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All life is here



There is significant danger that the likes of me, white, Scottish boy from a working class background in the west coast of Scotland, who came to England to seek his fortune and found it and in the process worked through the hospitals and in some of the areas of highest social deprivation in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and then ultimately found himself working entirely in private practice in a bubble, becomes out of touch with society.

I try to be fully aware of this despite the fact that I live in one of the most affluent areas of Nottingham and my children go to the highest performing state school in the East Midlands.

Going back 10 and 15 years, the places where I worked and the people that I met on a day to day basis were very different to the ones that I meet now and so I appreciate the fact that my input and my social barometer are at risk of being skewed in the wrong direction.

It was with that as a backdrop that I attended the national speed awareness course in a Nottingham hotel recently.

It was there that I was exposed, for the first time in a while, to a room which was a true (or at least seemingly true) cross section of society.

But for the very extremes of society at the bottom and the top, most people or at least many people throughout the social classes will drive.

By the very nature of driving in this day and age, people will exceed the speed limit and some will get caught (this is my third speed awareness course) and they will have to attend a course.

In these circumstances 24 people will congregate in a relatively small room in a mediocre hotel to be facilitated, on this occasion, by two instructors from Drive Tech.

All life is here and so the fun begins.

To someone who takes a great interest and in fact great pleasure in the observation of others, this was not just a joy but at time downright hilarious.

Like watching a Kevin Bridges show or a David Walliams sitcom in full and before my very eyes as the true impact of the recent developments of society just presented themselves full and front on.

Firstly the instructors.

The first one, let’s call him “The Man”. The Man was really, very good. He was very accomplished, very knowledgeable and extremely well drilled at dealing with an audience and keeping them in line and pushing things in the direction he wanted, we were finishing on time with the information put across and he will try to make a difference for the people who wanted a difference made.

The next however, let’s call her “The Woman” was a caricature of Mrs Postern from the David Walliams sitcom Big School.

Later in the session she would give emotional Martin Luther King like speeches on ethics and the damage that speech can cause, full dramatic effect, long pauses and annoying glances in the directions of the delegates.

While I am in no way removing anything from anyone who has suffered injury, insult or tragedy from any road traffic accident, the performance that she gave at the front of the room to people who had been doing 33MPH in a 30 (still unacceptable, I know) was quite devastating, she played a video at one point of hazard perception and the oldest gentleman in the room (lets call him “Alf”) asked if she would be able to play the video again so that he could see some of the points that she had raised.

She was incredulous as she explained to Alf that, that simply wouldn’t be possible because they were on such tight time schedules it would be unfair to the rest of the group, did he really appreciate what he was asking?

She was loving it and loving her position of responsibility.

It was glorious to watch. It made the morning pass much faster than it ever would have done.

Alf was one of the stars of the show. Very possibly a Nazi war criminal who has been hiding in the United Kingdom all this time, who found himself on a speed awareness course unable to hold back his right of right-wing views and his cemented opinions which were not moving anywhere unless perhaps they were hit by a bulldozer.

That would have probably been relatively easy to handle, had it not been for the youngster, let’s call him “Blaine” (if Mrs Postern was a caricature then Blaine was a caricature of a caricature). He clearly had Tourette’s syndrome which was undiagnosed (so far) and although he was a little bit of a loveable rouge who loved his Mum and his Nan, he has an insane urge to shout at any possible opportunity, even at the point where Mrs Postern and The man, would actively turn their back on him and try to focus away any discussion (and I say discussion in the loosest sense).

This made for a fascinating dynamic, not only between Blaine and Alf but also from one of the guys on my table who lived near where I live, who just wanted to get the course out of the way, had arrived trying to give it the best possible shot but whose temper began to fray and fray as the involuntary bizarre random answers started firing over the top of his head towards the front of the room.

Next up to move to the front of stage was my Mother in-law (or someone very like my Mother In-law) who had no business being anywhere near a national speed awareness course and who it would be hard to believe had ever travelled at more than 17.5MPH in their life in any vehicle.

This poor old dear would have seen the sanction of a national speed awareness course to a similar level of being sent to a concentration camp and it was for her, I believe, that someone was informed very seriously at the start by Mrs Postern that they must keep the attendance to this course entirely confidential to respect other who may be here incognito and whose families do not know they’re attending.

Really? Who does not tell their family they’re going on a speed awareness course?

We were entertained over the next 4 hours with lots of phrases like, psychologists say, “and research shows” and things like that to justify ways of telling us how to reduce our speed.

The lady on my table had been speeding because she was transporting a goldfish on her passenger seat and some of the water had spilled out of the tank (no honestly I am not making this up) and she was given a strategy as to how she might deal with that circumstance in the future.

This was a bizarre morning indeed, but as I recount it now in these pages, it makes me smile and laugh.

The best part of this experience though, was the fact that I had waited as late as possible to book the course within the time frame that I had available, procrastinating as I would because I know I would hate to give up 4 hours on a Friday morning for anything other than riding my bike for 60 miles.

So I pushed it was far back as I could and then even arrived with only 1 minute to spare, having been a person several years ago who arrived late for a speed awareness course and was denied entry, only to have to pay for the course again (that is the rule).

So I booked it late and arrived late and then because I am getting changed out my cycling clothes, walked into the room last, to the last seat on the last table, only to find I was sat beside one of our patients from the clinic who has been complaining that his teeth are not straight enough after Invisalign.

You just can’t script this stuff, it is perfect!

It didn’t take long though for my patient and I to team up together to try and protect ourselves from the utter madness that was ensuing round the room as Blaine would shout obscenities and just idiotic phrases which bounced off Alf’s right-wing views insulting, frightening and generally confusing my Mother in-law while Mrs Postern was at the front eulogising as if she was a civil rights campaigner.

Perhaps the best comment of the day came when they began to talk about cyclists and how much room a cyclist should be given by a car in overtaking.

I was referenced as I had been the one that turned up in cycling gear and was asked if I feel motorists give enough room for cyclists, to which I answered, sometimes not.

Alf is apoplectic as he shouted at me “you lot and your cycling three a breast and all that stuff” it was all I could do not to bite holes in my cheeks but the best was yet to come. I pretty much kept my mouth shut on this cycling debate as I know the rules and the fact that nobody adheres to them, but we moved onto horses (clearly another one close to my heart, because my Wife and Daughters are horse riders).

It turned out Mrs Postern was a horse rider and she was not happy that anybody was going to challenge her views on that.

This is where Blaine came into his own as he explains to the group that it was different for horse riders than it was for cyclists because “they are living animals”.

I couldn’t help it, I’m sorry, I couldn’t, I had to point out to Blaine that cyclists were a living animals too, it was at that point I think his circuits melted.

We all finished as friends and everybody left as fast as they could to get into their cars to drive as fast as they could to where they were going next, there was absolutely no attention paid apart from the fact that they didn’t have to take the 3 points and they substituted the fine for 4 hours of absolutely fantastic value for money and entertainment.

It doesn’t give you much hope though, for the future of nuclear physics.

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