Monday, 28 February 2011

Bicycle diaries


I think about my education sometimes. I went to the University of Chicago for a while
after the Second World War. I was a student in the Department of Anthropology. At that time, they were teaching that there was absolutely no difference between anybody. They may be teaching that still.

Another thing they taught was that nobody was ridiculous or bad or disgusting. Shortly
before my father died, he said to me, 'You know-you never wrote a story with a villain in it.' I told him that was one of the things I learned in college after the war.


Kurt Vonnegut - Slaughterhouse 5






David Byrne doesn't have a bad word to say about anybody either. Not really. Rudolph Hess and Imelda Marcos both get a sympathetic hearing. That's not to say he doesn't have a point to make, but it's all the stronger for being subtle.

As you might expect, this thing has something to do with cycling. I don't know how far I've cycled in my life, but it certainly amounts to thousands of miles. This book/audiobook is something of an incentive to me to get out there and ride.

But really the cycling is just a vehicle, if you'll excuse the pun. David Byrne had something to say about sustainability, about social justice, about Art, about History. And about music.

I've always been a reader, but lately I've developed a taste for audiobooks. I "read" while I'm driving, or while I'm surfing the internet. Occasionally, I will still read a chapter of a real book last thing at night to help me drop off to sleep, but that tends to keep my wife awake, so unless I've gone to bed before her this doesn't happen often.

The life of Pi, The Handmaid's Tale, Slaughterhouse 5. All these and more have been absorbed through my ears while I've been doing other things.

I found out about the Bicycle Diaries because I'm on David Byrne's mailing list. I actually downloaded it several months ago, but it just sat in a zipped up folder on my laptop for a while until I got round to listenng to it. There are 11 chapters including a short introduction, that cover 10 cities. Get rid of the introduction, and you have 702 megabytes of audio data - Just enough to fit on a CD.


Because it's an audiobook, and because he's an arty chap, it's more than just the spoken word. Ambient background noises add weight to the words. Darkly, as when the ominous drone of jet engines forms a backdrop to a bit about living through the Cuban missile crisis as a child. Or humerously, with disjointed and quirky music when discussing a particularly avant garde Berlin artist who's "actions" sparked outrage and eventual arrest.

I found the background stuff in the Buenos Aires chapter to be particularly interesting. There's a lot of actual music in this one, and it's turned me on to things that I'd never heard before.

Specifically, Juana Molina's music jumped out and bit me. I want to hear more.

Here's one of her songs.



For more information, or to get hold of either the book or the audiobook, visit David Byrne's site, HERE.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Streetview Fail!

Exposed! They tried, but they failed!

Take a look for yourself.



This is the approach to Kingsway, the more modern of the two Mersey Tunnels.

First thing to note is that Google's camera car uses the bit reserved for motorbikes, and goes through the toll plaza without paying.

Cheeky buggers.

Then it enters the eastbound tube towards Liverpool, and straight away, it's struggling with the lower light levels. The picture quality quickly deteriorates, and at some point, the camera car appears to jump from the eastbound to the westbound tunnel. Then, the viewer is unceremoniously dumped without warning on the mean streets of Seacombe, without so much as a by-your-leave.

I tried again from other directions, using both tunnels. In each case streetview either jumped to the surface, or just stopped, as if it had hit a dead end.

I have a couple of theories for this.

My first theory is to do with the low light levels. Perhaps some software or human interpreter detected the poor image quality and decided that it was too poor quality to use.

Another theory is that the fact that it goes well below what Google believes to be the level of the land has triggered some kind of error.

Thirdly, Google's card have a complicated camera thing on a pole. I think it's more than just a camera. I think it also contains either GPS, so that it can relate each image precisely to a location. It may even be some kind of uplink. Rather than risk losing data, it is streamed to some remote location via satellite or mobile broadband uplink. Car enters tunnel. Satellite link is broken (satnavs don't work in the tunnel either, although mobile phones do) and the system can no longer function.

