A Driving Instructor's Blog


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.


Driver Location SignsI originally wrote this back in 2012, but it has had a run of hits lately so I thought I’d update it.

Although the official line suggests otherwise, I’m sure these signs were around long before I became a driving instructor, and their exact purpose was always a bit of a mystery to me.

You’ve probably seen them. You get them mainly on motorways and they consist of a rectangular sign with yellow writing. There is the name of the motorway, a letter (A, B, J, K, L, or M), and a number. On the M1, for example, if you’re heading one way the letter will be ‘B’, whereas heading the other way it will be ‘A’. The numbers change by 0.5 between each sign.

I had guessed that they had something to do with being able to pinpoint precise locations, and that the signs were 500m apart so the number therefore represented a distance in kilometres. I hadn’t seen them explained anywhere, but it wasn’t until I started teaching people to drive – especially on Pass Plus motorway lessons – that I bothered to find out more.  The trigger was a pupil who knew someone who was a paramedic, and who had been told that these signs “marked the distance to the end of the hard shoulder”.

That explanation didn’t make any sense. It was obviously wrong, since the signs appear even when there is no hard shoulder, and the numbers had no connection whatsoever with the end of it when there was.

Part of the difficulty in finding out what they were for was not knowing what they were called. They don’t appear in the current Highway Code, and Googling for “signs with yellow writing on motorways” or something similar didn’t help (certainly not at the time I became interested , anyway). I emailed the local Police traffic department and that was where I discovered they were called Driver Location Signs.

It turns out that they are “new signs on motorways” as of 2008. That still bugs me, because I’m damned sure they’ve been around longer than that, but maybe I’m imagining it. The Highways Agency has confirmed to me that they were “trialled as early as 2003”, but my memory says they were around even in the 90s. But that doesn’t matter.

Wikipedia covers them in more detail. The AA in slightly less detail. And this one is probably the most detailed.

They consist of three lines of text. The top line is the route name (e.g. M1, M6, M25, etc.). The second line is the carriageway identifier, A or B, and in spite of what The AA says they’re not necessarily London-centric (i.e. just think in terms of ‘A’ being the carriageway going in one direction, and ‘B’ the opposite carriageway going the other). If there are parallel but physically separated carriageways, those running with A are labelled ‘C’, and those running with B are labelled ‘D’. The letter ‘J’ denotes a slip road OFF carriageway A, and ‘K’ a slip road ON TO it. The letter ‘L’ is the slip road OFF carriageway B, and ‘M’ is the slip road ON TO it. Other letters can apparently be used at complex junctions. Finally, the third line shows the distance in kilometres from a known point (usually the start of the road), and is called “the chainage”.

The signs can only be a maximum distance of 500m apart, which is what they normally are, but if there is an obstruction they can be 400m or 300m apart (this explains why they don’t all end in 0.5 km). And they CAN be seen on some newer and very long dual carriageways. There’s a lot more to their placement, but this is a basic summary.

The AA likes to have them quoted when people report breakdowns. I have always assumed that they’re most useful to the emergency services.

There is a Highways Agency leaflet which explains them in simple terms, available to download from Greater Manchester Police.

Knowing what they are and how they work – and being able to explain it – is going to be important when we are eventually allowed to take learners on to motorways (in 2018, if that comes to pass).


RobberThis article was originally published in 2013, but it’s been popular recently so I have updated it. I’ve also written a more detailed explanation about why fuel is priced in tenths of a penny, here.

I’ve noticed that sometimes – and I stress sometimes – the petrol pumps at my local garages jump by 1p after I’ve finished filling my car. I usually notice it if I’m trying to put a round number of pounds worth of fuel in – so if I’m aiming for £40.00 I’ll just hit it, and when I get inside the amount payable is £40.01. Looking on the web, other people have noticed it too, and they are putting it down to some sort of scam. But is isn’t.

