An email alert from DVSA came through today. In it, they outline measures for handling the increased demand for tests.
I wrote recently that only specific key workers can still get tests. This email doesn’t make it clear in regards the time frames based on the key worker situation, but I am assuming that it means once we can all start working again. To that end, they are running a recruitment campaign for driving examiners.
So if the last 12 months has put you off being self-employed, that might be something to consider.
One key point in the email is that DVSA says:
How to reduce waiting times
We also need support from you, your pupils and our examiners to help us reduce driving test waiting times…
It is vital that your pupils are test-ready when rearranging their tests, as tests could be at short notice.
I know it will fall on a lot of deaf ears, but since most pupils – even those who were test ready – haven’t driven since March 2020, there’s just an incey-wincey chance that booking a test for them as soon as you can get one is going to backfire, because they won’t still be test ready.
I guess the upside to that (for some people) will be that if their little darlings fail, they can then blame DVSA about the length of time for the next test, the reason they failed, and so on.
Plus ça change…
At the moment, my newsfeed is filled with stories about ‘the best rice cooker’ – probably as a result of my browsing history, I admit.
They’re all-singing, all-dancing electric things that do far more than you actually need. Now, I know that a lot of Asian people swear by electric rice cookers, but they tend to be fairly simple machines. In the West, we try to incorporate functions that are useless – like being able to play Netflix movies while you’re controlling the central heating. Stuff like that.
I can tell you now as an absolute fact, the only rice cooker you will ever need – assuming you have a microwave oven – is the Sistema Rice Cooker. All you do is put one measure of rice in the pot, add one and three quarters (or two) measures of water, and a little salt, and microwave on high for 9-10 minutes. Give it a stir, let it stand for another 5 minutes, and you have perfect rice. Period.
And it’s about a tenth of the price of the fancy ones. Sistema make some good food storage containers, too.
People keep asking this. I’ve had two emails this week: how much do you earn as an instructor? When it is asked online, almost every time some dipstick somewhere tries to answer it by doing it all wrong, or by making it too complicated.
If you were in a salaried position where the stated wage was £30,000 per year, that would be before tax and National Insurance. Any comparison for being self-employed also has to be before tax and NI. That’s because tax and NI are different for everyone (single, married, disabled, and God knows what other things). You need to keep these out of it in order to compare with self-employed income.
In a salaried position, you get the stated wage no matter what you do. If it says you get £30,000 a year, then you get £30,000 a year – before tax and NI. If you change to another salaried job, if the stated wage of the new job is £32,000, then you will be earning £2,000 more – before tax and NI.
To compare a self-employed job, you need to get an equivalent figure before tax and NI.
Being self-employed is different to being salaried, because you are not guaranteed an income. It depends on how much work you do, and in the case of a driving instructor, that work could be anything from 0 hours up to 50+ hours in any given week. It would be utterly stupid to budget based on doing 50 hours every week, and what you need is the average for an entire year. Since you are trying to predict a career change, you need to assume a sensible average figure and not just a big number you like the sound of – and which you would not be able to achieve reliably, if at all.
If being an ADI is going to be your main source of income, you need to be thinking of around 30 hours as a safe and sensible average figure once you are established. In reality, work will fluctuate, and if you end up averaging 35 or 40 hours, that’s great. But don’t get carried away, because something might happen which brings the average down to 25 hours or even less, and it is much harder to sustain a higher average than it is a lower one. If you underestimate, anything more is a bonus. But if you overestimate, not achieving it could be disastrous if you’ve bet your house (or mortgage repayments) on it.
Then there is your hourly lesson rate. Not everyone can charge £40 an hour. Some ADIs live in areas where £25 might be at the top end of what people will pay. Find out what your area’s average is and use that. In Nottingham, for example, £30 an hour is a sensible and realistic hourly rate right now (elsewhere on the blog I have referred to figures of £25 and £27 from when those were typical rates).
Finally, how many weeks will you work? Let’s assume – sensible assumptions are important when you’re self-employed – that you work 48 weeks of the year.
The maths is now quite simple. 30 hours a week times by £30 an hour times by 48 weeks means you will be taking £43,200 from your pupils each year. That’s your turnover (total income).
