Posts Tagged ‘car’

No Longer a Loser Learner

Monday, April 20th, 2015

It seemed like such an achievable goal – upgrade my automatic driving license to a manual. My 17-year-old self made the fatal mistake of giving up on the clutch way back in 2003 and I have only been able to drive automatic cars since. My time in Europe and the UK has demonstrated that this was a silly, silly thing to do as most cars in the northern hemisphere have that whole moving stick thing and additional pedal. I was back in Perth for six months – I would quickly learn to drive a manual car and upgrade my license.

Yeah. Easy. Not. Learning to drive wasn’t the hard part and once I had worked out what to do with my feet and had thrown one or two hissy fits, I was relatively confident. Surely I would pass the practical test with ease.

Apparently I was wrong. As I sat in the car park of the City West Transport office at 7.30 this morning, my stomach churning and a feeling of doom descending upon me, my Dad turned to me and joked, “Well at least this will make a good blog post.” I didn’t laugh. This was the second time in two weeks that I was attempting to pass my practical test. Two weeks ago my Dad and I drove out to Mirrabooka and after 35 minutes of driving around the suburban streets, I was informed I had failed.

Failed? But I have been driving for 12 years. I have never had a car accident. I can reverse parallel park. I understand the concept of ‘merging’ and I stick to my lane in a two-lane roundabout. And yet I had failed my test without stalling, without crashing, without killing an innocent pedestrian.

According to the driving test man, who has since gained nicknames that I can’t write because my mother reads this, I was coasting and therefore he was obliged to fail me. I also apparently took too long to find somewhere to turn around in the ‘Oh no, I have forgotten my wallet’ turn-around-and-go-back-to-where-we-started task. This was purely because he didn’t like the drive way that I had chosen to use as it was apparently too close to the crest of a hill. I also have thoughts on this but again, too many rude words are involved.

After much discussion with fellow driving test failures (aka the entire driving population of Western Australia) this guy was failing me just because he could. I may as well have not driven anywhere and had him give me a list of ridiculous reasons as to why I can’t drive. It resulted in me having nightmares last night about failing once again because I didn’t take my foot off the clutch early enough when turning corners.

But today was a good day. I was with a friendly man named Paul (yes, Paul) who was from the UK (yep) who seemed keen to pass me from the start. This time I drove around for 35 minutes feeling like I couldn’t do anything wrong. He suggested easy places for me to turn around, encouraged me to nudge my way in to a busy row of traffic and said “Just go through” when a traffic light turned orange as I approached. At the end of my test he said I had passed with 100 per cent which is a significantly different result to two weeks ago. Either my left foot had gained epic skillz over that short time period or there’s something just not quite right about the system – who am I to say? All I know is that I passed and I no longer have to drive around with bright yellow ‘L’ plates attached to my car and my dad sitting in the seat next to me.

Learning to Drive Again.

Friday, February 20th, 2015

I have had my driver’s license for a scarily long length of time. Twelve years ago I passed my driving test on the first attempt and hit the road as an independent P-plate driver, phoning my mum at home for an entire semester to let her know that I had made it to Uni safely.

Somewhat unfortunately, I made the lazy decision to avoid the frustration of learning to drive a manual car and opted to get an automatic license. As a result, I have spent the last four years being unable to borrow anyone’s car while living in France and England as most people own manual cars. Therefore, high on my priority list of ‘Things to do while back in Australia’ is to get my manual license. Joy, oh joy.

L plates

L for Learner.

The good news.

I didn’t need to re-sit a theory test to get my learners permit. Nor do I need to do 25 hours worth of logged driving hours. That’s where the good new ends.

The less good news.

Despite these two very positive points, I did, however, still need to go to a Licensing centre and wait with half of Perth’s population for almost an hour, worrying about my rapidly expiring parking ticket ($3.90 per hour), in order to pay for a learner’s permit. Why I can’t just do this when I go to sit my practical test, I’m not quite sure. But it is done now and I have a yellow piece of paper that says that I am once again a ‘Learner’. I’m even going to get a card in the mail with my photograph on it. Shame I had a swollen eye yesterday thanks to an ingrown eyelash. GOR-GEOUS.

