Sunday 22 June 2014

Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music

I had a very interesting experience recently. Interesting and a bit scary. I had to conduct some official business for which proof of identity was needed and without any second thoughts, I produced my driving licence. Sweet’eart, the Jamaican-accented lady told me, your licence expired three years ago. Dincha know? Cue jaw hitting the floor (mine), eyes wide open (hers) and much laughter and mirth (both). Three years! Just to give you an idea of why I was laughing so much here’s a quick rundown of what I have done during these three years and how my driving licence has been involved. I have rented cars in Italy and Cuba (2012 and 13 respectively) and I have been the main driver. That means that my (ex) driving licence has been photocopied and kept for their records. I have been one of the designated drivers of two minibuses hired by the school federation for which I used to work. Obviously, before being given the keys to the vehicles I had to submit a copy of my driving licence. And, of course, I have driven. I have driven everywhere. Cornwall in 2011, Shropshire, summer last year. But this is the best bit, or the scariest one. If I had been caught by the police with an out-of-date driving licence I could have been fined up to a thousand pounds.

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Anyway, this column today is not about officials failing to realise that I held only a provisional licence for more than seven years and for three of those years this document was not valid (I have since renewed my licence, by the way, so if there’s a copper reading this, I’m all right now). What I would like to write about today is my love of driving.

But what if it's expired?
It is ironic that through this blog I promote a greener and cleaner way of living, both consciously and unconsciously. I strongly believe that our planet would be better with fewer cars around. At the same time, though, I can’t deny that I get a big kick out of being behind the wheel, on the open road, going on a long journey somewhere interesting.

I used to write a section called Road Songs years ago when I first started blogging. It was a way of romanticising what I saw as the “art of driving”. Unlike other people my early childhood perceptions were not shaped in the back of a car, but in the middle of a crowded bus in downtown Havana. So, recreational driving was not a part of my upbringing.

That is why as soon as I learnt how to drive and got my licence I became the weekend driver in the family (except for my daughter’s last two years in primary school when I used to do the school run every day). Weekend driving is different to its weekday counterpart. You don’t go somewhere because you have to clock in and out. You go places because it is a pleasure.

Road Songs was never about melodies that mentioned motorways and cul-de-sacs. As a section I wanted it to encompass the feeling that driving awakened in me. The beauty of a bend on the road, the exhilaration of letting the wheel slip through my fingers as I turned it, the art of braking. All these aspects of driving were included in this short-lived section. For all blogposts I sought clips that somehow encapsulated my feelings about being in control of car.

Whilst writing this section I came to the conclusion that perhaps my only gripe when it comes to driving in Britain, if gripe is the right word, is that the UK doesn’t boast iconic roads. Yes, we all know about the M25, but is it the same as Route 66 in the US? And would a motorway running from Scotland to south-eastern England inspire a Dylan-like British singer songwriter in the same way Route 61 inspired Bob to write Highway 61?

That doesn’t mean there’s no poetry in driving. There is, because the car symbolises freedom, if not, ask Bruce Springsteen who has made a whole musical career out of it. Even the shortest car journey has a certain sense of leave-taking about it. You are going somewhere and leaving something or someone behind. Even if it is for eight hours. Then, there’s also the interaction with the machine. The process of learning how to listen to your car’s engine, how to recognise its moans and complaints. That is why Roger Taylor, Queen’s drummer, wrote I am in Love with my Car, because he fell for his motor’s carburettor.

Yes, this column is a bit of a contradiction today. I am on two wheels five days a week. I can’t praise my bike enough. Especially because being a rusty, second-hand one, it’s gone beyond its sell-by and use-by date and it's still going, carrying me on its saddle. Yet, as soon as the weekend arrives I can’t wait to get inside my four-wheeler.  The episode with my (ex) driving licence made it clear. I’m in love with my car. Even if I might not have the valid documentation with me sometimes.

© 2014

Next Post: “Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music... Ad Infinitum”, to be published on Wednesday 25th June at 11:59pm (GMT)


  1. I love driving but don't do so much now I'm older. My car was always my passion and I especially liked to drive at night. Wonder why that was?

    Don't you get reminders from DVLC when it's time for renewal?

  2. Happy Sunday!! I got pulled over for speeding a few years ago and the officer notified me that my license had been expired for almost a year. I didn't get in any trouble - just had to renew the license. I was rather embarrassed :)

  3. Scotland has iconic roads, they're just iconic in a different way. The most beautiful road in the world up in Assynt, that passes through ths most stunning scenery anywhere and where there are no other vehicles on the road, but sheep everywhere, including on the road. The one track road round the coast of Lewis, with the cliffs falling down to the sea on one side and a mountain on the other side. The crossing over the Churchill Barriers in Orkney, drive that in bad weather and it's an epic, white knuckle ride.

    I'm always the passenger in these trips by the way, I can't drive but Crafty Green Boyfriend's father was a driving instructor so he had no choice and althouh we don't have a car we often rent one on our holidays round Scotland.

