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.