Diary Of An ADI

A Driving Instructor's Blog

COVID VaccineI 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.

So that has now triggered our ‘experts’ to say they will ‘look carefully’ at the Israeli data.

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 severely questioned by real data from Israel. At the very least, it means ‘90% effective’ is definitely 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.

It. Should. Be. Twenty. One. Days. And. Not. Three. Months. Between. Shots.

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Fruit and vegetablesI 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.

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Virus imageI’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.

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Generic Credit CardI’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.

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Originally posted in 2009. Updated annually, so here’s the 2020 version. It’s the end of December, we had a few flakes of snow in a few places, the papers are full of photographs of people’s dogs in snow, and children sledging on a combination of mud and 1mm of sleet, and dire warnings about the coldest winter since 10,000 BC (the last Ice Age). Same as every year.

Further to a post about cancelled lessons due to weather, I noticed on one forum a couple of years ago someone getting all excited about how there might be a market for specialised snow lessons at premium prices. As of October 2018 (and it hasn’t got even close to snowing yet), some instructors are already going on about not doing lessons.Snow on road scene 1

Let’s have a reality check here.

Until February 2009, it hadn’t snowed to any appreciable extent in the UK for around 26 years! We had two bad winters, but since then they have been relatively mild ones with almost no snow. Even when we get a little of the white stuff it is usually gone inside a week or two at most. Snow – and especially in the UK – is usually extremely localised. The media talks it up so it sounds like the whole country is blanketed in a metre of the stuff, especially if a few wet flakes fall in London. This  is enough to have people cutting down each others trees for their yuppie wood-fired stoves, and panic buying Evian at the local Waitrose. It can keep the BBC news bulletins going for days at a time.

Every year, the incompetence and bureaucracy at local councils typically means that every time there is any bad weather, it’s like they’ve never experienced it before. This – and the media hyping it to death – makes things seem a lot worse than they really are. Having a ‘specialised snow Instructor, in the UK (especially in England) would be like having a fleet of icebreakers sailing the Mediterranean: bloody stupid!

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Back here on Planet Earth, I will carry on doing things the way I always have done: use whatever weather comes to hand as a teaching opportunity if it is appropriate, and charging normal lesson rates for it.

One bit of advice. Make sure you have the right mixture in your wash bottle, and a scraper for removing any frost or snow. A further bit of advice. Never, ever, ever be tempted to buy a metal-bladed ice scraper. Always plastic. Trust me, I’ve tested metal ones for you, and you are welcome. Don’t use metal.

Will my driving lessons be cancelled due to snow?

It depends on how much of it there is, how far advanced you are with your training, and your instructor’s attitude to teaching in snow. There is no rule that says you mustn’t have lessons in snow. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to do them if you can to get valuable experience. But beginners perhaps shouldn’t because it’s just too dangerous for them. It’s your instructor’s decision, even if you want to do it.Snow on road scene 2

Do driving lessons get cancelled when there is snow?

Yes. It depends on how much snow and how advanced you are as a learner driver. If your instructor cancels then you should not get charged. If you are, find another instructor quickly.

If the police are advising people not to travel unless it’s essential, having a driving lesson in those conditions is a bad idea. That’s when they’re likely to be cancelled.

Also bear in mind that it doesn’t matter if you’re learning with the AA, BSM, Bill Plant, or any other driving school. The decision is down to your instructor based on the weather in your area.

Will my instructor tell me if my lesson is cancelled?

Yes. If he or she doesn’t (or just doesn’t turn up without telling you), find another. But why take the chance? Just call or text him and ask.

My instructor says he isn’t insured for icy weather

Someone found the blog on that search term (February 2018). I’m telling you in the most absolute terms possible that this is utter nonsense. I have never heard of insurance which says you can’t drive in certain weather, and especially not driving instructor insurance. If anyone tells you this, find another instructor quickly.

Do [driving school name] cancel lessons due to bad weather?

Cancelling lessons due to bad weather is down to the instructor and not the driving school they represent. So it doesn’t matter which school you are with. But yes, lessons can be cancelled for bad weather.

Any decent instructor might cancel lessons due to too much snow – either falling, or on the ground – making driving dangerous. They might also cancel due to thick fog, strong winds, and heavy rain/flooding. The decision lies solely with the instructor. If you disagree with their decision, find another one.

Will I have to pay for my lesson if it’s cancelled due to snow?

There is no specific law which says your instructor can’t charge you, but if he or she does it goes against all the principles of Common Decency. You should not be charged for bad weather cancellations initiated by your instructor. If you are, find another instructor as soon as possible.

