Diary Of An ADI

A Driving Instructor's Blog

This is becoming an annual event! My mate from Leeds is a big fan, so I go with him each time they tour – which in Quo’s case is pretty much all year round.Parfitt and Rossi - Leeds 2014

The support was Chas & Dave. I have a lot of respect for them as musicians, but they are not my cup of tea. My mate’s wife was less diplomatic: she hates them! Her face when they started “Rabbit” was a picture.Francis Rossi 2014

The Quo set list was something like this:

  • Caroline
  • Something ’bout You Baby I Like
  • Rain
  • Paper Plane
  • Little Lady
  • Hold You Back
  • Beginning of the End
  • Blue Eyed Lady
  • What You’re Proposing / Down the Dustpipe / Wild Side of Life / Railroad
  • Big Fat Mama
  • The Oriental
  • Creepin’ Up on You
  • Oh Baby
  • In the Army Now
  • Drum Solo (The Caveman)
  • Roll Over Lay Down
  • Down Down
  • Whatever You Want
  • Rockin’ All Over the World

Encore:

  • Burning Bridges (On and Off and on Again)
  • Rock ‘n’ Roll Music / Bye Bye Johnny

Rick Parfitt 2014

Once again, newer bands should take note. Although Quo songs tend to be relatively short and radio-friendly, you were looking at a playing time of well over an hour (based on album track lengths).

You’ve also got to allow for the fact that both Rossi and Parfitt are in their mid-60s, and both have been ill at times in the last couple of years. In fact, this time around they looked fitter and happier than I have seen them since I’ve been attending their gigs.

A very enjoyable way to end the musical year from my perspective. Oh, and I used the same car park as for the Slash gig and got in and out without any fuss.

At the moment, the next gig I’m going to isn’t until March next year.

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I recently wrote about a pupil of mine who passed her test in spite of serious misgivings I had concerning her ability to perform under pressure. It turns out that I was wrong – and I’m more than prepared to admit that.Doctor's clipboard and stethoscope

Normally, I don’t have an issue with my pupils being test ready. It’s quite simple: if they’re ready, they’re ready. I know when that is. End of. However, maybe a handful of pupils in a hundred turn out to be real wild cards, and even though they can do everything required of them some of the time on their lessons, they can’t do it all of the time. The $64,000 question is: does that mean they’re not test ready?

A lot of instructors become far too involved, and the point at which their responsibilities end and the pupil’s begin becomes blurred.

I noticed on a forum recently that someone posted how they’d taken a pupil to test who had previously failed with 3 driver faults and one serious fault. The pupil only took a single lesson due to financial constraints between that test and the next. Apparently, the pupil drove well on that lesson, and on the journey to the test centre. But the ADI concludes that the subsequent fail with 8 driver faults and 3 serious faults meant that the pupil wasn’t ready for the test. I can only go on what is written, but that is absolute nonsense. If they could drive well, they were test ready, and the fail was for other reasons.

There are more factors involved than people seem to realise. To start with, most pupils are far more nervous on their second attempt than on their first (not my fault, I can assure you). Secondly, whenever I’ve sat in, I’m sometimes slightly surprised at what some examiners let go just as I am slightly surprised at what others mark as faults. One pupil of mine recently bay parked with more than three quarters of his wheel in the neighbouring bay, but the examiner said he was “on the line” and let it go. I know that virtually every other examiner would have marked it as a fail (I certainly teach them that any part of the car in the neighbouring bay is chasing down a fail). This sort of thing isn’t common – and I have no issue whatsoever with any of my examiners up this way – but it does illustrate the natural variation in standards adopted by different examiners. So what might be seen as a “good” fail with only a couple of faults by an ADI might not be as good as he or she believes had it been marked slightly more harshly.

Then there is the simple issue of time, and its effect on things. One test might be in light traffic and good weather, whereas the next could be in horrendous conditions – God help a pupil on test who drives within half a mile of a school during the mummy run. In one test, the pupil might be emotionally balanced, and yet come the next attempt they might have family or personal issues on their minds. I remember at least two of my pupils over the years who had been openly threatened with losing their jobs if they didn’t pass, and another whose new “dream job” as an apprentice was conditional upon him passing.

And let’s not forget the Hand of Fate, where the jackass who wasn’t there last time decides to approach a junction at warp speed, to pull out, or to attempt to give priority where he shouldn’t, causing a chain of events that result in the pupil messing up under the pressure. One of mine once failed because she braked hard on a mini roundabout when a taxi cut her up, and then got stuck as every twat to her right started piling out over the roundabout regardless (that could happen to anyone, especially if the car has driving school livery on it). The list could go on indefinitely.

