A Driving Instructor's Blog


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Virus imageThere’s a news article in The Telegraph about pubs asking for a 20 minute ‘drinking up time’ following the newly introduced 10pm curfew. A quote in it from a supposed ‘industry expert’ made me shake my head in disbelief.

Kate Nicholls, CEO of industry group UK Hospitality, told The Telegraph: “A staggered closing time would be beneficial in reducing transmissions. A hard 10pm curfew was always going to lead to pinch point of customers leaving pubs en masse.”

Erm, excuse me Ms Nicholls, but what precisely do you think customers who are stupid enough to go out drinking in the first place, and who get kicked out of a pub at 9pm are going to do? You know, when other pubs are still open until 9.30pm or 10pm? Or what will they do at twenty past ten, after a ‘drinking up’ period?

Riiiight. In your world, they’re going to catch the bus home so there’s fewer people trying to use public transport at each of the other staggered closing times. It all makes sense, now.

Another ‘industry expert’ is at it again in a story a day later in the Evening Standard. This time, it’s about the government being under pressure to ‘review’ the curfew.

Emma McClarkin, CEO of the British Beer and Pub Association… [said] “The curfew has been another devastating blow to the beer and pub sector. We have invested millions in creating safe socialising environments and had been slowly winning back the confidence of our customers and rebuilding our trade.”

This is on the day the global death toll went above 1 million. I can’t be the only person out here who thinks ‘f**k the hospitality sector’ if they use logic like this. Those twats dancing in the streets and storming off-licences at five past ten were behaving exactly like that inside pubs at five minutes to. How the hell is that part of a ‘safe socialising environment’?

The fact that both of these clowns are from the same gender can pass for now.

Of course, in the real world – a world of people who are stupid enough to go out drinking right now – they don’t give a f**k about ‘reducing transmissions’. If the pub they’re in closes while others are still open, they will head for those. And if they’re kicked out of anywhere before they’re properly tanked up, they’ll still end up creating far worse ‘pinch points’ in local shops, and getting into situations that usually arise when drunken British prats interact with other drunken British prats.

Absolutely none of those shown in the photos and videos are socially distancing or even wearing masks.

As the previous two blog articles with this title have shown, ignorance and stupidity is the problem. And if it is caused by a ‘minority’, as Johnson and his troupe keeps claiming, it’s a f**king huge minority. Frankly, I think it is a considerable majority involved.


Virus imageMy feelings on this government, the Tories in general, and Brexit are well known. But I don’t go so far as to blame them for everything. Only the things they do wrong.

The new Test & Trace app is now available. I downloaded it with no trouble, and it runs with no problems that I can see on my  HTC U11 (come on, HTC, I want a new flagship) from 2017. All you have to do is enter the first part of your postcode and allow a couple of permissions and it is set up. However, the way the app works means that it has to be installed on relatively new phones which have the necessary Bluetooth features on them. Note that I said the necessary Bluetooth features – not Bluetooth per se. The iPhone 6, for example, was released in 2015, and Apple stopped supporting it and earlier models this year. So in other words it is obsolete, and no one in their right mind should automatically expect any new app to run on that phone.

The Test & Trace app doesn’t.

Matt Hancock has gone on record as saying an ‘upgrade’ maybe needed to access the app. Rightly or wrongly he’s going to get slated for this. It’s his ‘let them eat cake’ moment. But how is it his problem? It’s like complaining that you can’t play a C60 cassette in a CD player, or a VHS cassette in a DVD machine (though it’s worth pointing out people did complain when those two things were current issues).

I’m not saying the app is perfect, or that it works properly – I don’t know, and time will tell – but the vultures are out in force over it simply because they can’t download it on to two tin cans joined by a piece of string. It only works on iOS 13.5 and later – and that counts for 70% of the iPhone-owning public. It will only run on Android Marshmallow or later – again, from 2015 – and that covers over 80% of Android users. It doesn’t run for the tiny minority using Windows, Blackberry, or anything else. It doesn’t run on phones which aren’t ‘smart’ (think ‘original Nokia’). And you can’t use it if you don’t have a phone at all – and believe me, there will undoubtedly be some people who are in that bracket who are complaining.


