Diary Of An ADI

A Driving Instructor's Blog

A meteorThe Mirror has some handy advice for people who might want to watch the Lyrid meteor shower this weekend.

Apparently, you need to look up at the sky to see if it’s clear, because if it’s not you won’t see anything. Having established that it IS clear, you then need to keep looking up because that’s where the meteors will be.

I’m glad they told me that. I’d never have figured it out by myself.

Somewhat more relevant, other than the fact that it is the “second brightest star in the sky”, is that Vega is in the North East (the two stars on the handle side of The Plough point roughly towards it). The Mirror doesn’t mention that.

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I’ve always been a Labour voter, though I didn’t vote last time because Jeremy Corbyn is not the person to lead this country (even less so with his Brexit sympathies). Ooops. I DID vote last time, but vowed not to the next time because of Jeremy Corbyn. Thanks to a reader for pointing that out to me. My bad.

After today’s announcement of a General Election – probably on 8 June if it gets the go-ahead – my first thought was that I wouldn’t vote this time, either. Having said that, I haven’t seen the Lib Dem manifesto yet. If they’re against Brexit then they can count on my vote.

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Sat nav displayAn email alert has just come in from DVSA advising that the driving test will change from 4 December 2017. The changes are as follows:

  • Independent driving will now last for 20 minutes (instead of 10 minutes)
  • 4 out of every 5 tests will use a sat nav for the independent driving part
  • 1 out of every 5 tests will use traffic signs for the independent driving part (as often done now)
  • turn in the road and reversing around a corner will no longer be tested
  • 1 out of 3 possible manoeuvres will be tested – parallel park, bay park, or reversing in a straight line on the right-hand side of the road
  • one of the show me/tell me questions will be asked while you are driving

The bay park exercise could involve reversing in (as now) and driving out again, or driving in forwards, then reversing back out again. The straight reverse on the right will be for about two car lengths, then driving back out into the normal traffic flow.

The sat nav will be supplied by the examiner and won’t involve route setting. Going the wrong way won’t result in a fail as long as it is done properly (as now with independent driving).

The show me/tell question asked while driving will be of the “show me how you’d clean the windscreen if it was dirty” kind (not “show me how you’d adjust your head restraint”).

Although the changes are watered down a little from what was being discussed last year, I am totally opposed to the removal of the turn in the road and corner reverse exercises. These should have remained on the list of possible manoeuvres to make sure instructors were teaching people properly. DVSA says that “you should still be taught them by your instructor”, but that is bollocks – within 18 months the majority of ADIs won’t go anywhere near them (many won’t right from the off), and pupils are going to start kicking up a stink when they know they’re not going to be tested and yet are still being taught them on lessons (especially the ones who have trouble with them, or who can’t afford lessons as it is).

DVSA has only provided the most basic information showing response to the consultation. There is no detailed breakdown of who voted what – God only knows why you would want to ask “the public” how it should be tested on something it can’t do very well in the first place – and some obvious weasel words which amount to “well, even though people said ‘yes’, we decided it would be ‘no’”, and vice versa. I know that some weak-minded ADIs who were involved in the trials were gushing about the changes from the moment they had their first meeting with DVSA, but I can’t believe that those with a mind of their own were happy with everything.

I don’t have an issue with the other changes.

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Back in 2014, our silver birch trees began to yellow and drop leaves in mid-June! We were worried, and Googling for an answer was next to useless.Fertiliser and Iron Treatments

Most of the technical advice was North American, and focused either on the Bronze Birch Borer (a beetle that feeds on white birches), or trying to grow trees in arid and/or swampy regions. 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 either a desert or a mangrove swamp.

Since I first wrote this article, I have discovered that there are two distinct types of yellowing. You can’t really do much harm if you just apply both remedies, though.

The first type is where the leaves really do turn a bright, canary yellow – just like they do in Autumn – and begin to fall off the tree. This is what we had (it was mid-June), and although the yellowing/leaf drop 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 an idea that made absolute sense, and which can be implemented without calling in David Attenborough and Rentokil.

