My first driving lesson
Lodge Lane was a bit of a mystery. For the first two hundred yards neat and tidy bungalows lined up along each side of the road. Then the tarmacadam stopped and a bumpy, stony track continued in the same direction, but now past bits of hedges, and trees and houses and bungalows and shacks which seemed to hide themselves from the road.
Lodge Lane was just round the corner from us and was visited by our milkman, Jim from Hitchman’s Dairies, once he had delivered our milk on the main road. Would I like to give him a hand? I was eight and the thought of riding on the electric milk float pleased me no end; on Monday I would be able to tell my school mates all about it.
At first I joined him as he lifted bottles from the float and helped him carry them to front doors. Because it was Saturday Jim would knock to collect the week’s money while I was sent back to the float with the empties. Every now and then Jim got back to the float and we moved along to repeat the process.
Then Jim had an idea. Instead of him coming back to the float and moving it on he would be able to do what he would have done when a horse-drawn float had been in use. Like a sheep dog, a good horse would obey spoken instructions and walk on and stop when Jim called out. This was not possible with a modern, electric float, unless there was a boy to drive it for you when you called out to him to move up. First Jim had to show me what to do.
It wasn’t difficult. Driving a milk float is rather like driving a dodgem car at a fun-fair. You have a steering wheel, a foot brake and an accelerator pedal. It was less easy once we reached the track and Joe would call out to me if I failed to avoid pot-holes in the road and set the bottles rattling as the float swayed and bounced up and down as I swung it from side to side. Then there was trouble with the accelerator and standing up to drive – I was too small to sit on the driver’s seat and reach the pedals – each time the float bounced my right foot also bounced up and down on the accelerator and Jim would call out, frightened that I was heading for the ditch.
I am sure that it was illegal. It would certainly have been dangerous if there had been other vehicles on the road, but far fewer people owned cars then. For Jim it was a practical help on a busy Saturday morning and for me, a good way to earn some pocket money.
At the time I had no idea about insurance, about paying an insurance company so that, if you caused an accident, there would be money to pay for repairs and for compensation for people who were injured. I enjoyed Jim’s trust and being allowed to drive his milk-float but what Jim did was wrong and there is never any excuse for driving uninsured on public roads.
What was useful for Jim in having a young boy to drive his milk-float, particularly on a Saturday morning?
Why do you think the writer added the final paragraph?