COVID virus graphicDue to the ongoing pandemic, the SEISS has been extended to April 2021. It will be paid in two instalments – the first, covering November-January, and the second covering February-April. This time, it is targeted at people who are working fewer hours than they normally would be as a result of the ongoing situation, and who were eligible for SEISS in the first place (i.e. received the first two grants).

As I understand it, those who couldn’t claim previously still won’t be able to. I do feel for them.

Whereas the first grant paid 80% of someone’s average income, and the second one 70% (while they weren’t working at all during the lockdown), these two extended payments will each give 20% of that income up to a combined maximum of £1,875. It is a top-up for reduced work.

I’m not sure when the claims will open. If it’s like the last two, the first extended payment can be claimed in January, and the second in April. However, that seems a long time to wait, and it may be different this time around.

I also note that no one at our end has done the sums yet and worked out that if the first SEISS covered March-May, and the second June-August, then there is a gap involving September and October. I’m sure it won’t take them long to pick up on it, though. The thing is, HMRC didn’t give time ranges for the first two grants, and said they just covered two three-month periods, and in any case we worked most of March.

Whatever, it’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.


COVID-19 Infections 2020 (to September)The BBC has an article titled ‘Covid: Is it time we learnt to live with the virus?’ It also has a comments section open in that story.

At the same time, there is another article resulting from today’s government announcements which says that if we don’t do something, we could be looking at 50,000 new cases a day by mid-October, and 200 or more deaths per day once that stage of the increase kicks in.

Comments left in the first article include the following:

[boycie] Just let everyone catch it. The whole country cannot be held back once again for the sake of the few.

[Nick B] …it’s very sad that people have died from this. But locking down and unlocking down continually is no answer.

[Andrew C] …lock yourself down if you want to but don’t expect everyone else to do the same.

[Point_of_view] Do you really think it is people partying and protesting outside that is causing the bulk of transmissions? The main mechanism of transmission has been in people’s homes, inside.

[Ben] Is it time we learnt to live with it? Yes. Further lockdowns are going to do so much more damage than good.

[Richard] Yes, lockdown doesn’t work.

This is a very small sample, but it illustrates the crass stupidity and selfishness of what is quite possibly the majority of the British public – the same public that has put us where we are with the second wave right now.

The first commenter, ‘boycie’, fails to recognise that it is already proven that you can catch COVID-19 again. It has also been shown that resistance (‘immunity’) in those who have had it begins to wane after just 2-3 months. In other words, there is no such thing as ‘immunity’ at all – it is so short-lived that it is of no practical benefit. He also fails to recognise that anyone who got ill the first time may well have suffered damage that means they’re now one of those with an ‘underlying condition’. For them, a second infection will probably not be as mild as the first. This character, ‘boycie’, therefore appears to be completely happy to send his parents or grandparents to their graves just so he can carry on like nothing is wrong – and all because of his stupidity and ignorance.

As I have said many times, if my parents caught COVID-19, it would almost definitely kill them. If it didn’t on its first try, it would on its second. In a civilised world, you do not play that card on purpose. You do not even consider it – even for the short time this government did at the start of the pandemic, with its ‘herd immunity’ idea. Because we now know that ‘herd immunity’ from natural infection with COVID-19 does not exist, even if the ignorant ‘boycie’ types of this world are still stuck in the past and believe that it does.

‘Nick B’ and ‘Richard’ demonstrate ignorance in a different way. The chart at the top of this article shows the infection rates for the duration of the pandemic up until nearly the end of September in the UK. It seems fairly obvious to me that if you don’t do anything to try and limit how something spreads, there is no way that a thing the size of a COVID-19 virus has any ability to choose a cyclical or wave-like approach, such as we are seeing. It just spreads wherever it can. Therefore, almost the whole reason the numbers fell after the first peak was because action was taken to try and limit it. And almost the whole reason it is rising again now is because that action was reversed last month, and people who are theoretically far smarter than a COVID-19 virus started booking holidays to Spain and Greece (and other places where it was prevalent), and caused whole flights to have to be quarantined as they shipped it back to the UK. Almost the whole reason it never fell to zero was precisely because of people like ‘Nick B’, ‘Richard’, and the prats living it up in Zante or Ibiza, who most likely flouted or ignored the rules that were brought in even in the early days.

