HOORAY! I passed the driving theory test! Amazingly, on the first try! Wowza! What luck!

I’m not opposed to a written test for driving – there are all sorts of reasonable things to make sure drivers know, like what various road signs mean (moreso here, since they’ve used a bunch of symbol ones so they can be standard across Europe), for example. Lots of other things that would occur to me if I wasn’t so exhausted just now, too.

Excuse me while I rant a bit and natter on about the test …

I am, however, opposed to the stupidity that is the hazard perception test, rolled in with that multiple-choice ordinary test. Mostly, I’m opposed because the video quality is so grainy that you can barely make out anything, and yet you’re expected to be able to tell what the five pixels that are a distant pedestrian are, and what the one pixel that is the biker’s face turning is, and so forth. The video quality is from around 1980. Behold, the instruction section before the test clips I saw today at the test center (skip to about 1:51 to see one of the clips in question):

In contrast, here is the video quality I’m used to seeing these days:

On top of that, I learned by searching online last night that what they tell you about when to click isn’t actually right. They tell you that the earlier you click when you see a hazard, the more points you get. I’d bought the official practice DVD, and was running it over and over again (trying to be able to suss those few pixels that meant this or that), so I knew the clips, and would click very early when they’d appear … and was getting zero scores. Bwuh?

It turns out that within the clip, there’s a certain window of time that is the scoring window. Clicks before this don’t count at all for or against your score. They want you to click every time you see a potential hazard, and every step of the way when that changes – so for example, you’d click when you see the pedestrian, again when you see their (one-pixel) face as they turn to see the road, again when they move their body to face the road, again when they get up to the curb, again when they step into the road, and so on. I’m not sure exactly when the scoring window in that scenario opens, but it’s most certainly not when you see the pedestrian to start with. This is all sheer stupidity.

Anyway, after I knew that, I did a few more practice clips this morning before we left – and what do you know, I scored way better on them! Lo and behold, I did very well indeed on the test, as well. Amazing what a difference it makes to actually know the grading rubric.

When you click, a red flag appears. At the test center, the red flags accumulate on the bottom of the screen. During the introductory video, as I saw that happen, I was reminded of American football, and how I’ve heard announcers talk about flags on the play. “There was a flag on that play, we’ll have to wait to see what the refs say.” “One – two – three! – flags on that play!” Etc. I don’t know much about sports, but I think those flags are thrown by the referees to say that the play wasn’t done quite right. (If I’m wrong, don’t bother correcting me; it’ll just go in one ear and out the other because I really don’t do sports.)

Chris and I have concluded that Aliens From A Utopia Planet (where everything is perfect all the time) came up with the rules I’m being tested on in this process. So I decided to just make a video game out of it. “That pedestrian isn’t walking perfectly correctly! Flag on the play!” “That car isn’t driving perfectly correctly! Flag on the play!” “That van is turning! Flag on the play!” When I started the city center (extremely urban) clip, I wondered if there was any limit to how many flags I could put on the play – but it turns out I spent most of that clip stopped at a red light (appropriately enough), so it was actually the suburban clips that drew more flags.

So, yes, one hurdle down. Now some lessons (I do have to master the stick shift and the extremely narrow roads, after all), and then the driving test – however many times I have to take it.

The rest of the day – and a few pictures, too!




After I passed, as I stood waiting for the elevator, I had a lovely view of a canal, with a small waterfall over a lock wall, right in the center of the city – so lovely and so completely unexpected – and me without any camera! (They’re very particular [pdf] about not letting you have anything in the testing room that I thought it best to just leave absolutely everything nonessential with Chris, who was waiting outside the building.) I found Chris and walked him around the building until I found the scene I’d seen from the 6th floor.


The white building is where I took the Life in the UK test.

The white building is where I took the Life in the UK test.

It doesn’t look as nice from the ground as it did from way up there, but it was a lovely, tranquil place. Chris was amused, because, turning left a bit from looking at the canal, he saw the building I’d jumped through a different ridiculous hoop in — where I’d taken the Life in the UK test (citizenship test, essentially, though it’s given before that point in some cases, including mine).


