A Driving Instructor's Blog


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I just saw this report from the Evening Standard. Imagine what would happen if a 37-year old man did this:

  • had a gambling addiction
  • was an accountant for a tech company
  • created over 400 fake invoices
  • stole £350,000 in one year
  • spent £250,000 of it playing online poker
  • concealed details to avoid being caught

Now imagine what would happen if the only altered detail was that it was a 37-year old black woman.

Unbelievably, Natalie Saul, the thief in question, was given a two-year suspended sentence, 250 hours unpaid work, and a fine of £360 (and I haven’t missed any 0s off that). She was defended by a woman, Lucie Daniels, whose pathetic mitigating plea included:

This offending is so out of character, she has worked hard and paid her taxes and been a responsible citizen…

The judge, Catherine Newman – yes, that’s right: a woman – said:

It has caused considerable harm to your employer which could ill afford to lose such a substantial sum, but thankfully survived. Your grandmother’s death rocked the stability of your hitherto good citizenship.

You had a steady partner who had no idea of your gambling addiction and stands by you. I’m prepared to take the wholly exceptional course of reducing your sentence and suspend it.

Saul was only caught when she went on maternity leave (sigh) and the new accountant uncovered the fraud. Incidentally, it isn’t made clear what happened to the other £100,000 she ripped off.

Newman also said:

I’m taking a considerable risk that the Crown will think it lenient and appeal, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Let’s hope the Crown agrees, does appeal, and also kicks Newman out for gross incompetence (not to mention what appears to be overt discrimination). If Saul had been a man, they’d be arguing the upper sentencing limit wasn’t enough, but Newman seems to think that even the lower limit isn’t low enough for a woman. Thank God for equality, eh?


Broken BritainThe Brexit fiasco leaps from one incompetent episode to another. The latest being the reports that the UK was willing to pay a €40 billion divorce bill, quickly followed by a statement that it wasn’t.

It seems that Theresa May – who is no longer in charge of the government – was willing to pay this in order to move along with Brexit negotiations. But Downing Street has dismissed this because:

…leading supporters of leaving the EU said they would not accept handing over such a large sum.

Brexit supporters have caused enough damage already. Someone should just turn round and tell them to f*** off and grow up.

The sooner we get a 2nd referendum, the better.


Sad Hill Cemetery in the movieI just caught this story on the BBC website.

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly (TGTBATU) is the best film of all time. I should say that that’s just my opinion, but I don’t want to water it down. It just is.

It has sentimental value to me as well. An uncle, who died many years ago, was going to take me to see it when it was on at the cinema. I had been captivated by the music, which was being played a lot on the radio, and he said he’d take me. It never came to pass, because about five minutes after he’d said it, my auntie pointed out that it had an ‘X’ rating and they wouldn’t let a 7-year old in.

I digress. A while back, I was playing around with Google Earth, and since TGTBATU was on one of the satellite channels again I looked up the location of Sad Hill cemetery – the setting for the iconic final scene in the movie. The scenery in the film had always impressed me, but the location in Northern Spain turned out to be overgrown. It was an unofficial off-the-beaten-track tourist target, but it was just an overgrown valley – albeit still with great scenery. I’d made a mental note to visit the place if I ever got the chance.

Anyway, it appears from this story that a group of volunteers has renovated the site and put it back to the condition it was in when the movie was shot.

Time to start planning the trip.


Following other vehiclesThis story has appeared in a few newspapers recently. It concerns the stopping distances in the Highway Code (HC), and “research” by Brake – one of the usual suspects when anything like this kicks off. The charge being levelled is that the HC is wrong, and stopping distances are actually much longer.

The first thing to point out – even though it’s too late, and people on the forums are already running with scissors over it – is that only the typical driver’s reaction time is being questioned. It has nothing to do with the braking distance (remember that overall stopping distance is equal to the thinking distance + braking distance). The second thing to recognise is that it isn’t even a new issue. It had been ably discussed at least as long ago as June 2016 on Chalkdust Magazine, and if I was being cynical I would suggest that Brake had been at a bit of a loose end since its last crusade, seen this article, and picked up the reins.

The HC’s standard figures for stopping distances date back to the 60s, and this has led many to argue that they must be out of date just based on that. Consequently, most arguments start with the premise that stopping distances are wrong, and then proceed to cherry-pick disparate data which appear to support that premise. Most arguments focus on the braking distance.

I’m not going to repeat Chalkdust’s calculations here, but it is important to understand from the outset that braking distance in real situations has nothing to do with the weight of the vehicle. Braking distance is all to do with friction, and since any vehicle on the road has brakes which can freeze the wheels instantaneously if they’re applied hard, and an amount of rubber in contact with the road surface which is proportional to the size and weight of the vehicle, it is the overall friction between the tyres and the road which matters.