‘Andrew C’ probably couldn’t even spell ‘epidemiology’, let alone have the first clue what it involved. If any individual is going to dodge receiving a COVID-19 bullet, they have a much better chance if there are fewer bullets flying around to start with. ‘Andrew C’s’ solution is like saying everyone can run around going ‘yee-haaa’ and shooting at whatever they want, and anyone who doesn’t like it is at fault, and should stay at home and try to keep out the way. That’s fine, as long as there are no stray bullets – like grocery delivery drivers and postal workers – going from house to house.

‘Point_of_view’, like all the others, doesn’t like being locked down or told what to do, so he tries to justify that with cherry-picked details. How the hell does he think the virus gets into a home setting in the first place? It doesn’t just magically appear out of thin air – it has to be brought in. People like these commenters, who think they know more than the scientific experts, are the cause. They’re outside, pissing around like there’s nothing wrong, nipping off to the Balearics, then coming back and not isolating. They pick it up, then they take it home. The whole household becomes infected. But then, if any of that household has the same ridiculous beliefs as the commenters here, they will also go out, and the same cycle repeats in multiple households. It’s how exponential spread of the virus occurs, and is exactly like what that prat, Layton Migas, did when he came back from Ibiza, didn’t isolate (when he should have), and caused Bolton to be locked down.

‘Ben’ is one of those whose life revolves around money – his money – and nothing else, and who resents any restrictions. He is prepared to put that money above the lives of the 50,000 who have already died, and the additional deaths that are inevitable as a result of his ‘I don’t wanna’ approach.

That’s what it comes down to with all these people. They just ‘don’t wanna’, so they come out with these pathetic and uninformed excuses.

The country is in a f***ing mess for all sorts of reasons. Right now, COVID-19 is the biggest reason. And – right now – there is no ideal solution. The government is trying to balance letting people die, with letting businesses (and individuals’ finances) collapse. It is physically impossible to support both sides of that equation, and I don’t envy anyone who has to try. Right now, there is no solution, and I wish idiots like ‘boycie’, ‘ Nick B’, ‘Andrew C’, ‘Point_of_view’, ‘Ben’, and ‘Richard’ (plus the millions of others who think they know best – even though they can’t spell or use good grammar) would stop trying.

For me, if it was a choice between my business or my parents’ lives, my parents would come out tops every time. I just have to accept that there are people who are so materialistic (or whatever their motivation) that they see it differently.

We need a vaccine.


Rear-end shuntThis is an old story from 2011, updated last in 2017, and again in 2020 following another surge of interest with people asking about bald tyres and insurance – particularly when they’ve been involved in accidents.

Back in 2011 in the run-up to Winter there was story about Cumbria police and the “20p test” (original media link here). I pointed out that this “20p test” does not distinguish between legal and illegal tread depth, but is an arbitrary specification which appeared to have been seized upon by Cumbrian police ahead of the predicted relocation of the Antarctic to the UK that year.

Then, Lady Motor News (which doesn’t exist anymore) jumped on it and showed even though a little knowledge can be dangerous, no knowledge at all is even worse. The main thrust of the story was fine: if you have an accident where bald tyres are involved, you may find you are not covered by your insurance.20p coin and the 2.5mm border

But they then went on to say:

To ensure you’re not caught with illegal tyres, car insurance experts recommend the 20p trick. Place a 20p coin in the main tyre tread, if the rim of the coin is covered by the tread, then your tyres are legal for use on UK roads.

