Ramadan And Driving

I originally wrote this back in 2010, but it gets a new raft of hits each year, usually around the start of Ramadan.

I had a pupil fail her test a while back, and on the way home she mentioned that Ramadan had started. She insisted that she felt OK, but I couldn’t help wonder if it might have had some effect on her concentration otherwise she wouldn’t have brought it up.

Ramadan is the month of fasting for Muslims. During it, participants abstain from eating and drinking between the hours of sunrise and sunset. Technically, those fasting are not even supposed to drink water (there are exceptions for pregnant women or those with specific illnesses), and some participants take it more literally than others. At least one reader has had concerns that Ramadan has affected their driving, and in 2016 it was unusually long at 32 days. In 2017, it ran from 26 May to 24 June, and in 2018 it spanned 17 May to 15 June. In 2019, it ran from 5 May until 4 June. It’s pretty much a full month anyway.

Some years ago, I worked in Pakistan – in Karachi – for a short time, and was there during Ramadan. Some people ate during the day, but very little, and some fasted properly. But in the main, they just got on with things and worked normally. I have vivid memories of the sights and smells of street food when I went to see Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s tomb one evening.

At the other end of the spectrum, when I worked in the rat race over here, Ramadan and other such religious festivals were used by some (not all, I must add) simply to avoid work. Some of my shop floor staff tried it on regularly, but I knew what they were up to – having a smoke outside when you’re supposed to be praying is a bit of a giveaway.

I used to have the (bad) habit of getting up at 8am or earlier, drinking only a cup of tea, not eating anything until I finished work in the late evening, then pigging out on kebabs or curries. Occasionally, during the day, I’d crave something to eat there and then, at which point I could easily put away four Mars Bars and drink a litre of Lucozade! Someone who is very slight would probably not be able to get through the day without being affected at least a little – and this must also apply to those fasting during Ramadan.

If you are teaching Muslim pupils it’s worth discussing the subject with them – and just be open about it: they don’t mind talking about their religion (it’s people who think they do who have the problems). I’ve had several pupils in the past who were suffering during fasting, and in several cases we postponed lessons until it was over. A few years ago, I had a small pupil who was very nervous and jumpy in the car, and we were both worried Ramadan might affect her (she raised the topic herself). So we agreed to do her lessons later in the evening (that was my idea), and although I will admit I thought sunset was a little earlier than it actually was when I agreed to it, we did lessons at 9.30pm once a week for a month so she could keep driving.

Whether it is for Ramadan or any other reason, not eating could affect your concentration on both lessons and driving tests. And you might not realise.

Advice I’d give to anyone fasting during Ramadan is to take lessons or tests in the morning or late evening (if your instructor will do it), and to eat properly when not fasting the night before. Alternatively, just put your lessons on hold until Ramadan is over.

As for the question about whether you should be driving or not,you need to be realistic. I’d say that 99% of white, non-Muslim UK drivers drive when they’re not feeling 100%, and Ramadan hardly turns most participants into hospital cases. So there is no automatic reason why people who are fasting for Ramadan shouldn’t drive. Just use common sense.

Can I take my test during Ramadan?

Of course you can. However, you should consider how fasting affects you and your concentration. It might be better to plan ahead and avoid booking a test during Ramadan altogether. Alternatively, try to book an early test at a time just after you have eaten – or rather, before you start to get hungry.

Fasting during Ramadan affects my driving to work

Someone found the blog on that search term! The answer is simple.

If you are having problems, either don’t drive or don’t fast. There is no Magic Pill that makes it everything OK – if you’re fasting, and it affects your concentration, don’t drive. And that also applies whether you’re ill, drunk, menstruating, or anything else. It’s just common sense.

Bye-bye PayPal Here, Hello SumUp

Regular readers will know that I have been taking card payments from my pupils since 2013. It’ll be ten years this September! How time flies.

I originally used iZettle, which I was happy with. I’d initially wanted to use PayPal Here, but their sales rep got something wrapped around his neck at the time, and so I decided against it and went with iZettle.

Everything was fine for a couple of years, but one time there was an app update which wouldn’t install on my phone (which had worked perfectly well up until that point). I contacted iZettle and they told me my phone wasn’t supported. When I questioned that, pointing out it had always worked before, their precise words amounted to:

Your phone isn’t supported. Goodbye.

iZettle Support in 2015

I’m not making that up. It is precisely what they said. And it nearly destroyed my business overnight, since I had no way of taking most of my payments.

