HELEN BACH COLUMN: Memories of the dreaded driving test

It’s been a few years since I passed my driving test, writes Helen Bach.

By Graham Tebbutt (Edited by)
Thursday, 24th March 2022, 4:10 pm
Driving tests have changed since Helen took hers in pre-A14 days
Driving tests have changed since Helen took hers in pre-A14 days

The A14 wasn’t even open when I ventured to the Test Centre in Station Road, Kettering, so that gives you some idea of how long it’s been!

I can truthfully say that I’ve never been so nervous in my life.

I recall my clutch leg shaking so badly as I went to engage first gear that I thought I’d never be able to exit the car park safely.

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The route we took went along Northampton Road, and I remember not changing gears down soon enough, so my instructor’s little

Nissan Micra struggled with the incline.

At that point I was sure I’d failed, so I relaxed a bit... and then fortunately went on to pass.

It’s all very different now though, with the theory test having to be taken before you can even book your practical one.

I took my daughter along to the theory test centre in Corby in what used to be Neilsen Clearing House (it’s since relocated); another one of those establishments that everybody in Corby has worked in at some stage, or knows somebody who did.

I worked there one summer in the late 1980s, typing invoices on a large electric typewriter.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I thought the theory test was a quite straightforward affair.

However, as I sat in the car park nervously waiting, quite a few people left the centre in despair, obviously having failed.

One young woman came out in floods of tears; another exited clutching a piece of paper and then yelled across the car park to her waiting friend: “Sixth time lucky!”

She then carried on shouting that she couldn’t leave until she’d had a cigarette.

Now I’m no expert, but judging by the very pungent odour emanating, it was one of the more ‘herbal’ varieties.

I understand that there’s still quite a backlog for practical tests, so it’s as well that the theory pass lasts for two years until it has to be renewed.

I just dread to think how ‘Ms Six Tests’ will celebrate passing hers when the time finally comes!