A Driving Instructor's Blog

News

1 2 3 90

The Audi LaneIt’s funny, but ever since I became a driving instructor I have often explained to my pupils about the “caterpillar effect” on motorways. This is where you will be travelling along at a steady 60 or 70mph, suddenly to be faced with a wall of traffic at a complete standstill. You’ll be wondering what has happened – and be lucky if you move more than a few metres over the next 10 minutes or more – when suddenly everything starts moving again and there’s no sign of what might have caused it. Then, if you’re on a long journey, it could happen again some time later – perhaps several times. It’s like a huge caterpillar, in the sense that you have chunks of motorway moving freely, and others at a standstill, and these alternate along the network – just like a caterpillar moves.

What causes it is people not driving either at the speed limit, or exceeding it, by more than about 10mph either way. A slower driver will cause cars behind to have to slow down, and the laws of physics mean that each car slows down a little more than the one in front, so eventually someone has to stop. It might only be for a second, but the same laws of physics then mean that each subsequent car stops for longer. It happens both when a normal driver encounters a slower one, or when a speeder encounters a normal driver.

Obviously, less confident drivers will usually be in one of the inner lanes, and the faster ones in the outer lanes. It usually starts in the Audi lane (the one on the far right), and then quickly spreads as the Audi (or BMW) driver moves over to try and get past, and begins to encounter all the Miss Daisys on the opposite side.

Now, to me, the most obvious fix would be to ban Audis, BMWs, and old people from the motorways. Then we could all drive at 60 or 70mph in peace. But the Americans reckon that Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) would address the problem better.

In the USA, they use the term “phantom traffic jam” – a term I can’t get my head around, because the traffic jam is actually very real when you encounter one, and it has been caused by the very real situation of people driving badly. The article I’ve linked to says that drivers cause the problem themselves due to their “delayed reactions having a ripple effect”. It’s a rather naïve and politically-correct assessment, since I’ve already pointed out quite correctly that it is mismatched speeds that are the problem and, if anything, it is over-reaction, lack of experience, and bad attitude which causes it. In other words, crap drivers.

ACC uses radar to detect what’s in front of it and adjusts the car’s speed accordingly. Hopefully, it is a few notches better than reversing sensors which are great both at detecting things which aren’t important (blades of grass and twigs on bushes), and missing things which are (lorries, metal barriers, and other big heavy things which are not in the sensor plane).

Given that the typical Audi driver is likely to set their standard cruise control at 90mph, I suspect they’d be switching ACC off the minute it tried to take them below 80mph.

I still think my solution would work best.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

I just saw this on the BBC website. It’s one of the saddest stories I’ve ever read.

Harold Milner, 79, passed his driving test in October 2017. He’d done it because his wife, who had always driven, was terminally ill with bone cancer and was unable to continue doing so, and he needed to be able to take her to and from the hospital.

Less than three weeks after passing his test, he mistook the accelerator for the brake and hit 70-year old Irene Moore, who was crossing the road while shopping in Hull. She died in hospital three days later.

A policeman called to the scene, PC Bryan Moore, saw Mrs Moore as she was being treated at the scene with the breathing bag over her face. He didn’t realise until he heard her name mentioned later on police radio that it was his own mother.

PC Moore said at trial that he bore no ill-feeling towards Mr Milner and didn’t want to see him put in prison.

Maybe for once the judge got it right when he described it as:

…a tragedy for all concerned. It is a truly remarkable and unique case.

Mr Milner was given a four-month suspended sentence. He has since surrendered his licence and has no intention of driving again.

Share

Trump's Space CorpsLike Brexit, Donald Trump is another anomaly from 2016 that just keeps on giving.

His latest stunt appears to involve restarting the Strategic Defense Initiative – aka “Star Wars” – which was first started by Ronald Reagan in 1983 at the height of The Cold War.

The big differences this time around are that:

  • Ronald Reagan wasn’t a certified nutcase
  • technology wasn’t up to it the first time
  • the key world leaders involved now are bordering on insanity

I think the picture above gives a good representation of what is involved – at least in theory.

Share

Old-style dial phoneOnce upon a time, a call made to “directory enquiries” by dialling 192 on your phone was free. In the 1990s, BT started charging 25p per call, and this rose to 40p by 2002. At that time, this was already considered a rip-off – an understandable reaction to something which previously cost nothing. The service was discontinued shortly afterwards. To replace it, the 118 numbers appeared. Whereas BT operated 192, any company could start a 118 service. And they did.

