Friday, June 05, 2009

Have another cup of tea...

Just thought I'd put up a quickie to say go and read More Blood, More Sweat and another Cup of Tea from the fabulous Tom Reynolds.

It's written by an EMT for the London Ambulance Service, and gives you a gritty but empathic look at the world of an ambulance driver.

It's been released on a creative commons license so you can download it from the publishers for free, but I think it definately worth paying for the book too - show your appreciation!

For those who can't be bothered to make it to Amazon or the publishers, you can always just read this one...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Starting again

Ok.  It's been 2 years since I did any publishing on this blog - and frankly that's disgraceful!

Since then, I've stepped down from my role as IAM chairman (5 years is long enough for anyone in that job) and have also decided to put my observing on the back burner for the time being.  That doesn't mean it's the end of my driving fun however...

I've recently decided to start marshalling again - I used to do it years ago for the SMCMA, and when I was at Palmer Autosport (see a couple of posts ago) and mentioned that I used to do it, they suggested I should get back into the habbit.  

I had kind of agreed, then decided that actually there was just too much going on in my life at the moment and put itback on the back burner - that was until a couple of months ago.

I (well, actually hubby) decided it would be good fun to go along to the Pistonheads show in Birmingham.  I was just about chaved out with all the fancy mods etc I could add to my nissan micra when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a lone stand for the British Motorsport Marshals Club and decided to go and have a nosey.

A few forms and a direct debit mandate later and I'm a trainee marshall! (I decided it would be easier starting again from the bottom despite my years with the SMCMA - firstly it's car marshalling rather than bikes, and secondly it's been so long that it's probably safer!)

So perhaps I'll make use of this blog to highlight my fun and games in the world of marshalling instead...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I really must apologies

I've been conspicuous by my absence.

Truth be told, I've been on my holidays (was fab - thanks very much for asking).

Will have some stories for that and an update on my day of driving small fast things soon.

Just trying to get my head round Google AdWords at the moment - if anyone has any suggestions, let me know!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Getting excited...

I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

Instead of my usual trundle up and down the A12 to work I'm going in a different direction - to Bedford.

Why oh why can I hear you ask, are you excited about going to Bedford?

Well, it's simple.

A couple of weeks ago I won a prize at work - to go and spend the day with Cisco (again, probably not something to get excited about I hear you cry) at Palmer Sport Autodrome in Bedford.

A whole day of racing top spec cars such as Caterhams, 350z's and Jaguars around a series of tracks...

I can't wait!

My plea...

I know you're the best driver in the world...
I know you've spent thousands on your car...
I know that a Nissan Micra/Peugeot 206/your mums fiesta will always be the fastest car in the world...
I know that neon running lights make your car look really cool...
I know you need a baseball cap to keep all your multitude of brains inside your head...
I know that you don't need to keep to the speed limits...
I know that the highway code doesn't apply to you...
I know you have a speaker system that Ministry of Sound would be proud of...
I know you want to show off your car as much as you can...

But please, pretty please, pretty please with sugar on top...


It's uncomfortable for the person following you, and it's blinding for the person in front.

You don't need them on. We can see you and your blinged up car perfectly well without them.


Remember, fogs should only ever be used when visibility drops below 100m

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Joining the IAM

One of the most common questions I'm asked, is how you become an advanced motorist. This usually comes just after the comments about all advanced motorists wearing flat caps and string backed driving gloves!

So for those who are interested, here's a brief outline of what you need to do...

Becoming an Advanced Motorist is not anywhere as difficult as it seems. You simply buy a package from the IAM, called a Skill for Life package, and that will give you all the tools you need to become a better driver.

