In the main SEN (special educational needs) classroom in my school, there is a poster which I have upon occasion found myself gazing at and thinking that I would do well to remember its message. I call it the Wiggly Line of Progress, and it is supposed to show that progress is rarely linear and sustained, but that it takes time to build a skill, and there may be setbacks along the way.
This is kind of how I feel about driving.
After four hours of lessons in which I had managed not to run anyone over or write off the car, today I found myself mounting a kerb and forgetting which pedals were which, just as I was about to turn right off a main road. And this is my second attempt at learning, following a failed test thirteen (THIRTEEN!) years ago.
Wiggly line of progress, I tell myself.
I have always felt that driving falls into the category of Things I Am Not Naturally Good At, along with maths, team sports, running, cooking and teaching. However, the important thing I have learned since I last drove, aged twenty-five (and, according to my instructor at the time, “a little older” by learner driver standards, which seems laughable now-or at least it did, until I overheard the girl in front of me in the line for the theory test say she was born in 2001, when I was not only an adult but had already graduated university and achieved legal drinking age in all but a few outposts of Scandinavia), is that Things I Am Not Naturally Good At do not necessarily remain so forever. Admittedly maths remains a weak point, and since the age at which they were no longer compulsory in school I have largely managed to avoid team sports, but I got a B grade in Maths GCSE, so although never a stellar pupil, I attained a level of reasonable competence, at least for long enough to complete the exam. And as for the other things on the list, running became a cherished hobby for a brief moment in 2011, when I discovered I could not only improve but enjoy the process; cooking has been steadily improving since I first discovered how enjoyable it could be, and teaching is still my actual job, and one in which I like to believe I am now at least competent. In fact, had a passed my test the first time round, I would now have roughly equal experience in both driving and teaching, although I probably shouldn’t linger on the fact that due to lack of experience in the intervening years, while the former has improved significantly, the latter is now considerably worse.
So we are back to square one with the driving. Lots of other people pass driving tests, I tell myself, and some of them have even less common sense than I do, and by the standards of some of the driving I’ve seen around the place, quite a lot of them are actual idiots. I mean, I might not always be able to switch the indicators off, but I can switch them ON, and as a seasoned pedestrian I can tell you that around half the population in these parts can’t even do that.
The line of progress is wiggly-and quite possibly very, very long-but I will get there eventually.