, and you have to follow the same routine each year (or at least over alternate years). And as I have discovered in 2018, be aware that in very hot weather or during drought trees can become stressed and a leaves may yellow (or brown) and drop for that reason alone. This isn’t too much of a problem, and a weekly deep-watering is all that’s required (hosepipe bans notwithstanding).

A final words. In early June 2018, my trees were healthy green and not a single leaf had been shed. Overnight some time in late June quite a few yellow leaves appeared and began to fall. Further research threw up the heat stress problem, and I began deep watering as described in this supplementary article. After the yellow leaves fell, no more appeared, and the tree looks very healthy again.

Can you rescue leaves which have turned yellow?

No, probably not. Not the ones which are canary yellow, anyway, since they’re already dead and will have to fall off the tree (a bit of wind speeds that up). The important thing is that by feeding the tree you can stop any further yellowing – and believe me, the first time you do it the effects will be quite noticeable within a short time.

I would imagine that chlorosis could be reversed if it is caught early, since the yellowing is not initially due to leaves dying – they’re just iron-deficient. In that case, you might be able to save some yellowed leaves by applying the chelated iron treatment. I have a real example of that. In early June 2018 (before the heatwave) I noticed my neighbour’s usually-dark green Cherry Tree leaves were pale and many yellow ones were falling. I told her about the iron treatment and she bought a bottle. The leaves on that tree are now dark green again and no more have fallen.

Do you have to keep treating the trees?

Yes. If you don’t, the problem just comes back once the tree has used up what you’ve fed it, and you’ve binned the leaves again the following autumn. Huge trees will suck up all the nutrients, and if you’re raking up and binning the leaves each year nothing gets returned to the soil. It stands to reason, really, but I was as blind to it as anyone else until I encountered the problem.

Treat your trees from March until September. Feed at least once a month (even two to three times during the earlier months) – and water regularly in hot weather anyway, as they do need moisture.

How often should you feed?

I initially started doing it once a month in the first season, and carried on at the same rate into the second and third. However, I now do it twice a month because one year – and I can’t remember which – towards the end of the season I noticed a few signs a chlorosis about a month before the normal autumn change.

Can heat and drought cause them to lose leaves?

Yes. If they are stressed you may get them dropping a few leaves. It’s a good idea to water them deeply during hot, dry periods. Once or twice a week should be enough, though more frequently won’t hurt if the dry period is prolonged.

Let me point out again that the hot weather we’re experiencing as of the start of summer 2018 caused my trees to show a some yellow leaves. I commenced deep-watering from June, as well as feeding as described elsewhere in this article. This is the first time heat/drought has been a problem, so it caught me out a little. However, after a week of deep-watering leaf-yellowing stopped completely, and the trees are now looking healthy again (as is the lawn around them, which was parched brown).

Is there any other way to deal with the problem?

You have to get nutrients and iron back into the soil. Yes, you could use your own mulch or bought compost, but obviously this is not so attractive in a normal garden (removing it is what got you here in the first place). It would also take longer to have an effect. But it would still work, given time.

When do Birch trees normally start to shed their leaves?

The short – and very obvious – answer is: in the Autumn. It can vary a little up and down the country (just as Spring tends to start earlier the further south you are), but in the Midlands they usually start to show sprays of yellow from early October. The leaves will begin to fall from that point – very lightly at first, then increasing as the yellowing spreads.

In 2016 (almost overnight during the first week or so into October), ours produced a lot of yellow on the inside, whereas the outer canopy remained green – it looked rather nice. The neighbours’ trees had much sparser canopies than ours and they had clumps of yellow all over.

Autumn officially begins in mid- to late-September and you probably can’t do much to fix your trees after August if you’ve got the early yellowing problem. I’d still recommend a good feed or two, but not beyond the end of September. But be ready to start feeding from March.

It’s worth noting that a few isolated yellow leaves on a tree which fall in windy weather are not really indicative of a major problem. When you have sprays of yellow, or if you’re losing dozens of leaves in one go, that’s when you should take action.

How do you apply these treatments?

You make up the required solution as directed on the pack, then water it into the area specified. A single watering can is usually spread over 10 square metres (a medium sized tree probably requires watering over as much as 100 square metres). You can also buy mixer units which have a small tank and connect to your garden hose. You put the concentrate into the tank and the device mixes it with water as you spray the ground under your trees.

