Fahrenheit, Festivals and Fear

January 11, 2010 at 2:23 am (Uncategorized)

Merry Monday, friends. After a blistering couple of Sydney summer days – we had four swims in the surf on Saturday –  it’s come over all overcast today, and a spot of rain wouldn’t be entirely unwelcome as even the hardy frangipani trees are looking a trifle parched. Recently we’ve been having the scorched earth weather of endless summer holidays of childhood, those glorious six weeks that used to stretch toward a near eternity. A friend of mine, S, has elected to take the month of January off work in an effort to recapture something of those halcyon days. She’s not taking off overseas, she’s not packing the calendar full of weekends away and nights out, she’s simply staying in Sydney and enjoying being home. It’s something many of us rarely do, take a holiday without going anywhere, but personally I can really see the appeal. I think it’s an inspired idea. Llew gets ants in his pants and can’t sit still for more than an hour even armed with a newspaper or magazine, but, thoroughly exhausted, even he loved his short break between Christmas and New Year because he got to relax at home for a change. He rarely pauses long enough to do that, and he seemed genuinely surprised to discover just how lovely it is. I’m very pleased that now he knows, because we’re so extremely fortunate to live where we do, and we ought to make the most of it.

Aside from the long days of perfect weather, it’s a great month to be in Sydney because the annual Sydney Festival is now officially underway. Our own festival season kicks off tomorrow night, when Llew and I are heading to see Al Green live at that grand old dame, the divine State Theatre. We also bought tickets in advance to see Pirandello’s absurdist masterpiece Six Characters in Search of an Author, which I adored studying at university but have never seen produced, and I’m hoping to get along to a few more things on the cheap, thanks to the Tix For Next to Nix initiative, through which a limited number of cheap seats ($25 a head) are sold to festival events daily. Yes, the festival program annually turns me into an insatiable grunting glutton. I even forced Llew to join me in camping out for Lou Reed tickets a couple of years ago, so determined was I to sniff out those elusive truffles – two tickety boos – but I can tell you right now I won’t be doing that again. No bloody fear. Still, Llew works very close to the booth’s Martin Place location, so I’m hoping he’ll be able to spontaneously score us tickets to a couple of other events. I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes.

In other news, I had my first two driving lessons over the weekend. Better yet, I asked for them. Llew took me up to Manly Dam and I burned around there accelerating and hovering, accelerating and hovering, and  trying to develop some kind of working relationship with the steering wheel. The Welsh Dragon is automatic, thank god, and after always thinking I’d learn manual when finally learning to drive, I now think PANTS TO THAT. Why bother when our own car is automatic? Perhaps once I have a couple of years’ experience under my belt I’ll learn to drive a manual, but for now I think it’s sufficiently challenging just acquiring the basic skill set needed to become a safe and competent driver. What finally galvanised my resolve after 37 years of near total indifference? The prospect of being a mother who can’t drive. Although we are a disparate and mostly estranged group, traditionally the women in my family don’t drive, and the truth is, it’s a hassle. It creates irksome dependencies, unfairly inconveniencing others, it requires additional logistical planning, and, at a certain point, it incurs a great deal of additional expenditure both fiscal and temporal. Getting about independently has never been my problem – in addition to being a mad walker and a happy cyclist, I read on public transport and relish the opportunity to observe my fellows – but imagining myself with a child in tow brought this deficiency of mine into unpleasantly sharp relief. I should know how to drive. It’s that simple. And so learn to drive I shall.

Times have changed since all my friends learned to drive. I didn’t learn then because I couldn’t. I was out of home at 15, and living with a friend’s family by 16. I couldn’t learn on a family vehicle the way the majority of people do because I was not with my family. I was still 16 when I got my scholarship to Pearson College in Canada, and I couldn’t learn there either. The college vans weren’t insured for learner drivers, only qualified ones. It was downhill from there. My interest waned as my fear grew.

