As I am starting out this latest entry I would like to point out something. When I say I wasted time on these things this does not mean that I hated wasting the time. Far from it (in most cases) in fact, I would do it all again (probably) given half the chance!
Now this entry could go either way. I’ve got a big list written down of things still to blog about and choosing one to write about seems a little hard for some reason. So what I’ve decided to do is just write and see where it goes! When you get to read it, it will have a title. As I write there is only the number 12 in the title line.
Helping me to write I’m playing all the tracks from the last entry on grooveshark, a great website that saves me having to fill up my damn hard drive with MP3s. I’m also doing laundry (don’t tell anyone but I find folding things therapeutic!) while I was at the washing machine I found tucked in the corner of the machine an old fortune cookie fortune. it says…
“Theres a prospect of a thrilling time ahead for you.”
Well lets hope so hey? I mean thrilling! My life could do with some thrilling, its been a long time since thrilling….and Bingo I’ve got it. Where this entry is going that is.
My eldest child recently got her driving license and is now legally allowed out and about on the roads of the United States. To be honest she is not a bad little driver, but don’t tell her I said so. She has a bad habit of driving too close to the car in front, but she gets that from her Mother, don’t tell her Mother I said that.
Me on the other-hand. I’m a great driver! Well alright, I’m above average and have only been pulled over three times since coming to the United States. Before that my last ticket in England was in 1989. Yep, twenty years plus of ticket free driving, and then you drive through Fraser, Michigan and its like they are giving them away free!
Now there will be a lesson to be learned by the end of this post. And parents should really make their kids pay attention. Because what happened to me quite honestly saved my life!
Flashback to 1987, The Bill Hollocks school of motoring had got me through my test (look him up he still teaches) and I was free to drive! I could go anywhere! I could do anything! I could…OK I needed a car! And the first car I happened to buy was a 1978-ish Ford Capri. Somewhat similar to this one.
The main difference being that, for a start this one is a lot nicer. My one was cream coloured and also had a hint of rust. Well not just a hint. I think now it was the rust that was keeping it held together. I once made the mistake of taking it through a car wash and the wheel arches on the back fell off. I could if I so wished take up the carpeting and see the road whiz by underneath. Best three hundred pounds I ever spent ($600) .
I was one of the first of my group of friends to get my license, so I instantly became the guy to call on an evening to see what I was up to. The term designated driver was a decade or so off, but I became it. Our trips to the pubs of Suffolk were rowdy and I was always a good boy and never drank and drove (seriously, don’t do it, it’s a bad thing). Driving everywhere and nowhere. I had a car and that meant I had to be in it driving anywhere. My car was full of tapes (see last blog entry) so even in the winter I had to drive around, windows open with songs like Pump Up The Jam by Technotronic blasting out as loud as the vibrating speakers could.
It should have been a big clue to me to slow down the first day I had the car. I was driving as fast as I thought safe for a windy country lane that I didn’t know well, roughly 60mph-ish. It’s surprising that I didn’t crash that day. What with that tree moving so fast in the other direction. I’d come across my first lesson in driving life. “if you don’t know the road, slow the hell down.) After checking my vital signs and underwear for signs of damage. I drove a lot slower, 59mph-ish. I’m honest, I didn’t learn a damn thing.
My boy-racer image was in full swing and I have to admit I loved the attention. Whats Dave going to do tonight? I drove like an idiot and didn’t care, I was 18 and was going to live forever! One of my favorite things to do was to drive up and down outside Bury St. Edmunds police station as fast as I could. This had nothing to do with speeding and sticking two fingers (one finger for my U.S. fans) up at the police. No, no, no, wouldn’t dream of doing that. What I was in fact doing is trying to make my car fly. Towards the end Raingate Street is a small hump in the road and if you hit that at just the right speed your car will leave the ground. I would zoom back and forth with no regard for my safety or my passengers. It always surprises me that the residents never called to police, or that the police themselves saw me doing this moronic act. I would do this over and over giving them plenty of time to see me, but they never did!
