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.

Citoren Dyane 2CV

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

citroen Dyane 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.

Writing workshopAfter what seems an entire age I am taking part in Josie’s writing workshop and one of her five prompts was

 2.Tell us a story of something that happened with a bang.

I started my driving lessons in the UK shortly after my 17th birthday and came home delighted after a couple to tell my mother how I had managed to overtake a parked car. She was on the floor in tears and I hadn’t explained that this delicate manoeuvre had meant I had to change lane with all the rigmarole of indicating and gear changing blah blah And get back in my previous lane too.

I had to drop the lessons to go to Broadstairs to study. I then moved to London for my first job and didn’t have the cash or incentive to drive with the tube, buses and trains coping fantastically with all my movements so it wasn’t until I was in Italy and already a mum to Thomas, reliant on my husband for lifts all over that I took up my driving again.

I passed. My instructor helped with the multiple choice, pointing out two to change but the practical test I sailed through and on passing I jumped out of the car and kissed the lady instructor who was testing me.

Our friend Danielle, in the bar that night, told me I needed to get 10,000 km under my belt before I could think of myself as a competent driver. So I used Enrico’s ( now our :)) car to start drumming up my kms.

At that time for some absurd reason Enrico had a passion for Alfa Romeos, blue ones. All of them were blue. They were large, four door saloons and I used to watch him and listen to the engine whilst he drove to pick up more tips. I liked the way he would reverse quickly out of the one way street we lived in, one hand on the steering wheel and craning his neck back to watch the road, swerving the car round so we were in the right position to set off for Rovereto. Sooo clever.

I reckoned I could do that, after all I’d watched it enough times.

I put the car in reverse, took the hand break off (which was a plus as I often forgot to do this back then) and pushing the accelerator to the floor as I turned my head to see where we were going.

BANG!!!

Oops, I’d forgotten the steering wheel bit and my boot was now in Alfredo’s patio fence. Thank God we were out of season and there weren’t any of his customers sitting in the morning sunshine. Mind you Alfredo was there and his son, working on the patio but before you panic, I was nowhere near them.

****

When I was pregnant with Megan, about 8 months, we had a babysitter from the UK over to help with Thomas over the summer and to be there when I had to go into hospital. Fiona. Her mum was coming to visit for a week and stay in the hotel and as it was August we  were going to pick them up at the airport.

Thomas was sitting in the back as we made our way down the winding mountain road. There were a couple of gallerie (tunnels) to go through and after the last one, a wasp entered my window, wound down for some fresh air on such a hot day.

The wasp flew around my swollen belly and I looked down to brush it away. I don’t like wasps at the best of times netalone when I’m driving and pregnant.

BANG!!!

I watched in horror as the car slowly drove up the rocky mountain side and rolled onto its side stopping as slowly as it had started. Fiona, had her seat belt on and was hanging above me, I was lying along the car door flattened on the road and Thomas was fine in the back and asking for me. Mamma?

No harm had come to any of us or the unborn baby, Tommy refused for a while to get back in a car with me but eventually came round and the car was a write off much to Enrico’s annoyance. So he got himself another blue Alfa Romeo a couple of days later.

****

 Once I had returned to the UK after our split, Megan decided after 6 months it wasn’t for her and went back to Italy. I was gutted as you can imagine but there’s not a lot you can do to change a stroppy teenagers mind so I took to flying out to Italy every six weeks to keep in touch with my children.

I would hire a car at the airport and spend a long weekend with them. On this particular occasion I had been given a brand new Smart Car, I was impressed. I took Megan shopping one afternoon and we got caught in horrendous rush hour traffic coming back  but we were happy with our purchases, and had loads to talk about so we crawled along talking animatedly to each other.

I was talking about the summer holidays and trying my best to make our family holiday sound The Best Ever, as I so wanted them to come with us. I kept glancing over to gauge her interest written in her face and

BANG!!!

Straight into the rear of the car sitting in front of us. The driver, a young girl no older than 18, jumped out and came round to my side where she started jumping on the car, punching the door and kicking the bonnet. I was petrified.

Luckily others started to gather round as is the norm with any accident. Call the police I said. I had noticed that she had her mother and a small child, Not Strapped In, in the back, stuff to have your license revoked but I wasn’t going to tell her for fear of a kicking myself!

Details were exchanged, no police were called as a gentleman had pointed out her error and explained the consequences and off we went on our merry ways. The damage wasn’t great and again nobody was hurt.

I’m sure you’ll agree that the above Bangs, can’t possibly be all my fault….

Today I have left the country, car packed to the hilt off on our summer vacation (love that word!) and I am co pilot and will be reading directions from The Map – a Philip’s Multiscale Europe, 2009 to get us from Calais to Brumath for our overnight stopoff.

I have coloured post its attached to pages to allow me to move from page to page with ease and follow the yellow brick road all the way to Lake Garda. Our route will take us through Switzerland which will be a first for me and one I’m very looking forward to. I pray for good weather so I can take a few photos on our stop offs to share.

Last year I successfully got us from Calais to Playa Montroig in Cambrils, Spain, about an hour’s journey below Barcelona. We were quite scared at the prospect of driving around Paris, our friends had told us numerous nightmare stories, but we did it. Yes the traffic is intense, yes, there are many lanes and you have to keep an eye on the signs but we managed, we even took in driving underneath Charles de Gaulle airport runway! Very weird feeling.

So with my routemaster directions to follow and a 7.20am Eurotunnel crossing I will direct the family across the continent, to the beautiful region of Alsace where a delicious glass of white wine awaits me.

I find it hard to understand anyone (either sex) who can’t read a map as for me it’s so simple. How can you get it wrong? Is there a knack to following a road on a map? If you follow the road signs as you go and check them as you pass on your map, you automatically know the direction you’re going in and can continue safe in the knowledge you’re on the right road.

So how do people get it wrong? And why are women so notoriously bad at it?

So whenever I see ‘..and women can’t read maps’ I have to make it known  that I can, and very well indeed thank you very much.

Back soon x