Technically, this is correct, but only partially – and only by accident. That’s because the correct specification for tread depth on car tyres is that they should have at least 1.6mm of depth across the central three-quarters of the tyre’s width (the bit that goes on the road), and this should be true for the entire circumference (i.e. all the way round). And there should be no cuts or bulges in the sidewall on both sides of the tyre. So they could fail the ‘20p test’ and still be completely legal (or pass it, and be completely illegal because of sidewall damage). That’s because the rim on a 20p coin is about 2.5mm wide, so the ‘test’ only shows if it is above or below this – but not by how much. Consequently, it has nothing to do with ‘being legal’.10p coins - with the dots

It might sound pedantic, but when people don’t understand something and start writing about it, it gets taken as gospel by those who know even less, but ought to know a lot more. Such as new drivers,Tread Depth - digital measuring tool

If you really can’t afford to by a proper tyre tread depth gauge, the legal limit of 1.6mm can be measured roughly using either an old-style 10p coin with the row of dots, or a newer coin and the top of the writing around it. The dots (or writing) are about 1.6mm away from the edge of the coin. If you are anywhere near 1.6mm using this method you need new tyres.

A proper gauge costs under £7, and any decent driver should have one. The digital ones are easily the best.

Is my insurance valid if I have an accident as a result of bald tyres?

I get a lot of hits on this  search term. The short answer is NO. You are almost certainly not covered if you are driving a car that is not roadworthy, and bald tyres mean exactly that: the car is not roadworthy (it’s actually illegal).

Will I get away with bald tyres if I have an accident?

If it’s a minor prang, and no one checks your tyres as part of the insurance process, then you might get away with it. If you do, count yourself very lucky and learn your lesson.

If it’s a bigger accident, and especially if the police are involved or there is damage to property or person, you’re likely to end up being prosecuted. The more serious the accident, the more likely they are to look for what caused it – and you not stopping in time or skidding because you had bald tyres is likely to be a major factor. If this happens, you’ll get points on your licence, and quite possibly a criminal record. Your insurance will be void, and any compensation awarded to the injured parties (plus expenses) will fall to you to pay. You could even end up in prison if you have a habit of playing silly games with the Law, and the court decides enough is enough.

If your car is in an accident and you have a bald tyre will the insurance sort it out?

Someone found the blog on that precise search term. It’s a bit of a silly question, since if you have bald tyres you don’t actually have valid insurance, so why should they help you ‘sort it’ if you’re involved in an accident as a result? Some might – but your future premiums will go sky high. It’s best not to try it – just check your tyres and replace them if they’re badly worn.

Think about it. Four new tyres – cost approximately £100. Insurance before accident for 23-year old – say £1,000 a year. Insurance after accident for 23-year old – £2,000 plus (quite a lot plus, in many cases), loss of any no-claims bonuses, and several years to get even close to what you were paying before.

Am I covered if the person who caused the accident had bald tyres?

Tricky one, and in all honesty I don’t know. Technically, if your own insurance is void if you have bald tyres, then your insurer could refuse to pay out to the 3rd party, and that would therefore apply if you were the 3rd party. Then there are the fraudulent claims for old damage, more damage than was actually caused, inflated repair costs, whiplash, and so on.

It’s a legal minefield. If you’re in this position yourself, seek professional advice.


Michael Richards - Lifetime Darwin Awards nominee, and complete twatRegular readers will know I make occasional reference to the Darwin Awards. These are actually a semi-official thing, and relate to people who are just stupid in the extreme.

My mentions are not official, but the people involved are at least as stupid – if not more so. The latest is Michael Richards, 41, who was on a flight to Tenerife. In this article, he boasts how he avoided having to use a mask on an EasyJet flight by making a tube of Pringles last for four hours.

When you read his pathetic bragging, it is clear he did it on purpose. And he comes from Huddersfield, which is in itself a forewarning of the the missing chromosome Richards is subject to.

Richards’ only defence for his stupidity – which he sees as brilliantly clever – which has prompted criticism, is to say:

they’re sitting at home in the UK in rainy weather and we’re sunning it up in Tenerife

I don’t think he understands the situation at all. All of us could be doing what he is doing. Nothing is physically stopping us, except for one small detail.

We’re not complete wankers.


CAMRA's glass designCAMRA has found itself at the heart of the latest ‘let’s be deeply offended’ epidemic with it’s choice of limited-edition glass design for this year’s Great British Beer Festival (which is being held virtually).

As you can see in the images above, it has little virus images all over it.

