On arrival in King’s Lynn I am met by Pete, my instructor for the week. He is everything I could have hoped for – patient, charming, brimming with expertise and, most importantly, oozing enough confidence for the two of us. Sensibly we get going on an industrial estate to see what I can already do. I am truly pants. I crawl around stalling at every little junction and let myself down thoroughly. Not the best of starts and even Pete starts to sound worried about how I am going to manage to get to a half decent standard by Friday. It turns out I’ve been doing the steering wheel all wrong since my first lesson with the frisbee in 1987. I am also introduced to the revolutionary idea that it might not be necessary to stop at every junction just in case.
Once I’ve convinced Pete I can do the basics and not stall the car every time we stop, he takes it up a gear and we’re off on real roads with real traffic and everything. I don’t know what I imagined – some sort of Disneyland for grown ups where everything goes along very slowly, smiling. Possibly singing “It’s a small world after all”. But no. I’m an innocent abroad and this world is very fast. This may be where London has the advantage – in N16 it’s rare to be able to go faster that 30 but here they are pelting around between 40-60 mph. Until they meet the next set of traffic lights when it is braking all round. Kings Lynn has more traffic lights than anywhere else in the world and they are always just about to turn red. I show willing with the fast driving but it goes against every instinct I have for self preservation and I can’t wait to get back to my 30 comfort zone. Day one ends with me in a trance-like state, not quite believing that it was me doing the driving. In just 5 hours I’ve gone from a nervous Nelly to a sort of ok-ish learner driver. All thanks to St Pete of the Fabulous Fiesta.