Thursday, 23 May 2013

Learning to Drive in Victoria, Australia

Learning to drive has changed since my day...
In my day, your Father took you out for a quick lesson down a quiet country lane. This inevitably lead to a three point turn, much graunching of the gears, lots of bunny hopping, a few words like "Not like that!" A row, and then days later your Mother would book you in for a few lessons with an AA driving instructor... When you were 17 years old you took and passed your test - easy, or so I recall!



Learning to drive in Australia is not that easy ...
In Victoria, Australia (each State has different rules) learner drivers under 21 years must complete 120 hours of recorded driving alongside an experienced driver....You can start learning at 16 years, but must be 18 years to take a driving test. Yep, that is a scary loooong time for any Parent, and especially if, as in our household, it takes FOREVER to accumulate a fully completed log book...




Every time the learner drives, even for a short trip, we record it in the Log Book...
There is a Keys Please course which we attended at our school which was a useful session, and full of tips for both the Learner Driver and the Supervising Parent. The Government also subsidise a free one hour driving lesson through this program.




In other families, kids rush to get their driving independence, clambering to drive at every opportunity... However our kids seem happy to be chauffeured for as long as possible...




So we offer each of our Kids on their L's the chance to do a road trip. 'Let's drive to Adelaide' is a 9 hour favourite, and often desperate attempt to get hours in the logbook, and driving independence on the radar! ...It's not that we don't spend a lot of time in the car, we do. If they drove every time they went to sport it would be completed in a 120 hour jiffy...




In Australia, land of big distances and easy driving, only about one third of drivers are learning in a manual car. Sales of automatic cars account for over 70% of all sales... The plan was for all our kids to get a manual licence. We even bought a manual car with this in mind...
You need to take and pass a manual driving test, otherwise you can't drive a manual car. Sensible sure, but not for the feint hearted! We live in a surprisingly hilly area, only remotely noticeable once you start studying gradients of hills... You would too, once you start getting to know them by rolling backwards...




Choosing to learn manual v's automatic is a tricky decision between some would say 'properly' learning to drive, and the reality that most driving in Australia is in an automatic car...
Our Driving Instructor advises giving the learner driver up to 30 hours road experience in an automatic car, before switching to learn manual. This gives them time to learn some road sense and how to steer before adding in changing gear...
You'd be surprised how 10,000 hours behind the wheel of the PSP game Grand Theft Auto does NOT give them any skills in this department...Just like being a champion Wii Fit tennis player does not mean they can hit a ball over a net, or indeed win a single point in a real match... That's poor I say....




Once you get out on the real road in Australia, you come up against a few different things, like trams, kangaroos and road trains...




Learner drivers also have to take and pass two computer tests. One is before they are given their Learner Permit which comprises of 32 questions scoring 78% or more, and the second is a Hazards Perception Test which must be passed before they attend their driving test...




Each learner driver must study the rules of the road and pass two computer driving tests...
Then once they are 18 years old, have 120 hours of recorded driving experience, have passed the Hazard Perception test then they can take their driving test. If successful, by no means a foregone conclusion, they are passed to drive as a Provisional driver...




Hooray, we've got our P's...!
They must drive for one year with red P plates on the car, and a further two years on green P plates.
Red P platers have the following restrictions:
- Only permitted to carry one passenger aged between 16 and 21.
- No mobile phone use, hands free or hand-held, or any messaging of any kind, is allowed.
- You can't have any alcohol or illicit drugs in your body.
- You must display your P-plates at all times when driving.
- You will lose your licence if you get five demerit points in a year.




Getting from L's to P's takes time, patience and a whole load of "not like that's!!" But it is a process which hopefully has the learner drivers better prepared to safely drive on the roads...
Enjoy your learner driver! You thought it was scary sitting beside them whilst they learnt to steer, park and do a hill start in a manual car... it gets a whole lot scarier when you wave them goodbye and they drive off into the sunset solo!!
Little Wandering Wren

Location:Somewhere on the roads in Victoria!

Monday, 13 May 2013

You win some... you lose some....

Wow, great excitement! A weak field in a Group Three race at the prestigious Goodwood Stakes Day has grabbed attention, and a last minute nomination means our Little Miss Hussy is off to gallop with thoroughbred big guns...The only problem is that it's in Adelaide, South Australia, a short 750+ kilometres away.

