I started my driving lessons in the UK at 17 and remember running indoors after the first and telling my mother all excitedly I had overtaken a parked car, she burst out laughing whilst I tried to explain that actually this had required signalling, looking in my rear mirror and changing lane but she couldn’t hear me so great was her mirth.
I never got to take my test in Britain but after the birth of Thomas in 1988 heavily reliant on my working husband to take me everywhere I took lessons in Italy followed by my test.
I passed and started to use my husband’s car which he wasn’t too pleased about, especially when I reversed it into our neighbour’s garden fence.
Eventually he found a bargain that was to be all mine, a bright orange Citroen Dyane.
This isn’t my car as I don’t have a photo of it but I can remember the number plate TO N1**** which led to her being called Toni.
She had a convertible roof, four seats and was all mine there was just one small problem…. the gear stick came out of the dashboard
See that bobble there next to the steering wheel – that is the gear stick! I couldn’t for the life of me get my head around it and was often heard screeching it in and out.
At the time I was working in Riva del Garda for a coach company, my job was tourist guide to Brits on the Lake who had booked coach trips to Verona, Venice or the Dolomites wine route. I left Folgaria early in the morning, drove down to the lake, went out all day on the coach and then dropped all the guests off at their hotels.
Then I would fire Toni up and start my journey back home. One particular hot, evening a colleague asked me for a lift to Mori and I was only too happy to be able to assist.
We jumped into Toni and drove from Riva towards Torbole to take the main road leading up to Mori but there was an enormous traffic jam, lucky for us I knew a short cut. It was a narrow, winding, uphill road but a lot quieter and with a bit of luck we’d cut out the jam so off I went, roof down and smiling at my cleverness.
As I got to the bottom of my shortcut I changed down a gear and off I went. About half way up I awkwardly clunked her into third gear and soon after she started to struggle so I took hold of the gear stick and pulled it back towards second gear only to discover it had come right out of the gear box in my hand!
My passenger was horrified, I was too and hastily jammed my gear stick back into it’s place whilst slamming the car breaks on.
A lot of other locals had had the same idea to use this shortcut so I started to create another jam all of my own as I fiddled with my gear stick.
I did get it in and I did make the top of the road with a lot of sweaty angry Italians behind me probably muttering things like ‘woman driver’.
Strangely enough that guide never asked for any more lifts home and it wasn’t long before I moved onto my second car, a vintage black Mini Cooper with a white roof with a hole in the passenger footwell but that’s another story.
Disclosure: Why this pop back into the past? Because I’m entering a competition held by Carcraft to hopefully win an iPhone 5 with this tale. Let’s hope they choose me as the winner as I’m desperate for a new phone.