Edit:

I thought I'd found an explanation. But if so wouldn't it be consistent? I mean, if a tunnel is long and deep enough, Street View won't be able to deal with it right?

The Dartford Tunnel is covered by street view, though, and although it's shorter than either of the two Mersey tunnels, it's still long and deep enough (and dark enough) to be stymied by any of my explanations.

So why not the Mersey Tunnels?

Liverpool


As the crow flies, I live perhaps a mile or two from a bustling, cosmopolitan and vibrant city with a huge range of cultural activities. Being unable to fly like a crow, if I want to go over to Liverpool, I have to get across the river Mersey, which means either driving through a choice of tunnels, or getting one of the frequent trains (every 5 minutes from Birkenhead, every 15 minutes from New Brighton) Or if I wanted to really push the boat out, I could get a ferry, although they're geared up for taking tourists on expensive jaunts up and down the river, rather than taking commuters and shoppers from one side to the other these days.

Yet I rarely get over the water, and when I do it tends to be either on the way to somewhere else, or to give my step daughter a lift to work. Or to give Bren a lift with her stuff for an exhibition or craft fair.

Today though, I actually got off my arse and went over with Bren. First of all we had to pick up some of Brens work from an arts centre in Toxteth, but having done so, we walked a mile or so into the city centre, and went for a meal at "Egg", which bills itself as the city's premier vegetarian and vegan restaurant. I had tandoori mushrooms, which came with mint raita, pasta, salad, and couscous or chopped nuts or a mixture of the two. The world on my plate!

On the way back we went to a Chinese supermarket and bought a few bits and bobs. It was an interesting experience, that supermarket. There were the occasional incongrously familiar things, like jars of nescafe amidst the unfamiliar packages. We bought some bags of star anise, for their fragrance more than anything. Bren gets frequent migraines, and artificial perfumes are a major trigger. So having a magic tree dangling from my rear view mirror is out of the question.

I also found some cans of drink called "Grass Jelly drink". Just had to give that a go, so when I got home I cracked one open. First surprise was that it was not in the slightest bit fizzy, despite being in a can. Second surprise was that it tasted of... well, grass. The kind that cows eat, rather than the stuff you put in bongs. So it shouldn't have been that surprising when a big glob of jelly landed in my mouth. I won't be buying any more, but we will have fun giving the other cans to our friends.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

How fast is Google Street view?

What I mean by this is, when you allow the imagary to scroll, how long does it take to get from A to B? And if that A to B is a known distance, if I were to translate it into the real world, how fast would the camera car be travelling?

I get the feeling that this may be a way of callibrating how fast mt PC is, rather than how fast Street View is, but let's see what happens anyway...

Here's how it works.

1) Take a measured bit of road. (using the Google Earth line function thing is fine. I don't need to go out with a pedometer or ball of wool)

2) Travel along that bit of road in Street View, and time how long it takes to cover the measured section

3) Do a bit of simple arithmetic.

Well first of all, here's my road.



The Lever Causeway. Basically, a mile long tree lined straight. There have been some horrendous accidents there over the years.

From the beginning of the red rumble strip marking the beginning of a 30 mph zone on the right of the picture to where the centre line of the road on the south side interescts the causeway is exactly one quarter of a mile. This would take exactly 15 seconds to do at a speed of 60 miles per hour.

Here#s how the trip looks, on Street view:


as you can see, it takes one minute and eight seconds to cover that quarter of a mile.

So it would take 4 minutes and 32 seconds to do a mile. Let's call it 4 minutes 30.

9 minutes would cover 2 miles. So 90 minutes would cover 20 miles. 90 minutes is one and a half hours, so divide 20 by 3 and multiply by 2 to get the answer...

Google Street View, running through Google Earth, when viewed on my (dual core processor, dedicated graphics card) computer, runs at a speed of about 15 miles per hour.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Meet the new boss...

Tunisia. Egypt. Libya. Algeria. Bahrain.

A wave of unrest has swept the middle East! Entrenched dictators have toppled! Power to the people!