There is a simple explanation – given here by Leicester County Council Trading Standards. They say:

Q. When I put the petrol nozzle back the meter clocked up one penny when I was not delivering any fuel, is there a fault on the pump?

A. Sometimes the price advances when you close the nozzle and return it to storage. This can be caused by the hose swelling slightly which allows a fractional amount of fuel to pass through the meter. Because of the high price in petrol only a very small amount of fuel is needed for the price display to change by 1 penny therefore this problem is much more prevalent now than it used to be. One penny’s worth of fuel only equates to a very small amount and is well within the permitted tolerances of -0.5% and +1%. However if the price increases by more than 1 penny please let Consumer Direct know on 08454 04 05 06.

Those tolerances mean that for every 1,000mls (litre) of fuel you pump, you can legally get anywhere between 995mls and 1010mls. If fuel costs £1.20 per litre, that means you might get 0.6p less fuel than you paid for, or 1.2p more. On a full tank in a standard car, that works out at up to 24p less or 48p more fuel than you actually paid for, respectively. I stress again that this is perfectly legal, and is due to the reliability and accuracy of the pumps. Coventry Trading Standards explains it this way. As Trading Standards say, it is well within all the legal tolerances.

A tick over of 1p is insignificant within this legally acceptable range.

Most of the time it is perfectly possible to put an exact value of fuel in and it doesn’t click over. In fact, it happened more back in 2013 – when the price of fuel was up around £1.40 a litre – than it does in 2017 (I haven’t noticed it recently). And yet people are still convinced that there’s a small bloke wearing a striped jersey and a mask sitting inside the pump doing it on purpose. It isn’t a scam, and it isn’t deliberate. It’s just a combination of maths and science.

If you’re worried about it, don’t put piddling amounts in your tank – fill the damned thing up once a week instead of putting a tenner in every other day. One penny on a tank full is a lot less significant than it is on each of four lots of £10.00. And it means you won’t keep snarling up the forecourts for the rest of us as you pay for it on one of your bloody Visa cards.

And one more thing – a tip, really. You often find that the nozzle has got well over 1p of fuel sitting in it when you lift it out of the holster – so turn it upside down to drain it into your tank before you pull the trigger. And do the same thing before you put it back. That should be enough to stop all the sleepless nights you’re having over those pesky 1p muggings you reckon you’re getting – you’ll be getting someone else’s fuel for nothing!

Why do pumps always jump by 1p?

They don’t. They just do sometimes, for the reasons I’ve explained above.

It never happens when I put in 20 or 30 litres of fuel, instead of £20 or £30

Actually, it can. But because of the 0.9p or 0.7p they tag on to fuel prices, aiming for a specific price instead of a quantity puts you close to the tick over point, whereas aiming for a round volume probably puts you somewhere half way between two points. Pumping 20L at 119.9p per litre will give a nice round £23.98, whereas £20 works out at 16.6806L of fuel. That 0.6ml is going to get rounded up.

It’s definitely a scam

No it isn’t. Do you really think they designed them with a line in the software that says:

if (ran == 0) then price = price + 0.01;

The 1p is just an occasional rounding up. It is not a scam.


Bill and Ben - Flower Pot MenThis is an old article from 2017. You may want to take a look here, as I was told by a Bill Plant franchisee that they “went bust” again in early 2019.

This came in via the Google newsfeeds. It seems that Bill Plant driving school went into administration on 27 April 2017. It has since been bought out by Ecodot, which is:

…a specialist in car vehicle preparation and dual control vehicle hire. Our main services are, Dual control vehicle hire, Alloy refurbishment, Porfessional (sic) Valeting services and Body Repairs

I would have used an image above which related directly to Bill Plant, but from past experience I know that they’re a bunch of prima donnas who threaten court action unless you’re saying anything good about them. Of course, such behaviour makes it even more difficult to say anything good about them.

The reason for the titsup is given as being due to:

…exceptional costs associated with a change in operating model.