I contacted PayPal, who by now knew what their system actually did, and quickly purchased one of their readers. It worked like a charm, and it was better than iZettle in that money went into my PayPal account instantly, instead of after (3 days + not weekends + not bank holidays (UK) + not public holidays (Sweden)).

iZettle got back to me some time later (quite a long time later, in fact) after I had left withering reviews in various places about their awful service, and it turned out that the reason the app wouldn’t install was that the incompetent prats had put out a package on the Google Store that had the same filename as the previous version. That was the cause of the problem.

I basically told them to f**k off, and I’ve been happy with PayPal Here ever since.

A cool wind of apprehension blew over me in 2018, when PayPal took over iZettle. The wind blew a bit stronger when PayPal stopped supplying the PayPal Here card reader, and began pushing the iZettle (or Zettle) terminal. I’d taken a sacred vow never to use iZettle again, and it didn’t matter anyway, because I already had four PayPal Here readers to cover any breakages, so didn’t worry too much. I didn’t think it would affect me for a long time, as PayPal had never told me the Here service would stop, and I’d only had one terminal fail in ten years, so I was pretty much set until I retired. But it turns out I was wrong – and I am not happy with PayPal for not telling me in advance.

In fact, the first I knew of it was early March, when I had a voicemail which informed me in an American accent that the PayPal Here card readers would stop functioning from the beginning of April 2023. I tried to contact them, but they haven’t bothered to respond in the two weeks since I tried. This is annoying when you consider that I must have taken around £100k using PayPal Here since 2015.

So I immediately took action to ensure I can continue taking card payments.

Zettle can still f**k off. They are the same Swedish company that tried to put me out of business, even if PayPal now owns them. I would not use them again under any circumstances. And now PayPal is pencilled in on my list of people I don’t trust anymore.

So it came down to either SumUp or Square. And then it came down to either an all-singing, all-dancing standalone 3G terminal, or one that connected via an app to my phone. I was a bit concerned about some users complaining about signal strength on the 3G devices (if a pupil lives in the sticks, that can be an issue even with my 5G phone), so I went with an app-based one. And the SumUp one looked better, so it was decision made.

I’ll review it separately in a few days. Right now, it is set up and ready to take payments, but I am waiting for my business Mastercard to arrive so that I can gain the ability to transfer money to my bank account on a (almost) daily basis.

Dragons’ Den

I love this show.

A lot of the things that appear are crap (to me), but every now and then something comes up which makes me go ‘woah!’

Tangle Teezer

A few years ago, someone came on with the Tangle Teezer – a hair brush which removes tangles. I’ve got long hair, and tangles (and dust bunnies, as I call them – how the hell they manage to form overnight amazes me) are a major headache. So I bought a Tangle Teezer just to try it out, and it is bloody brilliant. It really does get tangles out – and it’s good for the bunnies, too. I’ve had two so far – and an Amazon mistake with the second means I have another three on the shelf when the others wear out. They also do versions for pets – the Pet Teezer.

In this current series, a couple more items have appeared which pulled me up.

Matey Measure

The Matey Measure clicked with me immediately. I do a bit of DIY, and as soon as they demonstrated this device, I went ‘a-ha!’ The inventors didn’t get an investment – it probably isn’t something which will set the world on fire – but it does fill a definite DIY gap. It helps you use a tape measure in a confined environment. I bought one (it is also available on Amazon)..

And then there was FixIts (these did get an investment). They are a sort of thermoplastic strip, which melts in hot water to a putty-like consistency, but which becomes hard again when it cools. I immediately saw applications at home for this (my reading glasses and the nose pads being one immediate example). I’m waiting for those to arrive through Amazon.

Linekergate Scandal Grows

Gary Lineker and Ian Wright

Most people (in the UK) will be aware of the furore this week over a tweet made by Gary Lineker in relation to the government’s proposed bill concerning asylum seekers. This is what he said:

There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?

Gary Lineker tweet

You will note that he did not use the words ‘Nazi’ or ‘Holocaust’. He simply referred to pre-war Germany and the language and behaviour prevalent at the time. It was Suella Braverman – one of the architects and supporters of this right-wing nonsense – who brought the Holocaust up.

Lineker himself has previously taken in two refugees, both of which remained with him for a short time before moving on to the next stage of their time in the UK (one of them went to university, and the other was completing a Law course).

However, the right-wing bigots who oppose immigration don’t have a clue what the process involves, and believe that every immigrant gets put up in a 4-star hotel for years. The are against anyone with darker skin (even those who are 3rd or 4th generation British).

Now, Lineker presents Match of the Day (MOTD) on the BBC, and the BBC has to remain impartial on political matters. Our level of Wokery in the UK is currently about 6 on the Richter Scale, and people are out looking for trouble all the time. The government wants to defund the BBC, and all the right-wing bigots want that, too. So it is understandable that the BBC should feel nervous when any of its presenters airs their own views, and hardly surprising when the likes of Braverman attempt to use it for their own right-wing political ends, whilst decrying the politics originally expressed.