There is no way we can teach pupils for every eventuality. Sure, we can teach them how to deal with someone cutting in because it happens often. But we can’t teach them how to handle an armed police raid on a drugs den (it happened to one of mine on her test a few years ago). We can teach them how to deal with an ambulance coming up behind with its lights and siren going. But we can’t always teach them how to handle four unmarked police cars attempting to break the sound barrier, a 24 hour bus lane, and a dickhead behind who didn’t move over after we did, and then pulled up almost alongside us so that the police cars were held up, thus creating a situation that could only result in panic for a new and inexperienced driver (it happened on a lesson I was conducting two days ago). We can tell them to stay calm until the cows come home, but we can’t stop them being nervous to the point of vomiting if that’s part of their biology (I taught a brother, two sisters, and a cousin where ADHD, suspected Autism, and related traits were clearly inherited all the way down the line on the maternal side; and another where Autism in the son is clearly linked somehow with the diagnosed anxiety issues among the mother and all of her immediate family). And we can teach them how to anticipate what others will do until we’re blue in the face, but if they brake sharply on test because the clown in front decides to turn left or right without indicating and they didn’t realise what he was up to, they’re probably going to fail – even though anyone else, including the examiner, might also have done the same.

I’ve said it before, but the driving test is only the beginning of a lifelong learning curve. The test does not yield perfect drivers – and it has never pretended to do so. ADIs need to start remembering this instead of trying to conduct mock tests in their hi-vis jackets and expecting zero faults all the time.

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One of my favourite comedy films of all time is How To Murder Your Wife, starring Jack Lemmon and Terry Thomas. The female lead was played by Virna Lisi, a beautiful Italian actress.Virna Lisi in How To Murder Your Wife

So I’m sorry to hear that she has died at the age of 78. I had no idea that she was so prolific, or that she was active up until her death. I also didn’t know that she turned down the lead role in Barbarella, which went to Jane Fonda instead.

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An email alert from DVSA says that CGI clips are due to replace the current video clips from early in the new year.

The quality of the clips is stunning – I’d challenge anyone to be able to identify them as CGI while watching them. However, it will be interesting to see how quickly the usual crowd of anti-DVSA Luddites find fault. I predict that someone somewhere will post the usual asinine comment about HPT being “a computer game” before the week is out.

I hope that these clips – or similar clips, at any rate – make their way across to Driving Test Success.

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An email alert from DVSA advises that next year – no dates given yet, though somewhere between January and March is mooted – Leicester’s Gipsy Lane test centre will close and tests will relocate to the ex-VOSA building on Cannock Street. Driving tests should be booked as normal in the meantime. The new location (or old, depending on how you look at it) will be refurbished before tests move there.

I’m sure the usual vipers will see something negative in this. However, since DSA and VOSA merged to become DVSA, having separate facilities would be stupid, and the new location is less than 2 miles away from the old (existing) one.


As an update to this, DVSA is asking for feedback on the move. I don’t think they want to know if you like the idea, but rather what your views would be on a gradual switch.

Obviously, only those who use the test centre really ought to be completing the questionnaire.


And in a further update, the majority favoured a straight switch rather than a phased one. The switch will occur between 3-9 February 2015. An Open Day will be arranged prior to the switch.

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I haven’t done this for a while, and I don’t think the Hall Of Shame idea is prominent enough. So I’m going to try this much briefer way of venting my spleen at the arseholes who occupy our roads.YE08 TFJ

Two questions. What were you doing down the dark road for deliveries only in the West Bridgford Asda at about 8pm on 17 December?

And how the hell did you ever manage to get a driving licence when you pull out in front of people like that? Maybe it was a quick getaway you were after.

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TickWell done Catriona, who passed today with 6 driver faults. She rounds off a great week – six tests, and six passes.

Cat has learnt a lot during her lessons with me. Most notably, the concept of the “sense of humour”. I remember when I was teaching her to reverse round a corner early on, and she had a habit of steering the wrong way. One time I saw where her hands had moved to on the steering wheel and said “if you steer that way you’re walking home”. Cat is (or was) one of those deadpan people who takes things very literally, and the possibility that I might not have been serious did not enter her head. Sarcasm – one of my favourite teaching tools – was anathema to her. Not any more, though. She gives as good as she gets.

She’s already signed up for Pass Plus.

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Still a little behind with these updates, but on 29 November I went to see Slash with Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators at the Leeds Arena.

I saw Slash last year in Nottingham and it was a great show.It was notable that he had a great support band – The Treatment – who are making a name for themselves in their own right. Well, this time around there were two support bands. The first was an Australian four-piece called Twenty Two Hundred, who were good.Twenty Two Hundred

Even better, though, were California Breed. I’ve been hearing a lot of these on Planet Rock – they’re a “supergroup” consisting of Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham, and Andrew Watt.California Breed's Glenn Hughes

Glenn Hughes played with Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, and was also a member of Black Country Communion (whom I never got to see before they split). I guess it was only fitting that they ended their set with the Deep Purple song Burn. Guitarist, Andrew Watt, was a revelation.

Myles Kennedy 2014

Slash and Myles Kennedy were on fire, though. The set list was as follows:

  • You’re a Lie
  • Nightrain
  • Standing in the Sun
  • Avalon
  • Back from Cali
  • Withered Delilah
  • You Could Be Mine
  • Ghost
  • Doctor Alibi
  • Out Ta Get Me
  • Wicked Stone
  • Beneath the Savage Sun
  • Mr. Brownstone
  • Rocket Queen
  • Bent to Fly
  • World on Fire
  • Anastasia
  • Sweet Child O’ Mine
  • Slither

Encore:

  • Paradise City

Slash at Leeds Arena 2014Newer bands (like The Pretty Reckless, mentioned previously) should take note. Here we have 20 songs with an average timing of over 4 minutes, so a minimum playing time of 80 minutes. Add to that the various Slash solos – including one that was 10 minutes or more – and you have value for money… with knobs on.