We were also in Manchester for a doctor appointment for me, at Manchester Royal Infirmary. They have this process of three waiting spots: you go from a larger waiting room in the ENT department for everyone, to a smaller one for the section you’re going to that day, to a line of chairs in the hall right outside the room you’ll be seen in. I guess it’s so that even if they’re running late, you know you haven’t been forgotten – I’m all for it. Anyway, while sitting on the chairs in the hall this time, I found myself being drawn … towards … these … rooms … 😉

Haha, just had to share that with you. After the test, we hopped back on the train immediately – the 3:47pm train is just about the last one before rush hour starts – and headed back to Glossop. I was in desperate need of new shoes, and finally found some. I hate shoe shopping – my feet are very awkward and need all sorts of support that isn’t fashionable, so it’s usually a frustrating experience – but thankfully the gent at A & B Shoes on High Street made it as painless as possible, and I found a pair that will do. Don’t know why I’ve never poked my head in there before. By then it was 5, and our favorite restaurant, Thai To Go, should be open, so we went to have a celebratory dinner. Except they weren’t open yet. The proprietress comes by bus, and it runs late sometimes, as buses do, so we wandered around a bit, watched and anthromorphized the ducks a bit, and wandered back.


It still wasn’t open by 5:20, and Chris was ravenous, so we gave up and headed home. We went via the in laws’, and told them the news, and told them about the stupidity of that hazard perception test, and so forth. We got home, set our stuff down, etc, and before starting dinner, I tried phoning the restaurant again to see if it was open yet – yes, they’d just gotten there, the bus had indeed been late. This served to reinforce to me why I’m going through all this annoyance with this driver’s license malarky – public transport is unreliable, vastly more expensive, dirty, and annoying. I was going to order delivery, but sadly they don’t deliver on Wednesdays anymore. So we trekked back out and had that celebratory dinner after all. It was fab, just as we expected. 🙂

All in all, not a bad day!

Why I’m disillusioned with the NFWI, Part 1: Conferences and Resolutions

This is another post to point people at later. I’m sure I’ll be adding other things as I think of/come across them, so I’ve pre-emptively numbered this.

The so-called “Conferences” …

I went to Chester on 19 March 2014, on behalf of the president of one of my WIs, who couldn’t attend, to an NFWI (National Federation of Women’s Institutes) event. They put on this series of days across the country, about a dozen, that they called Information and Inspiration Days, and alternately, “Inspiring Women Conferences.” I have very limited experience with conferences, but the math conferences I’ve presented papers at were wonderful opportunities to connect and really communicate with others: to learn about things going on in the field, in the area, etc. They’d said the trustees would be at this event in Chester – those are the members who run the national level of the WI. I had these visions of us breaking into smallish groups, each with a trustee, and really discussing and hashing over issues that we face at each level of the organization, coming up with ideas, giving real feedback to national, and that sort of thing.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. They stood on a stage and read to us. The stop I went to was about halfway through their list – so they’d done this about half a dozen times already – and they were still at the stage of reading every word to us. They didn’t engage us at all, they spent the whole day hyping up the “Open Forum” at the end, which turned out to be a whopping TWENTY MINUTES, and they only spouted all the information that’s already been made available – I learned nothing new. THEY COULD HAVE EMAILED IT!!! Such a massive waste of everyone’s time and money – I was FIVE HOURS in the car and 11 hours gone from the house for this crock.

I don’t know why I dreamt that national would finally engage, interact, and listen to us members. This is one of my problems with the organization, and a huge factor for why I won’t do more than be a member: the higher the office, the bigger the blinders and lack of engagement with the members seems to be. Even some presidents suffer from the blinders: at lunch, one woman asked me which WI I was president of (the invitation had been issued for “the president or her representative”); when I replied that I wasn’t president, she hastily beat a retreat – so as to not be contaminated by my mere member cooties, it seemed.