Lineker is not a BBC employee. He is a freelancer. And he did not make his comments using any BBC platform. So all the BBC has to do is say: ‘Gary Lineker’s views are his own, and do not represent those of the BBC in any way.’ Or words to that effect, anyway. But instead, he is currently not going to be presenting MOTD. And in a follow up story, Ian Wright – one of Lineker’s co-presenters – has announced he will not appear on MOTD tomorrow as a show of solidarity with Lineker.

The simple fact is that Lineker was right. This government is frantically trying to recover the 20+ percentage gap between itself and Labour in the voting intention polls. And it is doing it by trying to appease all the bigots this country sadly is home to.

Update: Alan Shearer is also out in solidarity:

Alan Shearer tweet

And now Micah Richards (though he wasn’t scheduled):

Micah Richards tweet

Driving Tests and Lessons In Snow

Originally posted in 2009. Updated annually, so here’s the 2023 version. It’s the start of March and wintry showers have started (heavier snow in some places). The papers are full of dire warnings about the coldest winter since 10,000 BC (the last Ice Age). Same as every year. The original article follows.

Further to a post about cancelled lessons due to weather, I noticed on one forum a couple of years ago someone getting all excited about how there might be a market for specialised snow lessons at premium prices. As of October 2018 (and it hasn’t got even close to snowing yet), some instructors are already going on about not doing lessons.Snow on road scene 1

Let’s have a reality check here.

Until February 2009, it hadn’t snowed to any appreciable extent in the UK for around 26 years! We had two bad winters, but since then they have been relatively mild ones with almost no snow. Even when we get a little of the white stuff it is usually gone inside a week or two at most. Snow – and especially in the UK – is usually extremely localised. The media talks it up so it sounds like the whole country is blanketed in a metre of the stuff, especially if a few wet flakes fall in London. This  is enough to have people cutting down each others trees for their wood-fired stoves, and panic buying Evian at the local Waitrose. It can keep the BBC news bulletins going for days at a time.

Every year, incompetence and bureaucracy at local councils typically means that every time there is any bad weather, it’s like they’ve never experienced it before. This – and the media hyping it to death – makes things seem a lot worse than they really are. Having a ‘specialised snow Instructor’ in the UK (especially in England) would be like having a fleet of icebreakers sailing the Mediterranean: bloody stupid! Back here on Planet Earth, I will carry on doing things the way I always have done: use whatever weather comes to hand as a teaching opportunity if it is appropriate, and charging normal lesson rates for it.

One bit of advice. Make sure you have the right mixture in your wash bottle, and a scraper for removing any frost or snow. A further bit of advice. Never, ever, ever be tempted to buy a metal-bladed ice scraper. Always plastic. Trust me, I’ve tested metal ones for you, and you are welcome. Don’t use metal.

Will my driving lessons be cancelled due to snow?

It depends on how much of it there is, how far advanced you are with your training, and your instructor’s attitude to teaching in snow. There is no rule that says you mustn’t have lessons in snow. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to do them if you can to get valuable experience. But beginners perhaps shouldn’t because it’s just too dangerous for them. It’s your instructor’s decision, even if you want to do it.Snow on road scene 2

Do driving lessons get cancelled when there is snow?

Yes. It depends on how much snow and how advanced you are as a learner driver. If your instructor cancels then you should not get charged. If you are, find another instructor quickly.

If the police are advising people not to travel unless it’s essential, having a driving lesson in those conditions is a bad idea. That’s when they’re likely to be cancelled.

Also bear in mind that it doesn’t matter if you’re learning with the AA, BSM, Bill Plant, or any other driving school. The decision is down to your instructor based on the weather in your area.

Will my instructor tell me if my lesson is cancelled?

Yes. If he or she doesn’t (or just doesn’t turn up without telling you), find another. But why take the chance? Just call or text him and ask.

My instructor says he isn’t insured for icy weather

Someone found the blog on that search term (February 2018). I’m telling you in the most absolute terms possible that this is utter nonsense. I have never heard of insurance which says you can’t drive in certain weather, and especially not driving instructor insurance. If anyone tells you this, find another instructor quickly.

Do [driving school name] cancel lessons due to bad weather?

Cancelling lessons due to bad weather is down to the instructor and not the driving school they represent. So it doesn’t matter which school you are with. But yes, lessons can be cancelled for bad weather.

Any decent instructor might cancel lessons due to too much snow – either falling, or on the ground – making driving dangerous. They might also cancel due to thick fog, strong winds, and heavy rain/flooding. The decision lies solely with the instructor. If you disagree with their decision, find another one.

Will I have to pay for my lesson if it’s cancelled due to snow?

