Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Instructor training - the big idea

This post starts about 12 or 13 years ago.

I was doing agency work in various shops and factories, and getting heartily fed up with it all.

I've always enjoyed driving, and thought of myself, as I suppose most people do, as being a good driver. At the time, the jobs pages in the local free press were full of adverts.

"Become a Driving Instructor! Be your own boss! Earn a zillion quid a year for sitting on your arse!"

So I made enquiries, and ended up going to a building in Birkenhead where they took me out for a test drive, and had a brief Q and A session with me and a few other people. then we talked about money. For about £2500 they would train me. I was enthusiastic. I went home, full of excited determination. I was going to do this!

Not so fast, Bren advised. You don't know if this is a good deal or not. Shop around, and make a few more enquiries before you commit yourself (and a huge wad of our cash)

To cut a long story short, I ended up speaking to a guy in Lancashire, Neville, who I instantly got on well with.

He didn't have a building. He just operated out of a car park in a macdonalds on a quiet industrial estate. No classroom. No big shiny adverts in the press. And no money up front. Just turn up. Do a few sessions and if you like it, take it from there.

So I went, one sunny sunday. It was about 30 miles away, and a bit daunting, not really knowing what to expect.

There were perhaps ten people there. One was Neville. Another was a fully qualified instructor. The rest were all trainees at various stages of development. It was all roleplay, and the focus was almost entirely on the teaching aspect. Neville organised things but it wasn't that hierarchical. Everyone was just bouncing off each other. Trying stuff. The other fully qualified guy would play the role of pupil, while a trainee tried to get him to learn, and in the back would be 2 or 3 other trainees watching what was going on, and commenting and questioning. Sometimes Neville would be involved, either teaching or in the role of pupil, but mainly he just organised everyone else. Person A, go with Person B and do X. And persons C, D and E can you sit in and watch? People who had passed their advanced driving test would teach those working towards it. People who had become fully qualified would come and be a part of things. Trainee instructors working on a trainee license would bring their own pupils along so that it was as real as it could be.

It was a wonderful fluid system, and because of the nature of the teaching test, one that prepared us well for what was to come.

There were other benefits too. We'd sometimes get people who'd been learning with one of the major training companies, and they'd spent a lot of time in a classroom, basically learning scripts. We ran rings around them. We were teaching. They were reading scripts out of a book. I got to spend time sitting in the back of Neville's car as he taught real students. He was teaching them the same advanced techniques he was now teaching me, right from lesson one.


Normally, this job pays by the hour. I give a particular period of time to one other person in exchange for a particular sum of money.

Neville was spending 4 hours every sunday at this location, regardless of whether 3 people turned up or 33. With minimal overheads, and this way of getting paid for the same time slot by lots of different people, rather than just one, he could afford to do two things that other trainers couldn't. One, make his prices far lower, and Two, offer unlimited hours of training. No skin off his nose. He's there anyway. I ended up spending hundreds of hours training, and it helped me to hit the ground running when I finally got my green badge.

Even MacDonalds were happy about it, as we'd have a break half way through, and go and buy coffee.

 So right there is my model. I have set aside sunday afternoon/evenings (people who are not yet driving instructors often work monday to friday) to do this.

I'm doing it from a pub car park, close to a place where lots of learners go. I'm offering it far cheaper than others, and I'm offering the same unlimited hours deal.

I currently have three people potentially doing this. One has already been doing it with me on a one to one basis. Another had some refresher lessons with me, and my competence and enthusiasm inspired her to consider becoming an instructor herself. The third contacted me today through my website. He wont be able to make it to our first session this coming Sunday, but has promised to try to get to the one after that.

The first one though may just be me and one other.

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Saturday, 25 April 2015

Midnight oil

It's almost 430am here and I can't sleep. I have to be up early to tidy up, check out, and drive back to merseyside. I really don't need this right now.

What's Bugging me is the disconnection of my website. The more I think about it, the more I think it's way out of line. The guy's main business is tinting vehicle windows. So here's an analogy: I take my car to him, and he tints the windows in exchange for money. I am impressed by the work, and at some point, I contact him to let him know I will soon be getting another car, and that I will pay him double to tint the windows in this new car too. Time passes, and I don't get around to getting the new car. Then one day I come home to find he's been to my address, and removed the tinting from my windows. Actually, he leaves me with no windows at all.

It's possible of course that some technical issue has occurred, and since there has been no contact, he's unaware of it.

Clearly I need to get in touch with him and find out what's going on.

... Sent email, apologising, explaining and enquiring. Now I wait. Goodnight.
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I've been playing around with the bbc's coalition building game.


From what I've seen of the polls, it does look like it's going to be a close run race again.