On the surface of it, my first thoughts are ‘meh! Big deal’. I’m certainly not one of the ‘deeply offended’ types who have been spouting off on social media about it. On the other hand, it is a pretty bloody stupid and insensitive design when you consider that in the UK alone, that little virusy thing has killed over 40,000 people (or over 50,000, depending on which figures you go by) in under six months, with all the signs that it might do it all over again this winter unless we get a vaccine pronto.

I can see the point even more if I imagine myself in the place of people who have lost family members to it (regular readers will know I’ve been doing my damnedest not to become one of them). The problem is that it trivialises something which is very serious, and which has been difficult to control all along because of… trivialisation by so many people.

After my initial ‘meh’ thought, it then immediately struck me that this was the product of unskilled, immature, and amateurish advertising people and immature and amateurish clients approving the copy.

In my own experience, the problem started in the 90s – in my case, with the advent of ‘Teamworking’. Prior to then, skilled advertising agencies were employed to develop campaigns, and they would test them on the public before moving forward with them and presenting them to the client, being very careful to avoid controversial subjects. Obviously, that was quite expensive. But ‘Teamworking’ declared that everyone could to everything, and suddenly Gothic and film noir imagery developed by skilled advertising people was replaced with ‘let’s use a smiley face and some glitter sprinkles. And the clip art that comes free with Microsoft Word. And Comic Sans font’. Approval would be given by some guy you sat next to who thought that belching loudly was the peak of humour. We’ve gone downhill ever since.

It doesn’t matter that the organiser of the festival has had COVID-19 herself, or that she says she has permanent lung damage as a result. It isn’t just about her. This is exactly what happened with the ‘Teamworking’ thing, and it is another example of crassly ill-advised and ill-timed advertising. They might have had less of a rocky ride if it was next year’s event. But this year?

I repeat: I am not offended. I can just see it for what it is – crap advertising – and there’s a good chance I’d see it even clearer if I’d lost someone to COVID-19.


Image of virusOriginally published 29 May 2020

It has been announced that the SEISS will be paid again in August. This time, it will be 70% instead of 80% of the average income over the last three years. For me, that should be around £3,000.

As I have said before – and if you are eligible – it is far better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Note that the article says applications will ‘open in August’. Logically, this means we’re going to have to put up with almost three months of people asking when they can claim, and why it hasn’t been paid yet, just like last time – even though HMRC had made it crystal clear numerous times. Oh, and those who won’t have heard about it, and still won’t have even at the end of July, who will then start blaming HMRC. Come on, people. We have something called ‘the internet’ these days – they don’t use messenger pigeons anymore!

Update: I checked last weekend on my Government Gateway (where I do my self-assessment each year) and it told me I could claim the second SEISS from Wednesday 19 August. The scheme actually opened on Monday 17 August, and they appear to have used the same staggering as before, so some people will have been able to claim on the Monday and Tuesday.

Claiming was even more straightforward than last time. It doesn’t ask for any proof that you have been adversely affected. It just warns you you’ll get chopped off at the knees if you’re telling porkies. I’m not worried, because I still haven’t started back, and that is going to be fairly easy to prove if I have to. I claimed just after midnight, but also got an email from HMRC telling me I could claim – it came in later that day.

The amount is exactly what I said in the original article above. It uses the exact same figure to base its calculation on, so that’s hardly a surprise. A further email the following day (Thursday) told me my claim had been accepted and the money will be in my account within three days. That’s three working days, so I expect it will go into my account on Monday, like last time (edit: it did – just after midnight Monday morning).

Come on, vaccine.


DVSA logo

This article is already out of date. Read the addendum at the end!

An email alert from DVSA outlines important details on the phased restart of routine testing.

There’s nothing especially worrying in there except for one possible thing. It’s this part:

Valid theory test certificates checks

As part of our normal ID and eligibility checks our driving examiners are checking for valid theory test certificates.

If your pupil does not have a valid certificate the test will not go ahead.

If your pupil has lost or damaged their certificate they can apply for a replacement letter by contacting customercare@pearson.com. They’ll need to provide their:

  • name
  • address
  • date of birth
  • driving licence number

As you can imagine, this has already stirred up the lesser intellects out there.