There is no specific law which says your instructor can’t charge you, but if he or she does it goes against all the principles of Common Decency. You should not be charged for bad weather cancellations initiated by your instructor. If you are, find another instructor as soon as possible.

However, if it’s you who wants to cancel, but your instructor wants to go ahead with the lesson, it’s a little more tricky. You being nervous is not the same as it being genuinely too dangerous. I had someone once who would try to cancel for light rain, bright sun, mist, and wind when she didn’t feel like driving. You’ll need to sort this out yourself, but as in all other cases, if you’re not happy just find a different instructor – being aware that if the problem is you, the issues won’t go away.

I want to do the lesson, but my instructor said no

You need to be realistic about the conditions. Just because your test is coming up, for example, and you don’t want to have to move it doesn’t alter the fact that the weather might just be too dangerous to drive in on the day of the lesson. When I cancel lessons in snow it’s usually with my newer pupils who I know can panic and brake too hard. On the other hand, if the police are advising against travel, or if the roads are at a standstill, I will cancel a lesson no matter who it is.Snow on road scene 3

As an example, one day in 2016 it began snowing heavily about 30 minutes before I was due to pick someone up late one morning. The roads quickly got covered and traffic began to slow down. His house was on a slope, and it was clearly becoming difficult to drive without slipping. I made a choice there and then to cancel the lesson. The snow lasted for about as long as his lesson would have, but was gone by the afternoon. Cancelling was the right decision.

Do lessons in snow cost more?

No. If you’re charged extra for normal driving lessons in snow, find another instructor immediately.

I’m worried about driving lessons in snow

Don’t be. You’re going to have to do it when you’ve passed, and it makes sense to learn how to do it now while you have the chance. A lot of people never see snow until they’ve passed their tests, then they don’t know what to do and end up crashing, like the red car in the picture above.

You should never drive in snow

That’s total rubbish. Unless the advice is ‘not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary’, doing lessons on snow or ice is extremely useful for when you pass. Partially melted snow is ideal for doing ‘snow lessons’ if you have the right instructor. The one thing you do need is to make sure you are suitably equipped in case you get caught out. A scraper, de-icer, the right liquid in your wash bottle – and perhaps a pair of snow socks.

But irrespective of that, no matter how much snow experience you have, your test could easily be cancelled if there is snow at the time. Just accept it.

Do YOU do lessons in snow?

Generally speaking, yes – as long as I feel it is safe to do so, and unless the advice is ‘not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary’. I do not do lessons in snow because I am desperate for the money – I will happily cancel if I believe it is too dangerous. And sometimes it is. For example, in this 2021 update, I cancelled two late afternoon lessons on the day it began snowing hard (after finishing the one I was on while it was coming down), because the first is trigger-happy with his foot at the best of times, and the other would have been after the slush froze (and it froze bloody hard). And I didn’t know how long it would snow for, or how much we’d get.

Why do YOU do lessons in snow?

A while back, not long after I became an instructor, we had two winters where it snowed properly for the first time in around 26 years. I had not experienced it as an instructor before, and I cancelled a lot of lessons. After several weeks I realised I was being over-cautious. It was one of those head-slapping moments, and I recognised that I could actually use the snow as a teaching aid. Not with the beginners or nervous ones, but the more advanced ones definitely.

Snow - bad enough to cancel or not?Basically, if the snow is melting and main roads are clear, there’s no reason not to do lessons. We can dip into some quiet roads and look at how easy it is to skid. If the snow is still falling and main roads are affected by lying snow, then doing lessons carries a much greater risk. A bit of common sense tells you what you can and can’t get away with.

I can state with absolute certainty that every single pupil has benefitted from driving lessons on snow if the chance has arisen for them.

Will my driving test be cancelled due to snow?

It is very likely. You need to phone up the test centre on the day using the number on your email confirmation and check. Otherwise, you must turn up – even if they cancel it at the last minute. If you don’t, you’ll probably lose your test fee – or end up having a drawn-out argument over it. Make life simple and follow the guidelines.

At one time, tests wouldn’t go out if there was any snow at all in Nottingham. In February 2018 during the visitation by ‘The Beast from the East’ (aka the ‘Kitten in Britain’), I had an early morning test go out with substantial snow on the side roads, repeated snow showers, and a temperature of -4°C showing on my car display. My wiper blade rubbers were solid, and making that horrible sound when they bounce instead of glide. I was amazed (but the pupil passed anyway). You can never be certain, but be prepared.

If my test is cancelled, will I have to pay for another?

No. They will send you a new date within a few days (or you can phone them or look it up online). And it will not count as one of your ‘lives’ for moving your test.

Can I claim for out of pocket expenses if my test is cancelled?