Included in the fee you pay are:
  • A copy of the current highway code (because lets be honest here, how many of you out there have really looked at the code since you passed your L-test?)
  • A copy of the institutes Advanced Driving Manual, called Pass your Advanced Driving Test (this is an edited version of Roadcraft, the police driver training manual)
  • A years associate membership of your local (or preferred) IAM group
  • An allocated Observer from your chosen group who will sit in the passenger seat of your car and give guidance on your driving
  • All the training sessions for associates and members run by your local group
  • Your IAM test, which will be taken in your own car and assessed by a trained police class 1 driver
  • A years membership of the IAM once you have passed your test.

There may also be other extras available from your local group.

The other question I usually get asked is how much it costs. Usually, I tell people what I've said above, then ask them to judge how much they think it would cost...

And then I tell them the real cost, so go on, have a guess...

...I bet you're wrong...

...The actual price of an IAM skill for life package is £85 - £75 if you are between the ages of 17 and 26. Not bad huh?

So what are you waiting for, go on, do it, you know it makes sense!

BTW, it took me 7 years to get around to doing my IAM test, and now I wish I'd done it so many years before!

Traffic...What traffic?

My other half is an expert at clocking up motorway miles with his job. Therefore, when he told me I'd better leave the house a bit earlier now the schools had gone back, I listened to him.

So here I am, in the office, half an hour early for work, with there being no noticable change to the traffic from last week.

But I'll bet you if I'd left home late there would have been :o)

Friday, September 01, 2006

People in glass houses...

probably shouldn't be naturists.

I digress. We've had a bit of an interesting debate in our IAM magazine recently. It all started with an associate asking about driving barefoot.

Now most people subscribe to the commonly held belief that driving barefoot is illegal. It's not. It is however an offence to not be in proper control of your vehicle - and if the officer who stops your car thinks that your lack of footwear is a contributing factor in this, then he'll probably give you a ticket.

Personally, I've driven barefoot once or twice - out of necessity - and although it's an interesting experience, and I'm of the opinion it makes your car sympathy a bit better, I wouldn't choose to do it frequently. Admittedly, a couple of times I've done it because I've worn a spectacularly silly pair of shoes to the office, and by the time I've got back to the car, I'm struggling to walk, but one time sticks in my memory for a different reason.

About 6 years ago, not long after I moved to Suffolk, him indoors and myself decided to pay a trip across town to Halfords a large retailer specialising in motoring goods. Off we set with him driving, I tend to let him get on with it when he's around, and went to said shop to buy whatever it was we needed. As we came out, there was an audible crunch, and a rather pained squeal from my unfortunate other half, his back had just gone - spectacularly! Normally, this wouldn't have been a problem, he lies on back seat, I get in front and drive - however this day, for some reason unknown to me now, I'd decided to wear my clogs to go shopping - yep, clogs, you know, those wooden things... Off they came, and in I went, barefoot all the way home.

After the discussions in the newsletter, there was a bit more debate about whether other forms of footwear are more sensible or not as the case may be - flip flops for example. Some people are firm advocates of flat soled sensible driving shoes - I'm not. I wish I'd had a pound for every time I've turned up somewhere in my usual work shoes and been met with a barrage of disbelief that I've driven in them. I see it this way - why shouldn't I? I wear them day in and day out, and I'm far more used to the way they feel than some flat sensible shoes.

I always remember back to the days when I was learning to drive. My dad - with a great deal of sense no doubt - used to insist that I took my driving lessons in my trainers so I could "feel the pedals", so dutifully I would change into them before every lesson (I should note at this point that I, unlike many teenagers, didn't live in my trainers - I was firmly attached to my Dr Martin boots) I struggled for weeks with clutch control and the pedals - always using too much, or not enough power. One day, I had a lesson straight from school and forgot said trainers - having to take my lesson in my boots. The transformation was amazing - suddenly everything worked as it should have. My instructor mentioned how much better I was that week and I casually mentioned the slip up with the boots. "I'm not surprised" said he "people always drive better in the shoes they are used to" and at that he made me promise to do that in future.

