Theoretically Driving

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road-traffic-signs

 

Last Thursday I passed my driving theory test. Those of you residing in the UK will know that this is the 1st major hurdle to actually gaining a full UK driving licence. Once this is done you’re kind of home and dry in regards to getting your proper test booked and getting the pass certificate. Of course you need to learn to drive but hopefully you’ll have already been doing this.

I thought I’d do a little post on my hints and tips for getting this one under your belt. Everyone who has passed it will tell you how easy it is, but actually quite a few fail it (and not just once)! I think the test is relatively easy, but only if you do some work and practice the hazard perception section online. The best advice that I received was to NOT rely simply on the mock tests that are available all over the place and the apps for smart phones. I think this definitely stands as helpful advice. I had access to an online learning tool via my instructor, this had practice questions from all the sections, it had mock test, highway code practice and hazard perception videos. I found the only really useful thing was the mock test bit, but only after I had bought the proper DVLA book and worked my through all the multiple choice questions. This is an absolute must. The book seems really thick which is a bit off putting, but in reality I was able to work through the 15 sections in a week. It has all the multiple choice questions in it and the answers are at the back. there are also clues next to each of the questions. I basically went through this with a pencil and did all the questions whilst checking the answers in the back. I’ve got a pretty good memory so I went through it once and then did a load of mock tests. I was passing all the mock tests with between 48 and 50 out of 50. The pass mark is 43 so I was pretty happy that I was up to standard. 

If you struggle with memory tasks I would give yourself a month instead of a week and go through the book a few times. I good way to look at the test is that about 70% of the questions are genuinely common sense knowledge and about 30% are questions that you either know the answer or you don’t. Once you’ve identified this 30%, you can focus your memorising energy here. When I say common sense it really is questions like: “If you are at a crossing and an elderly person is taking more time to cross the road, should you – a) rev your engine and press you horn, b) speed round them whilst gesturing or c) wait patiently for them to cross the road. 

Doing the mock tests will identify any problem sections you have and allow you to focus for longer on these if you need to. The really annoying part of the test is the hazard perception section. This test is really not  a test of anything except your ability to pass this test. However, you do need to pass it and it’s worth practicing. I found the AA driving school online practice was the best quality videos and also the closest match to the real thing. You can find that here: http://www.theaa.com/aattitude/games/hpt.jsp

The instructions (even on the practice tests are ambiguous). It tells you to click every single time you see a potential hazard (parked cars, pedestrians etc) but that it will only mark you for one major hazard that develops fully in each video apart from one video where there will be 2 hazards. The crunch is that if you click too much it will tell you that you did the test inappropriately for that video and you will get nothing. There are 15 videos and they are marked out of 5 each. The hazard that you are being marked on is always obvious; something like a horse rider you have to pass, a car on a narrow bridge or kids playing on the road or a cyclist that rides in front of you. You are given a 5 second window in which to click the mouse and register that you have seen the hazard. If you click at the start of this window you get the full 5 marks and lose a mark for every second that passes. What I found really silly and frustrating was that I realised on the practice tests that I was seeing the hazard sooner than they wanted me to, so I’d click but it would be 1 or 2 seconds too soon and I would receive no marks as it would tell me I had missed the hazard when I knew full well I hadn’t. So I developed a technique where whenever I saw a hazard I would click the mouse about 3 or 4 times in a row – guessing that at least one of the clicks would register in the window they wanted you to click in. I also didn’t click on the smaller potential hazards so as not to risk ‘clicking inappropriately’ and getting zero marks. There is a potential 75 marks up for grabs. I passed with 60 so got an average of 4 per video so I think my technique worked well. But it’s stupid in my opinion and is nothing other than a test of how to pass their test. It has given me no knowledge on how to avoid hazards on the road, as obviously learning to drive means you already know that a horse rider is a hazard and you must drive slowly, or that an old lady crossing the road means you need to slow down and allow her to pass. The whole thing is a ridiculous palaver.

