A Driving Instructor's Blog


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The wrong sort of cream teaBefore Christmas I wrote about the most annoying ad in the world (at the moment) – the TUI ad, which is still on Sky One every ten bloody minutes.

It’s so annoying that I would never book a holiday with TUI, just on principle, and I switch the sound off or change channels as soon as it comes on. Of course, in the future – around 2030 or so – I might feel differently about booking a holiday through them, though right now they have no chance. But after all is said and done, it is just… annoying. Really, really annoying. But still just annoying.

However, some people are nutcases. Especially if they are Cornish, it would seem.

The BBC has this story about a Mother’s Day advert produced by the National Trust for “cream teas”. For anyone who doesn’t know, a cream tea is a peculiarly British thing, defined as:

…a meal taken in the afternoon consisting of tea to drink with scones, jam, and cream

This definition doesn’t do it justice, though. It is a ritual, and is only a proper cream tea if the tea is served in annoyingly small china teacups and – I wouldn’t be surprised to learn – stirred using spoons with a strict length and chemical composition. The reason I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that is that it seems the order in which the jam and cream (clotted cream, actually) are placed on the scone is also rigidly defined. At least in the minds of the aforementioned nutcases.

The picture at the top of this post is what has called all the fuss. Although I have never stooped so low as to have a cream tea because of the “ritualness” of it, it does look rather appetising. The picture below – a proper cream tea, allegedly – doesn’t.

The correct sort of cream teaAnd yet National Trust members (the secret wing of the Brexit campaign, I suspect, if you go on age) are threatening to cancel their memberships as a result of the ad. Some reckon it “makes them feel sick”. All it is is a bloody cake with jam and cream, and the order doesn’t make it taste any different anymore than a ham salad sandwich tastes different if you put the lettuce and tomatoes on in reverse order.

The Trust’s Visitor Experience manager is playing with fire when he makes light of the situation – some of those morons are serious.

Another ad (well, series of ads) which is shining a light on the average IQ of the typical Briton is the Nationwide one, featuring Flo and Joan.

Flo and Joan – played by Nicola and Rosie Dempsey – sing typical advert songs in front of a home keyboard. I suppose I should be annoyed by this one, too, but for some reason I can’t put my finger on I’m not. I’ve not listened to the words, and I’m neither driven towards or away from opening an account with Nationwide. But there’s just something about Flo and Joan that is… OK.

That’s not true for the nutcases, though. People have issued death threats to Nicola and Rosie, and these are deemed serious enough to have involved the police. Looking at some of the samples, it’s hard to believe they are deadly serious, but they overstep the mark enough to make you wonder.

Disliking something – even being intensely annoyed about it – is one thing. But to go so far as to cancel membership of an organisation which does good work or to issue threats of violence over something so trivial just doesn’t make sense.


Yesterday, during the worst of the snow, the media were falling over themselves to show inane video footage sent in by the public of cats in the snow, dogs in the snow, birds in the snow, snow drifts, cars covered in snow, snow on runways, snow being shovelled off runways, fields covered in snow, people playing in the snow, gritters gritting the snow, traffic and gritters stuck in the snow, and so on.

One video recorded on someone’s dashcam showed a bus veering to avoid a car. It was funny at the time just because of the audio of the van driver of the recording vehicle.

Today, though, the BBC is falling over itself since it has discovered that the bus driver was… a woman! There’s no mention, yet, of who (or what) the driver of the car which veered into the path of the bus was.


Channeling Positivity school closureThe local BBC newsfeed has done away with news other than to report page after page of school closures due to the snow. But this one made me laugh.

I think we can be fairly certain that the Irony Academy is still open.


Burntstump Seely emailThe local BBC newsfeed has a comment where a local school – Burntstump Seely – has set some “homework” for children, while the school is closed due to snow. It shows a photograph of the poster the school has put up (or possibly emailed) for the children (above).

