Susie Rushton: Testing times that adults have to face

Urban Notebook
Click to follow
The Independent Online

After six months of lessons and one failed test, I'm ready to make another attempt at getting a driving licence. This afternoon, for just under an hour, I will steer my way around the quieter residential roads of Isleworth, an unlovely suburb close to Heathrow Airport. I might get the dual-control Vauxhall Corsa up to 27 mph (steady!), and perhaps the examiner will crack a well-worn joke as a Porsche cuts me up on a mini roundabout. But, on the whole, it will be a silent performance of excessive mirror-checking, mouthed cursing and will-she-won't-she clutch control.

Learning to drive at the age of 32 has been a disheartening exercise and, some might say, a pointless one, given that I live in Zone 2 and have no intention of buying a car. And it certainly hasn't helped that the majority of my fellow learners (because I see them, carefully reversing around the same corners in the same streets) have just finished their A-Levels.

Passing your driving test is one of those milestones that are a little bit easier when you're young and stupid. Another is getting your ears pierced for the first time – an event I'm committed to next Monday, as a birthday gift from a friend. Again, if it had happened long ago in the playground, with the assistance of a frozen fish finger and a safety pin, I suspect the sting would hardly register. I wouldn't have fretted about the frequency with which dangly earrings get caught in doors and tear flesh, or whether the gold studs will clash with my other jewellery.

I read yesterday that David Beckham's kids (all under 10) have been demanding permission for their first tattoos but their heavily-inked dad won't let them. OK, six is a bit young for tats, but let them get it over and done with when they're teens. At that age, the badges of adulthood are a prize to be seized with both hands. Leave it too late and you become childishly fearful.

A distinct lack of knowledge

Angered by the encroachment of minicabs on their territory, black cab drivers are once again considering direct action. They believe they offer a service superior to the minicabs that rely on satnav to negotiate lesser-known London streets. In the past few weeks, I've noticed gaps in the famous Knowledge that have had me leaning into the front seat, holding an A to Z under the nose of my driver. Last night, I directed a cab to Ramillies Street in Soho. "You mean Ramillies Place," said the driver. No, I didn't. As we swung across two lanes of traffic into Great Marlborough Street, he pulled out his reading glasses and peered at a map, with barely a glance at the pedestrians scattering in front of his bonnet. Even my scant knowledge of road safety is better than that.