However, if it’s you who wants to cancel, but your instructor wants to go ahead with the lesson, it’s a little more tricky. You being nervous is not the same as it being genuinely too dangerous. I had someone once who would try to cancel for light rain, bright sun, mist, and wind when she didn’t feel like driving. You’ll need to sort this out yourself, but as in all other cases, if you’re not happy just find a different instructor – being aware that if the problem is you, the issues won’t go away.

I want to do the lesson, but my instructor said no

You need to be realistic about the conditions. Just because your test is coming up, for example, and you don’t want to have to move it doesn’t alter the fact that the weather might just be too dangerous to drive in on the day of the lesson. When I cancel lessons in snow it’s usually with my newer pupils who I know can panic and brake too hard. On the other hand, if the police are advising against travel, or if the roads are at a standstill, I will cancel a lesson no matter who it is.Snow on road scene 3

As an example, one day in 2016 it began snowing heavily about 30 minutes before I was due to pick someone up late one morning. The roads quickly got covered and traffic began to slow down. His house was on a slope, and it was clearly becoming difficult to drive without slipping. I made a choice there and then to cancel the lesson. The snow lasted for about as long as his lesson would have, but was gone by the afternoon. Cancelling was the right decision.

Do lessons in snow cost more?

No. If you’re charged extra for normal driving lessons in snow, find another instructor immediately.

I’m worried about driving lessons in snow

Don’t be. You’re going to have to do it when you’ve passed, and it makes sense to learn how to do it now while you have the chance. A lot of people never see snow until they’ve passed their tests, then they don’t know what to do and end up crashing, like the red car in the picture above.

You should never drive in snow

That’s total rubbish. Unless the advice is ‘not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary’, doing lessons on snow or ice is extremely useful for when you pass. Partially melted snow is ideal for doing ‘snow lessons’ if you have the right instructor. The one thing you do need is to make sure you are suitably equipped in case you get caught out. A scraper, de-icer, the right liquid in your wash bottle – and perhaps a pair of snow socks.

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Do YOU do lessons in snow?

Generally speaking, yes – as long as I feel it is safe to do so, and unless the advice is ‘not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary’. I do not do lessons in snow because I am desperate for the money – I will happily cancel if I believe it is too dangerous. And sometimes it is.

Why do YOU do lessons in snow?

Several years ago we had two winters where it snowed properly for the first time in around 26 years. I had not experienced it as an instructor before, and I cancelled a lot of lessons. After several weeks I realised I was being over-cautious. It was one of those head-slapping moments, and I recognised that I could actually use the snow as a teaching aid. Not with the beginners or nervous ones, but the more advanced ones definitely.

Snow - bad enough to cancel or not?Basically, if the snow is melting and main roads are clear, there’s no reason not to do lessons. We can dip into some quiet roads and look at how easy it is to skid. If the snow is still falling and main roads are affected by lying snow, then doing lessons carries a much greater risk. A bit of common sense tells you what you can and can’t get away with.

I can state with absolute certainty that every single pupil has benefitted from driving lessons on snow if the chance has arisen for them.

Will my driving test be cancelled due to snow?

It is very likely. You need to phone up the test centre on the day using the number on your email confirmation and check. Otherwise, you must turn up – even if they cancel it at the last minute. If you don’t, you’ll probably lose your test fee – or end up having a drawn-out argument over it. Make life simple and follow the guidelines.

At one time, tests wouldn’t go out if there was any snow at all in Nottingham. In February 2018 during the visitation by ‘The Beast from the East’ (aka the ‘Kitten in Britain’), I had an early morning test go out with substantial snow on the side roads, repeated snow showers, and a temperature of -4°C showing on my car display. My wiper blade rubbers were solid, and making that horrible sound when they bounce instead of glide. I was amazed (but the pupil passed anyway). You can never be certain, but be prepared.

If my test is cancelled, will I have to pay for another?

No. They will send you a new date within a few days (or you can phone them or look it up online). And it will not count as one of your six ‘lives’ for moving your test.

Can I claim for out of pocket expenses if my test is cancelled?

No. Neither you, nor your instructor, can claim any money back. And you shouldn’t be charged for your lesson or car hire that day.Snow on road scene 4

Will snow stop a driving test?

YES. Snow can easily stop a test, or prevent it from going ahead. It doesn’t matter how you phrase the question, or who you ask, if there is snow then the test could easily be affected. They tell you all this when you book it.

Driving tests cancelled due to snow 2015 (or 2016, or 2017, or 2018, etc.)

It doesn’t matter if it’s 1818, 1918, 2018, or any other date. If there is snow on the roads and/or it is icy then your test may well be cancelled. It doesn’t matter what you, your instructor, or your mum or dad says. It is up to the test centre to decide.

Why was my driving test cancelled because it snowed?

