Almost the last thing I did last night was watch a video on youtube. The thumbnail showed someone with bandages around his head, and a sling on his arm. The video promised to show a guy being sucked into a jet engine.
I was intrigued. How could you get sucked into a jet engine and end up with just relatively minor injuries? So I watched it.
In the video, a man on the flight deck of a US aircraft carrier attaches the front wheel of a navy jet fighter to a catapult. As he moves away, he straightens up too early, and enters the "suck zone" of the jet's intakes. What happens next happens very quickly. In an eyeblink, the man disappears into the engine. A sheet of flame pulses from the rear of the plane, and it's all over. Or would be if the video didn't then replay it in slow motion. I didn't watch any further.
If I had watched further, I might have been reassured. The guy somehow got caught in a narrow bit of intake. Some of his kit went through, which caused the flash of flame, and made the pilot kill the engine. He emerged almost unscathed from the intake a couple of minutes later. He had indeed suffered injuries to his head and arm.
Last night though, I didn't know this. I thought I'd just watched a particularly gruesome snuff movie. Every time I awoke (and I did awake several times, because I had today's test on my mind, and because Bren too kept waking up and moving around) I had these images on my mind. Empathy is not always a good thing.
So I am tired. I got up at 7am, had a strong cup of coffee, and tried to relax until it was time to go pick up my pupil, Elaine.
We drove to the test centre and spoke briefly together with the examiner. He asked Elaine to wait in the car, and he asked me a few questions about where she was up to, and what I planned to do, then we went out to the car to do the lesson.
I'd intended the lesson plan to be a collaboration between ensuring that certain issues from the previous lesson had been dealt with, and whatever Elaine felt she needed to deal with. As expected, Elaine wanted to do hill work. And off we went.
The first thing we came upon was a school. At just before 9am the road was absolutely stuffed with hazards. There was a lollipop man, a million and one parked cars (I used to walk half a mile to school - what is it with people these days?, bah, grumble) children, women with pushchairs. The works. We got through, carefully and on tippytoes. Then we were off. Elaine was driving OK, and we were able to relax and talk to each other.
I was being rather formal. Talking her through too much. We got into Birkenhead, and Elaine was struggling a little with roundabouts. Specifically the routine for moving from the middle of a roundabout to the outside when you're turning right. She wasn't using her left hand door mirror, relying instead on her interior mirror, which tells you next to nothing about what's going on to your left, just slightly behind you or alongside you.
Onward though. We had some slightly uphill traffic lights to deal with. Elaine approached at a good speed, got everything sorted out, balanced the car nicely on the clutch, and was away smoothly when the lights turned green.
"Well done" I said.
Having gone through the middle of Birkenhead's main shopping area, we now got to a traffic light controlled crossroads, with a filter light. This filter had just gone out, so we hung back until we had a safe gap. Elaine anticipated well, and once again moved away smoothly, choosing a good road position well to the left.
Next up was a bus lane. I pointed out the sign, and she correctly checked he right hand door mirror, found a safe gap, and moved over in plenty of time.
We turned left into an uphill side road, and I asked her to park on the left. Before moving away uphill, I asked her what she didn't want to happen when she moved off. Elaine answered correctly that she didn't want to roll back or stall.
We tried to move away, and rolled backwards instead. Oh no!!! I stopped her, and we tried again with a bit of prompting about the correct sequence of events, and once again, she moved away really nicely. In my mind's eye there was an uphill junction at the top of this road, but when we got there it was actually pretty flat. It was also pretty wide, but Elaine correctly positioned herself well to the left, and was creeping up to a point where she could see and make a decision about going.
Just at that moment, a lorry came up alongside us, completely blocking her view to the right. After a moment, the lorry started to move forward. Elaine wanted to go, but I stopped her. After the lorry had gone, we had a clear view to the right, and we emerged from the junction. We were now on Derby Road in Birkenhead. A notoriously challenging road because of it's combination of lots of parked cars, tight narrow road, and heavy traffic. We got through OK. It required a lot of changes in road position to negotiate the parked cars, and once again, Elaine wasn't really using her door mirrors to make sure it was safe to move before moving. I prompted her to do so, but that was all I did about it at the time. At the end was a downhill junction. I asked her about how to control the car on approach. She gave the correct answers, and we turned right up towards the top of Holt Hill. (once again, a van pulled up along side us, and I made her wait until we had a clear view to the right before emerging) Then a left, and back down a steep and twisty road back into Birkenhead. I got her to use a low gear, and to let the car roll down, just using engine braking to moderate the speed. I explained how doing this helps keep the car under control without making the brakes get hot, so that they're there for you if you need them.
We got down towards the docks and Twelve Quays, and I got us to turn off onto a quiet road. We parked up and I got my whiteboard out, and I went over the difference between crossing a lane of traffic, and joining a lane of traffic. We headed back over the bascule bridges on the docks, back towards the test centre. I'd meant to go via the Pool Inn junction, an uphill junction with a filter light - just putting it all together - but one of the bridges was up to let a tug through. Good thing too as we'd have been a bit late back otherwise.
While we waited I told Elaine that the lesson plan for the next lesson was definately going to be getting her to use her door mirrors more, and we went straight back to the test centre. We debriefed, then Elaine went and waited in the test centre, while the examiner gave me feedback and told me what grade he was giving me.
As ever, the examiner was pretty much spot on with his assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. He could see that Elaine didn't totally have the MSM routine sorted out, and felt I should have done more to analyse this and offer a solution. He liked the fact that I incorporated some elements of coaching - coaching is where instead of the instructor autocratically handing down lessons to the pupil,.the pupil themselves identifies their strengths and weaknesses, and the instructor addresses the issues the pupil raises.
There was some other stuff too, which I can't now remember, but he put a load of ticks in boxes, and wrote the number, 5, in the grade box. He thinks I have the potential to be a grade 6 instructor with a little more work. I agree with that too.
So I was a humble grade 4. Your common and garden bog standard instructor until today. Now I can leap short buildings in a single bound, if given a bit of a runup, and I'm more powerful than a speeding o-o guage locomotive.
I feel a lot more relaxed with this particular examiner after today, so hopefully, next time, things will be more fluid and relaxed. It's likely though, after getting this good a grade, that they won't ask me to do another check test for four years.
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