Personally, I’d have set some spelling homework. The person who produced this can’t even spell the name of the school correctly (see bottom left).

Incidentally, the spelling is wrong on Google Maps, too, and anything related to that. The rest of Google shows it as “Burntstump”, and the road it is on is called “Burntstump Hill”. The letterhead in the image above shows it as “Burntstump”. There’s a nearby restaurant called “Burnt Stump”, and the school is right on the edge of the “Burntstump Country Park”



Cartoon cars, head-on crashA couple of days ago, I updated my article on Driving Tests and Lesson in Snow after someone found the blog due to their instructor claiming he wasn’t covered to drive in icy conditions.

Cancelling lessons because it is dangerous is fine, but I am not aware of any insurance policy which would preclude driving. I didn’t think much of it after I’d updated the article – but then I came across this story. It seems that some moron on Twitter started the rumour, and other morons have picked it up and run with it.

Police and insurers have assured people that insurance is valid even in the worst weather conditions. Obviously, the same rules apply in bad weather as they do in good weather. Namely, if you drive like a twat and have an accident, your insurance may be affected.

It is possible that the original reader’s instructor had also seen this story and been suckered by it.


MotorwayIt’s about 50 years overdue, but after the recent yes-it-is-no-it-isn’t nonsense, we now know once and for all that from 4 June 2018 learner drivers will be allowed on motorways.

They will only be allowed on with a qualified ADI, and the car they are in must be fitted with dual controls.

It’s worth emphasising that: you cannot go on the motorway with mum, dad, Kyle (who passed before you), or anyone else who hasn’t got a green ADI badge stuck in the window. This means PDIs – trainee driving instructors with pink badges – also cannot take learners on motorways.


Maplin logoBack in the day, when I first got into technology, the go-to place for all your bits and pieces was Maplin Electronics.

Back then, pretty much all they supplied was electronic components, and it was all done through mail order using order forms, with items being selected from a catalogue which rivalled the old-style phone directories in size. When I was very young, the Dandy or Beano annuals were the most eagerly anticipated publications of the year. If you were into electronics, the new Maplin catalogue was the thing.

Maplin was the cheapest source of small quantities of components to the hobbyist. It also had the most extensive range.

I built my first AM radio receiver from a Maplin circuit (making my own printed circuit board). I also built my first modem from a Maplin kit – a 300 baud device in a large blue box (I might still have it somewhere). I also built or repaired dozens of other things thanks to them, and learned a lot, too.

As I got older, and computers appeared on the scene, I spent less time building varied circuits and began to focus on computer-specific ones. As more time passed, there was an ever-declining need to build anything at all. This shift affected Maplin, and they branched out into retail consumer electronics. In those early days of supplying components, I think they only had two actual shops, and I dreamed of one opening near me. Nottingham has two Maplin stores now, and there are 217 around the country.

In my opinion, a large part of the problem was that most of the stuff they began selling was overpriced and non-branded. You could get better for much less money online. Electronic components were still available, but hidden in the back of the store, and the range was drastically reduced – even more so if you wanted it to be in stock right now for an emergency. And the staff were not always as helpful as you’d expect. I remember one time not that long ago waiting to be served at the click-and-collect in one branch, and the staff repeatedly walked past me, looked at me, and ignored me as they congregated in a group on the other side of the shop floor (until I yelled across that I was waiting to be served). Don’t get me wrong – other times they were great… but not always.

But if only for the sake of nostalgia, it was a shame to hear that they have gone into administration.

Irrespective of my own potted history linking to their current situation, Maplin as a retailer has been hit hard by the fall in the value of the GBP due to Brexit. Indeed, Brexit is cited as a significant factor in their collapse.


Giant KittenOr, what the media insists on referring to as “The Beast from the East”.

It’s a bit nippy, though not dramatically so, and there are frequent light snow flurries. Every hour or three there is a heavy flurry, which settles – then melts almost completely as soon as the sun comes out. And this is speaking from an “Amber Warning” area of the UK.