The actual theory test is useful though, and it has also improved my driving. Particularly the road sign knowledge and vehicle safety etc. I wish I’d sat the test sooner in the course of my lessons as it has been useful. So my advice would be to book it within a month of your first lesson. I passed with 48/50 and I would say I did minimal but enough revision for my own learning and memory style. Being at university and studying for exams means I have good knowledge of my own learning style and how quickly I pick up new information. If you struggle to retain this kind of thing, as I said, I give yourself a full month to revise. I gave myself a full week, working every night through the book and doing mock tests. 

My driving instructor has told me I’m ready to put in for my test now – it takes about 6-8 weeks to get a test here so she means that in the period of time I’ll have ironed out all of the little glitches I need to in order to pass. I”m confidant on the roads now and it really i just a case of practising. A lot of it is getting to know the junctions and area the test is done in, as a lack of local knowledge can really throw you when it comes to getting in the right lane at a busy junction or similar situations to this. My opinion is that gaining a 1st time pass will depend on nerves as if they get the better of you then you’ll make silly mistakes you wouldn’t do normally. It also has a bit to do with luck on the day though, I’ve had a stupid lorry driver pull out on me really fast whilst trying to join the expressway – what this meant was I didn’t have the time to join the carriageway and had to slow down before getting over and this held up the traffic behind me. I’d have failed if this was my test day, but really it’s was just bad luck. In real life there would have been no harm done but my instructor said in a test situation they would have expected me to have built up enough speed to get out in front of him. I just didn’t have the guts to do the manoeuvre due to lack of experience. So if you see a learner driver and they’re annoying you or making you impatient just please remember that they could be taking their test, and you pulling out in front of them or beeping and gesturing at them when they stall or cutting them up could actually jar their nerves enough that they fail their test. We’re annoying us learners, I know that, especially if you’re in a rush – but you’ve all been there and it’s worth remembering how nervous you felt when you did it. It might give you the patience you need to just let us get on with it, as really it’s only going to take a few extra minutes out of your day. :) 

Anyway, I’m very much looking forward to finally being a driver, life will be so much easier, especially with a child , to just load up the car and go off for day trips around the UK. I can’t wait, so watch this space and hopefully there’ll be another post soon telling you I’ve completed the proper test and passed it!!

Feeling a difference!

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healthIt has been 3 weeks since I really made an effort to change my diet and exercise habits for good. The aim has been to generally better my holistic health – yes I want to lose the last bit of baby belly I have, yes I’d like to lose that final half stone I gained during pregnancy and yes I’d love to fit back into some old jeans. But this is more than that, it’s also about feeling better in myself, focusing on the whole of me – a mind, body and soul enterprise. I’ve also been trying to do this in a really cost effective way. The plan has been to build up to doing an hours decent exercise a day, start meditating and to improve my diet.

I’ve started slowly by joining a local and free badminton group on a Tuesday at a community centre and I’ve been doing a target exercise/weights video in the evenings too. I mentioned in my last fitness related post that I already walk for about an hour a day minimum so obviously I’ve been continuing to do this. I’ve slowly built up to doing 2 hours with the badminton group and I’ve joined a boxercise class on a Friday at the same community centre too. I was already a member of the uni gym but I’m not a fan of solo training I eventually lose my motivation and just stop going but I’m investigating more classes there that are included in the price. For now I’m going to start doing an hours swimming on a Thursday. I also emailed a local yoga group who offered a decent student discount for their early morning class – the centre is called ‘Yoga, meditation, healing, Glasgow’ and looks very professional but after a week I’ve heard nothing back and they provide no number to call so I’ve looked elsewhere. Today I found another place which is actually a dance studio closer to my house who do an hours yoga on a  Monday and the student price is even cheaper so for £3 I’m off to my 1st ‘yoga flow’ class on Monday.