Or, in other words, they were a bunch of incompetent prima donnas. Most of the other belly-ups in the driver training industry went bust during the economic downturn during the last decade and the early part of this one. Bill Plant has managed it during a period of economic growth, and that doesn’t bode well for their future.

This industry is not high-margin. Driving lessons can only cost so much before learners won’t pay for them, and at the moment almost everyone is charging the same (in the region of £25 an hour, give or take a few quid). Similarly, instructors who work on a franchise will only pay so much before they walk away, too. The amount they pay for the franchise lines the pockets of the franchiser, who is at the top of the pile, and that franchiser will not be happy unless he or she is pocketing enough to keep a new X5 on the driveway. A kind of status quo is established, whereby the only loser is the instructor – lesson prices can’t go up by much, and the franchiser will still want to increase profits year on year, so the franchise fee goes up. It’s a simple Law of Nature.

It makes you wonder what the numpties did to their “operating model” to screw things so badly. I wonder if it had anything to do with introducing BMW X1s as tuition cars – the prices of which range from £23,000 to £35,000, which is at least double (and up to five times) the price new of most instructors’ tuition vehicles? If it did, I can’t see Ecodot – which is apparently now trading as Bill Plant Driving School Ltd – keeping them. Someone somewhere in the chain has to pay for the overheads.

As I say, this industry is not high-margin, and anyone who buys a top marque as an overhead and then delivers lessons costing the same as they would in a vehicle costing a quarter of that is not going to stay in business long without someone on the outside pumping them money intravenously. Having hubby (or wifey) supply the financial drip feed to their other half is one thing, but for a limited company it’s a different matter altogether.

Ecodot isn’t big enough to pump money in indefinitely, and I can see big changes coming.


Bus LaneThis BBC story reports that bus lane enforcement cameras make £31m per year in fines. One particular lane, in Newcastle, made £1.5m on its own – and that’s after you consider that the BBC contacted 160 local authorities for financial data.

The fun part is where a spokeswoman for Newcastle said:

We would firmly stress that bus lanes are not there to generate income – they are there to help us to manage our road networks efficiently.

Liar. Bus lanes CAUSE congestion, and they have done so since the day the first one was introduced. You have to be a complete idiot (or pathological liar) either not to realise that, or to argue the point. So sticking cameras on them can only be to make easy money.

A prime example in Nottingham is the A52 Derby Road heading into the city via the Priory Roundabout. It used to be three lanes in merging to a single lane going out, past Wollaton Park. There was always serious congestion during rush hour. Then, they turned the left lane into a 24-hour bus lane, and suddenly three lanes of traffic was forced into just two, with still just a single lane leading out. The only benefit was to buses, which were now able to skip about three-quarters of a mile of gridlock and force their way back in at the roundabout (“force” being the operative word when Barton, Indigo, or YourBus are involved). Since much of the congestion was caused by buses stopping for extended periods of time on the single lane side (all the stops are next to the University, and you can imagine the difficulty most students are likely to have getting on a bus), having them all get down there more quickly made the congestion even worse. Admittedly, it doesn’t have cameras on it, but there are plenty that do.


MotorwayActually, it’s only a small section of the M1 – near Sheffield – but the media likes to distort these things.

I wrote about this subject a few years ago. That was at a time where they had only recently been talking about raising the speed limit! My main point was that although cars emit less pollution when driven at 60mph instead of 70mph, they they take longer to pass through a given area at 60mph, so the reduction in pollution is pretty much negligible. It’s a case of comparing a quick but pungent fart with a longer, less smelly one.

The other thing I think I mentioned is the stench when you drive on the M1 past Sheffield and the wind is in the right direction. And it doesn’t come from cars – it’s from the factories around there, and a smell like that isn’t going to contain anything that is good for you.

An even greater irony this time around is that London is currently in the grip of an extremely poor period of air quality. They haven’t quite got round to blaming it on cars and lorries yet – that’s been done before – but at the moment the most direct blame has been placed at the feet of pretentious people burning wood during the cold weather (though that detail seems to have been removed from some reports).