I hate being useless.

I have been out driving with my Dad a few times now and it hasn’t been a complete disaster. I am yet to crash and my rating of stalling the car isn’t that high, considering my lack of experience with a clutch. However, it is testing my ability to accept my flaws and be ok with the idea that I am learning and therefore am not going to be an expert yet. This is hard as I hold ridiculously high expectations of myself and I consider myself to already be a competent driver, and yet I am now struggling to get a car to go from stationary to moving. I am glad my Dad has less-than-perfect hearing as I stop un-lady-like words escaping from my mouth.

Anyway, give me a month and I’ll be a pro. In the meantime, if you see a white Volkswagon Up! (yes, the car has an exclamation mark in its name which hurts every bone in my writer’s body) with ‘L’ plates on it, please give me space.

Ticking Life’s Boxes

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

For years I have dreamt of owning a Volkswagen Beetle but my inability to commit to the significant investment has resulted in that simply continuing to be a dream. I have also wanted to own a convertible. I remember being at Primary School and playing a game with my friends where we would pretend to be ‘adults’. I was always 18 years old (that’s was my understanding of an adult as a 7 year old), a lawyer, I had two children, my husband had sadly died in a car crash, and I drove a green Volkswagen Polo convertible. Life was tough but I was surviving. So imagine my joy when I moved to the UK and began spending a lot of time with my cousin, Les, who drives a canary yellow ‘drop-head’ VW beetle. Oh yeah.

Remarkably (although I guess not that surprising considering this is Manchester), in the 1.5 years that I have lived in the UK, the weather has never been fine or warm enough to warrant the removal of the roof. I have gained much pleasure from the heated seats, but yesterday was the first time that I was able to travel with the roof down. Les took me to visit our cousins in Whitchurch and once we got off the M6, we pulled to the side of the road, watched the roof retract, tied our hair back, put jumpers on and then we were off!

Drivin' along.

Drivin’ along.

We zoomed through Cheshire with the relatively blue skies above us and the smell of truck exhaust hitting our nostrils. It reminded me of travelling through Crete on the back of a scooter only colder and slightly less dangerous. We wore two jumpers on the drive home. It was brilliant. I can finally tick “Travel in a convertible Beetle” off my bucket list. What an achievement!

Where did the roof go?

Where did the roof go?

SNOW!

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

On my trip to England I learnt a very valuable lesson – the more you complain about not getting something, the more likely it will come when you least expect it. For example, snow.

I missed out on the snow in Paris this year due to French visa requirements and was a TEENY BIT disappointed. Ok, I cried. But it really was very unfair as all I wanted was a little bit of fluffy white stuff to start tumbling from the sky sometime around the Christmas period. Not a big ask, in my opinion, but clearly too hard to manage for the French Weather Gods.

I had given up all hope for seeing snow this winter as Paris has now moved into Spring with the flowers and the birds and the babies, but then I went to England. Good old England and its crummy weather. The day I arrived it was beautiful and sunny (and apparently hot but I’m not convinced that 19 degrees can be classified as hot), the day after it rained, the day after that was sun again. On Tuesday morning, when Ben and I drove to Manchester, it was sprinkling and by the time we arrived it was definitely raining. We spent the morning dodging rain drops walking through Manchester but in the afternoon it cleared up. However, there was clearly something brewing in the sky as very dark patches of clouds loomed in the distance and the winds picked up. As we left Lesley’s house at 9pm, it was cold, dark, windy and threatening.

The drive home required us to go up into some hills and the higher we climbed the colder our car’s temperature gauge told us it was outside. It was raining and soon that rain turned into icy rain and then suddenly I was able to scream out in delight, “IT’S SNOWING!!!”

England snow

Yikes.