  4. Thankfully you didn't get caught for that, expensive ticket indeed for being out of date haha I like to drive when I'm not stuck in wall to wall traffic

  5. I would really like to feel as you do about driving, but I have to be honest...I have never really enjoyed driving. It is one of those things I do out of necessity, but if I can escape it , I do!
    Needless to say...I have a clean driving licence! lol

    Happy sunday :)

  6. Hoy en día es primordial tener la licencia, aunque muchas veces es mejor tomar el transporte comunitario, pues buen susto que te desviste dar.
    Un abrazo.

  7. It is definitely scary when you discover something like this. I once got halfway to the airport with a daughter's passport (well, our pictures looked fairly similar, as it happened). Nothing like that sinking feeling, except if you were told it by a cop who had stopped you I suppose.
    I really can't get into driving although once in California where I had a gorgeous little red convertible and I was doing a job I thought was utterly cool, I did feel great as I drove along.Usually though I'm stressing about finding my way!

  8. Well, maybe you know that Road66 is not functional any longer, actually there is a NGO that is trying to rescue it... Anyway, it just came to my mind:

    On the road again
    Just can't wait to get on the road again
    Life I love is making music with my friends
    I can't wait to get on the road again

    On the road again
    Goin' places that I've never been
    Seein' things that I may never see again
    And I can't wait to get on the road again

    On the road again
    Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
    We're the best of friends
    Insisting that the world keep turning our way and our way


  9. ha. there is little like a road trip...two years ago we went over halfway across the country and saw the lands change...and for that i am thankful for driving...i would love to work closer and ride my bike...that would be a cool perspective...too funny on your license....

  10. Thanks for your kind comments.

    Valerie, the DVLA probably DID send me a letter but it's likely that I chucked it. :-) My fault, really. I should be the one checking my papers.

    Have a great week.

    Greetings from London.

  11. Oops.
    I don't drive - and don't like being driven. If I could have a tardis and just be there (where-ever there is) I would love it. I do sometimes think I would have fitted in with a slower age where feet were most people's main transportation.

  12. I love driving! For some reason, it helps me think. I think the open road is a better driving experience because we're free of the stress of traffic, while also being able to be behind the wheel! Plus, nobody can really find us when we're in our we get to be alone and enjoy some peace and quiet for a while.

  13. "Road songs"... I would associate the term with songs children (and adults) sing in cars to pass the time. One of our favourites was always "10,000 green bottles, hanging on the wall..." Goes on for miles.

  14. "The Road to Hell" written by Chris Rea in the late 1980s.

    He was frustrated at the slow drag on the M25.

    Great song. Chris has had his own personal Hell when undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer and came thru OK, thank goodness.

  15. Oh, I hate driving and have long gone given up trying to drive on my visits to the UK. Too much traffic! Too many cars.

    But I'm really looking forward to the day electric cars become affordable - and universal!

  16. I really took driving for granted and still do. Quite often my parents would take a drive (aka Sunday drive) for the hell of it. I'm so use to it I never saw the uniqueness in it even with Bruce, a favorite, warbling about it.

  17. I used to do long road trips as summer vacations (long as in traveling across the country), but since being diagnosed with a neuro-muscular disease, road trips of that length are non-existent (can't sit for any length of time anymore).

    However, I still do bike riding on the weekends, mostly for running my morning errands and getting some exercise in. It's great to explore my town on the weekends as it seems to pull in the sidewalks and goes on hiatus, thus creating a safer environment to bike in.

    Father Nature's Corner

  18. Two-lane country roads lure me, but regular driving I don't like. I do like to bike and this time of the year will ride to my office (4 miles one way) when I don't need to go somewhere else for work. And I brought my bike new--in 1980, right after graduating from college.

  19. I couldn't drive for 18months when I was ill (long story, boring) and found I could get anywhere I want to by bus and train. Having travelled all over India on buses and trains, it really isn't so hard over here.

    Once I could drive again, I decided not to by a car - but to hire one when I really need to. So I get the best of both worlds - on the few occasions I drive I enjoy it, and the rest of the time I have hours to read on buses and trains while someone else deals with traffic jams.

  20. lol, never heard of anything like that. :) You were lucky to not getting caought :)

  21. When I was policing, I'd encounter lots of folks that had forgotten to renew their license. It is easy to do; especially if you move. Glad it did not get noticed and put you in a bad spot when you really needed a vehicle.

    I grew up near Rt. 66 so that has always had a special place in my heart.

  22. I admire you for the amount of biking you do: that is great! And I also get the love of driving, the freedom, the open road, and yeah, the speed. Great post.

    (Every time I visit your blog I wonder if that is you jumping for joy. It seems as though it is.)

  23. Ha! I really am not so in love with driving. One of the reasons I've made my home in New York City, and been sad to leave it of late. I do drive! And I marvel at the license business here..Crazy!
    I i live .too much in my own head! Around the bend, as it were, if not the road! K.

    ps thanks!

  24. pps manicddaily (is outlawyer)



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