Over the years, I have updated this article several times as I have found progressively better solutions to the problem. I’ve now found pretty much the complete solution.

The problem of smeared windscreens in the rain has been driving me nuts ever since I started driving, but it became a major headache once I started teaching people to drive.Smearing windscreen in rain

I guess everyone has experienced it. You get a few spots of rain, and when the wipers wipe you get a mosaic pattern left behind for a few seconds. But in heavy rain it’s like someone poured chip fat on the screen and you just can’t see properly. I’ve had varying levels of success removing it – scrunched up newspaper (no good), sodium lauryl sulphate (not bad), various solvents (fair), Clearalex (quite good) – but things came to a head when my lease company replaced my last car. In rain you couldn’t see anything, and absolutely nothing would get rid of whatever it was on the windscreen. I was close to assuming that the glass must have been damaged in some way since it was a brand new car.

Where does it come from?

In normal circumstances, every vehicle that uses our roads leaves deposits behind. Some of it is dusty, some is gritty – but a lot of it is oily. That’s why when it rains after a period of dry weather we’re advised to take care, because the road can be very slippery as water and oil sit on top of the tarmac before the oil is eventually washed away. While it is fresh, road spray is obviously going to be a mixture of dirt, oil, and water, and when this gets on to your windscreen you start to get smears. Now, up to a point, your screen wash can deal with it (unless you just put water in your tank, in which case you’ll get smears all the time). Eventually, though, the oil seems to bond to the screen such that removing it is no longer easy.

Another source of windscreen contamination is, oddly enough, washing your car. Even if you don’t choose the waxing option in the car wash, the brushes will be contaminated with wax from people who did, and if you’ve ever noticed how a single fingerprint can be smeared across almost a whole mirror or windscreen unless you use something which lifts it off, you’ll realise that a little wax (or oil/grease) can go a very long way. Even if you hand wash your car, small amounts of wax and oil gets on to your rags and gets spread on the glass. It also gets on to the rubber of your wipers, so it is smeared back on as soon as you use them, even if you got it off the glass. People often forget that the wax (and oil) collects below the wipers, and if you don’t clean that area properly, the wipers dip into it like a pen dipped into ink and spread it across the glass again.

The particular problem with my lease car turned out to be the result of a manufacturing residue as far as I can tell. It’s something that gets on the glass during manufacture, and which they don’t remove properly.

How can you get it off?

Most detergents and surfactants will remove the normal deposits of wax and oil with varying degrees of success, though car wax is particularly stubborn. Even Fairy Liquid works up to a point. Some cleaners are more powerful and are much more effective. You used to be able to buy powdered products like Clearalex in sachets (they sell it in liquid form instead, now), which you add to your windscreen washer fluid. Clearalex works quite well, but leaves terrible white residues when it dries (which I find very distracting). I have also had some success with Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), which is an anionic surfactant used in many household products. SLS removes quite a lot of windscreen gunk, but it won’t touch wax and it leaves a slight residue when used at the required concentrations. I was very happy with SLS until my recent vehicle change, where I found that no matter how much I used it would not touch whatever was on the glass.

After a lot of research, I found a reference to sugar soap. I’d not heard about this before, but it is used by decorators and builders to remove grease and dirt from surfaces prior to painting. Sugar Soap - from Screwfix

Wikipedia describes it thus:

Sugar soap as typically found in Commonwealth countries is a cleaning material of variable composition sold for use on surfaces affected by greasy or tarry deposits which are not easily removed with routine domestic cleaning materials. When in dry powder form it looks like table sugar thus causing the name.

The solution is alkaline and its uses include cleaning paintwork in preparation for repainting.

It looks like Clearalex powder, and I suspect that there may be some similarities in chemical composition. However, sugar soap is dirt cheap, at about £2 for nearly half a kilo from Screwfix. I bought some, made up a batch using information on the pack, and gave the windscreen a good scrub using it. I rinsed it and took the car out for a run in the rain.