As an aside, if we’re going to be pedantic about it, tyres are better than they were in the 60s, road surfaces are better, and brake systems are better. So, if anything, a car in the 21st Century would probably stop more efficiently than one in the 60s did. But as I say, the issue isn’t about braking distance.

Chalkdust pointed out last year that the HC stopping distances allow for a thinking time of 0.68 seconds, and they suggest that this appears to have been chosen because it meant that the “thinking distance” in feet is the same as the speed in mph – which is one of the methods learners use to  memorise the stopping distances table in the HC. By comparison, the United States uses 1.5 seconds, and Canada assumes 2.5 seconds. Chalkdust suggests a new “thinking distance” in metres which is numerically equal to mph, and which equates to 2.24 seconds.

SpeedCurrent Thinking DistanceCurrent Stopping DistanceNew Thinking DistanceNew Stopping Distance

Brake has decided to argue something completely different, coincidentally adopting the American thinking time of 1.5 seconds (but following “research” into “average thinking times”). Consequently, its proposed stopping distances are somewhat shorter than Chalkdust’s– and horrendously un-rememberable!

SpeedCurrent Thinking DistanceCurrent Stopping DistanceNew Thinking DistanceNew Stopping Distance

Even without the decimal fractions, there is no pattern to aid remembering them. At least with Chalkdust’s figures, the “thinking distance” is memorable, thus more or less eliminating one of the variables involved.

In my opinion – and I’ve said this before – knowing the actual stopping distance at any given speed is as useful as a chocolate fireguard. Knowing that the current 70mph stopping distance is about as long as a football pitch is much more useful than knowing it is 315 feet or 96m. Let’s face it, if you’re in a situation where this is suddenly important, and you’re trying to push the pedals through the floor to avoid something in front of you, you’re not going to be worrying about how far 96m is from where you are now.

The “two-second rule” (which would probably become the four or five second rule based on this), or some variation of it, is infinitely more useful.

Modern cars are lighter than they were in the 60s

No, they’re not. A Ford Anglia – the car allegedly used to set the current numbers – weighed about 740kg. A Ford Focus weighs around 1,400kg. Even a Citroen C1 weighs over 800kg. A BMW Mini weighs about 1,200kg, compared with about 650kg for an original Mini back in the 60s.

Tyres were different back then

Yes, and they are unlikely to have been as good as those we have today. Modern cars have better tyres and better brakes, and more of them is in contact with the road. Modern roads have better grip. If anything, modern cars can stop much more quickly that their 60s counterparts could under the same conditions.


HackingThe BBC reports that an electronic billboard in Cardiff has been hacked, and until it was turned off was displaying offensive images and messages. You can probably guess the nature of these.

They should have taken a look at the one at the rear of the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham last week, prior to the Pride march at the weekend. And that one wasn’t classed as having been hacked, even though it was a hundred times more offensive.


TumbleweedThis story has been in the news the last day or so. It concerns a new roundabout in Mickleover, Derbyshire, where there were 10 accidents within 48 hours of it opening.

Resident Peter Hall told the Derby Telegraph: “These accidents are not driver error but the result of a poorly designed, unlit roundabout on a 70mph dual carriageway.

“By my reckoning at least 10 vehicles have had accidents within less than 48 hours of this new junction opening – so it is probably the most dangerous roundabout in the country.”

Sorry, Peter. It IS driver error. It’s people being too thick to drive in accordance with what they have in front of them, choosing instead to put their heads down and hammer into the unknown. That sort of behaviour is one of the biggest problems with driving standards on our roads today.

It isn’t just young and inexperienced drivers, either. Far too many of these younger drivers will go through life not having a clue, and then they will become older drivers without a clue. Of course, there are already plenty of clueless older drivers from earlier generations, and they are almost as bad right now as today’s snot noses will be in 30 or 40 years’ time.

Some years ago, when they were building the tram system in Nottingham, they removed three roundabouts in Clifton and turned them into junctions. I can remember one of my pupils was on a lesson, and we drove down Farnborough Road towards where the first roundabout would have been several weeks earlier, and he actually stopped to look around. In the middle of nowhere! This shows what is going on inside some people’s heads. And sometimes, it’s not a lot.

Derby Telegraph has a video of traversing the roundabout from several directions, and it doesn’t look anywhere near as bad as is being suggested. It is clearly signed, and only a complete prat would miss it. There are “SLOW” signs, primary route direction signs, triangular roundabout signs, illuminated/flashing matrix signs, blue “left only” circles, both normal black and red “left bend” chevron signs, not to mention cones – which are always a bit of a give away that something might be ahead.

The most obvious physical “problem”, as distinct from the mental ones already highlighted, is that the approach roads are NSL – one of which is a dual carriageway. Being Derbyshire, that will translate to most of the residents as meaning “as fast as you can in your Audi or Corsa, whilst simultaneously peeling your banana and picking parasites out of your mate’s fur”.