It’s funny when you think about it. Slash pisses around playing solos, and lesser bands piss around doing absolutely nothing between songs. Slash was polished, that’s for sure.

The Arena was taking no prisoners that night, either. They were doing body scans outside, and they’d obviously confiscated some very unusual items (including half bottles of whisky). I decided to take my camera in in full view, and they didn’t give a damn – they were more interested in the signal my business card wallet was giving on the hand scanner!

Oh, yeah. And this was my first visit to the Leeds Arena since the Edward Street/UKCPS car park scam I was involved in about a year ago. This time I used another car park a short distance away from the arena and was in and out with no delays whatsoever. And parking only cost £5.

A great night. The only hiccup was that I got home at 1.30am and had to get up again at 5.00am to pick a pupil up at 6.30am for an 8.10am test. I’d told him he’d better bloody pass getting me up at that time. Fortunately, he did.

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I’m a bit late mentioning this, but I went to see The Pretty Reckless at Rock City a few weeks ago (17 November, to be precise).

I saw them a few years ago at the Leeds O2, where they were supporting Evanescence. I’d had them on my tour alerts and snapped up tickets as soon as they went on sale. I did the same thing this time.The Pretty Reckless - Taylor Momsen

It is a bit difficult to describe this. On the one hand, the music was excellent. However, there simply wasn’t enough of it! The set list, shown below, consisted of a mere 11 songs. The encore was just one song.

  • Follow Me Down
  • Since You’re Gone
  • Sweet Things
  • Miss Nothing
  • House on a Hill
  • Dear Sister
  • Absolution
  • Why’d You Bring a Shotgun to the Party
  • Make Me Wanna Die
  • Heaven Knows
  • Going to Hell

Encore:

  • Fucked Up World

You could forgive the paucity of material when they were supporting in 2011 after only a single album having been released. After all, they only formed in 2009. But another two years down the line, and after graduating to headline status… well, I’m not so sure. Not being a hard rock band in the true sense the average length of each of their songs is around three minutes, so with that set list you’re looking at little over half an hour’s worth of music. And yet somehow they managed to stretch it to almost an hour and a half. And I said “almost”.

Unfortunately, they still haven’t polished their performance, and the rawness that was evident when they supported Evanescence was still there. You see, support bands are usually crammed in at the front of the stage – in front of the already-installed equipment of the main act. For that reason you can forgive the cramped performances that result. But if you’re the headline act yourself, then the audience expects a little more. There was a huge gap between each song which merely emphasised this unpolished product.

Having said that, the audience was predominantly young and female, and I doubt that they knew what they should be expecting. The screams of “we love you Taylor” probably illustrate that better than anything.

Personally, I did enjoy the show. There just wasn’t enough of it to go around, and you could see it being spread thinly on purpose.

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TickWell done Eileen, who passed today first time with just 3 driver faults. This is a classic example of why you should never write someone off – and how wrong you can be if you do.

Eileen is very nervous, and following my suggestion some months ago has been using beta-blockers on her lessons (after a visit to her GP). They have had a positive effect, but there is no “magic pill” that can turn someone into a brilliant driver. And certainly not overnight.

I had stopped her from taking a previously booked test because I thought she was dangerous. But I have to be honest in that I also wanted her to cancel this one on her last normal lesson because I was really worried about her nerves and how she would react on the driving test. I insisted that I sit in the back in case the test was abandoned – I honestly thought that it was a possibility – and I had advised her to be prepared for the possibility of things going wrong. She knew this, of course. That’s why she had gone to her GP in the first place, and she told me that the nerves came and went unpredictably in other aspects of her life.

It was one of the best drives I have ever seen anyone produce, on test or off it. When the examiner told her she’d passed – and I knew she had from what I’d seen even before he announced it – I had tears in my eyes. The three faults were all for the same thing, and they came early on, but she got into the swing and didn’t make the same mistake again.

So it just goes to show how wrong you can be. Anyone on the outside looking in would have probably said she wasn’t ready. Indeed, I saw a forum thread recently with precisely that topic, where people were lambasting someone who had taken a candidate to test who he said wasn’t up to standard. To be fair, that instructor hadn’t done himself any favours in how he put the story across, but it did illustrate clearly how the only person who knows the candidate is the instructor who taught them – and the information probably ought not to be passed to others for their opinions. Outsiders can usually only advise based on grudges and sections from the Great Big Handbook Of Finding Fault With Others.

I was completely wrong about Eileen. I’m happy to admit it. And I’ve learnt something: don’t be too hasty consigning pupils to the metaphorical scrapheap.

Hopefully, this tale will help others learn, too, before they start shooting their mouths off.

And Eileen’s pass brings my tally to five out of five for the week.

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