But you also have business costs, or expenses. You have to pay for your car, fuel, insurance, and so on, and you use your turnover to pay for these. No matter what you see the feral monkeys on social media claiming, they do not run a car ‘for nothing’. One way or another there is a weekly business cost associated with even the most dilapidated and ancient jalopy you could find. The vast, vast majority of instructors will have weekly vehicle costs of at least £100 (for the whole 52 weeks of the year). Fuel is also around £100 for a 30 hour week (for the 48 weeks you work).
Combining these, your car costs will amount to £100 times by 52 weeks, totalling £5,200. Fuel usage is £100 times by 48 weeks, which totals £4,800. Together, that’s £10,000 of expenses.
Therefore, your actual income – your wage before tax and NI – based on an average of 30 hours per week at £30 per hour is £43,200 minus £10,000, which equals £33,200.
Before you drool all over your keyboard, it’s worth considering a few realistic and quite possible variations in this calculation. Firstly, what if you only average 25 hours a week instead of 30? In that case, your annual wage would drop to around £26,500.
Secondly, what if you do 30 hours, but can only charge £27? In this case, your wage would be around £29,000.
Thirdly, what if you average 25 hours and can only charge £27? Now, your wage would be around £23,000.
And finally, what if you don’t get anywhere near an average of 25 hours in your first year? Will it be enough to pay your bills?
It’s easy to put all this into a simple spreadsheet to compare the different scenarios and variables. But one look at what’s happened in the last year should be enough to hammer it home that there are never any guarantees, and any future-looking calculation is only an estimate. So if you are planning a new career, be almost pessimistic in your assumptions. If you work everything out based on 40 hour weeks and £35 an hour lessons, but end up with 20 hour weeks and £25 an hour lessons, you’re going to end up very disappointed indeed.
As soon as you try and discuss this with people, the first things they’ll say will be along the lines of ‘my car doesn’t cost me anything’ or ‘well I only spend £60 a week on fuel’. Or some other contrarian nonsense. I’ve explained the one about cars ‘not costing anything’ in the main Should I Become An Instructor article, and it is a nonsense claim as far as planning a career change is concerned. The amount of fuel you use is specific to you and the area you teach in. Someone in a big city, with all their pupils closely packed into a small area, might well have lower mileage (and lower fuel costs). Someone in the middle of the countryside will quite possibly have significantly higher fuel costs. In Nottingham, £100 a week is roughly what fuel costs are for me if I work for around 30 hours. And that’s a common ballpark figure for many instructors.
Play around with the calculations by all means, but don’t always look for the most attractive numbers. If you plug in a low fuel bill, low car costs, and top-end lesson prices, the result might seem wonderful, but at the end of the day you’re going to have to go out there and do it – and that’s where the hard work starts.
Just remember not to try and factor in tax, National Insurance, pensions, savings, bills, or anything else when trying to do a like-for-like comparison with salaried jobs. All that comes later when you have to deal with self-assessments and HMRC.
An email alert from DVSA advises that they are introducing a limited theory and practical test service for emergency workers. The key details:
This will be available to:
- NHS health and social care workers
- the emergency services
- local councils
Who need to both:
- drive as part of their job
- respond to ‘threats to life’ as part of their job
Because of the current COVID restrictions, we are not able to offer a mobile emergency worker test service in Scotland.
Teaching someone with a confirmed test booking
You can teach mobile emergency workers who have a confirmed test booking even if current local or national restrictions do not allow driving and riding tests.
You must not teach anyone who only has a routine driving test booked – even if they are an NHS health and social care worker, emergency service worker or local council worker.
They seem to have already tried to address the loopholes that certain instructors will immediately have looked for based on the last year. I’m now waiting to see what other complaints they come up with.
Read the full email, as there are a few other things you will need to be aware of – in particular, being able to prove that the pupil has an emergency test booked if you are stopped.
Basic geography lesson for non-UK readers.
It will undoubtedly come as a surprise to learn that ‘England’ consists of more than just ‘London’. Yes, I’m looking at you, Americans. It actually has quite a few other cities, towns, and villages – thousands, in fact.
However, although never originally intended to cater for primary school toilet humour, some places have strange names. For example, we have ‘The Wallops’, the ‘River Piddle’, ‘Sheepy Parva’ and ‘Sheepy Magna’, ‘Wetwang’, and so on. Then, for those whose minds have never left primary school, we have ‘Shitterton’, ‘Cocks’, ‘Bitchfield’, and many others.