Initially, I didn’t see any difference, but after a few wiper passes the glass was getting noticeably clearer. The sugar soap appeared to have softened whatever it was on the glass and it was gradually coming off. So when I got back home I made up another batch and soaked some rags in it, then left them covering the windscreen (including the bit at the bottom) for about half an hour. I also cleaned the blades with it. This time the windscreen was absolutely crystal clear.

Sugar soap is great for one-off cleaning, but being a solid there is still the problem of residues if you use it in your normal washer fluid.

A while later, I started using a local hand car wash. I was intrigued by how easily they managed to remove every trace of dirt and oil from the car with only a power spray and some mysterious hand-pumped spray guns with various liquids in them, so while they were working I did a bit of snooping and noted the names on the various drums and containers lying around. The important one turned out to be “TFR” – which I discovered means “traffic film remover”. Already this was sounding quite exciting (well, it’s exciting if you’re a chemist) due to theory behind the way TFRs operate.

I bought some TFR from a company called JennyChem. They also supply the mysterious cherry-smelling shampoo the hand car washes use. In a nutshell, a 1-2% TFR solution gets all the oil/wax film off a windscreen in one go, and it seems to also attack the residue I’d been plagued with on my lease cars (I’m getting a new one soon, so I’ll test this out properly then). The same concentration in your wash bottle keeps it off. I use a combination of sugar soap (soaking using rags) and TFR as required, and a 1% solution of TFR in 10% ethanol/water as my screen wash. I also use this solution in a hand spray bottle for spur-of-the-moment cleaning, and for doing the inside window surfaces.

As time has gone by, I have started using the TFR spray to clean my alloys and bodywork in between visits to the hand car wash when I have an upcoming test. It removes brake dust from alloys like all get out, as well as summer tree gum and bird crap (especially when the little sods have been eating blackberries and insist on sitting on the telephone wire right above my driveway).

I’m getting a lot of hits on this now I’ve mentioned TFR.

As a footnote, my hand car wash has just started using what I am assuming is a liquid wax (I haven’t yet identified it) that makes water bead very easily (and very impressively) when it rains. The problem is that it gets on the windscreen, and it is a sod to get off (two sugar soap treatments did it).

Does TFR damage the windscreen?


Does TFR damage paintwork?

If it is the non-caustic type, and if it is used at the manufacturer’s recommended concentration, no. But remember that TFR will remove any wax you have applied, so you will need to re-wax  after using it on painted surfaces. However, removing wax is exactly what you want if it’s on your windows.

Strongly caustic types – which are cheaper and harsher, and often used to shift several centimetres of crap off the undersides of lorries – could damage painted surfaces if used at high strengths and if left on for too long.

The stuff supplied by JennyChem (linked to earlier) is not strongly caustic as far as I am aware, and is specifically designed for use on cars.

Does TFR leave a residue?

The stuff I use doesn’t – well, no more than normal windscreen washer solution does. You’ve got to remember that when you use your windscreen washers, you’re doing it to remove dirt on the windscreen. That dirt is visible, so when you wash it off it will leave visible streaks outside the wiper area when it dries. It’s like when a bird drops a load on the screen – when you wipe it off there’s a good chance it will sit on the screen at the edge until you scrape it off by hand. There’s not much you can do about that.

Is there a non-chemical solution?

A reader (from Australia) wrote to me recently to tell me that he had had success removing that new-windscreen film using Cerium Oxide paste. You can buy it easily from various places (including Amazon) in various forms – powder, paste, or block – and it is specifically used for polishing glass. If you buy it, make sure you get the finest grade possible – ideally, one which is specifically sold for the intended purpose.

Can you put oil on the windscreen to prevent smearing?

Or, as it was put to find the blog, “can u put oil on wind screen 2 prfent rain”? NO. It will make it worse. It’s oil (and suchlike) you are trying to remove. Put it on deliberately and you could end up killing yourself – you won’t be able to see properly.

