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I’m driven to distraction by sisterly advice

PUBLISHED: 15:45 25 November 2005 | UPDATED: 10:25 07 September 2010

I received this text message from my sister yesterday: Oh my god, I failed again. I want to cry. Whenever she breaks up with a boyfriend it is time to learn how to drive a car ... perhaps to reassert her independence? She has failed five times now. Som

I received this text message from my sister yesterday: "Oh my god, I failed again. I want to cry."

Whenever she breaks up with a boyfriend it is time to learn how to drive a car ... perhaps to reassert her independence? She has failed five times now. Something must be wrong.

All her driving lessons, studying of road signs and her immense knowledge of do's and don'ts makes her a real pain to have as a passenger. As test failures mount so her aggressive critique of my driving escalates in volume and intensity.

I would have thought her repeated failure would be a humbling experience. But no, I even get criticised for jerky gear changes - in an automatic car.

I suggest she may have inherited driving genes that skipped a few generations and come from a time Before Cars (BC) when her great grandparents were navigating hand-carts around the shetels of Lithuania.

My sister and I are like chalk and cheese. She is responsible, reliable, always arrives on time and, when it comes to clothes, has a wardrobe filled with prize acquisitions almost entirely from that well known exclusive fashion chain: Oxfam.

Her choice in men is equally bizarre, but that's another story.

When it comes to driving, I am not sure even I have inherited much through our parents' genes. It is still a mystery to me how I passed my driving test. About a week later I went through a red light and crashed into a police car. I reversed into a concrete bollard only last week.

My sister has helpfully explained that the car mirrors have purposes other than for checking make-up and hair.

My mother is a creative driver. At 16 her father took her from Johannesburg to Swaziland to take her driving test. There she momentarily confused her clutch and accelerator pedals and sailed gently into a wall - probably the only wall in Swaziland.

Nevertheless she still managed to pass her test. In those days there were advantages in Southern Africa to being white.

My father drives as if he is negotiating a jumbo jet through the twisty lanes of Hampstead in a blackout, while wearing boxing gloves and steering from the rear seat. His idea of a good car is something really solid, combining the design philosophies of the US military and Cartier: two- inch steel plates on the outside, leather and polished walnut on the inside. As for me, I like pink. Any pink car will do.

It may come as some surprise to you then, that my car is not only black but has an ugly roof rack. My father, as you may recall (see November 18 column) is a bit consumed about "creative-motivational-structures".

Instead of pocket money he encouraged me to read by paying me for every book I read regardless of how long or short it was. It worked, sort of: I read a lot; but am unable to read any book with more than 50 pages without feeling I should apply for overtime.

Anyway, for A levels, he devised this system with negative encouragement: like unplugging the TV and disabling the phone. There was a big positive incentive which involved a car.

To show his absolute (and questionable, in my mind) confidence in me he ordered the car during my mocks.

By the time my "not-entirely-sparkling" results arrived, the car was already sitting outside the house.

Anyway, my sister is still so upset about failing her latest test. I try to console her with various platitudes that seem only to make things worse.

She drives way better than me, and knows what those triangle things with strange pictures in them mean. Which reminds me, I must ask her what the one with the exclamation mark is. And what those lines in the road are for?

To encourage her I tell her she is a brilliant driver but there is a conspiracy by our dear mayor, no less, to keep cars off London's roads. And what better way than to fail everyone at driving test stage?

It is only a matter of time before no-one will be driving cars. However, as Mr Livingstone happens to be a fellow columnist on the Ham&High I appeal directly to you Ken: Let my sister have her license!

She likes this idea and is indeed encouraged.

"I better book a date and place for my next driving test," she says.

"Why not try Dumfries," I suggest.

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