You’d sort of assume, wouldn’t you, that with all the fuss surrounding the driving test procedures involving a hefty book of theory as well as the practical test, it would result in someone actually being a competent driver?
I’m not just talking about the ordinary driving test, but the HGV driving test too.
Well don’t. Assume, I mean.
Son #2 and I were down in the Wye Valley recently for a bit of a stroll and a lunch by the river at the Saracens Head (world-class fish and chips and a lovely little rope ferry for pedestrians, bikes and dogs across the river).
I was driving back up the hill towards The Yat Rock and Christchurch, near Coleford in the Forest in the direction of Yat Rock and we were chatting when dead ahead, there was a vast articulated lorry blocked the road. It was not only occupying the middle of the road – it was. er… reversing.
What could I do but reverse too? It’s the kind of road that twists and turns and varies from single track to squeeze-by-the-other-car-holding-your-breath to fairly-comfortably-able-to-pass-an-coming-vehicle.
So I reversed a bit, expecting him to find a wider spot for me to pass him. But no. Every time I stopped, he kept slowly reversing, forcing me to reverse back down the hill. . It was a bit like that Stephen Spielberg Duel film where the big dark truck is somehow full of evil menace.
Staring at his reversing lights and the artic’s approaching bulk I had no room for manoeuvre. I reversed around another two bends until another car appeared in my rear view mirror – and I waved to him to reverse too,which, to give him credit, he did.
The lorry continued to reverse. I was getting fed up with this and son #2 wasn’t amused at the hold-up as he was due in London for 6pm.
And then a third car joined our bizarre reversing test… a black Vauxhall.
I could see through the window of the car behind that the driver, a woman was really struggling. We were reversing very slowly now but the black Vauxhall was zig-zagging hopelessly from one bank of the road to the opposite side.
She looked as though she was tacking in a heavy squall. Perhaps she was a sailing enthusiast more used to a tiller and sheets then a steering wheel. Unfortunately, adopting the “full lock left” and “full lock right” strategy meant we were going to get nowhere fast.
The lorry driver should be aware of this new development, I thought, stopping my car and jumping out to speak to the backwards lorry driver. He was a baldie Brummie. He was very very high above me. He somewhat reluctantly wound down his window.
“What are you actually doing?” I asked.
“I can’t get no further up there,” he said. “There’s a wall. I have to reverse all the way back down.”
I broke the news that we wouldn’t be doing any more reversing because the driver two cars behind me just couldn’t. I suggested he just pull in tight to the side of the road so that the accumulated traffic on both sides could pass, then he could continue his retrospective all the way down to the Goodrich road in the valley.
Fortunately another woman driver – a local who’d been waiting in the now-considerable downhill queue, came up to join us.
“What are you doing here?” she asked him. He wailed again about the wall. (well he didn’t but Aunty Annie said never miss an opportunity for aimless aliteration)
“This vehicle shouldn’t be here anyway,” she told him with accusing authority. I thought of Cartman. This woman was the Cartman of the Wye Valley – “respect my authorata!”
“Didn’t you see the big weight restriction signs at the bottom of the road?” was what she actually said.
She was firm and, I thought, probably scarier than me.
He made no reply as policeman always say, from their little black notebooks.
But Local Woman did offer to direct all the waiting traffic past him and then shepherd him downhill, which was more than generous and saved us from the eternal damnation of a slow, painful reversing process that would surely take all afternoon.
The Brummie said nothing. He wound up his window and moved up the hill where, in a cloud of blue exhaust, he squeezed his vehicle into the profusion of vegetation tumbling down the hill.
I ran back to the car behind me to explain what was happening but before I could say a word the driver looked at me desperately and said “The woman behind can’t reverse!”
Fortunately she didn’t have to and with some fine traffic signalling from Local Woman, it wasn’t long before we were on the move again, leaving the unfortunate conjunction of incompetents far, far behind us.