From the vaults:
I was going to learn to drive… that was my first priority on reaching the age of eighteen. I filled out the forms, posted the letter and waited for the provisional licence to arrive. It came a few days before we were due to go on holiday, touring in the south of England with a tent in the back of the car. It was the 70s. My first husband, like many young men of that era, had a passion for the big American style coupés and to be fair, we could have probably slept in the boot. It wouldn’t have looked out of place on the set of Starsky and Hutch. It was even the right colour… and he drove with that reckless, fine-cutting skill so many young men affect.
Even so, I was going to learn to drive it. I knew it intimately, having dangled off the end of the pulley rope holding the gearbox and crawled underneath it on more than one occasion to see what had fallen off this time. I’d helped fit the replacement engine, and over the space of several cars had learned how to replace plugs, points, HT leads, and distributor cap, as well as the standards like battery charging, oil and water changes. I’d seen what happens when blown gaskets let oil and water mix explosively in a Vauxhall Viva and helped make our first car from two even before we were married. But I’d only ever been allowed behind the wheel in order to pump the brakes as he bled them.
As far as my husband was concerned, cars were a male preserve; women were only labourers. We argued about my desire to learn to drive. Finally he gave in. I wanted to learn to drive? Fine. Get out and swap places…
Did he really think the steep and winding lane that runs up through Cheddar Gorge was the right place for a novice? I ground the gears into first… and actually pulled away. I stalled before I hit second, restarted and wove all over the road and was ordered out of the car. If I wanted lessons, I’d have to find the money to pay for them out of the housekeeping.
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