It is of course to be applauded. That vicious shits like Mubharrak have been forced to relinquish the rei(g)ns must be a good thing. Even Qaddhafi looks like he might be on his way out, after using heavy battle weapons against his own people.

But why do I feel that an opportunity has been missed? That they could have used the space they'd created to do things differently. Instead, power is being transferred from one elite to another, while the apparatus of the state remains essentially unchanged.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Check Test...

First thing in the morning, I have a check test.

Every few years, us instructors have to give a driving lesson with an examiner sat in the back, to make sure we're still up to the job.

Instructors are graded from 1 to 6. Grade 6 is the highest. Grades 1,2 or 3 are not good enough, and if you fail to make at least grade 4 three times, they take your name off the register.

My first one was about 4 years ago, just a few months after I'd become fully qualified. I got a grade 5. Lots of 6's on the checklist, but just short of an overall 6 grade.

I know I'll do OK tomorrow. A grade 6 would be nice. A 5 is fine. I'll be disappointed with a 4, and unless something very strange happens, I'm not going to get less than that.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Update:

I got a disappointing grade 4. It's a pass, and I can carry on doing my job for the next few years, but I didn't really do myself justice today. Not good at tests, me. I crap myself every time.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Further update:

My first check test occurred a few scant months after becoming fully qualified.

Being unsure of myself, I sought advice from the person that trained me to be an instructor. I was nervouse going into it, and put a lot of work into what I wanted to do. Then, at the last moment, all my carefully prepared lesson plans were scuppered because I got a phone call informing me that I would have to do the check test from a different test centre.

So I had to extemporise, and things were very natural, because that's generally what I do in a typical lesson anyway.

This time around things were different. I was pretty certain that I wasn't going to fail, and a top grade is mainly a selling point - since I'm paying some guy to give me the work, the grade is as much a matter of pride as anything.

So I was surprised to find that last night, my head was full of it all. When I finally got to sleep, I dreamed I had to do the test by teaching someone I know who I find difficult to deal with. (There was a pun of sorts in there too. This particular pain in the bum person was busy doing anything but what I needed her to be doing with a former pupil that shares the same first name as the girl I actually did the lesson with.)

And today, I was indeed nervous.

Sometimes I get a pupil that can deal with (for example) roundabouts, but one particular roundabout causes them no end of grief. The roundabout is just a series of hazards to be negotiated, just like any other bit of road, but my pupil, for whatever reason, associates that particular situation with fear.

So when confronted with it, they are less comfortable with it than they would be with an identical situation without the same associations.

There's a sort of interactive triangle going on. The labels in the boxes on each corner reading, PHYSICAL, INTELLECTUAL, and EMOTIONAL. Weaken one, and the entire triangle totters. Strengthen one and the entire triangle becomes sturdier.

In my case, the guy sitting in the back was the same person that I had to face for my final qualifying exam. I was far more conscious of his presence than I was a different examiner on my first check test. It's not his fault in any way, and the points he made during the debrief at the end of the test were absolutely correct.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Every place I've ever lived

I was born in a crossfire hurricane.

OK. I wasn't really. I was born in Clatterbridge Hospital, in/on Wirral.

My Mum was 20 years old, and my dad was 28. They'd just got married a couple of weeks earlier and were just starting out, living in various private rented places.

So for the first six months of my life, I lived on the top floors of a building in a rundown part of Birkenhead called Rock Ferry.

Here's what my Mum has to say about it:

Although you were born at Clatterbridge hospital we were living at 16 Queens Road. Rock Ferry. What a depressing hole. we had the top floors although only the first of those was habital. We must have been really thick as we were probably entitled to help as your dad earned £11 a week and the rent was £5.50 in new money. luckily we were only there 6 months. Good job you were a great baby and hardly cried as it was a very depressing time. I am sure you know that the saying ' money isn't everything is said by people who have never been without x

It's hard to make out exactlu where the building is situated. There are some newish houses on the even numbered side, so it may not exist any more. Here is my best guess.


