A driving passion to learn

PUBLISHED: 12:10 12 May 2014 | UPDATED: 12:10 12 May 2014

EXG MAY 14 Column syb

EXG MAY 14 Column syb


Capital to country: Sybilla Hart reflects on her new life in the Essex countryside

The tug of the countryside started with a little prod here and there. Three children later, the prod became an elbow, the elbow turned into a push and the push, a catapult.

In my experience, raising children in London requires a particular disposition of character. Firstly you need to be ruthless at throwing away junk. I am talking about broken toys, old Hoovers and enough baby clothes to clothe triplets — just in case. Secondly you need to have a strong affinity and patience with all things playground related. Since I have done seven years of standing, arms folded, scaling the concrete plains for one of my offspring, a move to the glorious North Essex countryside beckoned.

The only playground I now frequent is one in my own garden. I can handle that. As for the junk, I am sorry to say that most of it moved with us. The only remaining obstacle to this countryside idyll was a driving license — or lack of.

My new neighbour quizzed me on this small hurdle on Boxing Day. She seemed more worried than I was which was, well…worrying. I have since learnt that there are a number of us non-driver mothers presently residing in Essex. Albeit most of them live in towns like Coggeshall, not half-a-mile down a dirt track with potholes the size of craters.

Perhaps we should organise a convention for mothers without a driving license, but on reflection logistics may blow this idea out of the water.

Given that I do live in the middle of nowhere and the nearest bus stop is a two-mile walk away, I do plan to get my driving license soon. I worked out that in good weather conditions it would take me a grand total of four hours per day to do the school run if I were to rely solely on footpaths and buses. Certainly the online route planner seemed to see no obstacle in scaling hill and dale, which I found rather reassuring. I soon ditched this idea and currently am relying on the goodwill of others to ferry my son to and from school.

Last weekend I drove the whole family to London on the A12 and was congratulated by overly enthusiastic friends and family on this effort (I have been learning to drive on and off for 15 years).

It always takes one person with an inflated opinion of themself to upset the apple cart. ‘It’s people like you,’ he remarked swaying in his alcoholic state, ‘with provisional licenses that are the reason why I don’t drive.’

If I had ever been tempted to resort to violence it would have been then. Safe to say, he won’t be invited to the mother’s convention of non-drivers.

Sadly this was not to be my last encounter with intolerant drivers. Have they forgotten that they too once had to learn to drive? While I was driving my son back from school on the Halstead road, some young fellows beeped me at my turn off at White Colne.

My ever patient husband explained that I had probably been travelling too slowly. But how can this be if you are adhering to the speed limit, I asked? Now I don’t want to sound like a jobsworth, but the Halstead road is littered with 20 and 30mph speed limits. In between the villages such as Wakes Colne, Chappel and Fordham you can achieve 50mph momentarily, but not for long.

So if you happen to see a white Land Rover Discovery with L-plates, please be kind. It is me! Thankfully I have been able to practice around the blissful tracks of Daws Cross, where you are more likely to meet a chicken than a car.


Sybilla Hart is a freelance writer and mother of three, soon to be four. She has contributed to The Telegraph and The Lady magazine among other titles. she recently moved to North Essex from Fulham and she shares her experiences of this change of lifestyle in Essex Life. At the top of her agenda this year is to gain her driving license which she hopes will come before her new baby.


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