Driving Licence Advice This week’s advice concerns the issues involved when obtaining a driving licence. Most of us have navigated the UK licence test. Anyone who turned 17 before World War 2 was simply issued a licence (my dad was one of them). The rest of us have had to pass a written and road test. This advice may be particularly useful for anyone contemplating moving to somewhere warm and sunny and not British. It is based on personal experience. I have obtained driving licences in England, Zambia, Bogotá and Chicago. Passing the test requires an understanding of the culture. Simply driving is not enough. I shall illustrate cultural differences. In Zambia, in the 70s times were tough, with sanctions in place on their southern neighbour (Southern Rhodesia). Part of the test involved reversing between oil drums. To ensure sufficient profit was made the drums were placed closer than the vehicle width on the first test to ensure failure and help to achieve the revenue targets. In Bogotá, Colombia there were two ways to get a licence. One was to fill in forms, do a test and pass or fail it. The $10 option. The alternative was to give your secretary a $100 bill and a photo and she would come back with a driving licence (all legal I was told). In USA, where the right to drive is almost as sacrosanct as the right to bear arms, the test is not too bad. However be wary of the written tick box test. I was told it was easy so did no revision. I was then confronted with road signs to identify. However the picture had been removed and only the shape was left to give a clue. 3 strikes and you are out. I passed with no strikes left. So please consider the cultural situation before embarking on obtaining a licence abroad. I imagine Germany is quite challenging? Finally here is some advice for those struggling with the UK test on busy roads, complex one-way systems, traffic lights and roundabouts. Book a holiday cottage near Kirkwall in Orkney for a couple of months, book a test and have a bit of practice around the town. You should find there are no traffic lights permanently installed or dual carriageways to confound you and a pretty relaxed attitude to life. There are quite a few mini roundabouts though so please take a look at my advice on roundabouts to cope with these. Good luck to driving test applicants in Orkney.
Advice on Christmas Presents We have reached 12th night so we can declare Christmas as officially over for this year. There is one matter that may still be ongoing and that is Christmas present despatch. We spent many hours buying presents in real and online shops with much consternation. By the way, I advise anyone of my height (around 5 feet 10 inches) to avoid shopping in Glasgow on a rainy day. The determined women shoppers in Glasgow are typically 5 feet tall and once they put up their brollies and march resolutely down Buchanan Street the prongs on their umbrellas are precisely lined up at my eye height and the danger of losing an eyeball or at least getting a good poke is severe. Some things we should not have to endure to bring glad tidings. Online shopping has its problems too. Trying to deduce where Gus the Yodal delivery man has deposited the Italian food hamper (behind the green recycle bin) and eventually struggling to reconstitute a soaked Pannecotta loaf is not a recipe for peace on earth. On Christmas day we mentally sort out the useful from the recycle pile and planning starts. The Rotary raffles, tombolas and the like can take care of a few. M&S will allow exchanges but the present is now half price so you take a big loss if you are too polite to tell the giver you are changing it. Alternatively you can give it to someone else. In the nineties, US mail ran an ad to promote their postal service along the lines of ‘don’t get stuck with the fruit cake, pass it on’. Also there are the presents you feel a need to keep to avoid offence so you put them away in a safe place and try to remember to put the porcelain toucan back on the bookshelf when the mother in law visits. So here is advice on giving to anyone who has a house full of stuff. You may remember I raised the issues of de-cluttering in an earlier advice session. Only buy them presents that can be consumed such as food and drink; a good 21 year old malt will rarely go amiss.