Sunday, 28 May 2017

Testing Times

Having been inundated with mail from my many admirers following my riveting account of not passing Part 1 of the test, otherwise known as Cone Kill or how to disappear up your own exhaust pipe without really trying, I shall proceed to continue the saga.

There comes a point when either through boredom with making the repeated trek to the blasted heath which passes for a testing ground, or a reluctance to go on contributing to the examiner’s welfare fund, you decide to really try to pass. This is what you do.

Go out and buy a good paperback, of which there are many, all with titles roughly the same — Pass Your Test. They are all written by the same man under different names. They are full of vital info -— keep to the left in general, if you find the bars digging into you back you have got on the bike wrong, go round rather than through roundabouts, etc, etc. The really fascinating stuff is that referring to a thing called steering geometry, and you learn with horror that at speed — whatever that mean: - you steer the bike to it. left if you want to go right and vice versa. Bit of a bugger, that one. However back to the cones.

If you can master that everyday manoeuvre of the eight, everything else is a doddle. You need six small stones and a friend’s hard tennis court. No friends with same? Find a school playground — they are empty for most of the time. You distribute the stones in such a way as to — ah bollocks to it — throw them at the nearest window and just go out there and pass.

Flushed with success and pleasure at meeting again the examiner whom you look on as an old friend, you spend loads more money and book in for Part 2. And who should be there but Mr Ex again. Things like, ”Hiya, wonder how many times this one will take,” will probably not go down well.

Especially if it’s raining which, of course. it is. The first hurdle is the most difficult, the eye test. My vision starts petering out at about 10 yards so it is useless to ask me to read a number plate at 25 yards. Mercifully, l have a good short term memory and l recommend the following procedure. After you have clocked in, clock out and check out the number plates of nearby cars.

Leaving a sheet of paper under the windscreen of any likely car with a warning that the car has been booby trapped will ensure that the car stays there and that the attention of the examiner will be absorbed by the antics of the constabulary for the next hour. If, as has happened, the driver takes no notice, all is not lost because it is just possible, by coming out with an entirely fictitious number sufficiently confidently to convince the examiner that his own eyes need testing, which he is obviously not going to admit to you.

He then looks at your machine — why can’t he call it a bike? — with the sort of look that only a confirmed cynic can achieve, and says something like, proceed down this road and take the first left by the newsagents, carry straight on until you come to a T junction and turn left and then immediately right at the phone box, turn right at the second crossroads and join the one way system for 354 yards and take the left fork signposted cemetery and turn right at the traffic lights which will bring you to the end of this road. Then carry on round again until I signal you to stop.

Bloody hell! Of course, with a limited size brain, most of which is still largely taken up with registration numbers, there is simply no way you can take this sort of thing on board. You have two options: bugger off home and take your test after moving house.

Apologise profusely and take out of your pocket your false hearing aid, available free from pharmacies, explaining that you can't get your helmet over It. You get on - it is probably best, even allowing for the degree of intimacy which you will have established after so many hours together, not to offer him a ride on the back so that he can better judge your skill - and spend a tense 10 minutes or so starting the engine, which is suffering from nerves, into life, throwing sickly apologetic Tom-type leers at him. He won’t be interested since by now the police and bomb squad should have started to arrive. Go around the first corner, stop and have a smoke.

Ten minutes later, en route once again, you will pass a furiously gesticulating figure — one mightily pissed off examiner. Now this is possibly the most crucial part of the whole proceeding, save for the Highway Code. You have two options in reply to his barely constrained, "Where have you been?” If you carried off the imaginary number plate episode successfully, there is no problem — you just swear blind that you have been riding around all the time. If you didn't need recourse to that then select any or all of the following: You fell off; you stopped for a pee; you had to tighten up the mirrors/bars/wheels; you got held up by the funeral at the cemetery (the best one). He will be longing to be finished with you by now, and the emergency stop will be as cursory and foreseeable as expected. Back at base, the dreaded Highway Code awaits. For the average UMG reader born in the seventies this is no problem, but for members of the BOF society it is a very sweaty experience.

We hardly knew what motorways were let alone what you did on them. Multi coloured studs, filtering lights, pelican crossings, all a closed book. But we, the elders, have one big advantage, a refined knowledge of psychology. Never commit yourself to an answer unless you are dead sure it’s right. You can safely deal with the, ”how many lanes has the left-hand side of a dual carriageway got?” type of question, and even with tricky ones like, ”how many lanes has a dual carriageway got altogether?” But more awkward is, ”What is the sequence of lights at a Pelican crossing?" You have no idea at all, so first of all play for time either by asking him to repeat the question or repeating it yourself, thereby acknowledging the skill of the questioner.

It is important that there is not too much silence, so you can begin by speculating out loud: "red... green... orange" a subtle one that since he is probably as old as you and similarly was not brought up on amber. If you got the wrong order, he will say ”Yes, but what order?” which will give you another go. It’s crucial not to look him in the eye as this will be seen as a defiant challenge to his authority, but you must glance at them at critical moments the disbelieving twitch of an eyebrow is hard to disguise. The more you can involve him, the better, as he will feel wanted for the first time that week.

And, finally, I really enjoy riding my Moto Guzzi V50, and can't understand the periodic blasts of criticism from UMG readers. It has been, for a year, super reliable, ridden throughout the year in all weathers and we get all weathers in Wales. It looks dead smart (V reg), makes a lovely noise, handles brilliantly — what more can you want? Yeah, OK, 100mph plus, but remember I’m a BOF. Thank god they didn't have the pursuit type test when I was learning.

P. Station

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