Dear All,

You've been picturing me, have you, striding the fells, swimming in the lakes? Forget it. Instead, for most of the summer, I've been crouching inside a little oven called a Ford Fiesta learning how to drive.

I didn't want to learn. I've got to the age of 56 without being able to drive; managed perfectly well. People have tried to make me feel either guilty or inferior because I can't drive, but they've failed. I'd rather walk, I'd rather use public transport.

Ah, there's the rub. We live up here in the Lake District half the year - and now there is no public transport. Nearest bus is 10 miles, nearest train 20. So when my husband developed rheumatoid arthritis, couldn't drive for the pain, it was obvious I'd have to learn or we'd never get here in the first place.

Idiots can drive. I've seen them. Can't be anything to it. All I needed was a car to learn on, an instructor. What, learn on my husband's automatic, power-steering luxury job? Fat chance. But my instructor, Mr Spears, was patience itself. Every stupid mistake I made was followed by a calming: 'Just take it easy.'

But I couldn't take it easy. I was in a frenzy of rage at my lack of co-ordination, my failure to respond to perfectly clear instructions, my fear of the car itself. I've been a brilliant learner, always, but now I was hopeless. 'You're too quick for your own good,' said Mr Spears. How true. Talk too quickly, write too quickly, read too quickly and now drive too quickly. And badly.

Night after night, waking and sleeping, I drove round Workington's council estates, resenting every reverse parking exercise, every three-point turn, every moment in that stupid car. Test day came. The Inspector of Examiners chose my test to sit in on. I thought I might as well go home. Half-way through the test the inspector suddenly collapsed full-length on the back seat. I thought, that's it, he's fainted at my awful driving (he was only getting out of my line of vision as I backed, of course).

Somehow I passed, but this summer has so far been a trial. Another book almost finished but every productive day marred by the agony of learning how to drive. Funny thing is, my husband has had a bit of a miracle cure. The moment I was ready to drive his car he said he thought it wasn't necessary after all.

Good. I don't want to drive even if I now can. But what a way to spend summer.


Margaret Forster

(Photograph omitted)