Round the bend

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.

Cheddar Gorge

So I did. I’d had a couple when the accident happened. I wasn’t driving and it wasn’t my husband’s fault that a drunk driver ploughed into our Rapier H120, completely wrecking both it and my face. It was bad. He phoned my mother to tell her next morning… it was, he said, very bad. “Oh my God, is she alright?” “No, she’s a complete write-off..,“ replied my loving and imminently ex-husband.

From that day onwards I was terrified in cars. My husband’s reckless driving made it worse… my panic irritated him and he was unpleasant when angry. I left soon afterwards. It took two years for the scars to settle and most of the feeling to return to my face. Much longer for the damaged self-confidence to begin to heal… the scars stared back at me long after others had ceased to notice them. I had no desire to drive and walked wherever I could rather than even take a bus.

Twenty years later my partner, already struggling with an acute form of arthritis, was diagnosed with cancer. The hospital where we had to go every day for radiotherapy was thirty miles away and we were back and forwards between surgeons and oncologists. The bus services were not appropriate. I made a decision. We needed a car. I’d have to learn to drive.


To say I was scared would be an understatement. My instructor, though, was patient. Understanding. He even advised as I found and gutted an old Mini in that iconic tomato-soup red, stripped and rebuilt the engine, learning as I went. He was a little horrified by some of the things we did… oven cleaner and Brillo pads were not, apparently, the usual method of engine cleaning… but it worked.

The day of my driving test arrived. I took every precaution, drove carefully and considerately… and failed. In less than a month’s time the new test was due to come in, featuring a written component I hadn’t trained for. My instructor pulled strings, got me a cancellation on the day before the change, and my confidence was at zero. I drove, I felt, very badly… and passed.

The first thing we did was sell the Mini as it couldn’t get the wheelchair we now needed in the boot, buy a bigger car, and go camping… in Somerset, near Cheddar Gorge. I had come full circle.

Cheddar Gorge

My partner passed away not long afterwards. Within a year, quite unexpectedly and entirely against my better judgement, I found myself working as a white van driver, terrorising the roads and learning my trade in the baptismal fire of motorways and the streets of unfamiliar cities. Far from being afraid, I took to it like the proverbial duck to water and loved every second.

I’ve loved driving ever since, spending much of my time behind the wheel for both work and pleasure, revelling in the freedom and inner silence that the road-once-feared now offers.

What is waiting round the next bend of any road? The things we cannot do today, and fear we may never achieve, may be possible tomorrow. It is, I believe, always better to keep travelling than to remain as frozen by fear as a rabbit in headlights. “When you are going through hell, keep going,” you never know where you might end up…

Silver Bullet by Stuart France

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She has written a number of books, both alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com
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78 Responses to Round the bend

  1. Pingback: Round the bend — Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo « strangegoingsonintheshed

  2. Pingback: Round the bend – The Militant Negro™

  3. Darlene says:

    My first hubby was the same. He didn´t encourage me to drive as I think he thought it was the only thing he could do better than me. When the second hubby came on the scene, I came with two kids. So he gave me the money from a tax refund to take driving lessons. I said, “Can´t I buy a new outfit instead?” I failed the first two tries, then it was winter and I was afraid to drive on ice and snow. The next spring I tried again and passed. I was able to drive the kids to sports, girl guides, babysitters, shopping etc. In a couple of years, I had a job looking after 10 retail stores in Western Canada, driving all over the place. I guess it is a good thing we persevered and got past our fears!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I only passed on my third go, but my Ex too refused to let me drive him – even when he was blind drunk. I’ve been a nervous passenger ever since – only 3 people in the world who I’m comfortable in a car with and sadly that does not include my present DH . Seems the other half thinks that fast driving is equivalent to manhood.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. jenanita01 says:

    The days when I could drive around wherever I wanted are some of my favourite memories.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. colonialist says:

    Quite a mission! I took my learners on the day legally qualified, and my test the shortest time after that was allowed. The reason I passed with ease in spite of a sadistic tester was that my father had taught me to drive, fly, and ride a motorbike before I reached my teens. I have taught granddaughter R from the age of 7, and will do the same with J.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. buffalopound says:

    Great tale, Sue. When I relocated to the UK I had already been driving for ten years in Canada and had owned my own car. I failed my first test in Britain and have a feeling that I only passed the second time because I was highly pregnant and the tester was afraid of how I might react if he failed me. Have never had an accident in the intervening years – and they are aplenty.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sara Gethin says:

    A great post, Sue – thanks for sharing your experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Mary Smith says:

    Great post, Sue. I had no desire to learn to drive until I realised the job I wanted involved driving. It took me three goes to pass my test and I was rather astonished when I was told I’d passed. I can’t imagine how life would have been had I not learned to drive.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. What a story, Sue. It’s strange, the roads we travel metaphorically and literally, and how they challenge us and change us. Sad, beautiful, inspiring, wise post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anne Copeland says:

      This rings so true with me. Beautiful, and Sue’s writing evoked exactly what you have written here in me too. So many journeys in life in so many different vehicles, so many roads, so many lifetimes all rolled into one. I think about if I had just gone down perhaps one different road, how would life have perhaps change. It has been one incredible journey through such a long distance in time and space. Thank you both for this absolutely excellent writing. You are both, as are so many of the authors here, such skilled writers who live me thinking about something you have written for days and weeks and sometimes longer. Thank you both so much.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sue Vincent says:

        Thank you for reading, Anne 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Anne Copeland says:

          Reading the things on your blog has not only been educational and inspirational for me; it is like a fresh breath of spring. I was thinking as I was reading about your driving how I didn’t know any of those cars that were mentioned, and so that was half the adventure right there. I keep forgetting that you are in a different part of the world.

