Sunday, 22 January 2017


I'm preparing my accounts as I will have to submit my tax return for 2015-2016 before the end of this month.

It's a chore every year. Although I try to keep my pricing structure as straightforward as I can, there's enough variation that I have to go through each page of my diary and put numbers to times. This time around it's made slightly more complicated by the instructor training.

What was the exact date I raised my prices? Dunno exactly, although there are clues, such as when someone pays for a block of lessons, it's noted in my diary. When it went from "paid £220 for 11 hours" to "paid £240 for 11 hours" the change must have occurred around then. I keep people on at the rate they were paying when they started, so in any particular day, I can have pupils paying several different rates. Looking back at stuff in my diary 18 monhs ago, it's sometimes a struggle to recall exactly how much people have paid.

So there's going to be a bit of arbitaryness in the figures. I'm not trying to massage the numbers downwards, and it will be there or thereabouts. I'm thinking of it in the following way...

If I bought some sand from a sand merchant, I might order a hundredweight of it, or a tonne, or whatever. I would not order 1,098,239,028,493,892 grains of sand. Nor would I be particularly bothered if, having ordered 1 tonne of it, I actually got 999.78 kilogrammes. Nor would the sand seller be too concerned if I actually got 1001.48 kilogrammes.

One instructor I know proudly boasts that he's never paid a penny in tax since he started. He's busy, but he never pays a penny in tax. The same guy loudly complains on facebook about how the government should do more to look after old people and ex servicemen.


Anyway, blogging as displacement activity. Back to the grindstone.

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Friday, 20 January 2017

Speech to text...

My phone allows me to speak text messages, converting them into sms. It's especially handy in the car as I can do it all completely hands free without taking my eyes off the road.

But it's not always completely accurate, and if words outside the standard English lexicon are used, it just makes it's best guess.

Anyway, here's what it makes of "Jabberwocky".

"Twice brilliant and the slightly toes did guy and Gimble in the way all Mimsy were the borrowed groves and ammo maths out grade."

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Sunday, 8 January 2017

Instructor training update

I've been pretty quiet on the subject for the last few months. It's generally easier to talk about the successes than the failures I suppose, and it's been a mixed bag to say the least.

My first trainee was someone that I should never have taken on. Hindsight is 20-20 of course but I've been learning as I go along myself, and at the beginning, when the phone first rang, I was keen to get started, any way I could.

That unfortunate saga now seems to be drawing to an entirely predictable close. This particular trainee has now pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation (he marketed himself as a fully qualified instructor with a 100% passrate, when he was not and he hadn't.) By offering lessons at fire sale prices, he got a lot of work, and following his arrest was unable to continue what he was doing, or pay back the money that people had paid him up front. I saw him a couple of months back, doing instructor training with another local company, having passed the first two parts of his qualifying exams again. Just the once. I suspect that after a couple of sessions with him, they did what I should have done, and dropped him like a hot potato. The upshot now is that he will have a criminal record, and will not be able to send off a clean criminal records check to the Driving Standards agency, should he have a mind to apply again. I hope they go easy on him. There was nothing malicious in what he was doing. He's just a bumbling idiot trying to make his way through life, and at least part of his plight was down to decisions that I made.

The other two were far more promising. First Steve, and then Helen signed up with me. Steve already had a long career in driving, Helen, not so much. Both needed to be taught to drive in a certain way, in order both to be able to pass the advanced driving test, and to have a clear idea of what they were supposed to be teaching. Steve passed easily first time, Helen, after a stumble on the parallel park on her first attempt got through on her second attempt.

Driving schools can take on no more trainees than they have fully qualified instructors, and with me being a one man band, that meant I could only take on one of them on a trainee license. Helen had asked me for this space not long after starting with me, and so Steve went off to another school to work on a provisional license. They got him to do some training with their preferred trainer, and shortly afterwards, he stopped attending sessions with me.

Helen suggests that the school he's now working for insisted that he take the training that they wanted him to take, but I think that's being charitable. He'd plateaued in his learning, had started to become a bit demoralised, and I think he saw more hope in this new route than by staying with me. He's now failed twice at his teaching test. His third and final attempt (you only get three goes at it before you have to start all over again) is in a couple of months. I wish him well.

So that left just Helen. She got off to a much slower start, but for the last few months we've been doing intensive one to one work, and she's really starting to get her act together. This is not just down to her. After losing Steve, I realised that I was going to have to up my game, and I've put a lot of work in from my side too. There's more structure to what I'm doing now. Rather than just winging it, I've read up and studied a lot more. And it seems to be bearing fruit.

Today, Helen put in work on a phase one briefing that would have got her a comfortable pass. The skills she's using can be transferred, at least to some extent, to any of the phase one briefings she has to be able to do. There is work to do still on the phase two stuff, but I reckon, if she manages to keep the nerves at bay, that she could well pass on her first attempt. Between now and March, when she has her first attempt, we should make progress there too. She suggested today that the typical session structure of the first half being taken up with phase one stuff, followed by a break, then another session doing phase two stuff be done the other way around. We're doing that phase one bit (where there's a lot of sitting in the car talking about stuff) in daylight, and the phase two stuff (which is far more about doing stuff on the move) in the dark. She can't see what I'm doing with my feet, or whether I'm checking my mirrors, etc, so this makes a lot of sense. Do the sitting in the car talking stuff when it doesn't matter that it's dark. As the weeks go by of course, the sun will go down later (hooray!) and this will become less of an issue.

After that? Well now there are two cars running about the streets of Wirral with Paul Sharp School of Motoring signs on them, and once (if) Helen becomes fully qualified, I could go on to traini other instructors, this time with a bit more experience and method under my belt.

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Sunday, 1 January 2017


It was 2017. Zip Razweg zipped his laser rifle into the holster on his silver lycra bodysuit and floated down to the kitchen with his rocket boots at minimum power.

"If you've scorched the carpet again, you'll be sorry" said his wife, looking up from what she was doing, feeding nutro-pax into the transmogrifier. She pressed a button, and the machine made high pitched sprinkly noises and multicoloured panels of lights flashed pointlessly.

"Why don't you just use the stairs like everyone else? It's not like you couldn't do with the exercise."

Zip looked down at himself. The lycra stretched tight over his moobs and belly. He frowned thoughtfully. Then the transmogrifier buzzed and a slot opened in it's side, from which a tray emerged bearing a cornflake tablet and a tube of full english breakfast.

As a concession to his wife, he only ate half the tablet. He stepped into the health cubicle and pressed the weight lever.

"You weigh 4 stones and 7 pounds" said a metallic voice.

"4 stones and 7 pounds" Zip told his wife, pleased.

"We're on The Moon, you stupid sod" she replied. You're really a lardarse"


So what of me?

Well I've just weighed myself at 14 stones and 4 pounds.About the same as last year then.

I intend to avoid alcohol completely this year, although if I can get hold of some less calorific intoxicants, that might be nice. Might help with the music for one thing.

A few months ago, I got hold of a good sized chunk of resin. Unusual these days where it all seems to be green, but I always preferred solid. Less intense as a rule, and tends to go much further.

I found myself analysing what was happening, and found that it followed an entirely predictable sequence of phases. These are: Euphoria - Paranoia - Lethargy. There used to be a lot more euphoria. Now there's a lot more of the other two, and any attempt to increase the euphoria by upping the dose just makes the paranoia worse. So It's not something I'd want to do all the time any more.