Archive for the ‘Diary’ Category

Driving Lesson #5

Friday, August 8th, 2008

My tenth hour of driving lessons is over, and I am pleased with my progress. It takes a surprising amount out of you driving around, it is possible that because I am quite tense while driving I am making it worse for myself, I am relaxing more. My steering has improved and I am more or less getting everything done. That is not to say that I am not making mistakes – I am making a lot of mistakes – but that is okay mistakes are part of the process.

Today I drove from part of Hove (not quite sure which part) over to Woodingdean, we did some loops in both places to get use to using junctions before heading home via the A259 again. I am still struggling with “panic” when something doesn’t go right, my mind went blank a couple of times when I was coming up to a junction. Kev went through the Mirror-Signal-Manoeuvre-Position-Speed-Look procedure again which is a really good procedure for any hazard including junctions (yes, i do feel that anything that isn’t a straight road is a hazard)

The procedure makes much more sense in a car than on paper, however this is my attempt at getting it down:

Mirror – check internal and the mirror on the side you are turning to
Signal – let the people around you know what you are doing with your indicators
Manoeuvre – make the move, this is split down in the three more steps
Position – Move the vehicle into a position to complete the manoeuvre in plenty of time
Speed – check your speed you should be moving at below 10mph and thus be in first gear
Look – look to make sure it safe

Again this is my own inexperienced understanding of what I have been taught, it is not meant to be instructional if you disagree please do post a comment (giving reasons rather than random abuse would be appreciated).

I am still enjoying it, I was particuarly pleased that Kev was happy to let me drive from Hove to Peacehaven. We are moving on to making turns in the road. I shall post back next week when I have had my next lesson.

Driving Lesson #4

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Spent some more time driving round Woodingdean, Kev went through who has priority in which situations. For example if an obstruction is on your side of the road then the oncoming traffic has priority, the situation can obviously be reversed if the obstruction is on the other side of the road the you have priority.

I have been drawing out some of the diagrams from Kev’s folder of pictures, to save anyone else the trouble I have included the source files here for anyone to play with all licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Licence.

I suggest that you use Inkscape to edit the following Scalable Vector Graphic file, first and foremost it is Open Source and thus freely available and two the images were created in Inkscape in the first place.

Cars and Road – Scalable Vector Graphic

If you come up with some derivations of this image please feel free to comment on this post with your version and I will be happy to provide a link back to your work.

Anyway, back to the lesson we spent about an hour and twenty minutes in Woodingdean I came across a couple of funny situations and stalled right in front of a Brighton & Hove Bus Company bus which was threw me somewhat, so much so that I couldn’t start the car again. I did it eventually thanks to some gentle coaching from Kev. Got followed for a few hundred meters by the police who seemed to find the snail on the top of the car and the fact I was going at sub 20mph quite amusing.

I also spectacularly managed to plough into the kerb which sounds awful (the noise it makes that is), it seems however that even practised drives have problems when parking though – Felicia Day of Dr. Horrible and The Guild fame managed to kill a tire backing into a parking space, not entirely sure why but that made me feel much better.

To end the lesson Kev had a little treat for me, he guided me through out of Woodingdean, Rottingdean, onto the A259, Past Saltdean and into Peacehaven. I think I was gripping the steering wheel quite hard, although I think I was so concerned about getting something wrong and ending up bouncing off the kerb or oncoming traffic that I got through it without any major trauma.

Of course after going at 30mph for a bit, I totally lost the ability to drive round Peacehaven at 20mph, I suppose adapting to different speeds comes with time. I hope so!

So in summary, all going well – I really enjoyed today and got a tremendous sense of satisfaction driving home. Thanks Kev 🙂

Electrical Storm

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Peacehaven saw a much anticipated thunderstorm last night, I say much antcipated as it has felt very close and muggy all day. It was actually the most impressive storm I have seen whilst living on the south coast, for some reason we don’t get very many over the land on the coast.