The gist of the solution is that summer leaf-drop is caused either by a deficiency of nitrogen in the soil, or a deficiency of iron. You can remedy the first using ericaceous fertiliser (for lime-hating plants, which is what birch trees are). It is available from various manufacturers (I use Miracle-Gro, as shown above), 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 £6 a box, and there’s enough to manage a handful of trees for at least a year (you can also get liquid varieties).

Normal fertiliser is no good – it has to be ericaceous – and you just dissolve it and water it in around the tree. Remember that the roots extend outwards quite a long way and you’ll need to cover a wide area. Slow-release granules of the same fertiliser can also be bought which you sprinkle on the ground and water in, and they apparently work for up to 3 months.

The second cause is also dealt with by simply buying some sequestered iron (I use Maxicrop, as shown above). It comes as a liquid, and you can mix it with your fertiliser and water it in all in one go. Plants need iron to produce chlorophyll, and since chlorophyll is why the leaves are green, not being able to produce it means the leaves become less green and take on a yellowish hue.

In our case, after a single application leaf drop stopped immediately in that 2014 season (once the already-dead leaves dropped). The trees even threw out some catkins, which had been absent up until then. In 2015, I started feeding every few weeks from March and we had no leaf drop at all. In 2016, it has been the same so far, and we have very fat catkins hanging from the branches, along with quite significant new growth.

You can also treat your trees with iron sulphate. This replaces iron in the soil, too, but it also acidifies the ground over time, which is good for ericaceous plants.

It’s funny looking back, but I used to think that if you planted a tree you just forgot about it and let it grow. In fact, it turns out you need to look after them almost as much as you would a tomato plant or an ornamental cactus! And judging by the number of hits I’m getting this year, a lot of other people are just discovering the same.

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. How long that takes will vary, and a little wind can speed things 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.

I would imagine that chlorosis could be reversed if it is caught early, since the yellowing is not 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.

Do you have to keep treating the trees?

Yes. If you don’t, the problem just comes back depending on how long the previous treatment lasts for, and that is dependant on how bad the deficiency is, how big your trees are, what else is growing there, and how your soil drains when it rains. 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.

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.

This year (almost overnight during the first week or so into October, 2016), ours produced a lot of yellow on the inside, whereas the outer canopy is still green – it looks rather nice. The neighbours’ trees have much sparser canopies than ours and they have 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.

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.

Although I haven’t used it yet, I have built an irrigation system which mixes the fertiliser/concentrate and feeds it to a garden sprinkler system. It consists of a venturi mixer and 5L container, and can treat around 30-40 square metres in a single go without any human intervention. I’ll post more next year when I start using it.

My tree is losing branches and twigs

If the tree is weak then it is understandable that twigs and 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.

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Dropped star on EU flag29 March 2017 is a date which will go down in history as a turning point.

It marks the point at which stupidity as a prerequisite of being allowed to vote in the UK was officially sanctioned. It also marks the official sanctioning of hatred and xenophobia as a British trait suitable for campaigning purposes, since the only reason the aforementioned stupid people cast their votes the way they did last June was because of hatred and xenophobia directed at Europeans (and anyone else who doesn’t look British if you’re just too stupid to realise they might not be). Oh, and because of that bloody bus promising £350,000,000 a week to the NHS.

Of course, the Americans have taken a similar wrong turn with the election of a certain gentleman who – if you take into account some of the more artistically contrived stories the last few days – is either a complete a**hole or a misunderstood genius.

Occam’s Razor springs to mind here: if you come across as an a**hole to just about everyone who hears you every time you open your mouth, all things being equal, you probably are an a**hole. The same goes for Brexit, of course, because no matter how many times you repeat the mantra “everything will be all right”, the simple fact remains that the UK is leaving the largest economy in the world to strike out on its own as the fifth largest, and without having a clue how it is going to manage to retain that position.

Yes, Article 50 has been triggered.

So, 29 March 2017 will live in infamy as the precise point when the UK turned from metaphorically shooting itself in the foot, and aimed a little higher.