I'd like to think a more radical Labour Party providing a clear alternative would streak to victory, but then I think of how the vast majority of the media would react to such a thing.

Anyway, it does seem that a coalition government is the most likely outcome. Ironic that one of the big bad bogeymen used to defeat the yes camp in the proportional representation referendum was the spectre of such a many headed beast.

From the random figures generated by the Bec game, if Labour can get up too perhaps 270 or so seats, they can most likely form an alliance with various nationalists, greens and assorted left wingers such as Respect and the SDLP. The conservatives need a bit more ,as they only really have the DUP, the libdems and ukip.

I suppose I should vote labour myself, but i can't bring myself to do so.

I will waste my vote on a green instead.

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Monday, 20 April 2015

Board IV and other stuff

Heavy base, weak sides, to which a hinge is going to be attached. Either have some kind of complicated mechanism that attaches to the base, or attach hinge to weak sides.

The heavy sturdy plywood base is bigger than it needs to be, so it might be better to remove the frame from the painted cork base, stick the cork base directly to the plywood, and use the excess plywood to create the sides.

I can't check this at the moment because I am away on holiday for a week.

I'm trying to use this time to a) relax and b) catch up on some stuff I've needed to do but not had the time or inclination to do.

A bit ago, after a few glasses of home brew, I felt both magnanimous and motivated enough to send a message to the guy that did my website, asking him to reconfigure and update it with regards to franchising and instructor training, in return for which I would pay him handsomely.

We met up and discussed the work, and I promised to go away and generate the content he needed.

Since then, I've either been to busy or too knackered to do much, although I did do some market research.

Meanwhile, web guy, in the absence of action or communication from me, appears to have decided to disconnect my website from his VPN, and not reconnect it to UK2's servers. This, if it is the case, seems worryingly unprofessional. He does though, I suppose have  a grievance, since I promised him work and money, then failed to follow up.

We form assessments of people based on how they treat us, and no doubt he now considers me to be full of it, while I now think of him as somewhat petty and vindictive.

So this holiday gives me the opportunity to fulfil my end of the arrangement, and hopefully we can repair the damage to our relationship.

The holiday also gives me the chance to spend some quality time with Bren. We've had precious little of it for a long time now.

The holiday itself is courtesy of my stepson, Alex. He works for a company that has a lodge in a site close to Lake Windermere, that their employees, or their friends and families can use for one week each per year. Alex gave us his week.

The lodge is basically a posh wooden static caravan, but about one and a half times as wide, and a little bit longer. Inside, it is fitted out with quality modern fixtures and decor.

Space! It makes our own humble abode seem very cramped and shabby, and envy is in our hearts.

Truth is, despite earning a reasonable wedge, we can't afford to finance living somewhere other than the caravan, which will depreciate steadily as the years roll by. Like the ape man at the beginning of 2001 a space odyssey, who is given visions of a well fed tribe of sleek and contented ape men, our present location has shown us what we're missing.

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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Board III

the problem of dice bouncing out was easily solved. Buy another couple of cork boards, take the middles out, and use the frames.

I also got a sturdy piece of 9mm plywood which makes the whole thing much more solid.

I've painted the points using red and black acrylic paints.

Bugger me! This board is starting to look something like.

Still got to glue raised surround to board, saw plywood to correct size, attach board to plywood base, and create some kind of hinge.

Giving it a coat of varnish is probably worthwhile.

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Monday, 13 April 2015

Board Update...

Between thought and expression, there lies a lifetime.

I'd pictured myself, lovingly burnishing a deep grained piece of wood, hand carved from a Balinese cypress, which had itself been watered by the tears of unicorns who then brought it to me, on a platinum mithril platter, (with a side order of onion rings)

How I would labour! How I would pay attention to every detail to create, nay gestate, a thing of surpassing loveliness.

But Bren is an asker of awkward questions.

To my, "I can make a groove in the surround and slide the board surface into it", she responds with "What will you make the groove with?"

This is a fair question. We live in a caravan. I don't have a little shed down the bottom of the garden with a workbench and a set of basic woodworking tools.

So my grand design quickly became something much more pragmatically utilitarian.

Two cork noticeboards from Staples.

Some Pro's...
  • Already have their surrounds. 
  • Total price, about £18. 
  • Can be fastened together by a strip of fabric, glued to the back with PVA. 
  • Design can be laid directly onto surface
  • Being cork, will absorb energy of thrown dice - quieter and with less dice overboard.
  • It will be far far easier to construct.
Some Con's...

  • It will be a lot less sturdy than  what I originally planned.
  • It does not have built in storage for pieces and dice.
  • The low surround is not high enough to prevent dice leaving the playing area.
  • The overall quality is poor. The wooden surround is rough and needs finishing with a coat of varnish.

