Susan Morrison: Found dread at the controls

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Driverless cars, eh? Well, I’m agin ‘em. I always like to take a position on these things so I can change my mind later.

I didn’t spend all that money (mine, incidentally, none of this mummy and daddy paying for my driving lessons for me) and all those agonising hours to master the art of the clutch control just to give it up for a motor that looks bafflingly like something a nursery class might have moulded out of Plasticine.

Driving did not come easy to me. In fact, I sometimes think that those of us who battled a lack of ability to concentrate are the better drivers. We know we’re nutters behind the wheel.

My first driving instructor was a brittle, nervous smoker. In Motherwell, she was what was known as a suicide blonde – dyed by her own hand. Her coiffure consisted of various shades of tarnished gold plastered over hair the texture of hay.

She spent the entire hour alternating between screaming at me about the brakes and lighting up fags while berating her ex-husband, who it seemed had made off with a classmate from an evening course at the Miners Welfare. Japanese cooking, as it happened.

It took me quite a while before I realised the driving lesson route routinely trawled past the love nest established by the erring Asian cooking enthusiasts.

My suspicions were aroused by the chap who kept running out into the garden to scream at me while I was practising my reversing round a corner. I thought it a bit odd that we used his drive to reverse into.

By the time I sat the driving test I knew something was seriously wrong. For one thing, I had no idea how to control a motor car.

I was fairly sure that was an essential feature of “learning to drive”. Crazy me, I thought the dual control was there for use in the event of emergency.

The test lasted 15 minutes before the calamity of the hill start. I gave it my best shot, but the third time the car rolled backwards, I switched the engine off, turned to the examiner and told him I’d walk back.

It was snowing. I like to think I looked like Captain Oates bravely struggling away into the blizzard to the baffled examiner who had to take the car back.

Persistence or the bad penny?

Unlike Captain Oates, I came back for another go.

My second driving instructor here in Edinburgh was much better.

He was a patient, kind, lovely chap, so it was a bit of a shock when the lessons stopped when he was banged up for murder.

My third and final instructor was a great silly bloke who didn’t mind when I got out and kicked the car. I didn’t do that during the test.

No-one was more shocked than me when the examiner announced that I had joined the ranks of the driving classes.

Making-up’s all trowel and error

one of the great joys of the road is that you don’t have to bother with other people, unlike the train.

Now, I think she may have worked in a hairdressers. She clumped aboard the train at Linlithgow with a bag big enough to swallow a politician’s guilty conscience. The bag was transporting her face. Well, the gunk which she wore on her face.

Between stations, this young, fresh-faced beauty, plastered enough warpaint on her face to resurface the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. That’s before the eyeliner, eyeshadow, false eyelashes – yes, falsies, and kudos to you, young lady, for sticking something so close to your eyes when moving at 70 miles an hour on the Scotrail shuttle – lipstick, gloss and finally nail polish. I was surprised that the polish went on her fingers.

You’re wearing sandals, baby. Polish those toes. By the time our young madame had finished, she had morphed from a lovely girl with a beautiful complexion to a faintly angry-looking middle-aged woman with an orange face. I think that was the look she was going for.

Like bat out of Hell, of course

Today I still remember that moment. I remember even more clearly the first time I went out in the car alone. I remember the first time I drove my baby daughter home. The first time I took on a motorway, overtaking an artic while ploughing through a wall of water.

I hated driving. It’s different now. Who could not love skelping though a Highland glen on a glorious day singing along to Meatloaf belting out the stereo?