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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”

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.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 criminal acts and to ignore the consequences of those acts as a viable way of getting what they want.

Bribery of driving examiners has less than a 0.1% chance of succeeding. However, the risk of jail or deportation for trying it is pretty much guaranteed. It’s far easier – and cheaper – to learn to drive properly and take your driving test. 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 are written into the 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 the 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 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 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.

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

If you get away with it, yes. However, it will mean that you are still a crap driver and may well end up killing someone. However, 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 initially get away with it, at some point they will catch the person you paid 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.

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This article was originally published in February 2014. Updated in 2015, November 2016, and March 2017.A Clifton Test Route

I get frequent hits on the blog from people looking for test route information. Test routes are no longer published for Nottingham, or anywhere else – they stopped publishing them in 2010!

If you’re an instructor, it isn’t difficult to work out where the examiners go. To begin with, anywhere near the test centre is bound to be on most of the routes. If you know the examiners to look at, you’ll see them from time to time as you conduct your lessons, so you can add that location to your memory bank. You can also ask your pupils where they went after their tests – some of them will be able to give you some details, though many won’t. If they fail their test, find out where the mistakes occurred – the examiner will be more than happy to tell you – and if it crops up more than once, modify your lesson structure and deal with it going forward. Finally, if you’re desperate to know the exact routes you can sit in on tests and learn that way. If you know what you’re doing you can even log the routes for reference – the picture above shows one of the test routes for the now-closed Clifton Test Centre (the orange dot), which I recorded myself. Click on it for a larger image.

Conducting your lessons only on test routes is rather foolish. Apart from the fact that you’re cheating your pupils by not teaching them to drive properly, examiners can change routes or mix and match from several routes any time they need to. Pupils who try to memorise test routes are far more likely to fail because they’re prioritising the wrong things – worrying about forgetting the route instead of thinking about driving properly. Considering that there are dozens of official routes at any large test centre, it would require a considerable feat of memory to store all of them, and then to be able to recall just one as needed. Based on my own experience, many pupils have difficulty recognising a street we’ve been on a hundred times before, so memorising 20 or more complete routes is even less possible for them.

Having said that, it is important for an ADI to have some knowledge of the test routes so that special features can be covered. Every town or test centre has these – the tricky roundabout with the one-way street and No Entry sign, the unusually steep hill that can only be negotiated in second gear (and which may require a hill start if some jackass in a van doesn’t give way coming down it), the STOP junction immediately after an emerge on to a busy road with a bend, and so on. It doesn’t matter how good someone is at dealing with roundabouts, if they come face to face with ones like the Nottingham Knight or Nuthall roundabouts up my way, without prior practice there’s a high probability they’ll get it wrong. Someone’s first practical experience of such a roundabout shouldn’t be on their driving test.

I remember when I first became an ADI, and religiously downloading all the routes provided by DVSA (then, DSA). The documents consisted of tables of directions which were cryptic unless you knew roads by name and/or number, which I didn’t at that time. I made a single half-hearted attempt to plot a route before giving up – there just wasn’t time – and I quickly realised that it was pointless anyway. These days, I’d probably be able to interpret those route plans quite easily, but these days my pupils get to drive all over – sometimes on test route roads, sometimes not.

Hanging around test areas like a bad smell also gets you a bad reputation. You get in the way of real tests, if nothing else. But you’ll also end up struggling with all the other morons trying to do the same as you.

Where can I download test routes?

You can’t. Not unless some ADI has recorded them and is publishing them independently.

Should I pay for downloadable test routes?

My advice would be no. DVSA stopped publishing them for a reason, and if some smart aleck is trying to profit from selling them then he or she is behaving in an unprofessional manner. If you buy into that then you’re not much better. There’s a good chance you’re being sold old routes, anyway.

A desire to obtain detailed test routes for use on lessons seems to be something newly-qualified ADIs attach high importance to. Trust me: don’t waste your money.

Is it possible to record test routes?