          Like

      • Lovely comment, Anne. I always find Sue’s posts so amazing in how she draws on the events of life – from the tiny tasks to the huge struggles – and draws meaning and wisdom from them. It’s remarkable and always a joy to read.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Anne Copeland says:

          You are really inspiring. While I normally have not been a reader of books about dragons and myths, etc., I have found your writing so beautiful that it honestly has drawn me to want to read more that you have written. You have a very lyrical style that is wonderful. I may just work into finding more hours in the day so that I can read something you have written.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Sue Vincent says:

            Well worth taking time to read Diana’s work, Anne 😉

            Liked by 1 person

            • Anne Copeland says:

              I’m working on getting my reading cap on now. There are so many really GREAT authors here, and Diana, you are definitely one of them, along with Sue and so many wonderful ones I have met. I am so glad I found you in this way. A dragon book is beginning to sound just wonderful. You know, i was just thinking that this is a feather in an author’s cap when someone you manage to write or say something that brings a person to want to read something in a genre they have not normally read. It is not that the books are not worth reading, but how many books can we read without speed reading? So you have brought me to this point to where a dragon book sounds wonderful. And you know, I actually LOVE dragon movies, so this is not totally wild and crazy! Thank you all for exposing me to a whole new world in so many ways. It gives me something to look forward to.

              Liked by 1 person

          • Thank you for the lovely comments. Now I’m blushing too. ❤

            Liked by 2 people

    • Sue Vincent says:

      All roads lead us where we are going, like it or not. I sometimes think there is only one road after all, with many tributaries. It doesn’t matter where we start, we will always ‘get there’ eventually.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Anne Copeland says:

        Sometimes what is required is that when we reach the bend in a road, we just have to be willing to make that turn, even if it is a fairly sharp turn. It’s not always an easy task, for the reality is that we don’t know what lies beyond that turn.

        Like

  11. willowdot21 says:

    I find your journey do interesting, your a woman of many layers! 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You are quite right, Sue. One door closes and another opens provided you are not to fearful to step through it.

    Like

  13. willowdot21 says:

    Thank you Sue 💜 another

    Like

  14. Eliza Waters says:

    Your road in life has had many twists and turns, Sue. 😉 I’m impressed that you can fix cars as well as drive them!

    Like

  15. Widdershins says:

    I learned to ride a motorbike before a car, but the crash took care of that. It was five years before I could even go near a car as a driver. (I was, and still am a nervous passenger) Thankfully I lived in a city with great public transport. My great fear wasn’t my driving it was everyone else’s driving.

    I really see red when I read about men like the first husband. What a jerk. As I was reading i wanted to go back in time and punch his lights out!

    Like

  16. Jennie says:

    “The baptismal fire of roadways.” There couldn’t be a better or more perfect phrase to paint a verbal picture. This was one of your best stories. My hubby has an antique sports car. He was surprised when I remarked that a real sports car has standard transmission. Shifting the gears is the “real” way.

    Like

  17. lizannelloyd says:

    You were very brave deciding to learn after having a bad car accident. My first lessons were in Singapore when I was 17. I became skilled at parking in a Chinese cemetery but I didn’t take a test. Back in the UK I had lessons while I was a student but when the instructor offered them free in exchange for modelling for him I quickly gave up. Finally I bought my Dads old car had lessons in Surbiton and passed first time. I can still park well but I am much more nervous since a taxi drove into the side of me in a car park.

    Like

    • Sue Vincent says:

      The acciedent was bad enough that the news went round that I had died in it… which offered a little light relief in after years, though not at the time. 😉

      Like

      • lizannelloyd says:

        How distressing that must have been. My parents were badly injured in a car accident when I was 13. I wasn’t too bad in the back seat & as this was the 1960s they let me stay in hospital until my mother was well enough to leave rather than putting me in care.

        Like

  18. Good for you, Sue. I was scared half to death when I took driver training at age 16 in high school and got a D. I passed my driver’s license test the first time and drove about 30 miles a day for years in good weather and bad. I’ve found you do what you have to to survive. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Like

  19. dgkaye says:

    I love your strength and determination Sue. It’s amazing what strength we can muster from circumstances. I used to love driving since the day I got my licence. I had many jobs that had me driving all across the province – alone in remote places in the depths of winter. I was fearless. Now, in the past decade where our city has become over populated with cars and people and BAD drivers I get high anxiety when driving and try and drive only to places close in proximity to my home. But when my husband was very ill, I had no choice to pick up the slack like you and become the chauffeur. Funny how our determination can overcome our fears sometimes. ❤ xx

    Like

  20. macjam47 says:

    Sue, this is a heartwarming story of your courage and perseverance. I love to drive, especially when no one else is in the car distracting me from the sheer pleasure of going off in a new direction.

    Like

  21. Life is a roller coaster isn’t it? You did so well to stick at the driving Sue. So sorry about your partner, but happy you beat your fear 😊

    Like

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