Saturday, 10 March 2012

driving me crazy

After I wrote about the effects of ageing on my eyesight I read a similar themed post over on my blogger friend Tony Van Helsings site.
It got me thinking.
There are some things that you really do need to consider giving up as you get older.

And I'm not just talking about the fact that I might look a little bit silly at a rave in my glow-in-the-dark clothing, not that any of it fits me anymore. Besides all that bouncing around just makes my feet ache, and I need a week to recover even though I'm home and in bed with a cocoa by midnight.

My Dad is in his eighties.
Ill health has begun to affect his mobility in the last few years, but I obviously get my inability to get my brain to understand that I am no longer 25 from him.
Because up until a couple of years ago if you put this man in charge of anything with an engine he thought he was either a formula one driver or captain of the boat that holds the sea-speed record.

He was never concerned with the fact that his car is very old or that his boat is very small.
Size matters not, and it's "all the other silly bastards" who are at fault, never him.

Nowadays his car is so knackered I doubt it can go faster then the average milk cart, and most of the time he keeps his boat moored at it's week-end location and catches the ferry over to it.
But this was not always the case.
Dads boat looks very similar to this . . .

Except it's not as sea worthy.
Probably due to years of being "worked on" by Dad, the same man who once spent an entire week-end putting up shelves that fell down within half an hour of putting stuff on them. Actually most of my power tools were bought for me by Dad, because he knows if he wants something done I will make a better job of it then he can.
Apart from the boat, that is entirely his domain.

We live in a city that has a large Naval base, a continental ferry port which also deals with container ships, a smaller ferry terminal from which catamarans and smaller boats run, and a Hovercraft terminal right on the beach. Spend an afternoon sat on our seafront and you will see endless boats and other sea vehicles of all shapes and sizes pass by.

And occasionally a crazy old man dodging between them.

Not to scale. Shipping channel is six miles wide, 
if it looks crowded here then the reality is worse.

Dad told me "those ferries are fucking dangerous, a few times they've nearly hit me and they all seem to think that because they're so big they have the right of way".
That's because they do.
Dad was in the navy when he was a young man, so naturally he knows what he's doing and it's the captains of the various ferries, container ships, frigates, aircraft carriers and destroyers who have no idea how to manage their vessels.
And the Harbour Master needs firing. . . according to Dad. Because he has no idea how careless those big ships are and how dangerously their captains drive them.
Do you drive a boat ? Steer perhaps.

One day I was round my sisters and the TV was on although we were talking and not paying any attention to it. The local news came on and there was a story about someone being charged with causing a nuisance to shipping in a small private boat - we both stopped talking and sat there waiting to hear the newscaster say our Dads name.
Because we just KNEW it was going to be him.
It wasn't, thankfully. But it SO should of been.

My sisters mother-in-law lives where the smaller ferries are heading to, and she had the hardest time trying to find a polite way to say to Dad that there was no fucking way she was going to do what he suggested.
Let him take her and her kids over rather then "wasting" all that money on the ferry.

According to Dad the reason he now keeps his boat permanently at the week-end location is because it was getting too dangerous to cross - nothing to do with him, just they are "letting too many other boats use the water" and he was worried for his safety.
Now he knows how his daughters have been feeling for twenty fucking years.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said about him driving on the road.
Except that nowadays his lack of speed is the problem rather then too much of it. I stopped accepting his offers of lifts a long time ago, white knuckle rides are not my thing. But one day before I wised up he was driving me home and turned a corner without slowing down causing the poor man who had just stepped into the road to cross it to jump back.
And Dad ?
He stopped, I thought to check the fella was ok. But no, he wound the window down and shouted at him to "look before you cross the fucking road".

I wish he would just give up his car.
Every year he says he is going to, he no longer goes very far in it anyway, but he never does.
For someone who has always been reckless at the best of times, when you put the issues of old age into the equation it goes beyond stupid and into the range of fucking dangerous.
Actually scrap that.
It's always been dangerous.