All of these have completely logical etymologies – ‘Wallop’ for example (the three villages that comprise ‘The Wallops’ are ‘Upper Wallop’, ’Middle Wallop’, and ‘Nether Wallop’) is derived from the Anglo-Saxon or Old English words for stream (waella) and valley (hop), and is mentioned in the Domesday Book as ‘Wollop’. ‘Shitterton’ probably comes from the Old English word for sewer (scitere), meaning the place by the sewer. Even my own city of Nottingham was once called ‘Snottingham’ – or ‘’Snotengaham’ – and that began in the 6th Century when it was a settlement called ‘Snotta inga ham’ (‘Snotta’ was a person – a Saxon chieftain, whose people were the ‘Snotingas’ – ‘inga’ means ‘belonging to/the people of’, and ‘ham’ means ‘village/homestead’ in Anglo-Saxon). Nottingham appears in the Domesday Book as ‘Snotingeham’ and ‘Snotingham’. The ancients seemed happy to move vowels around and vary the consonants a bit without worrying about consistency, but you get the general idea. They were never intended as rude names, and they aren’t rude names.
As an aside, when I was seven, I began to support Arsenal Football Club. I freely admit that it was the ‘arse’ part which attracted me, but I grew up, and by the time I was learning German and French at school the desire to laugh at words which ‘sounded’ like rude things but weren’t had long since passed. Not so for many of my peers – a certain Mr Spence in my class found enormous humour in words like ‘fuchs’ (fox), and sought out every opportunity to say them loudly and with great emphasis.
Of course, and back to the present, in the last few years all hell has broken loose. Even place names that even once related to someone who lived in colonial times are under scrutiny. Most of the time they shouldn’t be, but such is the mindset of people today. And that leads further in the direction this discussion is going.
On the south coast of England – and no, Americans, I don’t mean ‘London’ – there is a coastal city known as ‘Plymouth’. It’s in the county of ‘Devon’ (which is also not in ‘London’). There’s no real problem with that name, because there’s a Plymouth in the USA, too. However, the original one in the UK has a seafront on a limestone cliff that is called ‘Plymouth Hoe’. The word ‘hoe’ derives from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘hoh’, which means ‘a sloping ridge in the shape of a heel or foot’. The same Saxon word is in the root of another place name in the UK called ‘Sutton Hoo’ (the inconsistent spelling of the same word by the ancients, again). Plymouth Hoe is known as ‘the Hoe’ to people who live there. As you can see, there is nothing untoward in any of this, and nor has there been for centuries. The name simply related to the Anglo-Saxon word for the geographical feature it is built on.
Enter: Facebook. The refuge of those with primary school minds and intellects.
It seems that a group on there which is based in Devon had been having posts removed and users receiving warnings for breaching ‘community standards on harassment and bullying’. Some were even banned from posting. It seems that one user had been making hats, and had forgotten to mention where people could pick them up from. So she said ‘Plymouth Hoe’.
Although the actual mechanics of what happened after this are extremely unclear – was it a manual report by someone or an automated software action – this was what triggered the removals and bans.
Facebook has apologised and has said it is ‘looking into what happened’. My money would be on some prat trawling Facebook groups looking through a dictionary of words, which they then automatically complain about and have removed. Seriously, some people on Facebook (a hell of a lot of them, actually) only use it for this purpose these days anyway.
Some forums use automated checkers which are basic at best. You’d probably never get ‘Shitterton’ past the censor, for example. My own local newspaper will happily write an article about the discovery of a cannabis factory being shutdown by the police, but woe betide anyone who uses the word ‘cannabis’ in the comments section. It immediately goes to ‘awaiting moderation’, and it is 50:50 whether it will be approved once one of the trained monkeys (aka moderators) has looked at it.
Regular readers will know that I usually attend quite a few rock concerts each year. I actually had several lines up for 2020, but they were all cancelled for obvious reasons – and there would have been more. But, by God, am I missing them right now!
Another good source is NOW 70s on Sky. Right now it is on Channel 361 (but it tends to move around a bit depending on Sky’s fairly regular channel reorganisations, and also available on Virgin and Freesat). If you catch it right, there’s lots of rock and punk, but if you get unlucky, there’s far too much disco. I mean, as everyone knows, the best decades for music were the late 60s and the 70s – up until disco ushered in the 80s. And as everyone also knows, the 80s onwards was absolutely crap for music – though if you really must, there is a NOW 80s channel, too (there’s also a NOW 90s, which is worse still, and there were others – but music was so crap in those decades that they were cut, hence Sky’s last channel restructuring around the music channels).