To be fair, it would appear that some of the signage has gone up since the accidents, but not as much of it as the Telegraph (or Peter Hall) is suggesting. The direction signs – big green “primary route” roundabout signs – look very well-established, and if you know that a roundabout is coming then you start looking for it.


Places in the UK where broadband is slowExtensive government research has identified several areas in the UK where broadband is quite slow.

Note that the population density in the UK as a whole is over 270 people per square kilometre. The population density in the areas identified as having the slowest broadband – mainly the extremities of Scotland and rural Wales – is as low as 3-4 people per square kilometre (and in one area, 3-4 probably represents the average IQ of the population there as well).

MPs are apparently planning next to spend a lot more money on identifying that it is darker at night than it is during the daytime, and that ice melts when it warms up.


Handbag versus pocketsI have just seen what must rank as the biggest pile of feminist bollocks ever written. It claims that women’s clothing doesn’t have pockets because of a male conspiracy to restrict their freedom!

Let’s get something straight. At least 99.999999% of women’s clothes are concerned with style and appearance. And 99.999999% of women want it that way. Unfortunately, the universal laws of nature mean that storage of any physical item requires space. The net result is that you can’t have a smooth and stylish outline if you’re trying to store the contents of a tool chest about your person. Nor can you store even a small object if the rest of the item of clothing needed to be applied out of an aerosol can in order to get it on.

Another problem with style is that function goes straight out of the window. I’ve lost count of the number of times over the years I’ve bought a smart shirt, then ripped it across the shoulders or back as I’ve lifted up a sofa or any other heavy object. Or when I’ve bought a posh pair of shoes, and managed to make the sole and upper part company when I’ve twisted whilst carrying something. Even the act of walking more than a few hundred metres is enough to knacker some shoes, which is perhaps why women spend so much money on the bloody things, since theirs are usually all about style.

…journalist Chelsea Summers puts it most simply when she writes, “the less women could carry, the less freedom they had”.

This is complete crap. It implies that a group of men sat around a table somewhere and plotted it this way. It also naively applies 21st Century attitudes to the 16th-20th Centuries.

No pockets also means women need to invest in clutches and handbags – a strategy that earns the fashion industry more and more money.

This is even more crap. If women wear baggy and functional clothes, they have ample pocket space available to them – though perhaps not enough to fit the entire contents of a typical handbag into. And many women actually want to carry a handbag – often, a very expensive one. It isn’t a conspiracy in any way, shape, or form.


Naruto the macaqueThis story beggars belief. It started in 2011, when a British photographer went to Indonesia to photograph macaques. After a bit of bonding, he managed to get the monkeys to press the camera shutter, and the image above is the now infamous “monkey selfie” that has caused the trouble.

In 2014, David Slater, the photographer, asked Wikipedia to remove the image from their site since he had not given permission to use it. Wikipedia – which is renowned for being written by monkeys anyway – refused, arguing that the copyright belonged to the macaque in the photo, and not to Mr Slater.

As an aside, I wonder if Wikipedia got the monkey’s permission to use the photo?

Although the US Copyright Office ruled that animals cannot own copyright, it didn’t stop PETA finding someone who would represent the monkey – whose name is Naruto, by the way – and sue Mr Slater back in 2014. The case has dragged on and on since then. Well, we’re talking about America here, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that you can’t just state the obvious and say that “monkeys can’t own copyright” and throw the case out. As a much more detailed account of the story indicates, if they did that, PETA would just sue again and again. All they’d have to do is find someone else to stand up on the monkey’s behalf, and everything would just kick off again, and since PETA obviously has nothing better to do with its time, it wouldn’t hesitate to do that.

The best part is that no one is actually certain that the monkey, Naruto, is the one in the picture.

With hindsight, it would probably have been better if Mr Slater had not tried to have Wikipedia remove his photo. But then again, why should a bunch of arseholes get everything their own way just because they ARE a bunch of arseholes, and are prepared to prove it to the power of ten by involving other arseholes if you point it out to them?

The big question is: if the monkey won, who’d get the money? What would a monkey do with several million dollars? Buy a huge banana?

I have a solution to this potential nightmare. They should decide in the monkey’s favour, then award all damages to Mr Slater – since he is the only one in all this who actually had the monkeys’ welfare in mind. PETA would win, so it couldn’t sue again, and Mr Slater would not be anywhere near as much out of pocket as he will be if he has to pay the scumbags at PETA.

Unfortunately, I am only joking. If the monkey were to win, there’d be a flood of similar cases as a result of the new precedent. And then we might end up with a Planet of the Apes scenario, where they start to get involved in politics. One might even run for POTUS. Oh, wait…

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