Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

Don't even ask me how fast I had to go to get to the speed awareness course on time.

The rush-hour dash was made even worse by the fact that the letter from 'the UK's leading provider of occupational road risk management, driver assessment and training for corporate organisations and speed awareness' warned me that if I was not there at 4.45 p.m. precisely I would be vaporised in a process called 'renewal'. Actually, it didn't say that it said something about three points on my licence. Same difference.

I screeched into Guildford yelling, 'Come on, get out of the way, I've got a speeding course to get to, ' as old ladies dived for cover. At the Holiday Inn, I joined 24 other downtrodden members of the squeezed middle who had handed over £95 and raced to an annoying location at an impossible time to avoid points. We sat, heads hanging in defeat, until a lady in a snazzy patterned cardie marched into the conference room.

'You're very quiet! Come on, tell each other your names, you're going to be here for four hours!' Silence. 'It's not detention, you know!' 'What the hell is it then?' I wanted to ask.

'My name's Hazel. And I'm here because I work for AA DriveTech. I suppose you're here because you got unlucky. Hmm? Is that your story?'

'God, give me strength, I'm not going to get through this, ' I thought. 'Maybe if I just stare at the projector screen and emotionally shut down . . . ' Everyone else must have thought that, too, because Hazel couldn't get a word out of any of us.

'What's the speed limit on a rural single?

Hmm?' Silence. 'What's the speed limit for a HGV on the motorway? Hmm?' Silence.

'It's not what you know, it's what you don't know, ' she kept saying. Then: 'You're looking, but you're not seeing!' After the fifth time she said this, I started to get a tight feeling in my chest.

We broke for tea but there was no food, which I assume was part of a strategy to keep us both desperate and docile. It didn't work.

We started to get restive. The yummy mummies were becoming particularly mutinous.

Hazel showed us the scene of an accident and told us that a driver waiting to turn right had turned the steering wheel while stationary. 'Is that good driving?' she said. I shook my head. I didn't know why. But I sensed she wanted a headshake, and I had made a decision to give Hazel what she wanted. …

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