The most popular service today is 118 118, widely advertised with those two long-haired and moustachioed blokes, and which was successfully sued a few years ago by David Bedford (a British athlete from the early 70s) for stealing his image.

Before the internet – indeed, at a time when some houses still had gaslights, and many still had outside toilets – directory enquiries was an important service. It was a good way of finding someone’s phone number from their name and/or address, and I used it a few times in my youth. I remember that the operators were very helpful and adept at nailing the number you were after, even if the information you had was quite vague. However, by the time BT started charging for the service, I was on the internet and could find numbers myself. That was over 25 years ago, so it amazes me that anyone today should still need such services as 118 118. But apparently, they do.

I suppose we should be grateful that human longevity is what it is, otherwise we’d all still be wearing clothes made on Jacquard looms, riding Penny Farthings (albeit, clad in Lycra) to work, and I’d probably be giving lessons on how to drive a horse and carriage. Because it seems that more than 2% of the population still uses directory enquiries (more than 4% if they’re over 65). That’s a lot of people.

As I said, 192 calls cost 40p at the time the service was shutdown, and people were unhappy even then. Well, it seems that current 118 services cost as much as £20 per call, with 118 118 charging over £11, and even the cheapest providers charging between £1-£3. Those with the highest profiles – 118 118, Hello Maureen, Yell – are the worst offenders.

The funny thing is that the media was going on about this exact same thing over a year ago, where it was pointed out that 118 operators were free to charge up to £24 per call. The BBC even used the same photo in the article then that they have used in this latest story.

For me, the need for directory enquiries was pretty much gone right when I jumped on to the web. Over 25 years down the line it should be gone for everyone. I mean, you can even talk to your computer or phone (or Alexa) and ask it for a number these days, and unlike the phone services – which are apparently surly and unhelpful – you can ask the question in different forms again and again until you get a result. If you do this, there are no rip offs to worry about in the first place.

Share

Scum pitched on Chilwell P+RAnyone using the Chilwell park and ride car park should be aware that it is currently overrun with vermin. It seems they’ve been there almost a week already.

Yes, for at least the third time in 18 months, filthy “travellers” have moved in and they’ve turned the place into a garbage tip.

I went in there with a pupil yesterday to do a bay park manoeuvre, and the scum have spaced themselves out right across 80% of the park. There is refuse everywhere, and they are using the space behind an electricity box at the end closest to the main road as a latrine. This is the kind of scum that they are.

We watched one of them go behind the box and relieve himself, then walk back to his caravan. There are also what appear to be wet wipes strewn behind that box, so they’re shitting there, too. Even apes in a zoo are cleaner than these animals.

Authorities are no doubt going through all the usual hoops to get them off.

If it was me, I’d just send in – actually, I’d be happy to drive it myself – a big JCB and trash all their bloody caravans, whether they’re inside them or not. They are filthy, verminous scum, and deserve nothing better.

And the sooner the Police cotton on to this, the better it will be all round.

Share

A motorwayI’ve said it before, but this is about 50 years late. But better late than never.

As of today, 4 June 2018, learner drivers will be allowed on motorways as long as they’re with a fully-qualified instructor and in a car with dual controls fitted.

The Highway Code has also changed with effect from today. Specifically, Rule 253. This paragraph has been added:

From 4 June 2018 provisional licence holders may drive on the motorway if they are accompanied by an approved driving instructor and are driving a car displaying red L plates (D plates in Wales), that’s fitted with dual controls.

Apparently, learners are still not allowed on certain roads – designated “special roads”. Motorways were specifically designated “special roads” until today, but the Law has changed on that. So the big question has to be: what other “special roads are there?”

I have to be honest and say that until I saw this email from DVSA, I had no idea that there was a third category of non-private carriageway beyond normal roads and motorways. After looking it up, it would appear that I wasn’t alone, and a FOI enquiry was made on the subject in 2016 by someone.

It would seem that there is only one “special road” in the whole of the UK. Highways England – and even they had to look into it – responded to the FOI request with:

From the information that we hold, the only non-motorway special road that has been identified is the A282 in Essex and Kent, between M25 junction 30 and south of M25 junction 1b. This section of road includes the Dartford – Thurrock River Crossing.