What I do is make up a concentrate in a 5L measuring container, then use 1L of that in a 15L watering can topped up with water. It’s quicker this way. I put 250g of Miracle-gro and 250mls of Maxicrop in the container (marked with 1L divisions) and make up to 5L with water. Once dissolved, I just pour out 1L into my watering can, top up from the garden hose, and evenly spread it over about 10-20 square metres, making sure I include flower beds as well as the lawn. I do it at least once every four weeks throughout the growing season (March-September), though I’ve upped that to fortnightly this year.

For the iron sulphate, I dissolve 375g in water in the measuring container made up to 5L, and again use 1L portions in my watering can made up to volume from the hose. I apply this treatment once a month or so – staggered with the fertiliser treatment. Iron sulphate at this concentration will kill moss within a few hours, so don’t worry about any black patches that appear on the lawn – it’s just dead moss, which can be raked out.

I try to time applications of fertiliser to just before (or during) rain to be sure it is fully watered in where the trees can get at it. Otherwise, I put the sprinkler on for a bit. I let the iron sulphate go to work on the moss and let the weather take a natural course – acidifying the soil is a longer term thing.

My tree is losing branches and twigs

If the tree is weak then it is understandable that twigs and small branches might fall off. Once they’re stronger this will stop.

Another likely problem, though, is crows. Yes, the winged variety. From March they will be nest-building, and they are very, very selective in their choice of twigs for the purpose. We get great amusement watching a pair that have nested near us for the last 10 years or so. They will tear off a hundred twigs and drop them until they get the one they want. It’s nature, so we don’t worry.

Mind you, I’ve never seen a crow carry off a branch – they stick to the smaller stuff – so if your tree is dropping large branches you might need to get a tree surgeon in to have a look at it.

My tree is taking a long time to show any leaves

I’m not an expert, but if this happened to me – and knowing what I know now – I’d start feeding it pronto. Of course, it might just be slow – some trees do seem to lag behind others – but a good feed can’t do any harm. Mine is in full leaf now (May 2018) whereas neighbour’s trees are still in the process of producing leaves judging from the light that passes through their canopies.

In the worst case, it might not be in good condition at all, but you’d have to call the experts in for that.

I’ve got catkins but no leaves

Someone found the site in April 2018 with that query. You’ll probably find that in a couple of weeks you’ll have lots of leaves. As I have said in this article, I start feeding mine from March onwards. Leaves started sprouting a week or two earlier than the neighbours’ trees in 2018, and the foliage on mine is much denser. The catkins came before the leaves.

I strongly recommend feeding them regularly as a matter of course.

Are the leaves changing early this year?

This was a generic search term used to find the blog in mid-July 2017. The short answer is no, they are not – not in July, anyway.

In hot and dry weather, many trees can become “distressed” and start to shed leaves. Silver birches are affected by this. Also, greenfly infestations can also cause leaves to die and fall. If a lot of leaves are turning yellow on the tree then you have a problem – quite possibly the one which is the main subject of this article. However, a few leaves falling is probably nothing much to worry about.

In 2016 the first show of yellow up here on all trees was during the first week in October. In 2017, yellowing began a month earlier, and by mid-September they almost all were clearly changing. July yellowing is/was not down to autumnal changes.

Do Weeping Silver Birches lose their leaves in Autumn?

Yes.

When do Silver Birch leaves go all brown?

They don’t. The leaves should go yellow and fall off in the autumn.

I’ve had quite a few visitors from this search term, and when I looked it up it seems that extreme cases of chlorosis can result in leaves turning brown, as can extreme heat and drought (see this supplementary article). It could also be a disease or infestation which you could treat, but the tree itself might also be dead – especially if it has been having any of the problems I mentioned above over previous years. Best to call in the experts.

Does this advice only apply to Silver Birch trees?

No. Chlorosis can affect many plants, and lack of nutrients is going to be a universal issue. You might need a different fertiliser to address any nutrient problem, but iron will likely fix chlorosis.

