There’s a quirky children’s book series by Jez Alborough that I’ve read to my kids, about a duck in his truck. Duck’s driving mishaps are quite funny and I admit that I have often felt like Duck driving in England!
Eleven years ago, being a newlywed and having just landed in Charlie’s homeland, there were lots of adjustments to make especially in that first year. Having grown up in California, driving was such a part of my culture so I knew that it would be important to keep it up in the United Kingdom.
One evening, I got behind the wheel to test drive our recently purchased Honda CR-V. I had driven the same car in the US so what could really be that different?
Oh boy! I only went around the block a few times, but every nerve in my body was triggering an alert to my brain, that I was driving incorrectly to what I had always known! Parking the car was another weird experience too with using all of my car mirrors to the extreme.
Now, I hardly think about driving here at all. I just get in, do it, and strangely, UK driving makes more sense to me simply because it is my everyday reality.
One of our American friends visiting London witnessed first-hand the crazy stunt moves of zigzagging past parked cars, buses, pedestrians, lorries, and more. I joked that the car has to, “Get skinny!” Sometimes, I hold my breath a bit as I drive an inch or two past parked cars, avoiding all of the other hazards on our very congested, narrow roads.
As my husband says, “You have to know the dimensions of your car in London and get to know how tightly you can drive and park.” Whether in a car park or residential street, I am amazed how talented drivers have to be at wiggling into a very tight car space, while not hitting parked cars, or annoying the drivers in front and those behind ready to get around quickly!
I initially took my Highway Code theory test and quickly passed, but I had no idea how the practical, hands-on driving test would be. I was humble enough to realise that some driving lessons in my new country would be a huge benefit. After learning new driving techniques such as “reverse around a corner” and having my patient instructor adjust some of my driving habits for the UK, it was time to see about this pending test. Luckily, I was quite naive so getting a cancellation appointment for only two days after my theory test wasn’t too daunting. I simply had no time to really thing about it.
So there I was, less than two months into my new life in Greater London, and I was taking my driving test with a kind-hearted, Geordie-accented test instructor from Newcastle and my husband nervously sitting in the backseat. It was a good thing I didn’t fully know what I would be getting into with this test. The instructor could tell I was anxious, so he tried to calm my nerves by making small chit-chat conversation in between telling me what driving manoeuvres to make and where to go. Unfortunately, I could barely understand his northern English accent and was so focused on the road that I completely forgot how to have a conversation about the weather while driving!
After nearly forty minutes into my practical test, each instructed movement made me think surely I had just failed. To make things worse, I returned to the test centre down a long, narrow road with double parked cars and past a school, right at pick up time! I must have made the instructor nervous, as he grabbed my steering wheel to make sure we were okay. At that point with my blood boiling, I was prepared for the worst news of failing.
To my amazement, we parked back up at the test centre and he told me the minor errors I had made and then said in a warm, jolly voice, “Congratulations Mrs Mead, you have successfully passed your practical exam for driving!”
Shocked, overjoyed, surprised, but more than anything, I was relieved to have passed. What a wonderful victory for me, while setting up life in a new place! God promises to be with us wherever we go (Joshua 1:9), so we can be assured He wants to do everyday life with us, including the things we don’t always consider praying about. I’m so glad that God cares about the small things as well as the big things in our lives.
And after a decade of living in the UK, I normally go to the correct car door for driving… most of the time!
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 6: 28-30
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31