Why does this country have to be so f—ing stupid? But anyway, the fact remains that as of today (4 June), learners can be taken on any road in the whole of the UK – except for the f—ing A282 in Essex and Kent (unless another one crawls out of the woodwork).

Jesus H Christ.

Update: A reader informs me that there is a stretch of the A55 in North Wales which is also classed as a “special road” (and maybe part of the A1 ‘oop north’). I’ve actually driven on that when visiting Llandudno one time before I became an instructor.

Ahhh. Llandudno. Every other shop is a Mobility shop. And (some) people drive around with wheelchairs on the rhino horns on the back of their cars. I’m not making that up. Much. And you’ll get tarred and feathered if you pronounce “Llandudno” the way it’s spelled while you’re there.

Share

iZettle logoI’ve mentioned elsewhere that when I first started taking card payments from my pupils, I chose iZettle. Everything was fine (without anything to compare with) until the time they updated their app and it wouldn’t run on my smartphone. They basically told me to get stuffed – effectively almost killing my business overnight – which prompted me to switch to PayPal. By the time they came back and admitted they had made a mistake, it was too late.

Ironically, I would have chosen PayPal in the first place if their staff hadn’t been so incompetent at the time, but the bad information I was given had ironed itself out by the time iZettle screwed up, and the switch was easy.

PayPal is much better than iZettle ever was. The main plus point being that any money you take can be in your account within minutes, as opposed to the “several working days” (aka a week, if you have bank holidays and a system fault to deal with at Easter or Christmas). PayPal is 24/7, whereas iZettle was 24/3 if you were lucky, and 0/7 if you weren’t.

So it was with interest that I read this article reporting that PayPal has purchased iZettle.

The language is suitably business-like, and it isn’t possible yet to say why this has happened, given that iZettle was apparently ready to list itself on the Swedish stock exchange. Surprisingly, it had targeted being “in profit” for 2020 (compare that to PayPal, which has been “in profit” since the Age of the Dinosaurs). However, I get a number of hits from people who are having problems with iZettle judging by the search terms used, so I have my own opinion.

Share

The Keystone KopsWikipedia tells us that The Keystone Kops were…

…fictional, humorously incompetent policemen, featured in several silent film slapstick comedies produced by Mack Sennett for his Keystone Film Company between 1912 and 1917.

A local news item tells how a lunatic waving a machete around was reported to the Police on 4 May. The man who reported him is quoted:

He was screaming and coming down the road with the machete shouting ‘I’m going to chop you up’.

If I hadn’t moved he would have caught me with it.”

The Police came and confiscated the weapon – but they didn’t arrest the man because:

…the force said they “couldn’t find any sign of a disturbance”.

They didn’t take a statement from the witness immediately, and the lunatic with the machete (who is clearly a mental case) was finally arrested a week later, on 11 May. The BBC video of what “no disturbance” looks like to Nottingham Police is therefore quite revealing. As is the apparent change in the Law, which it now seems allows you to have a machete in public in the first place and not be arrested.

Then there was this story from Worcester. Police there have put up a sign at the station telling criminals when the best (and most convenient) time to hand themselves in is.

Police message to criminals - West Mercia PoliceIt has since been removed, and officials are hopefully in the process of making sure those responsible are on their way back to stacking shelves at Tesco again.

And all this reminds me of a situation about four years ago. I stopped in a field gateway on a country lane near Bunny and observed three or four large bales of what I suddenly realised were Cannabis plants. I phoned the Police, and was told it wasn’t their problem and that I should contact the Council to have them removed. I did that, and after listening through a message that went roughly like this:

So that we can help you best, please choose from one of the following options. For roof repairs press 1, for door painting press 2… [a lot more removed so I don’t bore you to death]… for water discolouration press 27…

I pressed something I’d heard earlier and which sounded closest to what might be needed. The person who answered was like computer AI, but without the “I”, so I just said “oh, f**k it” and hung up.

The bales gradually rotted over the next few months.

Oh, yes. And then a couple of years ago. I was driving along Coventry Lane near Bramcote with a pupil, and a wanker in a pratmobile overtook us at high speed on the opposite side of those pedestrian central refuges – an absolutely illegal action – and almost had a head-on with another car. I reported it to the Police, pointing out I had him on dashcam, with his registration number clearly visible, and that I knew where he probably lived because of where he turned off a little further on. The Police weren’t interested, and basically told me that the dashcam footage wasn’t enough.

The legacy of The Keystone Kops lives on in Britain.

Share
1 2 3 90