From there we went to Neston, about ten miles away, and close to my maternal grandparents. We lodged in a house that was owned by a Mrs Pritchard. 6 Chester Road. Being a babe in arms, I remember absolutely nothing of my time there. The house was demolished about 20 or 30 years ago, and the space it occupied has remained undeveloped ever since.


It stood smack bang in front of where the advertising hoarding now stands. I don't know exactly how long we lived there, but I think from there we moved a couple of miles south to a village called Ness.

Street View doesn't cover the little cul-de-sac where we lived. The picture is as close as I can get.


We were somewhere over on the right I think. This little close was built around a small circular green. I have the vaguest wispiest memory of a parrot in a cage, out in the sunshine. I'm told it bit me when I stuck my finger through the bars of it's cage. It may be that the memory is not real, but stems instead from being told about it on a few occasions. Also, I'm sure my mum and dad would have made friends there, and would have returned there with me once we'd moved on.

What I can definately recall as my earliest memories stem from my time living back in Neston, in 20 Hawkins Road, almost opposite my Nana and Grandad's house.



The back garden was a mess, and as I played, I somehow managed to stand on a furniture tack in my bare feet. I was carried in by my Dad, and sat on the edge of the kitchen sink while he pulled it out. Slightly clearer in my mind is the terror of being alone in my bedroom (the small upstairs front window in the picture) while somewhere, a car horn was sounded repeatedly. As I had no idea what this was, those disembodied beeps terrified me. And on another occasion, the headlights of a car must have swept across my window. A light appeared out of one wall, rushed across the room, and vanished through the opposite wall. This was accompanied by a brief noise. To my infant senses, this too was inexplicable and monstrous. I think my parents had put a lock on the outside of my door. Presumably I was insecure, and wanted to spend the nights with them, while they thought otherwise. I screamed and cried at that door for what seemed like hours before someone came and let me out.

My Dad was by now working at a car factory in Ellesmere Port. My Mum was working part time doing bar work. They took the plunge, got a mortgage, and bought their own house. It was a new build in a little village called New Brighton, near Mold, in North Wales. It cost them £6,500. I was four and a half years old. It was 1972.


63 Moor Croft. It backed onto a slagheap and a big field. There were woodlands over the fields. I made friends, pretended to be a mountain climber, played marbles and hopscotch, went to school, first infant, then primary, learned to swim, played with matches, and went to the village shop for my mum.

Then, five years later, my Nan fell ill, and we sold up and went back to Neston so that we could be near. She died of stomach cancer soon afterwards. She was only 59.

We now lived on a small loop of housing estate called The Quillet.


Number 22, on a corner. We had a big wide front garden. Our back garden was a long triangle. We had a secret passage through to the side garden. We had a black rabbit called Sooty. We had heavy snow and threw snowballs. I had a new school, and found new friends. I played monopoly and did handstands. I tried to abseil down a 5 foot high cliff in the disused railway cutting nearby. I left primary school, and became the smallest fish in a much bigger comprehensive pond. And I hit puberty.

We stayed at The Quillet for seven or eight years I think. Then we moved again.


Not far though. Just a couple of miles down the road to Little Neston, and a newly built bungalow right down on the Dee marshes.

And my Mum and Dad live there to this day. The tree you can see behind the house was planted as a sapling from an acorn my cousin Heidi germinated. The house is called "Heidi's Oak"


The green car on the drive now belongs to my wife.

We moved there when I was about 17 or 18. I didn't spead my wings until I was about 25. By this time, I was working as a postman. I was in a bit of a mess at the time, and moved out because I wanted to change things.


Bedsit land. Four walls. a bed with a crappy thin foam mattress. Shared Kitchen and Toilet. Alcoholic bloke upstairs who would leave the cooker on and set the smoke alarm off. Pot-head son of landlord downstairs. I got on well with him actually :) As you can see, the house was right next to a large expanse of wildness - the Dee Marshes. A big esturine salt marsh that is theoretically tidal, but which only floods in the highest tides of the year. A hundred years ago, this was navigable. First the silt, and then the marram grass, made it what it is today.