She joins two other stable mates for the overnight drive in the huge Cranbourne Mornington float to Adelaide - travelling in style courtesy of a fellow runner in the $500,000 Goodwood Cup! Arriving Thursday gives everyone just two days to adjust to the new surroundings before the National Stakes race...It's a precious cargo as all three arrive as favourites in their respective races...



Our flight to Adelaide is full of owners and support staff for the Richmond Footy Team and there is, forgive the pun, an air of competitive excitement as we take off for the one hour trip. We are learning never to have things fixed in the diary that can't be moved... We thought we were going to Scone in NSW next week!

Morphettville Race Club is only a 15 minute ride from the airport and we tumble out of taxi's to a perfect sunny 28 degree autumn day. You can't say we're not a keen bunch, and we're all here bright and early for first race of the day.


To answer my earlier question "Do I need a hat for Morphettville?" the answer, after a quick look-see of the other patrons, is "No"! This might be one the biggest events in the South Australian racing calendar, but hats, as I am about to find out, are sooooo out... unless you are in your eighties or having a really bad hair day!


Images taken from www.fascinators.com.au
 
 

For those wishing to have a bit of hat interest, fashions have moved towards a variety of fascinators or the only slightly more substantial hatinators...or at a stretch the minimalist look of a comb with some jewels and feathers. The cover-your-head, protect yourself from the sun, type of hats that I have at home are so yesteryear it appears.... But hey never mind, that appears to be a good excuse to go shopping at some point...

We gather at our girl's stall, to find her reasonably relaxed and Bookies favourite. She pricks her ears as we crowd in for a last minute inspection and wins hands down for having the biggest cheer squad around...


We follow her into the mounting yard for the pre - race briefing by our jockey who knows her form having ridden her to her first win. This is however an altogether bigger event... I feel like offering our jockey a sandwich before his ride - he looks like he has been on a starvation diet for the main race later in the day. Too late! Before we know it, he's jumped on board and they've cantered off to the starting stalls.


There is a delay and the Starter jumps down from his stand to assess a last minute straggler. Hurry up! Our girl is waiting! Little Miss Hussy has drawn barrier two which is good news. She jumps out to a fine start but is boxed in and struggles to get going, ending up in third place. We are all stunned...

Our Strapper who has sat amongst us storms off to collect her charge and we head down to hear what the Jockey has to say about the race...


It is an altogether quieter group of owners who watch and re watch the race in the Owners and Trainers bar. A little yellow ticket we were given on entry gets us a glass of champagne... but somehow it doesn't taste quite as nice as after a win!

Our horse came third in a Group Three race, and has taken her winnings to over $100,000 in three races. It is interesting how expectations have been quickly raised because this is amazing, but there is a deep sense of disappointment and a feeling she today she was not able to prove how good she was.


However there is a saying that 'You learn more from a loss than a win', and today's loss has certainly been a bonding experience for those owners present. One of whom has taken his first ever flight on an air plane to be here! Looking on the bright side the bookies odds will hopefully be more in our favour for the next outing!

We head over to see her back in the stalls, she is no longer relaxed. In fact you could say our Miss Hussy looks mightily cheesed off with coming third, she kicks out at the wall behind and the strapper decides to take her for a calming shower. Back she comes still on her toes and looking like she could do it all again.


She is taken walkabouts and is offered the chance to enjoy a few mouthfuls of well earned grass, but she is not impressed. Did no-one bring an apple or a carrot for the lass? So perhaps a quick trip to the ladies room is needed?

Yes would you believe it, there is a Ladies room! The strapper having whistled for her to pee with no joy, takes Little Miss Hussy off to a private room covered in straw - it works. Phew what a relief!


As she returns the Farrier is called over, her stablemate has returned coming second in his race, having lost a shoe on the way to the start. If I was into astrology, I would really believe that we haven't got our stars or planets aligned this week!

Oh well, there is always another day. We certainly know that there is more to horse racing than winning. We have a lovely camaraderie developing amongst our Owner group. We have enjoyed the opportunity to meet like-minded people with whom we share the horse ownership experience.

Our Little Miss Hussy is now off for a few weeks break and to enjoy some winter sun on her back. Happy Hols!

Little Wandering Wren