It started off with just flashes of lightning and claps of thunder moving closer and closer, then came the rain, when I say rain I mean a torrent of water coming from the sky so much so that gutters and drains were overwhelmed making it all the more impressive. During this time I needed to get from a front door of a friend’s house to a car and the four of us, plus the other people going to other cars got soaked in the few seconds we were out in the rain.

Once in the car it started to rain more, I am glad I am not driving yet because I honestly wouldn’t be happy driving in that amount of rain with the experience I have at the moment, again a reason we are not let loose on the road quickly. A few minutes later the hail started, this was not just normal pea sized hail this was marble sized hail stones, I got a few pictures. It was one of those days in the year that I really wish I had a camera that I could take more control over the picture, manual focus would be a great start. Also being able to set cameras on tripods and then set it up to take time delays of lightening. Would be very very cool.

The hail and the heavy rain did not last very long, by the time we had travelled the half mile home it was little more than drizzle. The thunder and lightning lasted well into the night, Catherine and I fell asleep with the lightening flickering in the distance.

Update, elsewhere on the net, High Quality (?) Coverage from The Argus.

Driving Lesson #3

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Third driving lesson went really well, Kev taught me about hill starts specifically if you are going up the hill I need a little more gas than and keep the clutch just above the biting point when on the flat. When going down the hill the clutch can be fully depressed and thus the accelerator isn’t needed, you can basically just roll down the hill – must remember to bringing the clutch up once I am moving as engine braking is actually quite substantial.

I was taught to take some left and right turns on the roads round Woodingdean, which gave me a bit more of a challenge over the flat straight roads in Patcham. I stalled quite a few times as I got the pedal order when braking wrong, although I am improving – still haven’t quite decoupled my feet yet to use them totally independently.

I am pleased I am enjoying it more than I expected.

Driving Lesson #2

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

So today went well, I am starting the cement the moving off procedure in my head now and I got a bit more comfortable breaking (which is always good when moving at anything above stopped). I edited the previous post with corrections from the previous day. Most notably I forgot about checking the position of the mirrors before putting my seat belt on and the hand brake should be the second thing to check after getting in the car.

So on to stopping! The technique it seems is to be able to decouple your feet from each other, I don’t think I do anything else that requires me to use my feet independently so it is a little difficult. The exact procedure from memory goes as follows:

  • Take your foot off the accelerator, this seems fairly obvious but is quite important really.
  • Squeeze the foot brake very gently, this may not even be necessary if you are on an inclining hill as gravity may well counteract the drive provided by the clutch.
  • Steer into where you want to park, by turning the steering wheel to the left
  • Once the front of the car is in position, steer the back in by turning the steering wheel in the opposite direction – straightening up the vehicle to the kerb.
  • Finally straighten the front wheels by returning steering wheel to the “12 o’clock” position.
  • Push the clutch right down to the floor (this is where I tend to press the foot brake down to the floor too).
  • Push the foot brake more so that you come to a total stop, again this may not be required depending on the inclination or of the hill, the reverse is true too, more brake may be required if you are going down hill.
  • Put the hand brake on.
  • Return the gear stick to neutral.

As I said I have been having some problems decoupling my feet, I seem to be getting there though. All in all a very positive lesson.

Driving Lesson #1

Monday, August 4th, 2008

I had my first driving lesson today with Kevin Tant, started off a little nervous however I got more relaxed as the lesson continued. I am going to try and write down what I learnt here to help me remember for the next lesson – please do not take this as official or instructional (in fact it may well be TOTALLY WRONG!) if you are learning to drive there are lots of excellent resources on Amazon and I honestly can’t stress how important it has to have an Approved Driving Instructor.

I suppose this post is inspired to an extent by several other learner drivers such as Sean Moore who have very kindly been sharing their experiences with the world.

First I had to check the doors, driver’s side was easy enough as you can see that it is flush with the side of the car, the passenger side can be done the same, then checked the hand brake was secure by pulling it up. Adjusted the seat, and in theory adjusted the steering wheel (if it was adjustable, which it wasn’t). Next task was to adjust mirrors, and then finally fastened my seat belt (and checked anyone under 14).