You can buy things like Rain-X, which are intended to make water bead up and roll off more easily, but those who use it often complain that it is patchy in coverage and leads to worse problems with smearing when the wipers pass over the glass, especially as it starts to wear off. I nearly tried this, once, but the risk of it causing more problems put me off. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, just that not all reports about it are as positive as the advertising is.

My windscreen is smearing when it snows

That’s probably a different thing, and not “smearing” at all.

When the windscreen wiper rubbers get cold, they also get stiff. As a result, instead of flexing to the windscreen contours and bending forwards an backwards on each stroke of the wiper, they snag and bounce across. They may even not touch parts of the screen properly on the wipe. All of this is often accompanied by a horrible grunting sound, and it leaves behind a trail of smeared water.

Also, if there are remnants of snow on the blades, this can leave a trail of melt water as the blades wipe.

There’s not much you can do if it’s really cold except put up with it, or let them warm up as the windscreen warms up. But scrape off any snow or ice and at least you won’t get melt water (and they’ll warm up quicker if they’re going to).

I see rain spots after my wipers wipe

You’ve got wax or some other coating on your screen. I get it after I’ve been to the car wash, and I get it off using TFR. I would guess that you also have a line where the wipers stop at the end of their wipe span – that’s where they pull wax or oil residues from the bottom of the screen and leave it behind as they change direction. Like I say, TFR gets it off.

Don’t forget that the wiper blades must also be cleaned. There’s no point cleaning the glass of wax if the rubber still has it on it. The wipers will put the wax back as soon as you use them.


About a month ago I wrote about crap parents who can’t (or won’t) control their kids, with the result that everyone else has to suffer. I mentioned how other crap parents rise up against anyone who objects, citing all manner of illnesses and disorders as possible causes of unruly behaviour, even though we all know that – in the vast majority of cases – it is just crap parenting.Crying child

Coincidentally, I was driving between lessons yesterday when movement out of the corner of my eye at lights drew my attention to a passing bus, A woman was lifting a baby/young child in the air – well, I say “child”; actually it was just a huge mouth with tears squirting out of one end and legs dangling out of a nappy the other. I could just imagine the mega-decibel buzzsaw bawling everyone else was having to endure, and I remember thinking “God help anyone who is on that bus”.

Then I saw this story on the BBC website. When you strip it down, it’s just another example of some dipshit who isn’t in contact with reality ranting on Facebook and having it go viral as a result of huge support from a load of other dipshits.

It all starts with a flight from Ibiza to Manchester.