Today I went to my 1st half hour meditation class at the local Buddhist centre – it’s also £3 and they unfortunately don’t do a concession price but I really found it to be incredibly beneficial. I actually didn’t expect to, I was dubious I’ll admit but even without being able to do it that well on the 1st go (to be expected really); I left the centre feeling incredibly relaxed and positive. It did help that the sun has been shining all week but I’m pretty sure most of that was to do with the meditation so I’ll be going back every Wednesday i think. It worked out quite well, as I have a driving lesson every Wednesday morning and these are so intense in terms of concentration and adrenalin response that when I got home and just left straight away to go the the meditation class it sort of put me back on an even keel but also leaving me refreshed and light.

Now I’ve always been a bit sceptical (and in truth a teeny bit irritated) of people who are super fit and healthy and go on about how good they feel. But I can honestly say that after 3 weeks of putting the effort in I feel like a different person. I’ve not seen any particular change physically and I probably shouldn’t expect to after 3 weeks but I have never felt better. I’m sleeping better, I feel happier, more relaxed and just more energised. So I’m having to swallow my pride and admit that you healthy, smug irritating fitness types were genuinely right all along (I always knew that – I just wanted an excuse for my own laziness I guess)! So I think I’m going to join the smug club and I’m loving it. I should realistically not expect to see any major physical changes for about 6 months but I’m happy with just the change in how I feel. It makes me feel genuinely positive that I will be able to use these methods as a tool for managing stress and anxiety in my final year at uni and that I can start implementing these things as permanent lifestyle changes.

I’ve been eating healthily too - I’ve been taking proper vitamins to try and address a mouth ulcer problem. I’ve started cleansing each morning with water and aloe vera concentrated liquid and I’m going to introduce coconut water into my diet too (thanks to the following post for nudging me to do it – I’ve always known the benefits but I feel motivated to really make the change after reading this and also after seeing the positive change the last 3 weeks has had on me http://belikewaterproduction.com/2014/06/18/the-many-benefits-of-drinking-coconut-water/ )

So from now on my weeks should look like this I hope:

Monday: Yoga Flow and evening weight training DVD

Tuesday: 2hrs badminton

Wednesday: Meditation and evening cardio and weights DVD

Thursday: 1 hr swimming

Friday: 45 mins Boxercise

Saturday: day off

Sunday: Cardio and weights DVD

Add to this that I do at least an hours walking Monday – Friday too. Next week will be my 1st full week of this regime so I’ll let you know how I get on – I think part of my success is I’ve built up to this slowly for the best part of a month so I can see a progression. I think if you try and do too much it feels like an impossible task so you get demotivated and give up so I’ve started slow.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed with this is that I’m now just enjoying it, I’m watching less TV (between the blog, and the TEFL course and fitness stuff and bringing up my little monkey time is pretty tight) – don’t get me wrong I will always make time for Game Of Thrones but I’m watching less crap that’s for sure. Because I’m tired I’m sleeping much better and naturally waking up earlier whilst feeling refreshed which is a novelty in itself. I’m now waking up an hour before my daughter so I get a chance to chill out and have a coffee and get her food ready for nursery before she’s even awake which means my mornings feel so much more relaxed and this also makes a huge difference. I think all these little things have just created a domino effect which is what has made this massive overall holistic change to my life – so I can safely say it works. It’s an effort, nothing comes easy but really worth the hard work!!

 

Complete enormous to do list? Tick!

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I realised I’ve had such a busy week I’ve not had much chance to post for a few days; so I wanted to say a wee hello!

I feel like I’ve had an incredibly productive week. I’ve had another driving lesson (everyone is alive and well), Ive written my dissertation proposal and handed it in (I now have an enormous self-inflicted reading list to get through this summer), I’ve joined a badminton class and a boxercise class (get rid of baby belly and get fitter and healthier, phase 1), I’ve done an enormous amount of housework (not in the name of procrastination, just for its own sake), I’ve joined various new social media platforms including google+ and Facebook (check out my new pages if you have a chance although they are both huge works in progress so please cast a forgiving eye!).

