|A not quite five year old little bandit|
came for a visit. My they have grown. Dominic could ride a
motorcycle at four, could drive my car at nine and now with fourteen years can
comfortably handle my truck. I was astonished, therefore, when Cristina
at sixteen admitted she had never been behind the wheel of a car. Alex can't reach
the pedals of the Jeep but he can steer us all safely from the restaurant to
the shop site. He knows how to start the car, put it into gear and
release the handbrake. He knows how to adjust the seats and set the
aircon. For these reasons, I keep the keys on me all the time but,
although many would argue against teaching a child such things, I believe that
by familiarizing them with such activity early, by the time they hit the road,
they won't go crazy because it will all be old hat. They will be more
responsible as driving a motor vehicle will be nothing new to them. I
am forty years older than Dominic and fifty years older than Alex so, on
current form, I very much doubt I will be around to guide them through
their twenties. I need to teach them as much as I can now.
As a car to
learn in, a 5.7 litre V8 would perhaps not be the first
choice of a driving school but it was all I had to hand if we exclude a
three tonne truck with no power steering. I let Dominic drive us to a bit
of flat ground on the property just to give the girls a bit of confidence and
then let Cristina take over.
it in gear and floored the accelerator. The car leapt forward as the rear
wheels dug in. My land is right next to a river and I could see we were
heading for a bath. I was in the passenger seat so I knocked the car into
neutral and applied the hand brake. Cristina, with eyes like bloody
saucers still had the throttle buried into the bulkhead and the valves were
about to exit through the bonnet so I killed the ignition.
I said, 'not bad at all' I thought about getting out and retracing our route so I could find my stomach which had been left way behind.
exactly the very best start. If she was terrified of the beast she would
never get the hang of it. I had to calm her down.
about your boyfriend,' I said.
have a boyfriend!' a shocked Cristina blurted out (far too quickly).
want to give your boyfriend a kiss,' I continued unperturbed, 'do you head butt
him and chew his face off, or do you caress his lips gently with yours?'
the car, Ju, Ritinha, Dominic, burst out laughing.
I want you to kiss the throttle.
Ge-ently, ever so gently, just kiss the throttle. Think of your boyfriend while you do it.’ As I repositioned the car I hoped to hell he
hadn’t just jilted her.
fine. She did figure of eights, learnt
how to do emergency stops confirming she knew the difference between the brake
and accelerator pedals. Oddly enough,
Ritinha who, at seventeen was the oldest, bottled out and refused to have a
go. Ju, at twelve, leapt at the
chance. She was miles better than
Cristina. She was so good, in fact, that
I let her loose in the car with Dominic in the passenger seat just to boost
their confidence even more.
I was doing
so well, instilling in the kids a sense of responsibility and then Dominic
asked me what oversteer was.
with the aid of diagrams and a lengthy explanation I could have got him to more
or less understand oversteer but I was by then quite thirsty so I thought I
would just stick him in the right hand seat and show him.
An officially middle aged fat bandit undoing all the good work he has done.
How can kids grow up to be responsible with me as an example?
There are many who suggest that English is the most expressive language in the world. I tend to disagree. There are words in German wholly comprehensible to Germans but bewilderingly complicated to translate. Schadenfreude is an example. It was so bloody complicated to explain, it has entered English usage in its own right. The word I am thinking of in this case is 'Vorfuhreffekt'. Basically what vorfuhreffekt means is that you can do something successfully over a thousand times but as soon as you demonstrate whatever unique skill you have in front of others, you will fuck up. And so it was with me at the Nurburgring back in '92 when a German film company wanted to film me leaving black stripes on the tarmac. I high sided 25,000 dollars worth of Ducati motorcycle and smashed both ankles. Obviously they were pissed off because it had cost them a lot of money to bring a film crew and all their equipment down but they weren't half as pissed off as I was, it was my motorcycle. That's vorfuhreffekt. As soon as I realised Cristina was filming me, I got the collywobbles and hadn't the guts to stick my boot in anymore and do a few real 360's which is why, right at the end of the vídeo you can hear the girls complain when I pull up and tell them I'm going home. They may be delightful, but I'm not rolling a Jeep for them so they will just have to be satisfied with a couple of rooster tails.
That was yesterday. I spoke to Josh next door and asked if I could charter one of their boats just to give the kids a run up the river. The charter has just been confirmed. I tossed Dominic a cool bag, told him to nip over to the shop and fill it with soft drinks and cookies. He came back and asked me if I could give them a lift over to Rico's. 'Bugger off!' I said chucking him the keys to the Jeep, 'I'm off for a shower, you can drive yourself.' I know it is only a matter of eight hundred metres; driving off my property and onto Rico's place but this was freedom and a whole lot more for him.
He is fourteen years old. In the passenger seat of the V8 Jeep he is driving he has a drop-dead-gorgeous girl with come-to-bed eyes and he is going to take her for a ride on the river. He probably won't get laid but at least he'll get an inkling of where to start. I wish my Dad had given me presents like that.
Maybe when he gets his licence, he'll be cool rather than crazy.