My Week: Backwards round the bend, all over again: Mirror, signal, manoeuvre - Joanna Elizabeth Ashwanden suffers the consequences of letting her driving licence lapse

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The Independent Online
TUESDAY: 'Plenty of bad habits to work on here.' My driving instuctor rubs his hands. Twenty years after passing my driving test first time, I find myself paying for lessons to prepare for taking it again. I foolishly let my old, renewable British licence lapse when I was living in Canada, and on my return discover that I have to take another test.

'Leave the baby seat in the car. It helps,' he advises. 'And it's easier to pass in Sevenoaks than Tunbridge Wells.' Too late, my test is booked in Tunbridge Wells for next Monday. After 20 years of accident-free car owning, I'm hoping that a little polishing is all that's needed - but I can't face the humiliation of failing, so I book one more lesson, just in case.

WEDNESDAY: A friend telephones, a native Canadian who has been driving even longer than I have. She has failed her test here for the third time. She continues to drive on her Canadian licence though, so after failing she gets behind the wheel of her car again to collect her children from school.

THURSDAY: My instructor takes me round possible test routes and continues to make adjustments to my driving. I should use brakes to slow down at a junction instead of changing down through the gears, which is an outdated technique; and I do not have to practise hand signals as they are no longer required during the test. My worst fault is letting the steering wheel slide through my hands after a turn.

5FRIDAY: I practise my new, improved skills, repeating 'mirror, signal, manoeuvre' to myself like a mantra. I explore local housing estates, looking for junctions to reverse around and roads where I can practice three- point turns without causing a traffic jam. My son gets fed up with being in the car but not getting anywhere and makes his feelings known, loudly.

SATURDAY: My husband is sick of testing me on the Highway Code. He is smug because he has kept his British licence current and does not have to put himself through this rigmarole. I point out some faults in his driving.

SUNDAY: I am very nervous about tomorrow. I have not forgotten how disconcerting it was when I was 17 and the male examiner turned out to be the spitting image of Mother Brendan at school.

MONDAY: I have allowed too much time for the journey so I stop at a car wash. A hot wax will give the impression of a well cared-for car with a confident driver. As I reach the test centre it starts to rain and the windscreen wipers leave a smeary film of hot wax right in front of my eyes. And right in front of where the examiner's eyes will be. I spend the last five minutes before my test tearing pages out of the Highway Code and rubbing the screen with them. It helps to clear the glass, marginally, but my nerves are now worse than ever. I explain about the smears to my examiner as he escorts me to my vehicle. He merely narrows his eyes. Why are all driving test examiners graduates of the Clint Eastwood School of Socialising? 'Make my day. Fail your test.'

I make exactly the same error as I made in my first test. I hug the kerb too tightly around a left-hand turn and bump up against it with the wheel. Still, I pass, again, and Clint even allows me a slight smile as he tells me. I almost kiss him with relief.

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