Snow on road scene 4

No. Neither you, nor your instructor, can claim any money back. And you shouldn’t be charged for your lesson or car hire that day if your instructor is in any way reputable.

It’s happened to me several times on pupils’ test days. If a test is cancelled due to the weather, I do not charge them. I can’t really see any reason why yours should, either. If they do, you need to start asking yourself serious questions about them.

Will snow stop a driving test?

YES. Snow can easily stop a test, or prevent it from going ahead. It doesn’t matter how you phrase the question, or who you ask, if there is snow then the test could easily be affected. They tell you all this when you book it.

Driving tests cancelled due to snow [insert year here]…

It doesn’t matter if it’s 1821, 1921, 2021, or any other date. If there is snow on the roads and/or it is icy then your test may well be cancelled. It doesn’t matter what you, your instructor, or your mum or dad says, or – in 2021, 2022, or 2023 (and counting) – that there’s a long waiting list for test dates due to COVID. It is up to the test centre to decide.

Why was my driving test cancelled because it snowed?

Driving in snow is dangerous even for experienced drivers. The side streets will likely be covered in sheet ice and compacted snow and you will skid if you even drive carefully on them. You could easily lose control. That’s why there are so many accidents in snow and icy conditions. You are a new driver and you probably haven’t driven on snow before. DVSA cannot take the risk, and you have to accept it.


In the past, I have had 8.10am tests booked in the middle of winter and sometimes I know for a fact that when I pick the pupil up at 6.30am the conditions are so bad the test is going to be cancelled. Even heavy frost or mist/fog is enough to cause a cancellation, and in winter those things are frequent. But until the examiners get in just before 8am there is no way of checking. That’s why I advise against my pupils booking early tests in winter – cancellations are far more likely when it is cold and icy, and it is more likely to be cold and icy (and foggy) first thing in the morning before the sun has come up properly.

The only advice I’d give is not to book very early tests in winter months, because the risk of a postponement is much higher.

Examiner Strikes and Cancelled Tests (2023)

Well, I did have a test this morning, but the pupil had been contacted by the test centre to inform her that there wasn’t an examiner available, and that her test had been rescheduled in a couple of weeks – albeit at the God Awful time of 7.50am. Bastards.

I went back to bed for a couple more hours.

Another DVSA email came through this afternoon warning of more disruption throughout March.

The thing to remember is that not all examiners are in the prehistoric union, and not all those that are will be taking action. The problem is no one knows which ones will, and the dates of action are not known.

It’s worth mentioning the risk to your pupils.

A Guide to ADI Etiquette

Toton Park & Ride – the wilderness

Although I’ve tended to move away from this topic over the years, in the past – fired by the comments of imbeciles on web forums which no longer exist – I’ve often made the point that many ADIs are complete prats in almost everything they do.

Back in the days when the three-point-turn (aka turn in the road) and corner reverse were part of the driving test, the behaviour of other ADIs was appalling when you wanted to practice.

For example. Near me, there is an industrial estate, which is very quiet on evenings and at weekends. With experienced pupils, I would have used any relatively quiet corner or road anywhere in the city to do the reverse corner exercise, but with new pupils it was better to have a road with little traffic to worry about. Industrial estates were good places for that reason.

If we arrived and someone else was using the corner, I’d tell my pupil to drive on, and we would either use another corner, or do something else instead. That’s because ever since I became an instructor, I have always made it a point not to interfere with other instructors or their pupils. Unfortunately, for reasons I have never fathomed, other ADIs seem to go out of their way to inconvenience everyone. I’m not sure if it is because they are simply stupid and unaware, or if they are doing it on purpose because they are stupid in a different way.

In the past, I have had them queuing up behind me waiting to use a corner (for the reverse exercise), and on more than one occasion one of them moved in when we were part way round. In those cases, they moved off when I got out and told them we were using the corner.

It was the same with the turn in the road exercise. Again, there is an industrial estate which is quiet on weekends. These days, it has parked vans on it, which are ideal for parallel park practice, but some years ago it would be deserted – especially on Sundays. One of the roads was about half a mile long, which was useful for the turn in the road manoeuvre. And yet I can recall at least half a dozen instances where we had driven in and stopped, only to have another driving school car turn up and stop right behind us to do the same manoeuvre, preventing us from moving while they did it. And it didn’t matter if we’d stopped at the beginning, middle, or end of the road – wherever we stopped, they would come close behind. On another occasion, I’d pulled my pupil over on a narrow road in Bramcote to discuss something, only for another instructor to come from the opposite direction and stop directly opposite, creating a bottleneck for other traffic. Yet the road was otherwise empty of parked vehicles.

This is why I refuse to have anything to do with other instructors. Most of them are complete pillocks.