I think Ben, as driver, was slightly less pleased by the snow as he was having to tackle slippery roads and very strong winds pushing torrents of snow flakes into our car as we zoomed along the motor way. It was like driving into an asteroid belt and going through a time warp. I suspect Doctor Who would have experienced similar things. It was pretty scary as rain + wind + snow + not really knowing the roads = not so good, but Ben’s good driving skills, the iPad GPS and some awesome 80s, 90s, and 00s hits as our driving music helped us get home safely.

The next morning it was snowing in Creswell but not pretty white fluffy snow – soggy, wet, melt-on-impact snow. Apparently other areas not far away had been snowed in so technically we were lucky, but it would have been nice to see some decent snow that wasn’t just gross. Anyway, I was still happy and did scream with joy like a child on occasion.

Creswell Snow

It looks like Christmas!

I am heading to the Alps this weekend with some friends where I will get to see some REAL snow – but I kind of like this random, unexpected non-mountain snow that just happens because it is cold.

Cars Make Me Anxious

Friday, April 6th, 2012

This week I realised that I am really quite happy to not have a car as they can cause a high level of anxiety as they start failing on you. We hired a car which we picked up from a town about six miles away and Ben took me on a small tour of the local area. After he had shown me the Welbeck Estate where he does his baking course, the car decided to tell us that we needed to check the coolant level. The temperature of the car hadn’t increased and after a small about of concern and discussion we decided to keep going and we’d check the coolant when we got home.

Ben took us on a scenic drive home, showing me where he rides his bike with a local cycle group and as we pulled into a side road between two farms the car then informed us that it was going to turn off the air conditioner because the car was getting too hot. That’s when the temperature gauge shot up and Ben quickly pulled over to the side of the road and stopped the car. No more coolant.

English countryside

At least we had a nice view.

Luckily for us, the car hire office was still open with 15 minutes to spare, so we called them and the AA (that’s British for RAC) to organise for someone to come and look at the car. This was a feat in itself as Ben had to use his phone, iPad and Skype in order to find a good enough signal to call the AA. Thank goodness for technology.

An hour later and the AA guy arrived, checked the car and informed us that the water pump wasn’t working. We’d need to be towed. By this time the sun was almost set and the relatively warm day was becoming rapidly cold and Ben and I wished we had decided to bring jumpers “just in case”. As I cursed Vauxhall for their poor craftsmanship and prepared for another long way for the tow truck, the AA guy simply turned his van around, popped the boot et voila! – a very neat winch and pulley system that after 20 minutes was attached to our car and we were on our way to the car yard. Brilliant! I declared England the home of ingenious car service people and wished Australia was a bit more like the Mother Country.

AA car rescue

The sun sets on our broken-down car

So that was fun. It meant that our planned pub meal couldn’t happen as the kitchens had closed by the time we’d finished dealing with the car. Wonderfully, Enterprise, the car hire place, waited for us at the office and gave us a new car with a free tank of petrol. It was another Vauxhall and this time a bit of a family wagon so we spent the rest of our holiday driving around trying to find children to put in the back seats.

Eating Oysters From a Car Bonnet

Monday, October 31st, 2011

On my list of things I like eating, oysters come close to the bottom with absolutely no desire whatsoever to eat the sloppy, gloopy, ocean-filled things. But when our new neighbour, Julie, invited Tom and me for lunch at Le Baron Rouge in the 12th arrondissement, her description of what we would be eating appealed even to me – let’s stand around eating oysters and drinking wine off car bonnets. Yes please.

Le Baron Rouge is a wine bar where masses of Parisians (and a whole lot of Poms) flock every Saturday and Sunday to drink wine and eat oysters and charcuterie plates. The wine bar itself is tiny – a typical French bar with lots of wood, blackboard menus and effervescent staff. By the time we arrived it was getting close to 2pm, so the place was packed with people carrying wine glasses, laughing, spotting friends on the other side of the room, and generally feeling very pleased to be alive. The lack of space meant that patrons had spilled out onto the footpath and road outside and had created mock tables using the lids of bins and the roofs and bonnets of cars. Luckily the bar is located in a quiet streets so traffic wasn’t a problem.