Recently, someone found the blog as a result of premature leaf drop in their Betula utilis. This is the Himalayan Birch, famed for its peeling paper-like bark, and it is a member of the same family as the Silver Birch. In the Himalayas, it often grows among Rhododendron plants (look at that fertiliser again – are you seeing the connection, here?), so the advice given above would work for the Himalayan Birch, too. And it also worked for my neighbour’s Cherry Tree, as I mentioned earlier.

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A proper Toblerone barWell, when I say “Toblerone”, I mean Mondelez – the American jerks who own the brand now.

Back in 2016, they decided to do what most other commercial confectioners do to combat rising costs, and that was to reduce the size/weight of the product whilst simultaneously maintaining the price. Unfortunately – and as most people already know, if they’ve tasted a Hershey bar – Americans haven’t got a clue about chocolate, any more than they have a clue about tradition.

Toblerone originated in Switzerland in 1908, which wasn’t that long after the end of the American Civil War. The shape of a Toblerone is apparently based on the Matterhorn, according to some sources. Wherever the idea for the shape came from, it was trademarked in 1909. The name is a play on the inventor’s name (Tobler) and an Italian word for nougat (torrone). Key to its popularity – other than that it doesn’t taste like Hershey – are the a) triangular shape, and b) the close spacing of said triangles.

In a nutshell, a proper Toblerone looks like the picture above. The American solution to reducing the product weight in 2016 made it look like the one below. They just blanked off some of the spaces in the mould.toblerone2

It was a stupid decision back then, and everyone told Mondelez this. It looked stupid, and screamed “we’re screwing you and we care THIS much”. But hey, they knew best, eh?

From what I can now gather – and it has honestly taken me the whole two years to discover this, though there is still some confusion – the change only affected the 170g pack (which fell to 150g). However, since I assumed that the entire Toblerone range had been screwed with (and there is still some evidence that it was), I haven’t touched one since – and I like Toblerone.

Back in 2016, it would appear that Mondelez hadn’t got a clue, since its Northern European president, Glen Caton, said it wasn’t a long-term solution because of Toblerone’s “iconic nature”. So this “short” term solution has lasted two years.

The company officially said that it was to “keep the product affordable for customers” – which is a load of bollocks, because the only thing any company is interested in is profit, followed by increased profit. That’s not a bad thing; it just becomes bad when they lie to you over it. The change was never about the customers, because I can guarantee that 99% of them hated it, but about Mondelez’s bottom line. It was also about Mondelez’s incompetent marketers believing that such a ridiculous change to something as iconic as Toblerone would not impact sales.

This news item on the BBC reveals that Mondelez is to revert to the old shape, though it points out the price will have to rise.

Mondelez claims that cutting the size, screwing the shape, and charging the same for it actually increased sales. Yeah, right. Of course it did. More incompetent marketing – if sales really did increase, and I seriously doubt that, what would they have increased to without the changes? There is no way on this Earth that the changes specifically and directly caused an increase in sales. That would be like saying breaking an egg makes it stronger.

Face facts, Mondelez. It was a crap decision that has inevitably damaged sales, and it was made by people who haven’t got a clue except when it comes to putting amateurish spin on stupid ideas.

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vw_touran_fd17vweI was teaching a pupil how to handle the Nottingham Knight roundabout today.

Oh, if only the f—ing halfwits who have licences had even a grain of a clue, how much easier my job would be.

Here, you can see a black VW Touran, registration number FD17 VWE, decide that lane markings didn’t apply to her as she cut dangerously across the lanes. She was also speeding, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if she had her brats in the back if Social Services are interested in picking up any unfit parents right now.

This is a still from the full video which shows what she did. Stupid cow.

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honda_civic_bn05olhAnother lesson, this time in Wollaton. School run time.

My pupil was following the sat nav, and we were turning right. We’d just passed a light-controlled junction with all the mummies backed up and I’d told the pupil to carry on to next junction away from the road the school is on. As we approached it, this stupid bitch in a silver Honda Civic (old style), registration number BN05 OLH, cut us up dangerously.

This is a still from the full video showing what she did.

We followed her for about a mile, and she went into the Hemlock Stone pub – most likely either to pick up her brats from an agreed meeting place, or to get pissed on Prosecco as part of her anger management programme. Either way, she was a crap driver who shouldn’t be on the roads.

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