Although you can’t quiet see it, in the background of this picture is the famous Pigeon Lane, Fornham St. Martin right on the outskirts of Bury St. Edmunds. A rural area at the time, it’s now getting more built up with houses and factories. Here is the Number two on my all time dumbest things driving list. On the night in question my friends an I had spent a good night out and about causing our regular Friday night trouble. My car was full to capacity with people. Now with a Ford Capri the manufacturers will tell you that’s four people. This night I proved them wrong, I had seven people in the car. Little Stevie Goodwin was in the boot (trunk) I kid you not. I was showing off as normal doing donuts (spinning around really fast) in an industrial park, sending stones and other driveway material flying everywhere. As we were leaving the park a policeman pulled in and I quickly decided to high-tail it out of there. He must have been called or we just looked suspicious because in my rear view I saw the Blues come flashing on. Now a sensible person would have pulled over, at this point I wasn’t. So I floored it, which knowing the state of the floor of my car could have been a bad thing. I knew the area well, so I ducked down Pigeon Lane, an old dirt road that was a short cut to Fornham. No one used it ever. I got a little way down and turned off the car lights and hid while in the distance I saw the flashing lights go zooming by on the main road. Now in my wisdom I realised that I had to get off into the village before the policeman made it around the long way. So I again sped off as fast as my rust bucket would take me. Genius. Rumbling through the country-side in the middle of the night, people in the back screaming “TURN YOUR LIGHTS ON!” I did this just in time to see a large embankment at the end of my bonnet (hood). The next few seconds are spoken rarely. Seven men in a car all saying “AAAAAARGH” is not a cool thing. The car leapt into the air with the grace of a ballerina, and rotated 190 degrees and landed with a large thump on the road, facing the direction we had come. If I had been calm I’m sure I’d have said “I meant to do that.” But I was more concerned with the angry-looking gentleman whose dog had leapt terrified into his hands when we came storming out of the night. Again I exited stage right as fast as I could. We pulled on to the Milldenhall housing estate and sat outside Lambert house all too shook up to say much. Several of us smoked at the time so we lit up a celebratory “I’m glad to be alive,” ciggy. Little Stevie spent his recovery time writing WANKER DRIVER on the back of my car in snow-spray. And I was! Couldn’t deny It.
That night I learned a valuable lesson, don’t let Stevie near the snow spray, it ruined my paint-work. I also learned don’t run from the police. It could get you killed. The following night was no different. I was still reckless. And so follows the Number One in the Dumb things I did driving. Bored with the pub we were sitting in the town centre (center – for my U.S. readers) listening to loud music and generally not doing anything much. I was with Steve Batt and a student nurse whose name I cannot remember. Though I do remember sneaking into her dorm room the night of the Lockerbie Bombing (where were you that night?) Bored of just sitting there we wandered off for a drive around the one way system and ended up at the top of St. Andrews Street just outside Taps nightclub. I parked up and watched the traffic lights in the distance. They were currently red. I revved the engine, I knew what I was going to do. At the intersection where St. Andrews Street changes from north to south were the traffic lights, at that point is a small hump in the road. I was sure if I went fast enough I could get the car to leave the ground. I waited for the lights to change to Amber (orange -U.S.) and gunned it, 50…60…70…. As I passed the chip shop I thought to myself that knowing my luck there would be a police car around the corner. I was so wrong. There was a police-van with at least eight policemen in it. Not that I was counting at that point. I do however wish they would have had a dashboard camera as I’m sure their view of my car leaping the intersection must have been quiet impressive. I hit 95 mph and saw the inevitable blue lights coming after me, so, I braked and stopped. As quickly as I could because the breaks were really bad. I manned up and took what I had coming to me, running the night before had nearly killed me and my friends. For my reckless driving that night I received a three-month ban and a sixty pound fine ($120) And that was the last time I ever got a ticket until I moved to the States. Reckless no more. Getting banned (suspended) was the best thing that happened to me. I think it kept me alive. I am still claiming the speed record for St. Andrews Street though and no one can beat it as only the buses can go in one area now and the lights have been taken away and replaced with a mini-roundabout. So I guess that’s something to tell my grand-kids.