Driving  Miss Caree

Driving Miss Caree

I am fresh back after a week away in the south of France visiting my parents. Sounds idyllic right, well yes actually it was, but to achieve this week of French countryside and parental spoiling we had to navigate a terrifying 12 hours of travelling, each way!

Travelling doesn’t usually bother me, I actually quite like to drive, but this occasion was made all the more exciting (petrifying) by the fact I have never actually driven outside of the UK before, and so I have never experienced the driving on the other side of the road thing. In particular, the idea of going around roundabouts the wrong way did impart a substantial amount of anxiety in the lead-up, especially as according to my pre-printed and colour coded directions (yep I am that girl), there would be 6 of those daunting roundabouts, in quick succession, straight after disembarking from the ferry. Aargh!

So, the travel day finally arrives and I had ran through every possible disaster scenario in my head, from driving head long into traffic on the left and forgetting to go right on the roundabouts followed by spending way too long trying to figure out if the fast and slow lane would be in the same places or in reverse? Needless to say, before I had even started the engine I was thoroughly exhausted.

Fast-forward a pensive 4-hour ferry trip and I was finally making my debut performance as a clueless Brit driver in France. Before I knew it I was successfully driving on the correct side of the road, purely by luck of course, and my other half had the important job of navigating for me.

So, as we approach the first roundabout I was feeling pretty good about myself. Right then he announces with a flourish, “first exit off the roundabout” well, my brain did a weird stutter in the processing of this information, did he mean first exit like at home or the first exit I come to? Sounds like a silly question huh, ah well, I asked this ‘silly’ question with just a hint of panic in my voice and he shouts “the first exit over there”, pointing to the third exit on the French roundabout… ah now who is silly huh! It turns out I had thought of everything except making sure my beloved navigator was up to the job. 

A good 24 hours later after we had arrived and, having got over our directional disagreements, wrong turns and missed exits, we were talking again and we were able to laugh about the whole scenario, with nervous anticipation of the return journey!

Relevant fun Caree fact: Once upon a time I married an HGV driver – no really, I did! Well he wasn’t a Class 1 driver when we met, in fact he decided he wanted to become one during our marriage. So, loving a challenge we set out to get him qualified and on the long road.

It was this trip to France that made me think about him and his first trip to Europe after he qualified. Looking back now, having experienced it on a much smaller scale I am 100% sure that I didn’t give nearly enough praise, nor support, for what must have been a terrifying experience, after all I was just in a car, he was in a beast of a rig.

Considering I have successfully navigated the HGV qualification route (from a by-stander’s perspective of course) and having been married to a Class 1 driver for a while, I’d like to think that I know a thing or two about not only how to become a professional truck driver, but also the lifestyle from both the driver and the driver spouse side of the party.

From a qualification and career point of view, there is actually a really fab how to become an HGV driver on this website that provides much more in-depth information than I could, so do check that out, but from the driver preparation and lifestyle perspective I do have a few tips up my sleeve, which would apply to all of you who are driving for a living, not just a long distance driver, but as a short distance driver, a multi-drop driver, even a taxi driver would do well to take these on board:

  • Routes: Do make sure you have a great little library of map books (UK, London A-Z) and that you are familiar with their contents. Yes, I know we all have sat nav nowadays, but you will be really grateful for it when you run out of battery or the tech suddenly lets you down, just at the wrong moment as usual!

  • Go Bag: You need a pack that contains your essentials such as, gloves, spare high vis, pen and pencil, toilet paper (don’t ask), paracetamol, spare chargers, change of clothes, an extra pair of socks, a travel wash kit, a couple of basic tools just in case and last, but not least, a torch of course.

  • Snacks: Some nice nibbling snacks are a must, peanuts, sesame crackers, dried fruit and plenty of water to stop you from partaking once too often in a road side burger. Oh and, in the winter, some high energy snacks such as chocolate, just in case you are stranded somewhere, Did I mention a shovel too?

From a driver’s spouse perspective, I have one top tip that I feel duty bound to share. For all you long distance drivers or spouses of drivers; do not, I repeat, do not, whatever you do breathe in while opening the bag that contains the week of dirty clothes. Yep, after more than one mouthful of stale underwear aroma I did finally nail the removal technique so listen carefully: You hold your breath for as long as it takes to insert tongs at arm’s length into the smallest possible access hole of the bag and gently extract the festering ball that is last Mondays socks, run out of the door and drop straight into the hazardous waste disposal if you have one or the general waste if not. Repeat the process carefully counting out each of the stink parcels until the bag is a no longer a health hazard. Believe me, after a week in a bag, in a lorry cab, those socks could begin the walk home on their own. You will thank me for this tip.

Last but not least a little insider info from someone in the know, if you are a qualified HGV driver, there are a heap of Christmas driving opportunities available right now with Royal Mail. What a great household name that would be to have on your CV! Click here to go through my ‘secret people in the know portal’ to see all the available opportunities.