Sunday 22nd April – This lunchtime I partook in a pre-train journey beer with my brother Ian at Newcastle Central station. A jovial hour in which we reminisced about our existential escapades prior to me leaving the north east of England around 31 years ago. Our knockabout banter including tales of our kid’s ‘eventful’ driving lessons and subsequent tests.
As part of this, he spoke of paternal mentoring at the wheel, including dad’s bafflement at his habit of turning the ignition key when the car engine was already running, not to mention at the time motoring along Saltwell Road at 30mph.
I hadn’t realised this but in 1983 our kid became the first person to fail a driving test for constantly emitting child-like sounds of “Vroom, Vroom” during his three-point turn.
I was aware, though, of his other driving test yarn centring around him being unable to partake the examination of his driving skill, a consequence of locking his instructor’s keys inside the vehicle.
‘Keygate’, as it became known amongst the Low Fell chattering classes, the catalyst to drawing a line under any further attempt to obtain his driving licence. Unperturbed, my brother can still be heard emitting the words “Vroom, Vroom” during car journeys; Now, though, it’s from the safety of the passenger seat with his grasp firmly on a kids plastic steering wheel, which is affixed to the glove compartment by rubber suction pad.
Thankfully for Ian, possessing a motor vehicle has not been an existential priority. His proximity to good public transport links negating the need for that elusive driving licence.
It’s also meant he’s never had to be the designated driver, a role requiring the discipline to drink non-alcoholic beverages while his mates imbibe bowls of loud-mouth soup…… Possibly a challenge too far for my much-loved sibling.
His long-suffering driving instructor at one time threatened our Ian with litigation. A consequence of mental torment resultant of my bro carelessly driving over a bedding plant laden roundabout.
The instructor didn’t proceed with the legal action after the colourful display of petunias, pansies and marigolds, wedged in his radiator grill during the incident, won him best of show at the 1984 East Wardley Flower Festival. Although, I don’t think South Tyneside council were overly enamoured with the destruction of their achromatic horticultural display on Pelaw roundabout.
The incident also winning Ian a silver medal at that year’s Heworth Motor Show in the ‘Colourful Accident Involving A Roundabout’ category. Only pipped at the post in the latter by a Dulux Paint lorry which overturned on the roundabout outside Heworth Metro station.
As alluded to above, our kid’s desire to become a car driver ended the afternoon pre-second test he locked the car with his instructor’s keys in the ignition. An action that manifested a fraught half hour outside of Gateshead Driving Test Centre, during which Ian missed his test slot and the instructor’s wife turned up with the spare keys for her disillusioned husband’s motor.
Today, after our nostalgic wander down memory lane (thankfully not with my sibling at the wheel) I questioned Ian if he ever regretted not continuing with driving lessons.
My brother paused a moment to reflect on an adequate response to my nosiness. He then looked me in the eye, replying “Do giraffe’s s**t in the woods?”……… My understanding is the correct version of the whimsical adage is “Do bear’s s**t in the woods?”, which is what I assume our kid meant as a retort………. If he did mean giraffes I’ve no idea if his response means yes or no!