I must have been around about 14 years old when I experienced my first taste of driving a car. Countless times beforehand crazy Uncle John had let me sit in his car and pretend to drive, but the ignition had never been on and I was always under strict instructions not to touch the hand brake.
When it finally happened it was Aunty Mary who suggested that I could have a drive of her old style Mini. The car was miniscule compared to the company cars she would drive a few years later – she could have kept a spare Mini in the rear of one of her more modern tanks if she had wanted, rather than a spare tyre.
Mary had told cousin Iain and I, on a trip to some forestry place, that she loved her Mini “because it goes like a wee bomb!” But to this day I cannot see the attraction of the things. They might be cute and toy-like, but being in an accident in one must be terrifiying. Would they even bother cutting you out? I used to wonder – it would be quicker just to bury the car if the worst happened.
Still, Aunty Mary was right – it did “go like a wee bomb” and on that memorable summers evening on the private roads of Inchinnan Industrial Estate, I kangarooed my way towards second gear as she nervously glanced behind us, in front of us and down at what my clumsy feet were doing. Once I was in second gear it was a piece of cake – the little Mini engine would emmit it’s strained, mid-pitch tone and all I had to do was steer.
The brief 20 minutes of my “lesson” seemed to be over all too quickly, and for the most part those minutes were filled with Mary shrieking because I was going too fast, or worrying that some dot on the horizon was a police car! In the excitement of it all I don’t think I realised I was actually driving until we were on the way back to the house, where a bemused uncle Peter gave a wry smile as Mary recanted the adventure.
Strangely, despite Mary’s encouragment, I didn’t really hanker for a driving license from that moment on. It had been a very exciting experience, though, and my friends were suitably impressed by my version of events.
Although I remember receiving further tuition from Aunty Mary in the Mini, but, as it turned out, I wouldn’t pass my driving test until I was nineteen years old.