So now I drive in whatever I have on my feet. Usually. I do draw the line at flappy flip flops - although I have a couple of pairs of tight fitting ones I'm happy to drive in - and I've got a pair of 6in heels that I wouldn't even contemplate driving in (having said that, I can barely walk in them, never mind drive), but other than that, the sky's the limit - I've driven in boots with a 3in heel, flats and wedges, hiking boots and wellies (not a great idea admittedly) and I still agree with my instructor - if you can walk in them, you can drive in them.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I've just realised I was going to blog about flip flops tonight - ah well, the accident post distracted me somewhat.

It's getting late now, but I promise I'll do it before I go work tomorrow.

night night

There but for the grace...

One of the things I see a lot of on the A12 is bumps and shunts. Normally they aren't anything too major - just someone not looking where they are going and running into the back end of the car in front.

So tonight when I hit the road after work and promptly joined a crawling queue of traffic, I just assumed it was another one of these that had maybe closed a lane.

Boy oh boy, was I wrong.

Up in the distance at the next junction I could see some blue flashies on the other side of the carriageway. This usually provokes some kind of Pavlovian response in me where I am immediately thankful that it's on the other side of the road, swear at the obvious rubberneckers who are slowing down my side, and I open a window.

Perhaps I should digress for a moment to explain why I open a window... It's quite simple really, when there's any kind of major incident on the road, there is normally some kind of emergency vehicle needed. In this example I could see the blue flashies to tell me that something was on site already, however one of the mantras that I've learned to live with is that where there is one blue light special, another could quite possibly follow. Now on a normal road, this isn't a problem - the Ambulance (for example) will just batter down the road to wherever they need to be, then stop. On a dual carriageway however, this can be a bit different, sometimes they will come onto the road on the opposite side and cross over at the next junction to approach an accident. Opening the window (and for that matter turning down the stereo) means I can hear such a vehicle approaching a bit quicker and try and get out of the way.

Anyhow, I spotted the flashies, and we crawled on regardless. As I approached however, I could see this was more than just a little shunt. There were what looked like 3 fire engines in attendance, as well as a fast response paramedic and a lot of police. Ensconced in the middle of this was a Luton type van. As I approached, I couldn't really see what all the fuss was about - that was until I noticed the large pile of crumpled silver metal wedged behind the van. I'm still not sure whether it was a car or a van, it was completely indistinguishable - all I can tell you is there were a lot of active firemen and a big set of Jaws of life.

I always find it sobering to drive past accidents like these. In another time or place, it could have been me who was involved - so I say thanks to whoever's listening and drive on for the time being.

I like to hope that maybe, just maybe, it makes the others on the road stop and think about their driving just a bit more, then people like the afore mentioned Tom Reynolds can have an easier life of it.


We've had a bit of a spate of car "injurys" of late round here - nothing major - a scraped bumper here, a ding there - but no-one ever seems to own up to them.

Now they've gone and scratched my wing mirror.

I am not a happy bunny

Driving in Heels

I've been reading a lot about driving in heels lately - I'm going to have a proper think about it today and maybe blog about it tonight.

Bank Holiday Boogeymen

Just back from a soggy (ish) weekend in a tent, hence the reason there's been no blogs for a day or two.

Bank Holiday drivers always amaze me - how can people drive around, completely oblivious to the fact that they are doing 25 in a 60 and there's a 3 mile queue of traffic behind them!

I saw a reall stroke of genious this weekend. We were staying at the rather nice Waterside holiday park in Essex. I should have had an alarm bell ringing when I booked the weekend. The girl on the other end of the phone did say that she should really warn me that the tent pitches were a bit away from the toliets and showers. "No problem" says me, thinking they were probably over the other side of a field - but alas, no - they were on the other side of the site - a good 10 minutes walk away! Anyhow, most of the carvans in this place were statics (not the one's that Top Gear blow up with an increasing frequency) - and one chap in a static near us had obviously decided he'd had enough of the walking back and forth to the facilities (the pool, shop and bar were also beside the toilets), and had invested in a little Suzuki Jeep - painted like a Zebra, which he ran around the site with no tax or number plates (and alas, probably no insurance) just to get from A-B!