Baron Rouge

The place to be.

We pushed our way in, with Julie and her friend heading to the bar to buy wine and charcuterie, while Tom and I joined the queue for oysters. We were worried we would miss out, but basket after basket of fresh oysters continued to arrive as people ordered mounds of the disgusting things. The speed and agility demonstrated by the oyster shuckers was amazing – they had a very simple oyster shucking ‘machine’ – basically a blade on a handle connected to a wooden block. The oyster was placed on the block, the blade inserted, lifted et voila! A freshly shucked oyster.

Baron Rouge oyster shuckers

Quick hands required to shuck oysters for so many people

We bought two dozen oysters and headed to where Julie and two friends had secured our own car bonnet (a little white Opel). It was here that we consumed two bottles of wine, two dozen oysters and two plates of charcuterie and pâté. Amazing. Want to know how much it cost? This is the best part – for all of that, between five people, it was less than 15 Euros a head. HA HA HA!!! Take that, Australians! You may have sunshine and beaches, but we have fine wine and oysters.

Wine, charcuterie, oysters from the Baron Rouge

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

This wonderful experience is going to be repeated. It was one of those moments that you wonder how on earth you got there and when you are going to wake up. Thank you, Paris.

Highlight #2

Monday, June 20th, 2011

I promised three highlights and so far have only delivered one. That’s shocking. Here’s your second:

Germany

Our trip to Germany involved staying at Tom’s Oma’s house in a suburb of Koblenz with his Oma (we didn’t kick her out) and his parents who are currently touring Europe. Koblenz is in a particularly nice location – Nero Claudius Drusus picked a good spot when he established Koblenz as a military base in 8BC (information stolen from Wikipedia.) It sits where the Rhine and Moselle rivers join so it is surrounded by water and green valleys full of castles. Hence my highlight of Germany was our daily drives along the rivers.

We hired a Hyundai I20 and everyday we’d pick a place to go and drive there, spending as much time as possible avoiding the autobahn and driving along the rivers. The views are just spectacular – driving along the curving river edge with green hills on either side, blue skies (generally) and then the odd castle scattered high up on the hills. One of the highlights of this highlight is when we went to a town called Boppard and took a chairlift to the top of one of the hills. The chairlift took 20-odd minutes to reach the top and you had plenty of time to take in the views.

chairlift
Check this out!

The rivers are very well used – the sun was shining so there were people out and about on bikes or walking, hundreds of boats were going up and down the river and every town has cafes and bars open for visitors. Plus there are castles on every side of the river that are open to tourists. Slightly different to the Swan river. One day we sat and had a beer at the top of a castle and watched the sun slowly going down. The castle was built sometime around 1300 and the beer was brewed locally. Now that’s good stuff.

Beer and castle

Ahhh...

The Greeks Are Ahead of Everyone

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

I am currently sitting in the Athens airport using free internet thanks to the wonderful Greeks. I have been to many airports in my life and most of them make you pay to access the internet. Not the Greeks. Sure, they may be bankrupt. They may only work for half of the year and spend most of that time chatting with their friends drinking ouzo, but they know how to provide their travels with useful, entertaining and necessary internet access. Thank you, Greece. I love you.

So in 30 minutes I am getting on my second plane for the day and flying to Crete. I have already spent two hours in a car driving from Koblenz to Frankfurt and then another two on a plane to Athens. When we arrive in Crete we’re getting our hire car and driving for almost three hours to Plakias where we will finally get out of moving vehicles. That will be nice.

I am very excited about getting to Crete – two years ago when Tom and I first travelled together, we spent two weeks in Crete riding around on a scooter, eating delicious Greek yoghurt and swimming in very blue water. I have been dreaming about going back since the day we left. Excitement plus. Hurry up, plane!