Moving out was certainly a change in many ways, but not necessarily for the good. This was really not a good time in my life. I was a pretty strange and messed up person at the time.

Six months after leaving home, I moved back. But it wasn't ever going to be for long. I wasn't getting on with my Dad, which then caused arguments between him and my Mum. Plus, I'd made the break. It wasn't the same going back.

This time, I was unemployed, so I was limited to what the social would pay. And so once again, flats and bedsits beckoned. This time I lived at 15 Haydock Road, Wallasey, down by the banks of the Mersey. About 20 miles from my Mum and Dad's.


I might have moved quite a lot, but I haven't really gone very far. I stayed in my one little room for a few months, then I upped sticks yet again, this time about 100 yards down the road to a pokey little attic flat on the corner of Magazine Brow


See the top two dormer windows to the left? Well that was my flat. Carrying bottles of calor gas up those stairs wasn't fun. The water you can see in the background is the River Mersey. Once again, it was nice to have open space nearby.

My twenties were drawing to a close, and I'd passed most of them in a chaotic fug of alcohol and cannabis. A lot of it was spent alone. By choice. But now, I was moving again, and this time, it was with a friend. Paul, also enjoyed a smoke or three. We had a lot in common, and so we decided to get a house together. In Craven Street, in the middle of Birkenhead.


We decorated, had wild parties, got a pet cat, and a pet dog, spent our dole money on weed, and gradually came to dislike each other from spending too much time together. In the end we blew apart quite explosively, and I moved up the road to a flat near Birkenhead upper park. I got the cat. Paul got the dog.


Once again, I had some open space nearby. Directly behind the house was the upper, slightly less manicured part of Birkenhead Park. One day there was a balloon festival from there. And one of our fence panels was down, so I was able to jump out of bed and walk straight into the middle of it. I was 29 years old, and was working at last, as the manager of a charity shop.

But the shop failed to thrive and I found that it was difficult to find another job because of the amount of rent I would have to find. So I put my name on the council house waiting list, and I was happy to take whatever they offered.

This turned out to be a one bedroomed flat in Moreton, Wirral.


You can just see it behind the trees. It wasn't the nicest part of the world. The local arseholes welcomed me by smashing all my windows.

It was also the place where I finally started to dig myself out of a hole. And eventually, I met Bren, and then moved in with her, and then married her.


And I've been here for I suppose 9 years now. Literally yards from the bedsit I was living in 15 years ago. This is the longest time I've ever spent in one place, and we're likely to stay here for a while yet, although I would never rule out another move, for a whole range of possible reasons.

So there you have it. 14 places in 43 years. An average of three years in any one place. If you were to travel from one to the next, your journey would take you just a smidgen under 50 miles, at least as the crow flies, and I've ended up less than 5 miles from where I started.

This is what my life path looks like.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Google Earth used in anger!

On Saturday, one of my pupils failed his driving test.

In this instance, he needed to pass quickly because he works antisocial hours in a little village well off the public transport routes. He was not happy about it, and his anger has continued since. He felt the serious fault he was given was harsh, and wanted my advice about whether to appeal the decision.

But I wasn't sat in the back on the test, so it was hard for me to say whether his driving had been fairly marked or not.

So there I am on the phone, with the computer in front of me, while John, the guy wot failed was sat in front of another computer 10 miles away.

I found the junction and so did he, and we were able to work out precisely what had happened.


As you can see, it was a one way street. What John did was move over to the left. This turned the junction from a crossroads into a staggered junction, so he signalled right and then left when he should have positioned himself directly towards the road he wanted to go in to.

So the examiner was correct, and John now realises his mistake.

It was interesting to use the technology in this way, to clarify a situation without actually having to visit the scene.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Manual dexterity

I am not a practical person. I could no more get a job as a handyman than I could get a job as a wet nurse.

