It was like the pub quiz from hell with no prospect of a pinot grigio. The Speed Awareness Course.
We've all done one to dodge the penalty points. OK, perhaps not all
. I accept there are some
law-abiding citizens out there who make a habit of sticking to every ruddy rule in the book, but most of my friends have signed up at some point or another.
I was driving home from an early shift and had taken my eye off the speedometer for a nanosecond. Then flash - clocked doing 34mph in a 30mph limit. A month later, I found myself in a windowless sports hall on the outskirts of Skipton with a collection of other reprobates.
Our punishment/re-education was served with powdered coffee in cups made from the same stuff as the ceiling, at a cost of £85 all-in. Tables were laid out to encourage law breakers to mingle and we got special name tags so the teachers could tell us off with more authority.
It was a good-cop-bad-cop carry on. But unfortunately, the first man up to the podium had a dreadfully distracting physical feature. I'd better not say exactly what it was,* but in the circumstances, he coped remarkably well with the flipchart. His sidekick was harmless enough, apart from her patronising head tilt every two minutes to check it all made sense.
Well, the bits I caught
were clear enough, but I've always struggled in a we-talk-you-listen scenario. If I'm not on-board I'm bored and find myself meandering into minutiae mode. Wonder if she knows she's got a VPL? Is that an intentionally messy bun or couldn't she be arsed this morning? Ooh, wedding ring – straight or modern lesbian marriage?
Physical Feature Man baffled me with physics. He said something about inertia and kinetic energy, demonstrating details with graphs and a laser pen. I got 10% in this subject at school, signed off with an encouraging 'Rebecca hasn't grasped the situation at all!'
Then I really
had to use my grey matter. We were given a booklet and asked to fill in what we thought the speed limits were in certain areas. It was a multiple guess sketch, which I failed.
"Zigzags. Toddler. Fit workman." We were moved onto partner work. Linda (for argument's sake) held the pen while I shouted out hazards between junction A and central reservation B. "Conker tree. Mobility scooter. Sarnie shop." Actually, I could murder a chicken pesto mayo on ciabatta...
You'd think, at forty four years old, I'd have mastered the art of concentration (or at least perfected my 'that's fascinating' face) but even a potentially life-saving seminar can leave me in La La Land. Which reminds me, I must get that on DVD. I'll bet Emma Stone didn't have a VPL at the Oscars. Though in fairness, that was probably the last thing on her mind after the wrong winner gaffe.
But back to my terrible driving. What did I glean from this road safety equivalent of Blankety Blank? Well, it turns out I need to focus, slow down and be more alert to danger - which all sounded worryingly familiar.
And then I remembered. I'd done this course before.