It’s a year since I got in a car and, for half an hour, managed to suggest to an examiner that I was the boss of it and could make it work within the laws of the land.
And, after a year of driving, during which I’ve tried really hard to stretch myself rather than do nothing but potter back and forward to my Mum’s – I’ve done night driving, city centre driving, motorway driving, and driving-to-places-I-don’t-already-know-the-way-to – I’m starting to feel as though I’m getting the hang of it.
I’ve noticed something over the last few weeks. As I’m getting more confident, and my driving is starting to come more naturally, I’m becoming a more generous driver. I slow down and smile encouragingly when I see someone with two walking sticks hesitating at the edge of a pedestrian crossing. I flash my lights then wait when I drive through a village and see someone trying to reverse out of a steep drive onto the road.
I never used to do these things. Also, I never used to wave to people I know as I drove past. Not because I was determined to be some sort of Thatcherite it’s-all-about-me driver, but because I was so busy thinking about what gear I was in, how to tackle the next challenge – roundabout! corner! hill! – that I had no attention, no energy, left for noticing the places where the niceties could happen. I must have at least one conversation a week where someone tells me that they saw me driving somewhere, and waved, and I didn’t see them.
(Just so we’re clear: at no point during the last year have I mown down any old ladies, honked at people, or behaved badly, apart from doing infuriatingly slow just-passed-my-test driving along winding country roads. In fact, the other day Joy and I were in the car when someone pulled out in front of us. I braked and said, ‘Now you didn’t really have time to do that, did you?’. Joy laughed and said, ‘That was you doing road rage, wasn’t it, Mum?’ and she was about right.)
So it is with illness, I think. Sometimes I look back at my in-the-depths-of-cancer time and wonder that I didn’t do more, for myself, for other people with cancer who were so much more ill than I was. But, when I get behind the wheel, I get the answer.