Diary Of An ADI

A Driving Instructor's Blog

Oooo. Like we didn’t already know that!

There’s an article in The Register which discusses which words are searched for most via Ask.com . It points out:

…that Brits find “accommodation” the most challenging.

That’s according to Ask.com, which also fingered “accessory”, “guarantee” and “opportunity” as hot faves for correction plus, natch, “embarrass”. Also on the list of shame were “restaurant” and “February”, while “hundreds of people are also confused by the letter order of eighth and the silent ‘p’ in ‘receipt'”, as the Telegraph puts it.

Why is this happening?

Yup, you guessed it: Text speak, reliance on spellcheckers and general bone idleness are about to consign our beloved mother lingo to orthographical oblivion.

The standards of spelling and grammar these days are appalling. An additional problem, in my opinion, is the almost mandatory approach to bad spelling: ignore it and don’t identify it as a fault, because you might upset someone. The best examples of this come from annual stories about exam marking. This one is from The Times Online.

A head teacher is refusing to publish the results of some national curriculum tests after discovering such poor marking that pupils who performed strongly fared worse than poor students.

Child A wrote about Pip Davenport, a fairground inventor: “If he wasent doing enthing els heel help his uncle Herry at the funfair during the day. And had stoody at nigh on other thing he did was invent new rides.

“Becoues he invented a lot of new rides he won a prize. He didn’t live with his mum he lived with his wife.**

This received one mark more than Child B who wrote: “Quickly, it became apparent that Pip was a fantastic rider: a complete natural. But it was his love of horses that led to a tragic accident. An accident that would change his life forever.

It reminds me of that recent buzz about aliens that The Sun was into. I’m sure aliens already walk amongst us – and some of them mark exam papers.

I’d just like to point out any spelling mistakes in this blog are actually typos – not mistakes. I don’t use a spellchecker, but I do proofread posts myself.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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This news is still only about an hour old, but BSM has been sold to a German buyer. You can read the full story here in The Times Online.

The Times reports:

Defeated bidders for the BSM are thought to have included Luke Johnson’s Risk Capital Partners, the Australian bank Macquarie and Synova Capital.

Aviva’s UK general insurance chief executive, Igal Mayer, said: “This sale is part of our on-going programme to transform our UK general insurance business through an increased focus on our core insurance and vehicle breakdown activities, allowing us to provide a first-rate service to our customers.

“I’m delighted that we’ll continue to have a working relationship with BSM in the future through a long-term arrangement to market our insurance products to BSM’s customers.**

This Norfolk-based site, EDP24 [link now dead], has a slightly more detailed version of the story.

So like I said yesterday, BSM franchisees don’t appear to have anything to worry about. So much for the doom and gloom picture some other ADIs have gleefully been trying to paint.

With my tongue in my cheek, I wonder if we’ll soon be seeing BSM school cars carrying the BMW marque?

*** Click Here! BSM and FIAT sign deal (23/07/2009)***

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Being self-employed I have a couple of cash’n’carry cards – one for Makro and another for Hyperama.

I noticed in one of the searches used to get to this site someone had searched for ‘ Makro Job Cuts ‘, and after a bit of searching it seems that this is correct. WalesOnline reports:

GIANT cash-and-carry retailer Makro is planning to axe 378 jobs with the closure of three UK superstores, the company said today.

Stores in Coventry, Wolverhampton and Swansea have all been earmarked for potential closure by the company.

The retailer is already in consultation with workers at all three stores regarding the plans.

“The store closure proposal, which is now subject to consultation with employees and representatives, will affect the 378 staff employed at these stores,** a spokeswoman for the company said.

She added that the closures were due to “difficult trading times and a need to reduce costs**.

On a purely selfish front, I’m glad my local Makro is safe. But I obviously feel for those people who will lose their jobs. Every day it seems like thousands more join the Dole Queue (for want of a better expression).

Edit 13 Feb 2009: In summary, Makro is NOT shutting down. It is likely to close its stores in Coventry, Wolverhampton, and Swansea and this will take place by 31 May 2009. I added this because I’m getting hits on search terms to do with Makro closing down completely, so obviously some people are worried.

