Last night, on the way home from a school event and thus with Tinson2 and Tingirl in the car, I drove Mrs Tin to quilting in her friend’s house. Her friend lives up a country lane, and then up a steep winding driveway.
Because we were late the space outside the front door was filled with the cars of her friends, so there was nowhere to perform my legendary nine-point turn (see below). I had to reverse down the driveway.
I am not keen on reversing. I could say that it is because I am an optimist who believes always in looking forward, or I could own up and say that it is because I am the worst reverser (astonishingly, Spellcheck recognises that as a real word) on the planet. Drunken people at discos attempting to moonwalk are better at going backwards than I am.
If I drive into a car park I ignore any space that I might have to reverse out of, always looking for two spaces in front of one another where I can drive through one to sit facing forward in the other. Often such a pair of spaces will be so far from the shop itself that my house is actually closer.
As part of the Irish Driving Test you have to reverse around a corner and come to rest with your car parked perfectly alongside the footpath. During my driving lessons I generally ended up with the car at two o’clock, no matter what time I actually did it at.
In my actual test (back in 1980, in a chariot) I had already done the three-point turn in nine, as mentioned above, in a space about two feet square in the middle of the road (my instructor had told me that the most important thing is not to hit either footpath), and I knew that I had got at least one road-sign wrong. The tester left the reversing exercise until last, and I did it with exactly the same result as always.
I realised afterwards that I must have been very close to passing, which was why the tester decided to give me a second chance. But I had already decided that I had failed, so when he asked me would I like to try it again my addled brain thought that he was just trying to humiliate me, and I said “no, thanks”.
“Come on,” he said, “just give it one more go.”
Sighing deeply, I tried it again, and for the one and only time ever it went perfectly, though I rather spoiled any illusion that this was normal by exclaiming “Wow”.
“That’s it,” he said, “you’ve passed.”
Anyway, back to last night. With the rear-view mirror filled by two ever-growing teenagers, I tried to reverse down this driveway in what was now dusk, using only my wing mirrors.
It took a while.
Several times I realised that there was so much room on my side that I must surely be close to the bank on the other side. On other occasions I found my side scraping the hedge. Each time I would drive a few feet forward, then start all over again.
Eventually I saw the white pillar that marked the end of the driveway. I drove towards it, then realised at the last second that it was on the left-hand side of the exit and not the right, and that I was about to drive into a wall. I went forward again, drove the last couple of feet out onto the lane, and the police car that had been watching me for the last ten minutes sounded its siren.
The driver got out of the car and, as they say, “approached my veh-hic-ell”. He asked to see my licence, was probably startled that I had one, then explained that they were in the area because there had been a recent spate of robberies. He obviously realised that there has never been a gang of robbers that consisted of two kids in school uniform and a really crap getaway driver, so the atmosphere became very friendly, especially since his female partner, sitting in the car, never stopped laughing the entire way through.
“Have I embarrassed you in front of your children?” he asked eventually.
“Not really,” I said. “The embarrassing thing was the way they kept talking to each other and ignoring what was going on the whole time, obviously thinking “Dad’s reversing, we’ll probably be here for an hour or two”.”
Just as he was getting back into his car he looked at me, grinned one last time, and said “Boy, you made some balls of that.”
I have on occasion, I’m sorry to say, had to deal with the police after speeding.
Last night was the first time I came to their attention for going too slow.