Sunday 29 June 2014

Sunday 29th June - Learner Driving along

We had a very pleasant trip back to my son's flat this afternoon - with him doing the driving!

Maybe an Alfa-Romeo is not the most suitable car for a learner driver, but we have a history of unsuitable learner-driver cars in our family.

My husband learned on ancient tractors, cranky old land-rovers, and whatever else was lying around the farm that could be made to go. He tells hair-raising stories of cramming an 1800 Maxi engines into an mini --- and succeeding --- and then driving the horrid contraption around until the inevitable inevitably occurred. Apparently there were issues; "It was nose-heavy, the drive shafts were seriously unequal; actually it was more or less undriveable, but very interesting." Yes. Quite. It was never road legal, so confined to the farm tracks.

My first ever driving experience was in an Alfa Romeo Berlina. It probably looked like this. Except this one is clean and shiny.

The experience was relatively short lived. My father's comments when I attempted reverse were memorable (no-one told me that you had to use the clutch for reverse as well as forward gears. This kind of thing is not obvious to everyone). It ended with demolition of the wooden gatepost at the entrance to the driveway. My mother shot out of the kitchen door at the speed of light and I abandoned the car in the hedge and that was that.

Later, much, much later, I started driving lessons, and my first car was a Sunbeam Stiletto. One of these:

(That isn't mine - for a start it isn't rusty, and for another it doesn't look as though it needs topping up with oil, water, air, brake fluid and clutch fluid before every trip. The petrol tank at least didn't leak. But then what do you expect for £141, even back in 1983?)

They are a poor man's Porsche - an over-exciteable rear engine sports-mobile. The tyre pressures say it all - 16psi  at the front, and 32psi at the rear. Go figure, as my Canadian friends are wont to say. Given the least excuse it would swap swap ends at any speed over about 30 miles an hour. Like red setter dogs, they have a desperate prediliction for ditches. In a strong wind they will do a vertical take-off and landing into the next lane without any warning. I learned ALL SORTS of things in that car... like how to enter roundabouts at speed, traverse them with the car sliding diagonally round, until, with a twitch of the steering wheel and a blip of the throttle the back end would flip round and I would accelerate out of my exit. If you are ever following one of these, give it plenty of road-room.

So it seemed entirely reasonable to let my son practice his driving in my 2 litre twinspark.Alfa 147. My husband was the co-pilot, and I managed not to be too much of a backseat driver (it IS my car, after all!) He did a jolly good job too - no gateposts were in any danger at any point in the whole trip.

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