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I was at the Test Centre (TC) today and I saw a letter informing ADIs that due to some change or enforcement of the Data Protection Act (DPA) they cannot discuss candidates’ test bookings with ADIs over the phone. The pupil has to call and provide certain data as confirmation of identity (this is how I read it, anyway).

Last week, due to all the snow, I had four tests cancelled. In each case I phoned the TC to find out if the test was going ahead and was asked the pupil’s name so that they could register the test as cancelled – that’s the only way the DSA will allow a booking to be changed without the pupil losing the test fee (until it is officially logged as cancelled the test is considered ‘taken’).

Technically, the Driving Examiner (DE) I spoke to in each case was breaking the rules.

So, the only way I could have handled any of those tests last week – officially – would have been to phone the pupil, get them to talk to the TC, and then call me back with the status of the test. Since most of the tests were early morning ones the pupil would still have been in bed, so I would quite possibly have had to go to pick them up as agreed and then get them to call the TC in my presence – meaning a journey in hazardous conditions and often of a good few miles in rural areas, plus further wasted time and money (on top of the lost money from the cancelled test in my diary anyway).

It’s ironic that edicts like this come down from Government departments who appear to specialise in losing huge quantities of highly sensitive data concerning individuals, and yet they employ hundreds of people whose job it is to try and plug every tiny hole of flexibility and commonsense that exists without any problems whatsoever elsewhere.

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Last week turned out to be a real stinker.

Thanks to the weather, I lost 25 hours of work. That’s £600 I didn’t get, but which I would have done if it hadn’t snowed.

Anyone thinking of becoming an instructor should bear this in mind. It isn’t easy to earn that £30,000 they keep telling you about on those ads when you lose 50% of your work without warning like this (could anyone have predicted we’d get that much snow after 20 years of the occasional bit of wet hail?)

On the plus side, those pupils I did take out – ones near enough test standard to be able to handle it, and only later in the week – benefited greatly. It might be another 20 years before they see the like again, but at least they’ll now know how easy it is to skid, and how slow you have to drive.

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I’m writing this just as a response to various things I’ve heard from other driving instructors.

I posted a few weeks ago about how Vauxhall is feeling the pinch and has decided to stop supplying tuition cars to BSM for free. I must admit that I didn’t know BSM got these cars for free. I do know that BSM instructors can pay a lot of money for their franchise and I simply questioned if this might cause that franchise fee to rise still further.

The news seems to have sent nearly all other instructors totally crazy, though! And I don’t mean BSM instructors.

The common desire seems to be that BSM should collapse and all its instructors ‘be made redundant’ (demonstrating the typical instructor’s total lack of understanding over salaried- and self-employment). One thing I learn from this is that membership of the Human Race isn’t clear cut and fringe membership is possible – how anyone could wish redundancy on their fellow man in these times is beyond me.

Another one is that this should cause BSM to put its lesson prices up. The belief amongst some instructors here seems to be that if BSM puts lesson prices up, other big schools like The AA , Red Driving , and so on will follow. Then, all the hapless instructors who are currently charging silly prices to try and steal work away from everyone else will be able to put their prices up as well (no doubt to a level which still undercuts the big schools so they can continue to try and steal work away).

Also heard more than once is an attitude to learning that BSM got the cars for free that is so strong your ears nearly catch fire. "How dare BSM get its fleet for free!" is what it amounts to – and this from people who aren’t franchised to BSM and have no business poking their noses in like that. How BSM gets its cars is BSM ‘s business. They don’t come and tell these people how to run their businesses, so what gives them the right to try and tell BSM how to run theirs?

The overriding attitude is one of glee. The world is getting more and more full with very sad and very malicious people, I’m afraid.

