I like cars, but my lifestyle over the last few years has not involved a great deal of driving. That is about to change, although despite comments I made earlier, I still haven’t found myself a car, but as things stand at the moment I feel like a bit of a fraud.
I don’t think it’s full-blown ‘imposter syndrome’ in this case; I know I’m a competent writer, I am a bit of a car geek, I am writing this while contemplating a piece on the past and future of Formula 1, and in any case, I know a number of tribe leaders don’t drive at all - and they’re doing all right. It’s more a case of thinking I don’t do enough and I’m a bit half arsed at all this.
Then again, this site happened just as my life hit a Fortnight Horribilis. To be honest, everything I planned to do over the last couple of weeks has gone out the window including writing. So good riddance to that, and onwards. Time to pretend to be a writer again.
And that’s the thing: writing is the only thing anyone has ever told me I was any good at, and I don’t do enough of it. Which is weird really, because there are lots of things I was told I was rubbish at, and I’ve gone ahead and done them anyway. From my earliest years, I was told I could not dance (I remember my mum despairing after a ballet lesson in which I apparently deported myself like a ‘fairy elephant’ which is a bit harsh for a five year old, but undoubtedly true). I had an ongoing battle with my art teacher when I was doing my GCSEs, because he insisted I shouldn’t be in his class as I didn’t have any talent. I was even told I wouldn’t drive, because I didn’t have the desire to do it.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have the desire though. It was more that when I was younger, I preferred to get around on two wheels. Then I had a very big accident and took a year out to learn to walk unaided again, and after that I was incapable of driving any kind of motor vehicle at all. I was physically able, but I just could not get my head around it. I had a couple of attempts, but every time I ended up in a state, and I couldn’t do it, and had no idea exactly why. “You’re just not cut out for this,” said the driving instructor. And I believed him.
Then, as we all know, a tiny little man had a very big crash - much, much bigger than the one I had - and when he got better, he wrote a book about it. I read that book, and one passage in particular resonated with me. When you’re immobilised in hospital, you have to have injections to stop your blood from clotting, and On The Edge describes those injections in quite a bit of detail. There was quite a lot about my hospital stay that I didn’t remember, but when I read that, I suddenly got a rush of images that took me right back to that time. I still couldn’t drive, but now I understood what was holding me back.
At this point, my life underwent a bit of upheaval, and I found myself living in a friend’s spare room in London. I was five minutes from a tube station, so I didn’t need a car, but I decided I wanted one. As it didn’t actually need to get me anywhere, I could have whatever I wanted, and as I’d always wanted a classic car, I decided to start looking for a Triumph Herald. But I also realised I would need to find someone who could actually teach me to drive.
Living in London put me in the right place at the right time. Someone recommended an instructor called Monika d’Agate, and one afternoon, after a couple of pints, I managed to pluck up the courage to give her a call. To my surprise, she didn’t just pencil me in for a lesson. Instead, she spent about half an hour talking to me, after which she said, “So, what help have you had for your post traumatic stress?”
I nearly fell off my bar stool. Max, one of the regulars, actually looked up from his crossword. “Um… none?” I said, not-at-all certainly.
“We can do something about that,” Monika insisted. “I can help you. You can drive.”
And guess what? With her help, I discovered that I could do it after all. She has some unusual qualifications for a driving instructor, including counselling and life coaching skills, and in my first lesson, she managed to get me calm enough to get behind the wheel and pootle around the edge of Kent (although I admit I gave her the wheel when she suggested our return route should include the A2 - I wasn’t feeling quite that brave). We still had a long way to go, but after that lesson, I was on my way. It turned out she was right - I could drive.
Since then, I’ve gone on to drive all sorts of things, from electric microbuses to full blooded supercars and grand tourers, on a variety of tracks. I’ve taken a Land Rover over some ridiculous off-road courses - backwards - and I spent three years with a recalcitrant classic. But I’ve never spent much time on the road, because if you live and work in London, you really don’t need to. When I moved to Cardiff, the bus stop was outside my house, and took me straight to my office. And to be honest, I couldn’t afford to run a car anyway.
But life moves on, and so do I. And now I live somewhere else in Cardiff, and I can’t get to work without a bit of a nightmare journey. So at last, I’m going to use that driving licence I put so much effort into gaining. Because even though I can drive, while I don’t have a car, I still feel like I’m faking it.
And that’s silly. Because the people who told me I couldn’t dance could never have guessed I’d have ended up in a bellydance training DVD. My art teacher may have had a point when it came to fine art, but a few years ago I spent a couple of weeks sculpting plants and flowers for an installation at the Chelsea Flower Show, and I’m currently having a lot of fun with cartooning, having finally discovered my style.
It’s OK to doubt. As long as you give it a go anyway.