A few months ago I wrote about getting ready to take the “practical” driving test for my British driver's license, and I'm happy to say that I passed! Despite the assurances of various friends (who apparently believe they have powers of prognostication) that I was going to pass with flying colors, I had no illusions about it being a simple task. The road test is serious business, here, and the examiners are known to be strict. I just had to do my best and hope that I wasn't clumsy on the day.
I won't bore you with the whole re-telling; suffice to say I passed even though I did one thing which the examiner said would normally have been an instant fail. I should note that I still don't really have a clear idea of what I did wrong, though he did tell me. “But the rest of your drive was absolutely perfect,” he said, “and I believe one must be sensible about such things, since you are clearly a good driver.” When my driving instructor saw him filling in the form as she walked up to the car she said with delight, “It's the BLUE form! The blue form means good news!” Smiling, the examiner told her about my near-fail but added, “Deb was almost perfect – it was very nearly the 'Holy Grail' of driving tests.” So close!
But in the end I don't care about being perfect, I just care about getting that coveted UK driver's license (though I cannot resist telling you that my instructor said I was her best test-result ever), and now I have it in my hot little hands at last. I will love it and hug it and I will call it Freedom.
When I returned, triumphant, my husband and I immediately headed out into that bright and happy day to get up into the high fresh air and enjoy the beauty, and to have a celebratory lunch in the village. That's our village waaaaay down there between the hill and the sea.
Since then we have done practical things like grocery shopping and taking the cat to the vet without having to ask anyone for transport. It is lovely to have the ability to decide to do something and then simply lock up and go.
The fact that I'm the driver now means that I am no longer the photographer, at least not on the road. I do already miss being able to take in the landscape, since I now have to concentrate on what's happening around me rather than simply staring happily out the window. Sem will have to practice his photography-on-the-fly skills!
Fortunately, some of the roads we take are quiet enough that we can simply stop, take photos, and then continue on, like when we ran into this 'stag party' on the way home from a wander up north last week.
Besides the practicalities of everyday life being easier with our own wheels, it's been good to just get out together. For various reasons my husband hasn't been able to get out as much as he used to (to the point where someone asked me a while back, “Have you buried Sem under the patio? I haven't seen him in ages!”), and this new freedom is already making his daily life that much nicer. I enjoy going places with him and listening to his running commentary about the history, both general and personal, as we drive through countryside which he knows and loves so well.
This, most of all, is why that little laminated card is so important to me. It's great that we don't have to ask anyone for rides anymore, or deal with the unbelievably time-consuming train journeys to get from one place to another, which was the original catalyst for this entire undertaking. Really, though, the reason why I wanted so much to pass my test on the first try was because I wanted to be able to get us out there into the sunshine, to all the places we no longer can walk to together, and to the many places Sem hasn't yet been able to show me. We can do that, now.
I've never felt strongly one way or the other about driving. Back in the States it was just one of those things we all did, a necessity because so few things were easily accessible by walking or taking public transportation. Here, though, it will change our lives immeasurably in ways both big and small. The funny thing about life is that sometimes the “small” things are those which are actually of the greatest significance. Because if push came to shove, we could still get by without a car. Inconvenient perhaps, but not impossible. But getting out there on the open road together to places both near and far is priceless, specifically because it's not something we could do before. I have spent a lot of time doing things “solo” over the past few years, and that has all changed with one successful 40-minute drive on a sunny April morning. To be perfectly honest I would have been devastated if I had failed the test. It would have been months before I could have gotten another test date, so passing on the first try was huge, for me, for more reasons than I have room to list. I'm not bad with words but I have none adequate to explain how vastly this changes both of our lives, in every good way.
Plus, I will never again have to walk the half-mile down to the village (and back!) in the pouring rain just because we ran out of milk. It rains a lot in the Highlands, so this whole driving lark was pretty much worth the effort for that alone!