Imagine the situation. You’ve had a nice holiday, but you’re going home in the morning. It was  a package tour, so your departure flight officially takes off at something like 5.30am. Your hotel or chalet is at least an hour away from the airport, and you’ve been given strict instructions to be in the car park outside at 3am to board the bus to take you to there. You’re in Ibiza and you’re flying back to Manchester, so there’s a good chance you’ve had to put up with some teenaged yobs for the whole week. Naturally, they will have gone out last night and drunk more than they’d done on any other night. Consequently, at 3am you’ll be sitting on the bus going nowhere while the reps try to find them – at least one will be borderline comatose, and several will be puking up everywhere. When they eventually do arrive their mouths will be turned up to 11 (the usual yob setting is 9 even when they’re being quiet). The reps will have faces like thunder – quite the opposite of their cheery bonhomie when you were freighted in last week, and you’re now going to have to put up with the loud yobs all the way to the airport (and at the airport, and all the way home). Once you get there, you will have to wait until check-in begins and the couple of dozen seats – totally inadequate for the 200 people milling around at the best of times – will be taken up by a handful of sleeping backpackers. The floor will be covered in sleeping, puking, and screaming humanity, so you’ll have to be careful not to tread on anyone. Any cafes will be shut, even if your departure hub (i.e. shed) has any, and the vending machines will have been emptied by more yobs providing the traditional Coca Cola and crisps breakfast for their kids. When the check-in call finally comes, all the backpackers and yobs will somehow make it to the front of the queue. The check-in process will take over an hour instead of the usual 10 minutes because the Spanish authorities’ approach to an increased terrorism threat is to use half as many people to do six times as much work. Once through, none of the duty free shops will be open so you’ll have to kill the next 30 minutes watching the planes land. An hour later, and some 30 minutes after the time you were scheduled to take off, you’ll suddenly realise your plane isn’t even here yet. Eventually, you will casually watch it come in, land, taxi over, disgorge the new intake of holidaymakers and their luggage, get loaded up with your luggage, and refuel. Somewhere around 8am you’ll flop into your seat, simultaneously smashing both buttocks on the arm rests as you do, and then spend a further 30 minutes being jostled by all the other passengers, who appear transfixed by the overhead storage compartments and that clunk-click noise they make, and block the gangway for everyone else instead of bloody sitting down. You’ll finally take off, knowing that you have two and a half hours in the air plus any time for stop offs. Within five minutes you’ll start to get cramp as a result of the non-existent leg room, and develop breathing problems as you sit with folded arms to try and keep out of the personal space of the person next to you, who is twice as wide as the seat they’ve been given and who has no qualms at all about occupying both yours and their personal space all at the same time. If you’re lucky, the pissed yobs from your hotel will burn out, and the need for an emergency diversion to the Galapagos will be avoided.

The first $64,000 question is this. After all of the above, if someone has a screaming kid which just will not shut up sitting immediately behind you, are you going to smile and ignore it, or get angrier and angrier inside?

The second $64,000 question is: will you blow?

Well, it would appear that on the flight referred to in the story, someone did get angry and blow – if “blow” is the right word to use. When bombarded with the incessant and painful noise coming from a screaming child on a cramped and lengthy journey back to Manchester, a female passenger in the seat immediately in front (from what I can gather) shouted “shut that child up”.

I can absolutely sympathise with her.

But we are in the Facebook age, and nothing is ever that simple. The mother has taken to social media to effectively blame the irate passenger for the behaviour of her child, saying that the kid was having “a meltdown” and that the comment “didn’t help” the child’s anxiety levels. “Meltdown” and “anxiety levels” are the favoured phrases of parents who can’t control their offspring, even though it is they who usually created the environment for such behaviour in the first place. Another favoured ploy is to blame some sort of illness.

In this case, the child apparently suffered from a rare condition called Sturge-Weber syndrome, and naturally her behaviour on the plane was – according to the mother’s implied words – entirely and completely due to all the bad things that go along with that condition. The possibility that she was just acting up because of the early start and all the arseing around at 3am in Spain didn’t enter into it. On the other hand, Sturge-Weber can have some nasty symptoms, though if these were genuinely the cause of any such behaviour you’d have to ask why the child had been taken to Ibiza in the first place (she has a huge port-wine stain on her face, and my understanding is that you should avoid the sun if you have one), and why she’d gone economy (where even a full-grown adult might feel like having “a meltdown” and suffer “anxiety”).

Of course, barring any law which forbids it, the child’s parents had every right to take her to Ibiza in this manner. But then, other people – the majority, in fact – have rights too, one of which is to be able to sit quietly without someone else’s kids bawling in your ear and ruining something you probably paid a lot of money for.

So, it isn’t as one-sided as the mother with her Facebook rant would like to think.


The US Transport Secretary is quoted as saying that a crash between a Google self-driving car and a bus in California a few weeks ago was “not a surprise”.Google autonomous car

It seems that the accident was the fault of the Google car – the bus didn’t do what the Google-bot’s program said it should – and that’s what caused the collision. Mind you, I’m sure that Google’s scientists see that as a fault of the bus driver, and not of their car. Perhaps the solution is to make autonomous vehicles more visible for we inferior humans so that we automatically sense danger when one is near?

Maybe they could stick a lot of Audi badges on them.