Another time, I was in a small car park on an industrial estate one weekend. It has nine parking spaces one side, and five the other. As I intimated earlier, if someone is using it (or if any of the bays are occupied by employees or boy racers eating their McDonalds), I give it a wide berth and go somewhere else. It is only big enough for one learner to practice at a time – if anyone else goes in, only one of you can move, and if employees are already parked there you’re likely to get complaints. But one time, another instructor did come in while I was practising with a learner, blocking us completely. He left after I had a quiet word.

There’s a similar problem at the Colwick Test Centre. They have repeatedly asked instructors not to use the centre car park unless they have a test, but as I said, most instructors are pillocks. The lesser pillocks will queue outside the centre, and then drive in en masse once all the tests have gone out to practice bay parking. But several – and it is a large several – go in at test times and get in the way.

Last year, one of my pupils was heading out of the compound on his test. One of these pillocks was waiting to come in, and his pupil had stopped wide at the give way line, which resulted in my pupil kerbing the car. I saw it happen as I was walking down to the exit myself. When they got back, the examiner was spitting feathers and swearing. She said to my pupil:

I’ve told that idiot more than once not to come in when tests are going out, but he keeps doing it. You went on to the kerb and I’m supposed to fail you for that – you’ve passed, by the way – but he was blocking the road. I want his registration number so I can do something about it…

Driving examiner

At that point, I told her my dashcam would have caught it and I’d be more than happy to provide it. She gave me her office phone number, and I happily did provide her with the information an hour later.

A fortnight ago, I went in for a test ten minutes before our time (as the test centre requests). We stopped at the top of the drive to allow two other school cars to reverse into bays. I said to my pupil at the time that this was going to be like watching paint dry, and it was. But it turned out that one of them wasn’t there for a test – it was practising in the car park. Some stupid cow in a Mercedes. My pupil didn’t even have time to go to the loo by the time we finally got in (but the examiner was happy to wait a moment while she did – she passed).

That’s the beauty of technology. Years ago, it was just a visual thing, and I used to write down the registration numbers of anyone behaving like a prat and put an article on the blog. Nowadays, you can capture it in glorious 4K video, and record sound and video using bodycams. Better still, Nottinghamshire Police now accept online dashcam footage, and I’m currently running at 26 submissions out of 30 where they have told me they will be taking further action. Technology also came in handy recently.

A few weeks ago, I went into the Toton Park and Ride with a pupil to do bay parking with her for the first time. The entire far side of the P+R was empty, except for three parked vehicles dotted around, and one learner doing the bay park (right in the main driveway (sigh)). I mean, we’re talking about 250+ empty parking bays, across nine separate blocks. We detoured so as to leave that learner alone, and went into one of the corner blocks. All caught on dashcam, you understand (that’s a screen capture at the top from my dashcam on the day in question).

Anyway, I’m conducting the lesson in my usual way. I firstly do the manoeuvre using my dual controls and ask them how I managed to get into the bay. Then I do it again, showing them the mechanics of what we just discussed. Then I ask them to try it with me talking them through it. It was just as my pupil began to try it herself for the first time that she became distracted. Another school car had turned up right behind us and was waiting. I told her to ignore him and carry on, but she isn’t ready for that yet, so I had to get involved to get her out of the way.

Once we’d reversed in, I expected the other learner to drive past – some idiot instructors (and most uninsured parents) use the P+R as an enclosed driving circuit – but he stopped directly in front of us. Then he moved forward slightly to position. Incredibly, the imbecile was planning to reverse bay park next to us! The whole damned car park was empty, but he blocked us in to do the manoeuvre right next to us!

I got out and waved at him. He rolled down his window. I said:

The whole car park is empty [the dashcam shows I gestured to the empty expanse], but you’ve now blocked us in. She’s doing the bay park for the first time, and now we can’t move. You could have gone anywhere, but you came here, right next to us. Why?

He looked at me, and I continued:

Look, I’m not being rude or anything, but… come on!

The video shows him wave in acknowledgement, and me give the thumbs up. All caught by my dashcam in crystal clear 4K broadcast quality video – his registration number, vehicle type, and school name. But no audio, of course.

That should have been the end of it, with him having learned an important lesson in etiquette and common sense, but a couple of days later I got a call telling me someone had complained and that I had used offensive language. But I had an ace up my sleeve. You see, as well as a very high resolution dashcam, I also have a bodycam. It’s about the size of a thick USB stick, so it is very discreet when clipped to my shirt. I don’t have it recording video (there’s no need) – but I do have it recording audio on loop.

And that turned out to be very useful in this case when dealing with someone who was a liar as well as a prat.

