Rochelle Scholar: The spirit of advanced friendliness

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When I mention Advanced Motoring to friends their reaction is "Is that where you have to do the commentary?" or "Is that where you do the handbrake spins?" No, Advanced Motoring is all about looking ahead. It is about being curious about the road. And no, it is not perhaps slightly nerdy.

When I mention Advanced Motoring to friends their reaction is "Is that where you have to do the commentary?" or "Is that where you do the handbrake spins?" No, Advanced Motoring is all about looking ahead. It is about being curious about the road. And no, it is not perhaps slightly nerdy.

It started five years ago when I inherited my grandfather's gold 1983 Triumph Acclaim. I hadn't driven for seven years and now, with a young family, I wanted to feel confident on the road again. After some refresher lessons, I joined the North East London and Essex Group of Advanced Motorists. I had four observed lessons and a mock test. I was told that the test is "taken in the spirit of friendliness" and would be arranged at my "convenience".

So. The phone rang. "I am your EXAMINER. I want to arrange the test. I can't do weekends; that's my free time. I want you at 9.30 on Monday morning in the rear car park of the Bald Faced Stag at Buckhurst Hill next to the Hilton hotel. If you park in the Hilton car park I won't find you."

"So you want me at the rear of the Hilton hotel?"

"NO. I WANT YOU AT THE REAR OF THE BALD FACED STAG."

He went on, "A reg - haven't been in an A reg car for a while. Has it got head restraints?"

I wasn't sure what he meant. I decided not to tell him the indicator stick was stuck together with Araldite and sticky tape. He was bound to notice the dents in the side of the car - why mention them now? I hadn't done them. My grandfather had lived in a sheltered home and the only way the other old blokes could get their cars out was to reverse repeatedly into his.

The test day came and it was raining. I drove to the Bald Faced Stag and, with an assured confidence, into the wrong car park. I reversed and drove into the right car park. Some headlamps flashed. There he was.

I pulled up alongside - not quite in the white box but near enough. He got out of his car, showed me his identification and got in mine. He was a policeman and did this in his spare time.

"I want a nice smooth ride. I want you to make good progress at all times, to keep to the speed limits and not exceed them. If I close my book, it means nothing. It doesn't mean you have passed or failed; it means I've closed my book. Some people's driving falls apart when I close my book because they think they have failed. We'll start with a reverse around the corner."

I did an excellent right-hand turn out of the car park. We then turned right again into a side turning. He asked me to pull up on the side of hill. The manoeuvre was to reverse up a hill and round a bend. I did it as slowly as I could. On we went. I have certainly discovered the pleasures of cornering. "Keep to the speed limit!" he barked. Now we were down and around Epping, then on to the motorway.

The rain fell steadily. I moved into the middle lane. Visibility was poor. I didn't feel confident pushing the Triumph up to 70mph, so I hovered around 55-60mph. If I didn't move across now while I had a gap on the left I might find myself unable to at a later stage. I signalled, I manoeuvred. We came off the motorway. Drove on and on and came to Chingford. One great big circle. We were back at the Bald Faced Stag.

I drove into the space next to his car. "Now, an ADVANCED driver would have backed in. Then you'd be first out - not fiddling about reversing. RIGHT. Signalling is alien to you. You could have been driving at 70mph on the motorway - cars are meant to go at 70mph; you signalled to move back to the left - totally unnecessary - you had TWO-THIRDS of a mile to go and 20mph to play with. And why did you take so long reversing?"

But, after all that, he passed me. And I've since found out that Julian Clary is a member, too.

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