Then, of course, there good old CD, DVD, and BluRay (and streaming). You can get any band you want that way in whatever format you prefer. I get most of mine from Amazon.
I have had my parents vaccinated. They both received the Pfizer jab. The only concern I have is that their second jab is scheduled for March, in line with this government’s ‘expert’ appraisal of the situation.
Much was made of the approval process of the vaccine in the first place – all the stuff about examining the data properly and not cutting any corners. The data they have from Pfizer and BioNTech very specifically relate to having a jab on Day One, then receiving a booster jab on Day Twenty One. Nothing else, just that. There are no data which directly looked at giving the booster after three months instead of three weeks.
But our ‘experts’ have somehow decided that it is OK to have the second jab on Day Ninety (or thereabouts). This is primarily driven by vaccine availability, though we won’t admit to that and it is therefore officially explained away as ‘trying to get as many people as possible protected because the jab is almost completely effective after one dose anyway’. Then there’s a bit of standard government obfuscation thrown just in case it still made any sense even then.
However, an Israeli study – and Israel rolled out the vaccine much more effectively than we did, even if we approved it before the French or the Germans (a major detail to far too many in this country) – suggests that the first dose might only be 33% effective instead of the 90% figure we somehow came up with back in December.
You couldn’t make this up if you tried. The Pfizer/BioNTech jab requires shots 21 days apart. Nothing else. Three months has not been part of clinical trials, and is a theoretical mathematical computation – which is now being questioned – albeit non-peer reviewed – by real data from Israel. At the very least, it means ‘90% effective’ is probably wrong, and the real figure lies in some as yet unknown middle ground between 33% and 90%.
I was concerned at the decision to change it to three months when I heard about it, because I knew what the clinical trials had been based on. But I grudgingly accepted what our ‘experts’ said. But now I don’t – or at least, I’m not so sure.
It. Should. Be. Twenty. One. Days. And. Not. Three. Months. Between. Shots.
That’s what Pfizer’s clinical trials studied, and ONLY that.
I just placed my weekly Asda shop – well, updated my weekly delivery for tomorrow – and discovered something very interesting. And very annoying.
They have no cucumbers, no grapes, no sweetclems, no broccoli, no aubergines, and various missing choices for other fruits and vegetables. It’s the worst I’ve seen it, and that includes anytime other than a couple of weeks at the start of the first lockdown, after which it calmed down.
In the first lockdown, items which ended up selling out due to stockpiling were along the lines of pasta, toilet rolls, rice… stuff that could be, well… stockpiled. All the items this time only last a few days, and do not fit into the stockpiling bracket in any way whatsoever. If people were going to stockpile things to eat almost without preparation, it would be snacks and frozen food – not fresh fruit and veg.
That hasn’t stopped the Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, from claiming empty supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland are due to COVID, and not the little matter of Brexit. No one agrees with him, though.
We already know as an absolute fact that Brexit is screwing up at least some imports. Even The Brexit Daily (aka Daily Mail) reported a few days ago that there had been delays in ‘cauliflower packs, citrus fruit, aubergines, courgettes, mushrooms, strawberries…’ which had already resulted in shortages on shelves. Another source reports Brexit-specific delays to around half of the normal import shipments, affecting fruits, seafood, and meat.
The real explanation is that Brexit HAS caused it, and COVID is simply making things a whole lot worse than it had done while it was still working alone.
I’m utterly convinced the idiots I used to work for are in charge of the COVID vaccine rollout!
It stands to reason that we need to get as many people as possible vaccinated as soon as possible in order for it to be effective. After all, the fewer people who have COVID, the fewer they can pass it on to.
It doesn’t matter if a 40 year old gets it before a 70 year old – if both are jabbed within days of each other. But right now, we have decided to administer it to people who are considered ‘at risk’ first. That’s laudable at first glance, but it isn’t until you start considering the logistics of doing that that you start realising it is just a series of accidents waiting to happen. We’ve already seen that it results in situations where incompetent bureaucrats make mistakes which result in vaccine being thrown away because it hasn’t been properly refrigerated. As a result, we’re not getting it to enough people anywhere – no matter what their age or vulnerability.