So out of this big list of things I’ve managed to do there’s one glaring black hole (oxymoron? Can a black hole glare? I digress sorry…) I’ve not managed any TEFL since my last post. I’m learning another lesson; I keep thinking that if I don’t have 2 hours to sit and do a full section of the course then I can’t do it. Whereas a much better plan of action would be to just grab bite size half hour sessions whenever I can but just make sure I’ve got a block of time available when I need to actually sit down and do the tests. A handy little tip I have discovered though is that if you’re like me and a bit of a proud pedantic type of personality; the minute I blogged about not doing any TEFL the last time, I was immediately galvanised into action and spent an hour reading up on verbs. Almost as soon as I’d hit the ‘publish post’ button. So I may just try that in future if I’m not getting much done, I’ll just publicly blog about my uselessness.

I have also started what will sound like a very strange social experiment – just for my own personal gain. I’ve always wondered whether the fact that hippies (by hippies I mean floaty, smily types who seem endlessly calm, wear floaty clothes, practice meditation and yoga, eat hippie food, and carry their babies in great swathes of material until there about 3 – I know I’m generalising here but we all know one or a few; in the west end of Glasgow they’re practically an institution!). Anyway I’ve always wondered whether they are very relaxed, chilled out positive people who therefore become hippies who are identifiable by sight, or if when they’re young they kind of get into the fashion and the rest just sort of follows like a self fulfilling prophecy. As someone who is a bit uptight and pedantic and often suffers with anxiety but prescribes to a lot of the hippy ideals without ever jumping in 100% (probably because I met a bunch of heavy metallers at a key impressionable age and went a completely different route), I’ve often pondered over this chicken and the egg question. Do calm, anxiety free floaty people become hippies or do hippies evolve into calm floaty people?

This all no doubt sounds like a bit of an odd generalistic line of thought and reasoning; sorry if I offend any hippies with my shamelessly narrow description – it’s truly in jest and admiration, I really do just want to be in the club! So I’ve decided to give myself a complete hippie makeover. Whenever I feel stressed or anxious I’m forcing myself to smile and think happy thoughts. I’m off to find a meditation and yoga class next week and I’ve hunted out all my floaty comfy clothes and shoes and vacuum packed everything else. I did actually already own an awful lot of floaty, brightly patterned comfy stuff so it’s just been a wardrobe exchange if I’m honest. The bonkers plan is to see if I can make myself into one of those carefree non-pedantic types who irritates the life out of anyone even remotely uptight. I have a feeling that if I’d met different people and been influenced by those more inclined towards Buddhism (or something similar) from an early age then I would be a different person today and would have taken the paths I’m taking now at an earlier point. This is not about regret, please don’t think that – but it is about trying to take control over my life and my thoughts and my anxieties – albeit in a slightly mad way. I guess the idea is ‘dress like hippie, become a hippie’ and float around the world on a sea of positivity, taking each day one step at a time. But most importantly I want to pass some of that philosophy to my daughter. I was raised by highly anxious people and I inherited those idiosyncrasies, so more than anything I want my little monkey to inherit slightly more positive ones. I’d also like her to truly master and gain a love for yoga and meditation as the benefits of these two things are now firmly set in the social stone that is ‘science’. Brain scans of monks who regularly practice transcendental mediation have been publicised a lot recently; they’ve known this stuff for thousands of years of course but now we have brain scans as proof it’s become ‘common knowledge’. I’d really love monkey to be a calm, happy, positive floaty hippy to start with, rather than have to struggle and claw her way to the same place as I have over the course of 20 odd years.

So I’ll keep you all updated – can I reinvent myself as an anxiety free, carefree, happy, positive hippie? I really hope so although I suspect it’ll take a bit more than that such as a true commitment to serious ideals of buddhism and some serious practice of mediation and yoga. Which will serve me right for such blatant and insulting stereotyping won’t it?