In this blog I’m going to take you on a time travelling journey...so sit back and enjoy the ride.
Let’s start in February 1974, where I’m nervously waiting to sit my driving test at the tender age of 17.
At that time seatbelts were fitted to cars, but were not compulsory. In fact they did not become compulsory until 9 years later in 1983!
If my memory serves me right, I wore my seatbelt during most of my driving test, but took it off to carry out the manoeuvring section which required undertaking a three point turn and also reversing round a corner. My reversing left something to be desired, but nevertheless I passed, and that night I took a school friend out for a short drive to celebrate my new-found freedom.
It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
Ursula K LeGuin
Fast forward to last week, and I took that same school friend out for the first run in my new car – purchased that day – and we reminisced about driving and other changes in society over that 48 year period.
Time does not change us. It just unfolds us.
So…what have been the memorable highlights during my time travelling? Stopping for petrol while wearing my school uniform (complete with obligatory hat) did attract a comment from the petrol pump attendant who said he didn’t realise 12-year-olds were allowed to drive. Yes, petrol pumps were manned in those days.
Leaving home to go to university eight months after passing my test meant I had a long gap with little opportunity to drive, although during the summer of 1975 I did make the trip down to my then fiancé’s home in Norfolk, in a ten-year-old mini.
At each petrol stop my dad had instructed me to ask the garage to do the TWOB check – tyres, water, oil and battery. On my first stop I failed to realise that the battery in the little mini sat on the floor in the rear of the vehicle, but didn’t make that mistake again!
Once I started work, the car was used for a short daily commute and regular trips to Norfolk when the girls were young. So I really had little practice on motorways or in heavy city traffic, and over the years/decades my comfort zone in terms of driving (and parking) began to shrink until it resembled a mini roundabout.
Leaving full-time employment five years ago, starting semi-retirement, working from home and, of course Covid, almost felt like the last straw and I began to wonder if my driving ability would just wither on the vine.
Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.
But, now I have other reasons to drive and keep myself independent and mobile. It’s amazing the pull a grandchild can have, and if I want to visit Fraser I need to head west on the A83 and into Argyll and over the Rest and Be Thankful.
My other daughter lives nearer, but the quickest route to her is on one of the busiest stretches of the M8 towards Glasgow and then a short spell on the M74.
The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.
I’ve always enjoyed the trip to Argyll, but was conscious that my relatively small car was not ideal for the road conditions, particularly in winter. Over the past couple of months I’ve been steadily building up my confidence on the motorway and was very aware of the number of SUVs and larger vehicles.
Could I? Should I? At a mere 5ft 1in I need to sit high in a vehicle to have good visibility but I was unsure if I could manage the dimensions of an SUV. Step forward modern technology! Front and rear sensors and a parking camera have transformed my always dodgy reversing and parking capability and increased my confidence. And the visibility is amazing, making junctions much easier.
Safety aspects too, like blind spot monitors and dual sensor break support provide additional reassurance.
The purchase process was quite different from 20 or 30 years ago. Various supply chain issues causing a shortage of new cars have trickled down to the used car market, causing demand and price to rise. I got a good trade-in deal but obviously prices are relative, so my SUV (albeit 3 years old) also commanded a higher asking price. But the speed and efficiency of viewing and test driving, were streets ahead of previous experiences.
In fact the bulk of the sale was done over Microsoft Teams, and insurance was seamlessly transferred with just one quick phone call and an email confirmation. I opted to have the car delivered to the house and the old one picked up, so that allowed me to make my first few trips out on familiar roads to get used to the different ride.
So, two weeks on I’ve done one trip to Argyll, with another one planned this coming week. I’ve also done a motorway trip to stay with my other daughter.
I’m not pretending to enjoy the motorway experience, particularly when it’s moving like dodgems in a car park, but I’m now fully conversant with keeping up my speed, avoiding hesitancy and realising that not all other drivers are better or more confident than I am. (The latter was a hard one to crack).
So my time travelling journey has entered a new phase with new types of driving, and the need for new skills and heightened road sense.
This is a fitting example of personal growth – something which we promote strongly at The Leader. So my journey of self-discovery has literally taken me on new roads and opened up challenges and opportunities, increased my confidence and improved my independence.
When you're travelling, you are what you are right there and then. People don't have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.
William Least Heat-Moon
Take care, lead well (and drive safely)