I’ve mentioned many times in the past that driving instructors are nothing special, even if they think they are. Many of them are just as stupid as the general public. This one certainly was – unless he was just so clueless that this somehow made sense to him.

My advice to anyone thinking of becoming an instructor – and to anyone who already is one – is to use some bloody common sense and keep away from other learners. If someone is using ‘your’ special place, tough. Go somewhere else, like I do. You can easily find somewhere else to practice unless you are totally clueless. And if you are one of those who is afflicted by the need to always cluster around others, get treatment for it.

If you’re going to take them on to main roads, make them drive at least close to the speed limit – it’s better for them and for everyone else. If they can’t, they shouldn’t be there. On the first lesson with a new pupil, when going through what each pedal does, I say to mine when discussing the accelerator:

I’ll usually call it the gas pedal, because it’s quicker to say. ‘More gas’ means press it harder, ‘less gas’ means press it less. ‘Off the gas’ means take your foot away from it. And my favourite is ‘gas, gas, gas, gas, gas’ when I want you to go faster – I’ll use that a lot to start with once we get on the big roads, because going slow annoys other drivers, and that means you’ll be under pressure if they overtake or start tooting at you.

And stay out of the damned test centre unless you’re going to a test. You have to be a complete idiot to want to practice there and risk messing up other people’s tests.

After All That Hassle

I’ve mentioned before, but I build my own PCs. I began doing it nearly 30 years ago, when one of my early PCs broke down.

In those days, unless you could afford one of the business computers from the big manufacturers (which were hugely expensive), you’d usually get your machine from one of the many popup PC manufacturers which started appearing. Back then, we also had a recognisable high street, and many vendors had shops you could visit to order your machine. They were very affordable – but I discovered the main reason for that.

I’ve always been into electronics, and expanding these machines was usually one of the first things many owners did, even if they were working. Extra memory, another hard drive or CD-ROM (or maybe just a CD-ROM because you hadn’t got one already). But with ownership, the need to go inside to replace things which had broken also became something you expected sooner or later.

The first time I opened one, I was amazed at how empty the case was (and don’t even get me started on the razor-sharp burrs on the crappy cases). A cut-down motherboard with onboard graphics, and cables to the hard drive, the CD-ROM, and the power supply was all that was in there. Then one time, my PC failed completely and I identified that the power supply (PSU) had blown.

When I contacted the shop, they told me they could get me a PSU and it would cost £80 (I’d fit it myself). But that was far more expensive than what I’d seen in the magazines at that time. PSUs went for maybe £20-£30. The problem was, the PSU in my machine – and most machines sold cheaply those days – was a cut-down import from the Far East. It was smaller than a standard PSU, and could only be obtained either by import, or from someone who’d already imported them (i.e. the people charging £80).

I then realised my machine’s case was a standard tower case, and the place where the PSU sits would take a standard sized replacement. So I bought one, fitted it (all the screw holes still lined up), and the machine was fine again. That was until a year or two later, when it (or whatever machine I had) blew again, and this time it wasn’t the PSU.

That was when I built my first one from scratch. I sourced all of the parts from eBuyer (and have done ever since then), and deliberately specced my machine as high as I could afford so it would last for several years before needing another major upgrade. Since then, I’ve built at least five.

Now we’re getting to the point. The last one, I specced very highly. When I ran the benchmark tests after I powered it for the first time, it was in the top 1% in the world for speed and other features. But I’d also chosen the Thermaltake Level 20 GT case for it.

The Level 20 GT is a beast. Even with nothing added to it, it weights about 20kg, but the full working system is well over 30kg. And that means that unless you live in the most open-plan and minimalist environment (and I don’t), once you’ve put it somewhere you don’t really want to be having to move it out regularly – or in my case, at all, unless it can be avoided. And it is big enough that when you do position it, you don’t want it in the middle of the room. It goes on or under somewhere, next to a wall.

Now, anyone with even a basic understanding of computers that run off the mains and can do fancy things will know that apart from their functionality, they are also effectively big Hoovers. The fans suck in air to blow over the components inside to cool them down. And air contains dust (especially in a bedroom or home office). Over time, that dust collects on the grilles, the fans, and eventually even on the components inside. The grilles and fans are the first to be affected, and if you don’t do anything the airflow is reduced and your PC starts to overheat.

My PC has not overheated. But I had noticed a build up of dust on the front grille covering the front fans. In fact, I first became aware (and moderately concerned) about it a couple of years ago. I tried to removed the front panel, but could see no way except by relocating my 30-40kg monster and partially dismantling it. Yet there were no obvious screws to remove.

I’d Googled it, and the only advice (and not much of it) was that the grille pulled off, but this was confused by other advice that you needed to get at something inside (clips). I was also mindful of the initial assembly of my system, and all the myriad screws necessary to accomplish that – so I was still kind of assuming screws would be involved somewhere. But they aren’t.