Historically, DVSA has rarely asked to see anyone’s Theory Test certificate, even though when you book you’re told you should take it to the test centre on the day. In cases where they have been asked, if pupils say they’ve lost it then there’s been no issue and the test has gone ahead – probably since they wouldn’t have been able to book the test if they didn’t have one. Examiners can check online anyway.

Right now, we’re in unusual times. It is possible someone’s theory test might have expired and the system hasn’t picked it up, which I guess is the reason for this emphasis. And given the load on DVSA’s systems, examiners might not be able to check, either. Hence the need to see the piece of paper.

As an instructor, you have two options. One is to let your pupils know, and to get them to follow the instructions for getting a replacement if they’ve lost their original. They’ll have plenty of time to sort it, because the backlog of tests means they’re hardly likely to be booking one for next week unless they’re key workers.

The second option – which seems to be the preferred one right now – is to keep whingeing about how your pupils have never been asked for one before, how DVSA are a bunch of idiots, how you just had someone go on test and they weren’t asked, or you know someone who heard from an uncle whose nephew’s friend’s sister wasn’t asked yesterday, and so on.

One of those two options is easy and puts responsibility on the pupil to simply ask for a replacement by following the easiest instruction imaginable – sending an email and asking. If you tell them to do it and they don’t, and the test is cancelled, it’s their fault. The other option makes you look like an idiot if the test is cancelled. It will be your fault, and your label as an ‘idiot’ will be confirmed once and for all.

The choice is yours.


The email above came through on Monday. Thursday, this new one came through. Now they’re saying you don’t have to get a new certificate if you’ve lost the original.

We wanted to confirm that your pupils should still bring their theory test certificates if they have a paper version.

However if they can’t find it, they don’t need to order a replacement before coming to test.

Basically, you need a valid theory test result. If you’ve lost the paper, you’ll still get to go to test – as long as your theory hasn’t run out.

The lesser intellects are now all over this one like a rash, as well.


Birds Bakery logoWe have a local chain of bakers up this way called Birds. They’re perfectly OK, other than for the fact that they run out of bread and other stuff later in the day – though that’s true of most bakery stores.

For me, they’ve been a bit of a headache during the lockdown. You see, my 91-year old dad will only eat bread from there, primarily because it’s the only bread he can chew with his few remaining teeth (it’s very soft). I did manage to get him on to Warburtons, but once the lockdown was eased it was worse than trying to keep a cat indoors.

On his first visit to Birds post-lockdown, they wouldn’t let him buy anything because he only had cash. When he got home, he wasn’t that bothered by it, and I just said ‘Oh, I forgot about that – you need a card’. He doesn’t have a bank account as such, and has never used anything even remotely like that. So I just gave him one of mine to use so he could swipe his payment. Problem solved, end of story.

But Birds is being lambasted right now in our local rag – journalistically by the reporters themselves, then with knobs on by the racist bigots who frequent the comments sections. They first reported that a 94-year old woman had been turned away, then decided to stir it some more by writing another article about the comments made by said bigots in the first. Incidentally, I advise an adblocker if you click those links, because they’re just advert banks with badly-written articles sandwiched in between.

You have to ask yourself what planet some people are on. I mean, we have a global pandemic the likes of which no one living has experienced before (and if they have, they were too young to remember it), with thousands dead already, and probably more to come. And the only thing the Neanderthals in this country want to do is go to Spain the instant they’re able, and whine about safety precautions designed to stop the spread – such as not allowing cash payments.

Birds makes it absolutely clear on their website they are only taking cashless payments. They have signs up all over the shop saying the same. Many other shops and restaurants are doing exactly the same.

There are solutions to any problem. I found one.

Update: The day after I wrote this, they’re at it again – this time with a story about how a manager has been sacked for taking cash and using her own card to make payment.

The thing is, everyone keeps going on about ‘won’t someone purleeease think of the old people’, but I have to wonder how many of these old people really could use cashless if they tried, and are just being bloody-minded about it. Not all of them, of course, but I’d be surprised if all of them really are as vulnerable as is being assumed.

Being ‘old’ doesn’t automatically mean you’re a technophobe. Just that you’re more likely to be so.

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