So that makes the cockpit drill – doors, hand brake, seat, steering wheel, mirrors, and seat belt (DHSSMS).

Next thing we went through was actually starting the car and moving (or ‘Moving Off’). With the handbrake on I started the engine, changed to first gear by pressing the clutch down to the floor and moving the gear stick into the first gear position. From there I was taught to find the biting point with the clutch pedal (that is where the clutch plate just meets the flywheel – to the point where some of the rotational drive is transferred from the flywheel to the clutch plate and thus through the transmission, driveshaft, differential and eventually the wheels). To actually move off I lightly pressed the accelerator (or ‘gas’ – grr Americanism – easier to say though) and brought the clutch up to the biting point. This is the point we checked the mirrors (internal, right door and left door) and blind spot before releasing the hand break. All of this got the car moving forwards, at which point the clutch could be released.

Just to point out that my instructor had explained stopping in advance of moving off! I was struggling to the foot work right and it was nearing the end of the lesson so I don’t really remember the sequence.

Once of the things that I found hardest was concentrating on what I was doing in the car (feet, hands, dials and so on) and managing to steer in the right direction and pay attention to the road, this is why we are not allowed behind the wheel of a car without ample instruction.

Center Parcs – Longleat Forrest

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

Myself and my wife visited Center Parcs in Longleat Forest at the end of July 2008 for a mid-week break. I thought that I would do a quick write up to help refresh my memory in the future and maybe answer a couple of questions that other people may have.

I could give a blow-by-blow account of everything that happened on the day, but I think that could be a little tiresome so essentially what I am going to do is give a quick overview of the break (Monday – Friday) and then go into a little more detail on the parts of the break that stood out for me. I have included images where appropriate, I took about 60 shots of which 45 were worth keeping, if you are interested in seeing the rest of the shots mail me and I will send you a link to my gallery on Facebook.

Strangely Worded Guide

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

Catherine and I went to Center Parcs in the week just gone, having not been for a number of years we looked through the “Guest Information” pack which contained a couple of rather interestingly worded paragraphs.

Don't Sleep In The Bolier Room

Don't Sleep In The Bolier Room

I am facinated to know what events in the past have prompted Center Parcs UK to add this in the guest information.

Open Fires

Open Fires

I think perhaps it would be good to note that there was not fireplace in our accommodation, so does this mean that if we bought a slow burning log we could burn it in the middle of the room? I thinks perhaps we will give that a miss.

Driving

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

I have had my Provisional driving licence for some time now, however I have done little or nothing about it since the idea of driving doesn’t exactly fill me with joy. I don’t know why that is but never the less I don’t particularly want to spend the time and money on learning to drive.

That said, it would make sense now Catherine and I are living in Peacehaven to be able to drive, it would also open up more job opportunities for me as I would be able to travel further than the bus can carry me, as well as being able to drive company cars and the such.

Well as it turns out I booked my theory test, so I have a little over a month to learn everything I can about the theory test and driving in general, then after Catherine and I get back from holiday I can start on lessons with my good friend Kev!

Fun Stuff!

Rescueing Kittens

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

I did something today that I have never done, that is rescue a kitten (maybe it was a young cat) from a tree.  Initially I was going to leave it, as it is going to have to learn how to get down somehow, then it tried to get down forward and ended up clinging on to the tree. It was quite happy for me to coax it down as I stood below till I could reach down and lift it from the trunk.

Chances are the same kitten will be up another tree in the next few days, maybe its experience today will have taught it a better way to get down in the future, or perhaps just to meow until a kindly stranger comes to the rescue.

Did make me think about how we learn by trying things and making mistakes, I know it has been said over and over again about children being wrapped up in bubble wrap dosn’t help them develop good judgement. I do wonder if we protect our children and indeed ourselves too much by not taking risks when perhaps the reward is only to learn not to take the same risk again.

I am not advocating being reckless or careless in our decisions, just perhaps taking a risk once in a while when we don’t know for sure and, perhaps more importantly, we can’t practicably find out by other means.