I think there should be some system in place that means that when you get older you have to prove that you are still capable of driving. We all know that as you age your physical capabilities can lessen, and not just your eyesight. Dad has arthritis in his knees that makes it impossible for him to climb my stairs, he cannot sit on my sofa because he can't get back up from it and walks with a stick, yet he drives a manual car.
I worry about him, and of course anyone else that might be involved if he had an accident.

Because, of course, it wouldn't be Dads fault.

I'm not saying that all old people are bad drivers, nor do I think that all bad drivers are old.
I've never managed to learn to drive and not for the want of trying.
But my last instructor refused to give me anymore lessons because apparently I am "a liability" and he was worried "for my car and my own personal safety".
I thought I was doing ok.
I'd got to the point where he no longer had to tell me 'clutch, brake etc' - just where to go, and we were driving through a little village high street. The car had five gears, so I was damn well going to use them, and as we turned into the road I was going (or so I thought) a bit too fast to be able to stop before I hit either the double decker bus that was coming towards me or the policeman on a pushbike in front of us.
So I hit the policeman.
Not badly, I wasn't going that fast. Really I just clipped his back wheel and he wobbled a bit before kind of stepping off. When he saw it was a learner driver - and the look of terror on my face - he just waved us on.

But when we pulled up outside my house and I wanted to book my next lesson the instructor wasn't exactly happy.
I guess lack of driving skills are another thing I've inherited.

Dad was always giving me advice to "help" with my lessons. The one I remember was "when you approach a bend in a road drop a gear (sound advice so far. . . ) then as you get to it go up again and drive into it ".

Lately I've been thinking that I might try to learn again, I'm not as reckless as I was when I had those last lessons, they were quite a long time ago.
But then again I might just get behind the wheel and turn into Lewis Hamilton.

I am my Dad's daughter after all.


  1. No, not all bad drivers are old people but I take exception to not all old people being bad drivers.

    When I get stuck walking behind some 90 year old guy at the store that moves as though his feet are tied together, and then I see that same guy get into the driver's side of a car, I refuse to get on the road for at least 10 minutes. There is no way he has the reflexes to be operating that vehicle.

  2. Your dad actually sounds pretty damn awesome. I want to be like that when I'm older. I have to learn to drive first.

    And sail.

    And I should probably learn to swim before I learn to sail.

  3. I'll teach you how to drive. Jacksonville is the largest city (geographically) in the U.S. We could drive for hours and never leave the city and never be on the same street twice. I love your drawing of your dad's route. I believe you pilot a boat, you don't drive it or steer it. My parents have been dead for quite some time, but when my mother got into her seventies her driving terrified me. My ex-husband is a terrible driver, too. He tailgates. Of course, my driving is excellent.


  4. I love this post so much DCG, your dad sounds like a seriously amazing guy to me. I'll be very lucky if I ever make it to 85 and maintain his spirit to say the least.

  5. Thanks for bigging me up. It must be hard for your dad to give up his car, just when he needs it to get around and his co-ordination goes out of the window and he becomes a danger.

  6. it's nice to hear about having a dad, even with dad problems.

    i remember an old guy who we had to drive around and he had just lost his license. i was so hearatbroken for his freedom being taken and him feeling so betrayed.

    i dunno.

    i'd like my own driver. that would make me happy.

  7. I miss my Dad he was a lot like your Dad and he would be in his eighties had he been here today I was 22 when he died enjoy the time you have with him Jane he sounds like a cool guy!
    I will ask daughter if she ever noticed a crazy little boat weaving about the water she's on an aircraft carrier now based in portsmouth, she's of the ship in nelson at the moment studying maths, she wants to come out of the Navy apparently its gone to shit with all the government cuts sorry i babbled a bit there :) hope you're well.

  8. Great story! I'm afraid that I, too, may one day (oh, it's virtually a guarantee) become a "crazy old man."
    I hope I can still read the stories my kids will tell about me.

  9. Your Dad seems like a card, I guess it's not surprising after having read your blog. Like Al, I can't wait to be old and weird. Except I hope to be rich so I can fall into the eccentric category.

  10. At least your dad still can drive fast. I never understand why old people drive so slow everywhere they go. As a comedian once said, I would haul ass everywhere I went, because you could die at any minute. We've no time to waste!


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