The BBC has reporters standing in bright sunshine with no visible lying snow, trying desperately to explain why a form of transport from Victorian times – and one which the government is trying to invest in “for the future” – has to cancel trains en masse.

Needless aerial footage of the “chaos” from “disaster areas” shows snow depths barely covering the grass. Weather maps are all being carefully crafted to make sure it looks like London is in one of the “disaster areas”. Evidence for the “disaster” amounts to a drone shot of some bloke walking quite easily across a snowy field.

Some prats have crashed during rush hour because they were driving too fast. Roads are being described as “treacherous” by Police, as if they have never been so before following previous (and much heavier) snowfalls.

Schools are closing when there isn’t enough snow to build even a passable British Snowman. And KFC is still operating a “restricted menu”, so the little darlings will have to go somewhere else.

What a bunch of wusses we have become in this country.

For me, the biggest annoyance is the rapid build up of 1cm of crap on my windows and headlights every time I start driving. Closely followed by irritation at the twats who are overtaking me and cutting in.


AR-15 Assault RifleAfter the recent tragedy in Florida, and yet another mass shooting spree in a school, with multiple fatalities, it seemed like the time had finally come for America to realise that virtually unrestricted gun ownership had to be curtailed.

Donald Trump looked like he was about to make a decision that would finally make him come across as a proper POTUS. No, he really did.

It would appear that the solution he is now suggesting involves allowing teachers to carry guns so they can get into shootouts with lunatics like Nikolas Cruz.

Cruz, you might recall, was carrying an AR-15 – a semi-automatic version of the M16 used by the US Military – which he used to kill 17 people. He had a total of 10 weapons, though the identity of these is being kept secret for some reason (no need to guess why, since American gun laws wouldn’t put ownership of a small thermonuclear device outside the reach of the average citizen, purely on “constitutional” grounds). It is known that he purchased a shotgun and an AK-47, and the owner of the shop which sold them to him appears to have done so willingly and with no fuss whatsoever.

This is made so much worse by the fact that Cruz appears to have been a certified head case (if anyone had bothered to check) – certainly enough of one for any sensible person not to sell him a blunt stick, let alone military-grade weaponry (and lots of it).

Trump’s idea is that teachers would carry “concealed” weapons. You don’t need to be an expert to realise that it would be extremely difficult to conceal an AR-15 unless you had very long legs, since it is almost a metre long and weighs about 3.5kg. Therefore, a teacher would have something much smaller and much less accurate except at close range. In short, a hand gun. So Trump’s idea is for teachers to put their lives in guaranteed danger by confronting people like Cruz who, it must be said, could also be carrying grenades (I believe that these can be obtained legally, though with difficulty), explosives (more easily obtained or manufactured), or any number of noxious substances. Of course, where control is so lax to start with, obtaining such materials illegally is even simpler.

I don’t want to make light of a very serious issue, but if this is what Donald Trump thinks will solve the problem, there is every likelihood that his next idea will be for helicopters to drop gasoline on wildfires in order to extinguish them.


Feminist OlympicsAnyone tell me when it starts?

I mean, I know all about the GB women (well, I would if I’d bothered to read it), the South Korean women, the North Korean women, the synchronised North Korean cheerleaders (women), the joint North and South Korean women’s ice hockey team, a bronze medal a British woman won in Sochi in 2014 in something that’s nearly a sport, and women from a few other countries who have already won medals this year. Oh, and a woman from Britain who won’t be taking part because she broke her foot. And a pointless vlog by some woman competing in something else that’s also nearly a sport (look, winter sport is caning it downhill as fast as you can on TWO skis – long ones – and maybe weaving in and out of some poles stuck in the snow, perhaps even ending up in intensive care – not poncing about on short skis (or even just one fat one), doing somersaults, or doing it to music).

But I was, like, wondering when the proper sport begins.

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