Being serious and objective for a moment… it will be interesting to see how BSM resolves this. If you think about it, it would be surprising if any large national school actually paid for its fleet – an agreement with a manufacturer is more likely because they get the major advertising and the school gets the cars. Yes, it’s a pain that the individual man in the street can’t get the same deal, but at corporate level strange things can and do happen. Vauxhall is quite likely to end up closing plants and making redundancies, so giving away a couple of thousand cars that can only be sold on for perhaps half their value is an expense it has to address first. Hopefully, BSM will resolve the issue from its own side and source its cars from elsewhere without having to charge its franchisees any more money – I was told by an instructor it is in talks with FIAT, but I cannot confirm this. I have no affiliation with BSM , by the way, but I do not want to see it fall.

Just to add that this post is starting to get a few hits and I suspect (judging by the search terms used) it is from BSM franchisees worried about what is happening. This is just my opinion, but it is also a realistic summary of the situation as it stands based on available information…

BSM is in talks with Vauxhall to come to an agreement over the deal. It may end up having to pay for the cars it previously got for nothing. It may be that Vauxhall and BSM part company. I heard a rumour that BSM was talking to FIAT, but I have seen nothing written about this anywhere. The only official information at this time is that Times story.

If you’re a BSM instructor, don’t worry. Something will happen and there’s no way Aviva is going to just close down the driving school. The BSM franchise is already easily the most expensive out there and no one in their right minds is going to ask you to pay more. BSM’s driving school is too successful to let fail.

Ignore the stupid and malicious rumours you keep seeing and hearing. Just wait and see what happens.

*** Click Here! BSM and FIAT sign deal (23/07/2009)***

EDIT 13/10/2010: And note the latest change here, as BSM decides to switch back to Vauxhall and Corsas.

EDIT 28/6/2012: And don’t forget that BSM is now run by The AA.

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In the Midlands we didn’t have a huge fall of snow, but on Monday evening it was as bad as it got. An additional problem has been the freezing temperatures overnight causing slush to freeze solid.

I’ve had a test booked every morning this week – and I have another tomorrow. The three so far have all been cancelled and the test centre has already told me tomorrow’s will be as well because of the low temperatures (that’s good of them because they say if I cancel now they’ll put me on the ‘bad weather’ list so the pupil doesn’t have to pay and I don’t have to waste my time turning up when it isn’t going ahead).

On the one hand it is costing me a bloody fortune. Four tests (2 hour bookings) and 4 hours of beginner lessons means nearly £300 lost income!

But on the other hand those pupils nearing test standard have benefited greatly from being able to drive on snow and see how easy it is to skid if you drive or brake even a little too quickly.

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Watching the news last night and it struck me how pathetic we have become in this country! I mean ‘pathetic’ in the sense that we can’t look after ourselves and go all mardy (look that one up) when the going is less than easy.

Admittedly London had a fair bit of snow but was it really enough for the entire transport system to freeze up? Someone somewhere isn’t doing their job properly if this can happen – especially when a few hundred miles to the east Scandinavia manages splendidly every year in much worse conditions.

No, the bit that caught my attention was the fact that the entire system shut down in places where there had been no snowfall at all. Schools were particularly ready to shut up shop for no sensible reason and there have been complaints from parents and businesses – parents were forced to stay home to look after kids, and businesses lost their workforce as a result, all at a time when they can ill-afford to lose revenue. It is estimated that up to 3,000 business already close to bankruptcy could be sent over the edge as a result of closures due to snow.

Even on the BBC News last night they had their roving reporter standing in a big empty car park telling us how health centres had shut and ‘this car park would normally be full’. There was easily less than 2 inches of level snow on that park…

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And just to balance things up a little here’s the single from Rush’s latest album, Snakes and Arrows (2007):

This was recorded live in Rotterdam during the last tour.

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I’ve posted recently about various prog rock programmes on the BBC, but there is really only one band that is worth listening to these days. And that’s Rush .

I’ve been following them since the 70s and they’re still going strong – not in the crusty ‘reformed’ sense, but in full and continuous flight. This video is an oldie from the Moving Pictures album (1981).

They last toured in 2007 and I made sure I went to every UK show. It really was awesome.

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