Licensed to Kill

Ever been in a car when the brakes fail? Halfway up a steep hill with a drop-off at the bottom is where it happened to me.
Add to that the general non-workingness of the handbrake and the fact that I had only been driving for a few months at that point and you have the explanation for my subconscious distrust of brakes (and general avoidance of hills).

No, this isn’t the reason for the mid-week quote, that’s more to do with how much our world (at least here in the West) is set up for cars instead of people. Which is in large part why I will tomorrow be sitting a driver licensing test – even if you don’t want to live a car-centric life, it still pays to be able to drive. (Legally.)

New Zealand’s driver licensing system, for those of you unfamiliar with it, has three stages. First the Learner’s, for which you have to pass a multichoice theory test, and which entitles you to start learning the practical (with a qualified driver beside you). After that the Restricted – a fairly rigorous practical test, after passing which you can drive solo (although, true to name, with restrictions). Finally there’s the Full licence test – and two years after that you can start teaching others to drive, God help them.

All of this is intended to make up for the fact that NZ allows teens to become licenced drivers when their hormone-raddled under-developed brains probably shouldn’t be given charge of anything more dangerous than an electric toothbrush (never mind a tonne of speeding metal). Even after the recent changes to up the age, it’s still possible to be driving solo by 16 1/2.

I was at the learner stage when I had my hill-side inkling of mortality (don’t ask me how I got down safely, I have no idea). My aunt had nobly volunteered to teach me the practical side of motoring, although who knows if she would have if she’d realised what a job it was going to be. (I highly recommend psychiatric nurses as driving instructors, by the way – they don’t scare easily.)
I am not at all talented when it comes to modern technologies like the horseless carriage, and have lived a mostly car-free life, which is how I’ve managed to procrastinate on sitting my full until a week before my restricted expires. That makes ten years since I got my learner’s licence – five times the minimum for progressing to a full.

I didn’t actually realise the full effect the hill episode had had on my driving until the instructor I recently drove with pointed out that I tend to overuse my clutch and underuse my brake when I need to slow at intersections. Misuse my clutch might be more what she was thinking, but she was too kind to say so.
She’s more or less broken me of that habit, but unfortunately I’ve got several years of not doing the right combination of brake and clutch in/change down/clutch out to make up for – most of my driving experience, in fact. As the saying goes, practice makes persistent.

So I’ve got to get that sorted before I sit the test tomorrow. I figure practice today, practice tomorrow, don’t get flustered, and I might have a chance. Wish me luck!

What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you behind the wheel of a car? I probably won’t see your comments before the test (practice practice practice!) so don’t worry about psyching me out – let ‘er rip!

March: a Sense of Power


This chapter covers a variety of concepts, from anger to synchronicity to why people would prefer to think there is no God (“Most of us are a lot more comfortable feeling we’re not being watched too closely”).

“Anger is our friend. Not a nice friend. Not a gentle friend. But a very, very loyal friend. It will always tell us when we have been betrayed. It will always tell us when we have betrayed ourselves.”

This idea of anger as a marker of transgression or trespass also comes up in another book I have been reading of late: Boundaries – which is an example of synchronicity.

I will cheerfully admit that I did most of the work for this chapter fairly early on in the month (i.e. half way through it) and my mind has been elsewhere since.

I was surprised by some of the things which unburied themselves in the “Detective Work”.

“My favourite musical instrument is” the low whistle – which I have never held, let alone learned to play, although I once discovered someone in New Zealand who makes them.

“If I wasn’t so stingy with my artist I’d” buy her (her? my internal artist, like many children, doesn’t seem strongly gendered) some really flash stationery. Maybe some ink-bottles.

Pointless Archaism

“If it didn’t sound so crazy, I’d” write a supermarket musical. What do I have to fear from crazy? One day I’ll do it.

I am haunted by the fear that if I commit to this writing life, if I let the dreamer loose, I won’t be able to keep making myself go back to work.

With the regular exercises, further surprises ensued.
I was supposed to describe 5 traits I like in myself as a child. I came up with one: my ability to pun. (Whether anyone else liked that in me as a child, I know not.)

That was a bit depressing, but I did better in the field of childhood accomplishments (e.g. started reading Agatha Christie at 6 1/2).

Agatha Christie

Habits! If only changing habits was as easy for me as it is for nuns. (Yes, that’s what I was like as a child.) Wasting time online, procrastinating, feeling guilty instead of getting on with things…
Physical habits are relatively easy to break, I think. It’s the ones in your mind that most closely ensnare you.

The lists of people I admire and want to meet (dead or alive) were confusing: great writers such as Chesterton, Lewis and Stoppard; and a rather strange mix of people including the Pimpernels (Scarlet and Tartan), Francis, Fanny Crosby and Edith Cavell.

If anyone can tell me what the common thread is there, I shall be much obliged to you.

In other news, I spent the entire long weekend (four days in New Zealand, Lord be praised!) in Not Writing. I meant to write, but I meant to do many other things, and it turns out four days is only four days long.

One thing which I did mean to do (and did) is create something for my Artist’s Date. It still needs a few finishing touches, but here’s a clue:

Can you guess?