Driving lessons with Mum

2014-10-31 00:00

TWEET, my family’s open-topped bluebird-blue beach buggy, is the only one in Hilton that we know of. This probably has something to do with the fact that our little town has one of the highest rainfalls in South Africa but we prefer to think we are just original. She has a fibreglass body and a 1979 remodelled VW Beetle engine. Mum likes to think this makes her sound like a Ferrari but she sounds more like a lawnmower to me. She has a rusty hooter that sounds like a burp and her windscreen wipers are decorative. The rear-view mirrors are like old-fashioned ladies’ powder make-up mirrors. The indicator is a little sliver knob that is flicked left or right and it needs to be flicked back after turning.

Every time we arrive somewhere in Mum’s Gumtree-found car she pats the bonnet and says “Good Tweet”, which not only makes me question if the car should have actually passed the road safety test but also my mother’s sanity. When we drive her, we get hoots and waves as we pass people and often we have been snapped in a photo. Although it is extremely hard to get from point A to B without looking fantastically windswept and your hair in a completely different style, I do still love the drives we have in her.

At 17, my friends and I are starting to learn to drive. It seems those who live on farms have been driving for years and the others are learning in small car parks.

Unfortunately, my local car park is busy and we don’t live anywhere near any farm roads. My stubborn mother does not let this stop her though; she takes us to the Hilton Mondi Forest.

On Sundays, our driving days, the forests around Hilton buzz with action. Fathers are running after toddlers on wobbly bicycles. Mothers are shouting at dogs off leashes darting unexpectedly out of the trees. Grumpy grannies are strolling slowly with their old, deaf dogs in the middle of the road. Crazy off-road bikers fly around corners. Packs of mountain bikers take up the whole road while trail runners give disapproving stares. There are almost always mud puddles. Jeremy Clarkson would do a Top Gear shoot here if he knew about it. Yes Mum, so ideal.

If that isn’t enough, Mum is determined for me to learn to drive in Tweet. Did I mention that Tweet’s gear changes are a mystery — even to my parents who have been driving for centuries? Also, Tweet stutters and belches until she is warm, sometimes jerking to a stop unexpectedly like a sulky child who is just too tired to go any further.

Mum, self-appointed driving instructor, started teaching each of us to drive from the age of 12. I have argued for years that putting a child behind a wheel, with a small neck stretched to see over the bonnet, is not exactly safe or strictly legal. My older brother is 19 and has been driving for three years and passed his licence first time. Stu, the youngest child, is 13 and he has been driving well for over a year. But it has not gone as smoothly for me and both boys never let me forget that.

Maybe my brothers are better suited to Mum’s unconventional instructor style: she screeches whenever she feels the car is losing control. Her white knuckles gripping the side of the car are not reassuring and her tense leg pushing the imaginary brake through the floorboard is not confidence boosting either.

Each driving lesson is the same. Mum drives about five minutes away from any visible tar road, stops the car and asks: “Who’s first?”

Stu never hesitates to jump at taking the wheel. He is the faultless student who grins as he roars around corners. Once Stu feels he has had enough, he swops seats with me and snickers in the back while Mum starts the same speech: “As you release the clutch, you slowly push down the accelerator, so one replaces the other.”

Why is it that I always think of Roald Dahl’s scene from Boy, where his half-sister crashes the car and he almost loses his nose?

I cannot help but think of the worst-case scenario and Dahl’s words echo in my head: “Are you sure you know how to do it? … Do you know where the brakes are?”

Smug Stu has recently decided to take videos of my disastrous driving attempts. That is when I would not mind hitting a pothole and bouncing him off the back of Tweet into a puddle.

But, I decided I better not do that because at this rate it looks like I am going to need him to drive me places for a while.


Louiza Roy and her younger brother, Stu, take Tweet out for a drive. ‘Tweet has a fibreglass body and a 1979 remodelled VW Beetle engine. Mum likes to think this makes her sound like a Ferrari …’

PHOTO: supplied

Louiza Roy, known to most people as Lulu, is a Grade 11 boarder at St Anne’s Diocesan College in Hilton. She enjoys sport, specifically water polo and hockey, and takes a keen interest in music. Her favourite thing is a December beach holiday where she enjoys surfing as one of her main hobbies. She gets her love for English and writing from her mum, as well as her desire to study law one day.

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