Driving in snow is potentially dangerous even for experienced drivers. The side streets will likely be covered in sheet ice and compacted snow and you will skid if you even drive carefully on them. You could easily lose control. That’s why there are so many accidents in snow and icy conditions. You are a new driver and you probably haven’t driven on snow before. DVSA cannot take the risk, and you have to accept it.

PHONE YOUR TEST CENTRE TO FIND OUT IF TESTS ARE CANCELLED AT THAT TEST CENTRE BEFORE YOU SET OFF – YOU WON’T FIND THE ANSWER GOOGLING FOR IT. DECISIONS ARE MADE MINUTE-TO-MINUTE AND YOU CAN ONLY FIND OUT BY CALLING THEM.

In the past, I have had 8.10am tests booked in the middle of winter and sometimes I know for a fact that when I pick the pupil up at 6.30am the conditions are so bad the test is going to be cancelled. But until the examiners get in just before 8am there is no way of checking. That’s why I advise against my pupils booking early tests in winter – cancellations are far more likely when it is cold and icy, and it is more likely to be cold and icy (and foggy) first thing in the morning before the sun has come up properly.

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Virus imageAnd as if that previous story didn’t illustrate why we so urgently need to get the vaccine out without having morons involved in the distribution, I saw this on the MSN Newsfeed just now. It’s titled ‘Unbelievably long queue for butcher winds around London street’.

The interesting part is how London – which has just gone into Tier 4 and has the new COVID variant circulating – has so many people in close proximity to each other not wearing masks.

In fact, around 90% of them aren’t.

They are why we have a problem. And they exist in great numbers.

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COVID VaccineYou couldn’t make this up. Not content with the ridiculously slow rollout of the COVID vaccine, or giving it to celebrities first when there are people far more in need of it, or throwing bits away (same article) which amount to almost a sixth more availability if they didn’t, some twat has now caused 1,000 doses of it to have to be thrown away.

The vaccine was sent to a GP surgery in Macclesfield, but for reasons which haven’t been made fully clear, a ‘refrigeration issue’ made it unusable.

The thing is, the vaccine can be used for up to 5 days when stored between 2°C and 8°C, and the fact it had to be disposed of suggests that even this wasn’t adhered to.

Whoever is responsible for this should be sacked. And someone is responsible,

A spokesman for NHS Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group said: ‘This temporary issue is being resolved…’

No it isn’t. We don’t have enough vaccine to go around in the first place, and it is is exactly what it looks like. A full thousand doses have been wasted because of someone’s complete and utter incompetence. It can never be ‘resolved’.

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Rosalind Knight in Carry OnNot necessarily a name on everyone’s lips, but Rosalind Knight – whom I remember from school holidays watching St Trinians and the old Carry On films – has died at the age of 87 (I have all the Carry On films on DVD).

She played parts in a lot of 50s and 60s British films, and she was Bella Cresswell in the Only Fools And Horses Episode ‘The Jolly Boys Outing’.

RIP, Rosalind. And thanks for the memories.

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DVSA logoSocial media has been in meltdown all day because of the usual idiots and their ‘can we work or can’t we work’ nonsense. The answer was obvious to anyone smarter than a chimp, but DVSA has now confirmed it in an email for those who weren’t.

Driving lessons

The Government has confirmed that driving lessons must not take place in areas in Tier 4 from 20 December until the restrictions are lifted.

Driving tests

The Government has also confirmed that all car driving tests will be suspended in areas in Tier 4 from 20 December until the restrictions are lifted. This includes ADI part 2 and 3 tests and standards checks.

There’s more detail, so click the link.

My only concern is that this should also apply to Tier 3 right now. I mean, let’s face facts here. We have the new variant spreading like wildfire, people who will ignore the restrictions in place over Christmas… we’re going to Tier 4 whether we like it or not.

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Silicone Nose BridgeYou have to laugh. Right from the start of the pandemic – with the requirement to wear a mask (unless you are a twat or genuinely exempt) – glasses steaming up has been a problem. If you go by social media, anything from washing up liquid, through squirrel pee, shaving foam, all the way up to 20ml bottles of over-priced chemicals is the way forward.

The bottom line is that your glasses – in my case, sunglasses – steam up because the mask directs warm and moist air up into the lenses.

Sometimes, the solution doesn’t lie with trying to stop basic physics (moisture condensing on glass). It lies with basic physics not being involved in the first place (keep the moisture away from the glass). And these things are the answer.

I bought some and they work perfectly. You just put one over your nose, put the mask on top, and the moist air goes out the side and not the top. The fact that they’re re-usable and cost as little as £5 for a pack of ten of them makes them a much better solution than bottles of Magic Liquid that you’re going to keep wiping off and use up in a week.

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