Diary Of An ADI

A Driving Instructor's Blog

A red panda sitting on a branch?I’ve noticed a serious downward trend in spelling and grammar these days on usually reputable websites. Even the BBC isn’t averse to mistakes.

This screenshot from an MSN newsfeed aggregate made me smile, though. It’s apparently a picture of a red panda sitting on a branch in New York.

I have visions of someone submitting this for their school homework.

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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.

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'L' plate on learner carPeriodically, I will get a pupil who is desperate to pass their driving test as soon as possible.

When this happens, I explain to the pupil that since the typical new learner in the UK takes an average of around 46 hours to learn to drive, learning quickly is pretty much going to involve getting those 46 hours in in a short period of time. I strongly emphasise that this is an average, and although some people might be able to do it in fewer hours, equally there will be some who require more. I also emphasise that it isn’t a target – if they can do it quicker, great; if they can’t, they’ve got to accept it.

My quickest ever learner – starting from no experience at all – passed his test first time after only 14½ hours of lessons. I’ve had others pass first time after between 17 and 25 hours lessons. Some of these have access to private practice, and some don’t. My own pupils’ overall average number of lessons taken before passing is between 30-40 hours.

At the other end of the scale, my slowest ever learner took 160 hours, and passed on his third attempt. I know of one lady who took over 200 hours and passed on her 7th attempt (100 of those hours were with me before I finally persuaded her to switch to automatic lessons). And I’ve had a few others who have ended up taking 60 or 70 hours before finally passing.

I currently don’t do full-on (as in more than 2 hours of driving a day) intensive courses. The one time I tried, it turned out that the pupil was well into the slow side of the curve, and two intensive courses of 20 hours spaced over a week each time resulted in two comprehensive test fails. My own version of an “intensive” course is a 30-hour paid-upfront package and no more than 2 hours of driving per day. I don’t advertise it, and I only mention it after a positive initial assessment lesson (there’s no way I’m going to offer it to someone who might struggle). As I said above, people have to accept that they might not learn as quickly as they’d hoped.

Recently, I have noticed a renewed interest in intensive lessons. Some people need a licence in order to improve their employment prospects or job security, some want to pass before they go off to university, while others are in the process of converting a full licence from overseas to a UK one. People with previous driving experience are likely to need fewer lessons, and a more intensive style can often suit them.

Of course, I only cover Nottinghamshire, and I am only one of hundreds of driving instructors in this area. So even if I don’t provide full-on intensive lessons, there are plenty of instructors who do. If you Google the topic, a company called PassMeFast crops up a lot. They cover Cheshire, North/South/East/West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, and Merseyside, and they might be able to help you if you are desperate to get a licence. They seem to offer a wide range of packages.

PassMeFast offers crash courses of up to 48 hours of lessons and, looking at their website, they’re pretty sensible about timescales. The description of that 48 hour course implies that the learner could do as few as four hours of driving per week over a 12-week period. I tell my own beginners to think in terms of 3 months to reach test standard if they are taking regular lessons.

PassMeFast offers both manual and automatic tuition, and they can also help with your theory test. They can arrange for fast-track tests, which take place at the end of your course, and they schedule commencement of your lessons around the test date. Training is done local to you, and the test is at a local centre, so you won’t have to travel. And they offer an assessment lesson so you can decide which course is best for you.

It is also encouraging that in their terms and conditions they make it clear that they won’t allow people to go to test if their driving standards are deemed unsatisfactory by their instructor. PassMeFast does not employ instructors – they simply act as agents between enlisted instructors and pupils seeking lessons. However, they do arbitrate where necessary. And they quite rightly state that they cannot guarantee that you will pass your tests.

Looking at some of the customer reviews on their website, they obviously have a lot of satisfied customers – and they are real ones, as they all have Facebook profiles.

So, if you’re looking to pass your test quickly, and you think that an intensive course might be the way to go, if you’re in an area covered by PassMeFast it can’t hurt to give them a call.

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Nissan Micra - NU53 SZZOn the Chilwell Test Centre routes, there is one particular road which causes problems for pupils.

It’s a very narrow road called Baskin Lane, and is only a couple of minutes away from the test centre. What makes it tricky for pupils is that to negotiate it you have to do a right turn on to Chetwynd Road from High Road/Attenborough Lane (a blind bend), then Baskin Lane is an immediate right turn after that. There is usually at least one parked car on Chetwynd Road, parked directly opposite Baskin, and several parked on the right as you enter Baskin itself. There’s a 50:50 chance that someone will be coming out of Baskin past these parked cars. At the top of Baskin, pupils turn right or left on to Redland Drive, and this is on a moderately steep slope where rollback can occur if they get it wrong.

It’s important that pupils are familiar with this road, and to that end I took one down there for the first time this afternoon. I talked her through the initial right turn, then got her to slow right down to look into Baskin Lane to see if anyone was coming down it towards us. They were, so we stopped. However, as we waited, a twat in a blue Nissan Micra (reg. no. NU53 SZZ) decided to try and overtake us. As a result, he nearly collided head on with the car that we were waiting for, had to reverse back out to make way for it, then overtook us again before we could move.

What he did was stupid, dangerous, and illegal. And if the Police are interested – which they really ought to be – he apparently lives on Forester Close, part-way up Baskin Lane, since that’s where he turned into. The image above is frame from my dashcam footage, so his idiotic actions are preserved for posterity, and mean that the twat has no argument if he should take exception to me reporting it.

Remember: Blue Nissan Micra, registration number NU53 SZZ, driven by a halfwit who appears to live on Forester Close, just off Baskin Lane.

I’ve mentioned before that the blog is an outlet for my frustrations as a result of this job. This is a perfect example! I feel much better now.

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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.

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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.

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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”

Confused?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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