I’d tried pulling it before, but I was being very gentle for fear of breaking it. Periodically, I’d had another feel underneath to see if I could find something I’d missed, and had another few gentle pulls to no avail. This is over a period of two or more years, you understand. And trust me, it isn’t in the manual.

But yesterday, I decided to sort it once and for all. Again, I’d seen the advice that it pulls off, and this time I wasn’t so gentle. I gave it a good sharp tug at the bottom (see photo, the arrow shows where there is a grab slot about 3cm back underneath) and it popped out surprisingly easily considering the problems I’d had before. I ran my fingers up the side and pulled at the top and it came off easily.

Once out, the tempered glass panel has to be removed, and this is held by four short screws (so do it on a table). Once these were removed, the glass panel was free and the grille could be cleaned. I used a paintbrush to get the main bulk of dust off, then an air blower to remove the smaller stuff. I could have washed it using water, but it was now completely dust free and so didn’t bother.

Once I’d screwed the glass panel back in, I re-positioned the whole front panel against the case, located the clips into their slots (important), then gave it a sharp tap in each corner to push them back into place.

I simply cannot believe that this has flummoxed me for as long as it has, when it turned out to be so simple.

As a footnote, can I point out that my PC doesn’t have loads of poncey colours flashing all over the place. Mine is a muted red colour.

BoE Raises Interest Rates

The Bank of England

We own our house outright, so the increase in interest rates from 3.5% to 4% – the highest level for 14 years – doesn’t affect us too much.

In fact, I actually got a laugh out of it when I read the BBC’s guide to interest rates (it was written last year, but they’ve linked to it again after today’s announcement). They explain:

Interest is the extra cash you get charged for a loan

If a friend loans you £10 at a 10% interest rate, you’ll pay them back £11. That’s the £10 you borrowed plus an extra £1 (10% of £10) as interest. Banks have more complicated ways of calculating this, but that’s the general idea.


While this is not actually wrong, the ‘more complicated ways’ the banks use make it very close to being so. It is far, far more complex than that, and how they have worded it implies the banks are inventing some mysterious calculation intended to rip people off. They are not.

I’m even more amused by why they thought it necessary to explain even the simple example they gave.

Queen’s Medical Centre Parking

QMC parking – Zafira YG64 OUH

It’s been a stressful week. My mum was rushed into hospital last Thursday with severe back pain, and it turns out she has fractures in her spine. They say it will heal, but she’s still in pain and on powerful painkillers as a result of the manipulations necessary when she has a scan or physiotherapy.

I’ve been visiting her daily, and I use the Queen’ Medical Centre (QMC) car parks. At night that isn’t much of a problem, but during the day I want to get out and punch people for being so stupid in those car parks.

I usually go in off the A52 (other routes are congested during the day and early evening, especially with the A52 Derby Road being closed for the next three months, because of sodding Cadent again), then circle the whole campus to get into the main car park, where there are more likely to be spaces. The problems start at Car Park No. 1 (near the East Block). It isn’t a very big one and is invariably full, but people still queue to get in, preventing others moving further through the campus. They will actually block the road indefinitely in the hope the ‘FULL’ sign goes out. Then there is the Treatment Centre multi-storey car park. You can only use that if you have an appointment at the Treatment Centre iself, but you have to go past it to access Car Park No. 3 (the main one), and people queue for that, too. I was stuck there for ten minutes yesterday, and finally overtook the queue to get by.

QMC parking – Zafira YG64 OUH

But today, I couldn’t believe what I saw in Car Park No. 3. There were actually quite a few parking spaces when I went at just after 1pm. But as most readers will probably know, parking even a few metres further away from where you’d like to park is totally unacceptable if you are a fucking idiot, like the one in the photos here, and this means you’ll park wherever you want – however you want.

As I drove through, I’d identified at least six parking spaces I could use if necessary. But I followed the route they have now introduced and looped around – only to be blocked by the utter prat who had parked like this.

They hadn’t parked in a bay. And they hadn’t parked straight. In fact, it looked for all the world as if they had purposely left their car in the diagonal position across the road route in order to block people in. I had to carefully reverse back around sharp corners (watching for other traffic) as a result. I’d have had to mount the footpath to get past otherwise.

I doubt that they will do anything, but I am reporting it. The annoying thing is, if I parked crooked or outside of a bay even half as badly, I’d probably end up being ‘spoken with’. Yet these sleazebags get away with it and mess things up for everyone else.

Update: I went in again on 2 February and this was in the same location as the idiot above, blocking the thoroughfare.

KIA (NJ17 ZGD) and Volkswagen (FN69 DYH)