, ,

I have felt myself coming out of hibernation over the past few weeks although I am still avoiding socialising to the extent that I went 10 days without a drink without even noticing.

More importantly though I passed my driving test last week. I felt really nervous but I actually got a very easy route and a 3 point turn which I find the easiest of manoeuvres. Plus the only idiot I encountered stopped in the middle of a junction in order to put on her sunglasses so I wasn’t really harshly tasked. Compared to some of the idiots I’ve seen, both behind the wheel and on the pavement, I was lucky.

After that relief I phoned up an acquaintance whose car I had been promised only to find out that for various reasons she wasn’t ready to sell and didn’t know when she would be. So the hunt for a car began. I had been prepared to pay about £4,000 for her car and hadn’t bothered thinking about alternatives but was now limited only by my budget and lack of knowledge. I had a friend who knew about cars to help me but the choice was mine and it somewhat threw me.

I could spend a similar sum on a different car, have something reliable that would last. I could spend half that sum for something in between, or I could spend a quarter on an old car and save my money. Also the insurance for my first year was going to be fairly ridiculous, whatever I bought. Furthermore I know nothing about cars and care even less, which didn’t really help me make a decision. I looked at Golfs, as that was what I had learned in and a relatively small car seems sensible for London.

I drove a Peugeot and my stomach didn’t like it. I am nauseated by some cars and some drivers and I had forgotten that as had no similar feelings in the Golf. I was somewhat overwhelmed by the number of choices and the extent to which most of them weren’t worth looking at. I was also very hesitant about which price bracket I should go for. An old banger that I wouldn’t feel quite so precious about would seem sensible but the idea of relatively new and shiny, let alone better engine was also attractive. Price wise a newer car would have meant a higher mileage and a smaller engine.

So I went to see my first Golf and bought it. I’m still not sure whether I should have bought it or held off for a better decision but have bought a slightly battered old 1.6 Golf with a very low mileage. If I do scrape it I won’t mind. I’m not sure that I like it but it’s practical and sensible. And that’s hard. Part of me wants one I can look at and go “wow”. But I can afford to buy a better one next year if I decide I want to.

Driving it home was terrifying. It was the first time I had sat in a car on my own, even with my friend driving along behind me just to make sure I got home safely. I managed to park it without too much manoeuvring and said thank you very much.

I found the whole experience of driving very different, struggling to not be jerky with the clutch and the engine sounds very different to the modern diesel that I learned on. I went on a short drive on Friday, thinking otherwise I wouldn’t drive it at all over the weekend and ended up doing half the drive that I intended.

I hadn’t realised quite how nervous I would feel behind the wheel. I’ve had quite a lot of lessons over the last few months and had felt competent and was looking forward to finally driving my own car. Now it fills me with fear. I knew there was emotional stuff tied up in learning to drive but it’s just hitting me how much. It’s all so new and I have to learn so much. I might have a driving licence but I put petrol in my car for the first time and couldn’t work out how to open the cover. I now have to learn how to look after my car, how to run it, how to feel comfortable in it. How to not feel like a very wobbly jelly when I get out of it. I’ve also got to learn all the main roads, let alone the short cuts.

I suppose I feel disappointed that I didn’t just climb in my car and breezily drive off with ease. I’m not really disappointed that I’ve bought a banger as that had always been my intention before my friend had offered me her neighbour’s car. I was tempted by the sleek and shiny but it wasn’t my plan. I’m disappointed that I feel quite as tense as I do when that’s not how I want to feel. I feel as if I’m playing catch up with all these people who have been driving for years. I am and that’s OK but that’s not what I want.

It’s probably going to take a long while before I feel happy driving and actually enjoy the freedom it brings and I need to accept that and stop moping that it’s not immediate.It’s taken me over 20 years to manage to get this far.and I shouldn’t be so surprised that the next step isn’t quick.