Still, it's nice to get off my arse and try stuff from time to time.

This particular experiment started at Wilkinsons. We went to buy hair dye, but I stubled upon the dylon, and, nostalgic for the wall hangings of my youth, I bought 3 packets of dye. Bright yellow, Flamingo pink, and Ocean blue.

Bren supplied an old cotton sheet and after some deliberation, I turned it into six 2 foot square pieces of fabric. I then did various things, and ended up with 6 pieces of tie dyed fabric. This actually worked reasonably well.

After more thought and discussion, I got Bren to sew them together, but the resultant tube was huge and unweildy. So she was sent back to her sewing machine to make it into a smaller tube, using just 4 of the panels.

Then it was time to show my ineptness at woodwork. I made some appropriately sized triangels of bamboo, and also got some hazel poles of the right length.

A thick wire was threaded throught the top and bottom of the tube, and the elements were brought together.

the resultant structure was extremely unstable. The slippy bamboo poles wanted to slip and twist, and the twine used to bind the things was crap. I finally got it to resemble a lamp sufficiently to try putting a light inside.

then, disaster struck! The flimsy structure twisted! The jute ties loosened! And our hours of work we all for nought!

The simple act of making a simple lamp, with shade had resulted in tears, a house turned upside down, and it still wasn't fit for purpose.

Further angst resulted when, in a fit of pique, I gently kicked the fallen, twisted thing, and one of our bamboo triangles, that Bren had struggled manfully with for a long time, became unattatched from itself. She complained that it was unfair, and she was right.

But the bamboo was the problem. I needed to make something of a fresh start.

I made new triangles by sawing more of the hazel poles, and these were far less slippery. Still the whole structure was constantly attempting to twist.

So in the end I deliberately twisted it. The top was rotated 180 degrees, so that the poles came together half way up the structure. these were lashed together firmly and the fabric tube was lowered over the structure.

So now I had a frame consisting of two triangle, one in direct opposition to the other, about 4 feet apart. The result was twisted but stable.

Stable enough to place lights inside and take some pictures.







But it is a work in progress. I want to untwist it, and make it stable by adding a third lateral triangle about half way up.

But not tonight.

Monday, 7 February 2011

It started here...


Here, in this unassuming little end terrace.

Me and Dave dropped a tab each, and went out for a walk. Twenty minutes later, and still firmly connected to planet Earth, we arrived here,


This little pub, right down on the Dee marshes was and is stripped down to the basics. It's too small to be anything but a place to drink, so there's no jukebox. No television. No fruit machine. Just tables and benches and a bar, and in the winter, a roaring fire. But this was summer, and we bought ourselves a pint of lager each.

Now I'm not the sort of person that can let a drink go unfinished. Not unless I fall asleep, but now, I was starting to feel the first gentle inklings that the little piece of paper I'd swallowed was going to do something. We left our drinks and walked back into town.

By the time we'd reached the town centre, I was feeling very strange indeed. It wasn't a particularly nice feeling. I was a bit paranoid. A bit confused. But I couldn't stop grinning. I felt like it must be obvious to everyone around that I was as high as a kite. Like there was a big red flashing arrow in the sky above my head shouting "HE'S HERE!!! HE'S TRIPPING!!!"

But then we got back to Dave's and shut the front door, and I was able to relax.



The precise order of events is somewhat unclear. What is clear is that this was a powerful hit. I remember listening to the Psychedelic Furs, "Sister Europe" and the phase effects in the song took me with them to some place far above the earth.


My eyes were closed, yet I could see an image in my mind that was as white as snow. Then the whiteness got sucked through my eyeballs to leave blackness, which in turn sucked through to leave the white again.

There was a clock on the wall. Black hands and black roman numerals with a plain white face and a round pale wooden surround. But now the white was icing, and the hands and numerals were blurring and sinking into it. The patterns in the carpet were writhing and coiling slowly past each other, and when we moved, we left vague image trails behind us, like a Harold Egerton strobe photograph made real.

