Yesterday I had my first driving lesson after a 20 year gap.
Starting off right by the Top Gear Test Track at Dunsfold Aerodrome, I was instructed to drive my way up to Shalford (just outside of Guildford) and take the back roads back to Dunsfold. All this in an automatic Ford Focus.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It felt odd, but strangely natural. The pedals (just two of them) took a bit of getting used to what with my size 12 feet, but I’m sure I’ll be able to regulate acceleration and braking mix much better as the weeks go by (occasionally I did let the car drift by itself – automatics tend to do this thanks to their more complex transmission system). It also felt very odd only having to use one foot (to avoid hitting the brake and gas pedals simulatenously) to do all the work.
I will say this: my decision to take lessons in an automatic was the right decision. We had a bit of a discussion with the instructor (a former policeman) who told me that most new lorries (and other larger vehicles) are now fully automatics. Not that I intend to apply for an HGV licence and buy a lorry or massive van anytime soon..
We took on roundabouts (usually taking the 2nd exit – I managed to screw up the first one, but only because I assumed the second exit was going back on ourselves – everything else was fine after that), junctions, narrow roads and narrow bridges. Had a
I had a little bit of trouble judging how close we were to a row of parked cars on a narrow lane, but nevertheless no one (or thing) was harmed as I pootled by. Otherwise I kept within the road markings. And usually within the speed limit. Usually. A couple of times I went about 5-10mph above the speed limit (encountering one of those signs that tells you that you’re going too fast), but soon managed to get back within the limit quickly.
I do need to work on looking out for the speed limit signs – some of them are pretty small and out the way along the backroads of Surrey. Similarly, I need to brush up my junction markings – since these can mean different things.
All in all, it was a great lesson! I’ve got a great instructor in Paul, and he kept me talking all the while driving (but also ensuring that I was keeping my eyes on the road, speedometer and mirrors).
I even got to do a bit of reversing at the end of the lesson, in order to turn the car around in the company car park. Not sure I can manage the full intricacies of parking properly at the moment, but I feel it shouldn’t be too difficult – and that was something I was worried about. Hoping I might be ready for the test within 20-30 hours worth of lessons instead of the 40 I was planning. I’ve already block booked 10 lessons, so it’s all go from now on..