Every now and then, L-plates are essential

1st May 2009 at 01:00

On a Tuesday morning during the Easter break, my daughter emerged from a driving school car and gave the thumbs up. I was a bit choked, to be honest, when I congratulated her, happily unaware at the new set of worries waiting just around the metaphorical bend. I really must learn to stop standing at the front window waiting for her to come home.

She took a while to learn to drive, though not as long as her father. Mind you, I was learning at university, with no chance of practice: if you failed your test, it was around nine months before you got a resit, blah, blah, blah.

I knew more about cars than most of my friends and had already refitted an engine to a motorbike before I first fired one up in a car. In the end, my younger brother passed before me (though he wasn't at university, got loads of practice with my parents and the waiting list was shorter back home, blah, blah, blah.)

Despite being miserable at primary school, or at best gloomily accepting that I had to be there, I coped well with lessons. It was the hand-eye co- ordination things that almost had me beat. Balancing on a two-wheeler. Swimming. Playing a musical instrument. It is interesting to contrast the first two with the last.

Riding a bike and swimming were things the young boy about Carluke just had to be able to do. I stuck at them, semi-outraged at finding something that, unlike reading or arithmetic, did not come easily. Wobble. Splutter. With music, I took the attitude: "This is a bit hard. I don't need to be able to do it. Where's my bike?" I am now the only person in my family who knows the relationship between the length of an air column and the frequency of the sound produced by it, but can't get a tune out of a woodwind instrument.

Ultimately, I still consider myself lucky. School would have been much worse if I'd had to spend six hours a day toiling with work that my teachers determined the young boy about Carluke just had to be able to do, stuck with perpetual L-plates on my back.

Gregor Steele would have passed on his second attempt but for a hilariously-incompetent emergency stop.

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