I found myself incapable of working out what to do with a guitar, and quickly gave it up as a bad job. And I laughed constantly and loudly at the whole universe for what may have been anything between 10 minutes and 10,000 years.

Somewhere in all this, I had to go to the toilet. I crawled up the stairs, and had the most amazing poo of my life. Seriously, words cannot describe the sensation of moving your bowels while you're tripping your tits off.

And somewhere in all this, the phone rang. I was in the back room, laughing my head off, and the phone rang.

Somehow I knew the call was for me, and that it was bad news. Dave answered it, and then called me to the phone.

It was my sister, Kate. My Mum and Dad had been in a car crash. Could I go down and see them and make sure they're ok?

A minute earlier, I was somewhere beyond Saturn. Now I was 100% in the here and now. I promised that I would go down and see them a bit later, but that I couldn't go right at this moment. Turns out that they got sideswiped by someone changing lanes without looking. A bit shook up but otherwise uninjured. But keeping things together while I dealt with the call was not a problem. Somehow the drug just hit the pause button until I hung up. Then I was tripping again.

We watched Copeulation, a compilation of videos by Julian Cope. In the song, "Laughing Boy", the sky was doing exactly what the sky outside our window was doing.



We watched it again a few days later, when we were straight, and the sky in the video was still doing what the real sky was doing when we were tripping. Honestly, you'd think Julian Cope had taken acid or something.

What else is there to say? At some point, things peaked. Then there was a sort of plateau phase that went on for several hours. Then gradually, things became less intense, and perhaps 8 hours after we took the tabs, I was able to go down to see my folks and make sure they were ok.

It wasn't a comfortable visit. I'd also smoked a lot of pot while I was tripping, and I couldn't find much to say. We watched a wildlife programme on the telly. (big African skies doing a little of the same weird shimmering that I'd been seeing all afternoon, and then I made my excuses and headed back to Daves.

Some time around 3pm I went to bed, and surprisingly, slept pretty much straight away.

I've never ever done it again (I tried to once, but the tab I bought from some shady shit called John turned out to be a small square piece of carboard with a picture of a strawberry on it.

Friday, 4 February 2011

curates egg

Been drinking too much, but I've not had a fag for 2 months.

I sometimes get it wrong too.

I try stuff. And not everything I try works.

Usually, this doesn't matter too much. I try something else instead.

Yesterday evening though, things came together to make for one of the worse lessons I've even given.

It had actually been quite a good day. I had an early test, so I was up at half past six. My pupil passed. Another happy customer.

I should then have taught someone who I shall call Jan.

Jan has had some lovely lessons with me, but she's also struggled with nerves at times. She should have had her driving test today, but I felt she would be better off postponing it by a couple of weeks.

Jan had texted me earlier to put her lesson back to the evening instead, so I had a free couple of hours, then another driving test.

My pupil for this test also passed. 2 passes in one day is good going by any instructors standards.

Anyway, then I had the rearranged lesson with Jan, starting at about 5pm.

I had a vague idea that I wanted to get her driving outside her normal area, to see how well she would adapt. Unfortunately, getting her to drive outside her normal area, at rush hour, in the dark, was far more than she could deal with, and all I managed to do was to destroy her confidence.

Normally, at this point, I'd change things. Get her back in more familiar surroundings for a start. But I made more wrong decisions, and we ended up driving back along some pitch black country lanes.

Why? Well mainly it was because I was tired. I'd been up since 6.30 the previous day too, and I just wasn't thinking as well or as clearly as I usually do. Partly because we'd ended up in an area where I wasn't as accustomed to teaching. I know all the roads where we ended up, but not as naturally or as fluently as the roads around Wallasey. And sometimes the delay in working out a better way meant that we'd gone past the places where we could have gone a better way.

We got back, and I explained to Jan that the reason she'd had a bad lesson was because of the decisions I'd made, but that's going to be small comfort to her right now.