The Resolution Process …

May is the resolution meeting, and we’re to discuss the national public affairs resolution (occasionally others get tacked on, too – last year, there were constitutional amendments to discuss). Here is the process:

  • Members are supposed to submit prospective resolutions almost a year in advance.
  • A few months after that, county federation representatives and national federation representatives meet to shortlist the proposed resolutions to usually about 8 or less to pass along to us mere members to vote on.
  • In December, we vote on the short list, generally choosing one (sometimes two) we’d like to see go forward. All the votes are tallied – each individual vote is added up across the entire NFWI.
  • Based on those results, in May, we’re given an even shorter list – one or two, depending on how the votes fell (a closer vote between the top two is likely to see two go forward). We then vote on each one, separately. If there’s more than one resolution proposed in May, it’s not an either-or. On each resolution, we individually vote either For, Against, Abstain, or to Let the Delegate Decide after she’s heard the arguments for and against at the national AGM. The majority vote in the WI decides the WI’s vote, which the link delegate ((The delegate represents a number of WIs, which are linked through her, so she is the link delegate. Four is the norm in Derbyshire at the moment, though last year some represented three and some five – it depends partly on geography. Other numbers have been experimented with in the past and likely will in the future.)) casts at the national AGM.
  • There’s a big song and dance put on at this meeting of having the proposer say a few words, then a seconder, and then an expert speaks in support of the resolution, and after all these positive remarks we get one expert who speaks against the resolution, and then there are questions from the floor for the two experts, and then the chair asks for the vote.

The NFWI is keen to tell us that we’re not voting in December, that we’re selecting instead, and the voting happens in May; this was one of the points our chair was using up that 20 minutes of Q&A in Chester to make. Sounds like hogwash to me: it’s two rounds of voting, plain and simple. A primary and a runoff.

The resolutions which are passed form the basis of campaigns. As the largest voluntary organization for women in the country, the NFWI has some power, and certainly manages to get things done on a national level. The campaign work subsequent to our resolution about honeybees is credited by the Bee Minister (yes, there is one) as quite a substantial reason behind the money found for research into pollinators, including bees. Our Care Not Custody campaign has helped spawn pilots in 20 locations across the country to address the mental health issues of criminals, instead of simply locking them up and forgetting about them. And so on. There’s more here if you’re curious. So yes, lots of good work is done.

That said, in my four years so far, they’ve avoided anything controversial, and have worded the proposed resolutions so that any that make it to May are essentially guaranteed to pass. They hit a snag in 2011, when the wording of one was so bad that a member at the NFWI AGM moved to move on without voting on that matter, and got an overwhelming yes answer from the delegates. I noticed that by the time I was link delegate in 2013 (and I suspect before that), the rules had been changed in several places to keep that from ever happening again. Because, of course, the mere members mustn’t do anything but rubber stamp what national wants to do.

Oh, and as for the members supposed to be putting the resolutions forward? Technically, yes, that’s true, but I noticed that most of the ones we see in December in the last two years have been put forward by the chair of the Public Affairs Committee. Yes, she is a member, but that isn’t really the democratic, member-led process they harp on about, at that point. Part of the problem is that the process to put a resolution forward is massively time-intensive, which puts most people off. There’s no reason at all why it should be a process of anything more than writing out the proposed resolution itself in an email or on a postcard and sending it to national by a certain date. Anything beyond that is purposefully exclusionary. One of the things required is to produce explanatory guidance of the pros and cons of the proposed resolution: No. Our subscriptions (dues) pay a staff of 40, and the pros and cons never fill more than one (A4) page (and that only if they make it to May!) – they can produce that.

So yes, the resolution process is another thing I’m disillusioned with about NFWI. It isn’t truly member-led when the paperwork required puts people off; it isn’t truly democratic when you structure it this way. The first and last steps are merely representative democracy, with only the second step being actually democratic – at which point it hardly matters what we vote for. The song and dance you do at the AGM is an insult to any individual possessing a brain – the votes have all been cast, quit wasting time trying to persuade us one way or another. If you really want us to hear what your experts have to say, put it on YouTube before we vote in May. Quit calling December’s thing a selection as though that’s any different from a vote – you’re only trying to exert power because you can, rather than doing anything useful.

I know I’m not alone in my disillusionment of the resolution process – this year we had 77,071 members vote in December out of 212,000: about 36%. Fix it, NFWI; that’s what your power is for.