Yes. There are free and paid for apps available for both Android and iPhone which use GPS to record journeys. Similarly, there are numerous GPS tracker devices available which do the same. I use a tracker and I know where every pupil goes on their test (and I can see where they are while I’m at the test centre, so I know when they are coming back). This is purely for my own information, and publishing my logged routes would be completely against DVSA’s original reason for stopping publication. If it wasn’t already apparent from the rest of this blog, I have absolutely no inclination or desire to go against DVSA.

I have provided an old Clifton test route in the image at the start of this article (Clifton is now closed). What is interesting from my logged routes is how they change over time. Sometimes, tests follow precisely the same route as previous ones, but other times new sub-sections of route are added. And knowing where a pupil went on their specific test is useful if they fail and you need to identify exactly what went wrong, and where.

You can also record routes using dashcams. I recently showed a pupil where she had failed after the examiner explained it in the debrief, but she didn’t know what he was talking about. I placed it online for her to look at less than an hour later.

How do I know the routes I’ve bought are correct and up to date?

You don’t – and they’re probably not. They might even be totally imaginary, or simply cobbled together to be reasonably close to actual routes in order that the unprofessional person selling them has some justification for the price they charged you. They may just be the original ones that they stopped publishing in 2010 and which are almost certainly out of date. As I said above, routes change with time.

Do I need to know the test routes for my test?

No. The examiner will give you directions as necessary, or ask you to follow road signs. However, if there are one or two awkward features – big roundabouts, steep hills, or so on – then your instructor should know about them and make sure you know how to handle them.

People fail tests because they can’t drive properly far more frequently than they do because they couldn’t recall a memorised route. However, not driving properly becomes much more likely when your brain is scrambling around thinking “now, what is it I have to do here?”

How many test routes are there?

It varies from test centre to test centre, but there could be 10, 20, or more. You couldn’t possibly memorise all of them – and to be honest, even if you drove down your own street on your test the chances are that you might not notice! You will be nervous, and you will be concentrating. The last thing you want is to have to try and remember a detailed list of directions, then to start fretting if you think you might have forgotten something.

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Wonder Woman - from the upcoming filmThere’s a new superhero film on its way, this time a remake of Wonder Woman. That second word pretty much guarantees that everyone involved with the film is going to be strung up by the feminist community, no matter how feminine, masculine, or neutral the main character ends up as being portrayed.

In fact, it has already started. In her armpits.

Apparently, the tinfoil helmet brigade have already decided that her armpits have been digitally altered, and are… wait for it… up in arms over it (I couldn’t resist).

Twitter has turned incandescent over the matter, but someone beat me to it with this picture suggesting what she looked like before the digital airbrush treatment.The unaltered version

I almost choked when I saw it.

The simple fact is that with high definition imaging these days, someone’s armpits are going to put you right off your popcorn, no matter if they’re au naturel or freshly mowed. A bit of electronic jiggery-pokery is of benefit to everyone except the professional loonies out there.

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Another nail in the coffin of the UK as any sort of world power comes as it is announced that Theresa May will trigger Article 50 – the official notification of the UK’s intention to leave the EU – on Wednesday, 29 March 2017.

Remember: 29 March 2017.

It is a date which will live in infamy.


Incidentally, I saw a very appropriate comment posted by someone earlier today. They said:

The clocks go forward one hour on March 26th.

They go back 40 years on March 29th.

I wish I’d thought that one up.


And this one sums up pretty much everyone who voted to leave the EU:

why do remoaners always mention bananas when taking about the EU? I don’t mind if I never eat a banana again, I just want to get out of the EU, to be honest with you I don’t eat foreign food, it probably taste nice but I don’t trust it, Europe is ungrateful, we taught them English, gave them civilisation and taught them basic skills like how to use a knife and fork and use toilet paper.

Only thinking of himself, and so narrow-minded that he’ll only eat lard and gravel spread on BRITISH cardboard. The frightening thing is that he almost certainly believes that part about teaching Europeans to speak English and “civilising” them. And this clueless twat was allowed to vote last summer.

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