Anyway, the point is my friends all had licences at 16 years of age after just three months on L plates; now I have to complete 150 hours of lessons. I don’t really mind, because I have no desire to be driving by myself until I am well qualified to do so – I am mercifully past that urgent desire of youth to speed off alone – but it does mean a big commitment of time and effort not just on my own part but on Llew’s. And pity the poor parents of multiple teenagers – how on earth do they manage this requirement?? I can’t imagine, I really can’t, how you’d go about teaching four eager teenagers to drive when each one requires 150 hours of tuition. What a nightmare! Anyway, we are 2.5 hours down – only 147.5 hours to go! Wish me luck! I daresay it’ll provoke several posts on the topic, so stay tuned.

MS #2 word count: 36, 490.

POSTSCRIPT: I’ve just been for a lunchtime walk – I’m not running at the moment even though Dr P said I could… I just don’t want to jinx anything – and along the beachfront witnessed lovely signs of children enjoying a summer they’ll probably never forget either: three entrepreneurial young sprites set up around table and chairs selling homemade Anzac and chocolate chip cookies; a little boy out learning to ride a bike with his mum, an RTA-issue ‘P plate’ endearingly fixed between the handlebars; another diminutive trio posing for photos, bronzed arms casually slung one about the other, white teeth flashing; everywhere these sun-kissed, happy faces… I returned to the cookie stall with my wallet just now and picked up two of each variety; mine I’ve already scoffed, and it will require a concerted effort of will to leave Llew’s cookies alone. At a mere fifty cents a pop, they’re a delicious bargain, and I do so enjoy supporting a local business venture…



  1. davidrochester said,

    I think it’s great that you’re learning to drive — it’s just a good skill to have, even if you don’t use it all that often. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 24, for many of the same reasons you waited, and once I got the hang of it, I couldn’t imagine what I’d done before. I am now someone who drives around when I don’t need to go anywhere, just because I like the act of driving.

    • doctordi said,

      Exactly, David – I’ve never heard a single person say, “I’m just so sorry I learned how to drive, it’s a skill I could really do without.” I can now start to imagine liking it, which is something of a breakthrough in itself!

  2. litlove said,

    I love driving. I learned as soon as I could because for me it meant freedom. And you know, of all the growing up things that I did, learning to drive was the one that turned out as good as it looked in theory. That being said, the scariest moment I ever had was getting into what felt like the wrong side of an automatic car (I’ve always driven manual), heading off on (what felt like) the wrong side of the road, with jetlag, into the the spaghetti mess of LA freeways with a map the size of a handkerchief. That was literally terrifying.

    • doctordi said,

      LL, that sounds awful. Like stress in a can. An automatic, moving can with steering. Yes, the freedom element has always appealed, although the people I most wanted freedom from were behind me by the time I reached the eligible age. If I could’ve learned at age 11, well then, I would have been ALL OVER IT LIKE A RASH.

  3. Grad said,

    I did have three teenagers at the same time, and I can’t remember how they learned to drive. I believe they were taught drivers education in high school as a class. Yes…now I remember, that is exactly how they learned. Then, of course, came the worrying about them getting home safely. I’ve missed many a night’s sleep. I love to get into the car and just drive. Of course, with gas prices being what they are nowadays, it’s a luxury not often indulged.

    • doctordi said,

      Graddikins, Llewie and I have been discussing the American system a lot, and ruing that we don’t do the same thing here. I would have definitely signed up had it been offered as a class in school. I think it’s crazy we don’t run driver qualifications on a similar model.

  4. Lilian Nattel said,

    That’s terrific that you’re learning to drive! I got my license just before leaving home and then didn’t have a car for a very long time. I had to get a car for work and though I had my license was scared to drive it. I took it around the block a bunch of times early Sunday mornings, then finally got my nerve up and drove way out to visit a friend in the suburbs without telling her I was coming (in case I chickened out). There are other things that I didn’t get the opportunity for as a kid that I’ve learned as an adult, too. Isn’t it great that we get to choose for ourselves now?

  5. doctordi said,

    Lilian, yes! It’s superb making those choices for ourselves, I agree. It never, ever gets olds. I’m very encouraged by all you happy drivers!

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