It's also a lot more spacious than I planned for, but tolerably so.

Biggest pro of all... It's a lot more achievable, with a lot less farting around.

The board design can be painted or dyed, then covered with a layer of varnish or diluted wood glue. Or just left as it is.

A hole in each corner, and a measured strip of fabric, and 4 simple posts will be just as effective as a proper wooden surround.

A couple of years ago, I bought a cheap fake leather set. It's adequate, but no more than adequate for club play. For the same price, and a bit of work, I get a much more pleasingly tactile set, that I have had the pleasure of building for myself.

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Friday, 10 April 2015


One moment, I'm learning how to do yoga, the next, I'm pulling some guy's teeth out with a pair of pliers.

I'm talking about Grand Theft Auto 5 by the way. I have no intention of learning how to do yoga.

The storyline demanded that the main protagonists in the game work with some secretive US governmental agencies, and in order to get information about which of several possible people to assassinate, a person has to be tortured.

This was a deeply uncomfortable thing to do, even in fantasy virtual life. Bren couldn't watch, and made herself scarce.

Rockstar North, the game's developers recieved considerable criticism for the scene, but I think it was a clever and thought provoking thing to include - something that made me examine my own feelings very closely.

Mainly empathy for the poor bastard strapped into the chair, and revulsion for what I was being asked to do. I'd imagine the vast majority of people who encounter this would feel the same way.

Some things I couldn't do. I just couldn't. I never did use the pliers. The waterboarding was probably the easiest somehow.

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Thursday, 9 April 2015

building a board

I'm making my own backgammon board.

Step one... get the pieces.

step two... build a board that fits them.

I'd never really consider myself to be a craftsman, but I'd like to have a go, and hopefully, make a decent fist of this.

Each point (the triangles) will be 50mm wide at it's base, and 200mm long. There are 24 points, 6 in each quarter of the board. So the interior dimensions of each half of the board will be 300mm from edge to bar, and either 450 or 500mm top to bottom depending on how spacious I want to make it.

The surround will be 30mm thick, giving a 60mm wide bar. space needs to be given to store pieces and dice etc. This will be 50mm for the pieces, and 30mm each side, giving an overall space of 110mm. The overall dimensions of the board will therefore be 440mm x 450 or 500mm folded, and 880mm x 450 or 500mm when open.


Well the main board would be probably just simple plywood or MDF. This would be covered in a felt baize, or leather,  or some other fabric, or even some kind of latex spray. One guy at the Liverpool events has a board made of painted and varnished chipboard, and the dice bounce off all over the place, so it needs to be softened somehow.

I'm thinking of using driftwood to create the surround, but a nice posh wood like mahogany or walnut would be cool. Perspex would be unique too, although it might be difficult to work with without it getting scratched.

Fittings such as hinges and latches would be brass, although pretty much anything would do. The whole thing would be covered in leather or vinyl or even something more sturdily industrial like aluminium.

So that's the plan.

I need to figure out how to connect the ply of the board to it's surround. Presumably a groove in the surround that the board fits into. The board would therefore need to be slightly bigger (a few millimetres in each direction). Alternatively, the surround could be slightly stepped, and the board would sit on top of the slightly wider bit. The surround has corners that will have to be dovetailed or mortice and tenonned (if that's a word) or just glued I suppose. Depending on materials used on the playing surface, I may have to stitch fabric, or parquet thin slivers of different coloured woods,  or precisely glue precisely shaped bits of felt or other fabric.

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Saturday, 4 April 2015

solids out of ether

some definite ideas are starting to happen.

1. Use New Brighton Prom as main area. It contains roundabouts, and is handy for lots of other stuff. It's also much easier for me to get to than Bromborough.

2. Use Derby Pool pub as base. It has big car park, and I doubt they'd have a problem with me using it, especially if we go in for a break and buy soft drinks etc.

3. The sessions will take place on Sundays, from 3pm to 7pm.

4. Sessions outside this time will  be charged at my normal rate. Sit in sessions, where trainee instructors observe real lessons will not be charged for.

5. For the training fee, trainees can come to as many sunday sessions as they like.

6. The trainee's first 3 Sunday sessions will be free of charge.

7. The amount I will be charging will not have to be paid in one lump sum. It can be paid in installments, but I will not sign them off as having had 40 hours tuition until payment has been made in full.

The amount to charge will be determined after I've done a bit of market research. I also need to visit the Derby Pool on a Sunday afternoon, to see just how full and busy it gets.

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should go to bed. instead I'm looking at how much others are charging.

first one I found is £3,300.