Getting the vaccine to care homes, which are often in remote locations not on the government’s Big Atlas of the UK – anywhere outside London, for example – is fraught with problems, in spite of what the imbecile Johnson keeps saying. There are over 18,000 care homes in the UK, with just over 400,000 residents. Yet there are barely 7,000 GP surgeries covering the entire remaining population of over 60 million! On top of that, GP surgeries are already able to give vaccinations, whereas many care home staff will not be. It’s obvious who should be administering the vaccine right now in order to stop the spread.
This idiotic approach initially resulted in the decision to administer the second dose after 12 weeks instead of three – something that wasn’t part of the clinical trials that led to it being approved, and that’s all tangled up with the new, highly infectious variant sending the R rate skywards. In the meantime, they’re focusing on getting temperature and time-sensitive vaccine shipped to remote locations at the likely expense of ruining a lot of it. This is why the company I used to work for must be involved somewhere. It is incompetence to the max.
Look, you f***ing idiots. Just vaccinate as many people as possible, as soon as possible. By all means, aim to vaccinate the same people with the second dose in your calculations based on availability, but stop pissing around working out who to vaccinate first. It automatically leads to delays and screw ups. And fine, since you’ve spent the whole summer arguing that ‘young people don’t die from COVID’ then don’t prioritise them.
Just get the shots out and into someone’s arm! The workforce’s arm. Use GPs and pharmacies. The more people there are who are protected, the more everyone else will be protected. Especially in the care homes.
The government is targeting 2 million doses a week, yet they’ve barely managed a million in a month to date. They have no chance if they keep pissing about trying to get it to care homes before anywhere else, because too much can go wrong. It has gone wrong. And much more will go wrong.
Vaccinating anyone provides protection to care homes. Not as much as if you only vaccinated care homes, but infinitely more than what is happening right now. Then, don’t let anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated anywhere near a care home, and if they attempt to do so for any reason, jail them. It’s a far easier solution. Christ, we are so nearly out of this.
The Pfizer vaccine’s storage limitations were always going to be a challenge for the incompetents who run this country and healthcare system. But my worry is that the Oxford vaccine’s fewer limitations plays into their hands even more, because it allows them to be bureaucratically incompetent without the obvious and measurable wastage to highlight it. Creating a logistics situation that rivals a Gordian Knot plays into their hands still further.
If you don’t believe me, look at this story on the BBC today. It is a bureaucrat’s’ wet dream scenario, and they are playing it to the max.
Get. People. Vaccinated.
I’ve mentioned this before in several articles. There was the one about buying fuel and groceries, and the one about how my Asda Credit Card – which is no longer available – being transferred to the original agent (Creation) and the rewards extended.
Basically, several years ago, Asda was offering a credit card with 2% cashback. You only got the cashback on items from Asda. but since I did all my grocery and fuel shopping there, it was a lucrative offer (as a driving instructor, I typically spend a lot on fuel). Cashback was paid via a voucher you printed off, and you could only use it in-store – not on fuel – but it all levelled out in the end. Depending on how much I’d allowed to build up, I could pay for a full £150 weekly groceries shopping spree by voucher.
Then, I learned that Asda was discontinuing its partnership with the provider – Creation. I expected to lose some or all of the cashback benefits. Much to my surprise, Creation subsequently informed me that from when their card kicked in, I would now gain 2% cashback on any purchase from anywhere! And the cashback would be effectively paid in cash monthly by being credited to my balance. The only tiny, tiny negative was that Asda cashback was immediate, but now it would be monthly.
I pay off my whole balance almost every month (unless I miscalculate), so I am not paying interest except for a few pence. Since the switch in summer, I’ve earned around £300. That’s £300 back on an overall spend of £15,000 – I direct everything I buy to the credit card, whether it’s a TV, an XBox, some new software, or a drone. Even bills.
I’ve noticed recently a small surge in people searching for ‘cashback cards’, so it was worth a bit of an update for them. I can fully understand why they would be asking in these times.
As I have said, you cannot get the Asda Cashback Card I had any longer. You also cannot get the same cashback deal from Creation that I currently have. But there are other deals out there.
Creation does have a couple of choices. But there are others shown on Money Saving Expert. I have been lucky – in the right place at the right time for once – and you won’t get anything like what I have been fortunate enough to find myself getting. Frankly, I can’t see me getting this indefinitely, but you never know. But depending on where you shop, there are still some decent cashback offers and other deals (Nectar points, airmiles, vouchers, and so on). But they are worth checking out,
And Asda says it is ‘working on a new credit card’, so that’s worth keeping an eye on.