I also saw a lovely ding while I was away - Jag XKS and a Range Rover, on a roundabout, both with a smashed light cluster - that's going to be a lovely repair bill!

Friday, August 25, 2006


I should probably thank Tom Reynolds - he was the inspiration behind me finally getting my finger out and starting up this blog.

Tom writes the absolutely amazing blog Random Acts of Reality where he talks about his life as an EMT with the London Ambulance Service.

I'm always in awe at what he does - even the stuff he thinks is pretty mundane is really impressive and I'm trully an addict.

So thanks Tom, and should I ever get pregnant, I promise never to ring a Maternataxi!!

Lorries, Lorries everywhere!

I had a bit of a treat today. Him indoors has driven me to work instead of me running the gauntlet that is the A12. It let me see things from the passengers perspective for a change, and probably notice even more than I would usually.

It was actually a fairly quiet day on the road today, there wasn't a lot about and we did the 50 mile trip in a much shorter time than I usually manage it. One thing kind of stuck out for me though...

As we were pootling (well, pootling probably isn't exactly the word for it, but you get my drift) past Kelvedon we came alongside a flatbed truck - you know the kind of thing, usually has "John Smith, builder" daubed along the side of it. What had caught my attention was the lovely streamer effect he was generating behind him! The truck had one of those big old rolls of clear cellophane on the bed - the type of stuff you use to wrap up palates with - and somehow or other the end had come loose, gradually unraveling the whole shebang on his trip down the road. I had visions of him getting to his final destination to find no roll of cellophane, and him looking at the truck, scratching his head and muttering something about "it was definitely there when I left!"

I see a lot of detritus on the road and often find myself musing about where it comes from and why - I guess if I'd seen that somewhere else then I'd be wondering how 40ft of cellophane came to be wrapped round a crash barrier - now I know!

Like I said in a previous post, I'm an advanced motorist, and sometimes some people's behavior on the road really makes me cringe. I met one of them last night on the way home.

To give you a bit of background on this, I'm the proud owner of a dinky little Suzuki Swift - and I'm sure that sometimes it deceives people with its speed. Anyhow, last night there was some of the usual hold ups that I see on the way home. You get used to them after a while and know roughly where you're going to meet them on the road. At one point I noticed in my rear view mirror that I was being followed by a Volvo C70 with German plates. I really probably only noticed him because he was weaving about over the road, and racing up behind me then pulling back by about 200yds.

At some point the guy following him obviously got fed up of this (I think I would have too) and undertook him - provoking the ire of the Volvo driver. As this happened, we came up to one of those areas of congestion I mentioned before, so I got ready, slowing myself down (I'm getting pretty sharp at doing that without the brakes now) and waiting for the queue. I slowed down to about maybe 10 or 15 mph, and had a quick look in my RVM to check the guy behind me was noticing I was slowing down, and having a look for donors on wheels motorcyclists. Imagine my surprise then, when all I could see was an enormous C70 squeezing into the 2 second gap behind me - so close that I couldn't even see his grill, let alone his number plate or wheels!

Unfortunately, it's the people like this who cause a great deal of the accidents on our roads. Just not thinking about what you're doing, or why the person in front has a nice big space between them and the next car, is a recipe for disaster. I see more and more crashes on the road each day, and can't help wondering how long it will be before I'm stuck in the middle of one.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Well, here goes!

I've been toying with the idea of a driving blog for a while now.

I should probably explain... Driving is a lot of what I do. I travel the A12 every day to work, and at the weekend I'm the chairman of my local group of Advanced motorists (

Sometimes I see some stuff on the road which is absolutely bonkers, other times, I'm just struck with a bit of inspiration while stuck in the inevitable car park traffic jam that is my journey to or from work.

I hope you like it - please let me know if you do - or don't - it's always nice to know!