A speed awareness course on Zoom! You couldn't make it up | Steve Canavan

I have made one car journey in the past three months, to my dear mother’s on her birthday, to sit in her garden and get nagged about my facial hair.

Saturday, 27th June 2020, 12:00 am
'Now then... who could possibly live in a house like this?' Picture: Shutterstock.

Her words on my arrival were: ‘Oh Steven, are you not going to do something about that scraggly mess on your chin? It looks stupid.’

‘Happy birthday mum,’ I replied, ‘I’m glad I drove 50 miles to spend it with you.’

Bickering aside, we had a pleasant socially-distanced few hours before we were ordered to leave because my mother had online bridge with Mary and Paul and nothing comes between my mother and bridge.

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If I were to befall a terrible accident and, say, lose three limbs, I get the feeling if my mum were told about it between 3pm and 4.30pm, she’d say, ‘that’s awful but can I get back to you in half an hour – I’m just making my opening bid’.

A couple of weeks later I received a pleasant letter from the police telling me I had been caught speeding and would be fined £100 and three points put on my licence. This was a blow because I’m not a rich man. It was also annoying as this had occurred on literally the only journey I made during lockdown.

Anyway, fair cop, I was doing 47 in a 40 zone, but was offered – as an alternative to a fine and points – a speed awareness course. This was appealing because I was keen to learn about the dangers of driving and to brush up on the laws of the road – oh, and it was only 80 quid and no points.

So, earlier this week I had to log on to something called Zoom (which I’d hoped might be a lolly but was an app) and spend two-and-a-half hours with a jolly but slightly threatening chap who talked to me and seven others about the laws of the road.

It was quite useful. I never knew that any road with street lights has a 30mph limit unless otherwise stated, and the difference in the number of fatalities among people hit by a car at 30 and at 50 is genuinely shocking. But the best thing about it was being able to look inside the homes of seven other people.

These were folk like me who had been caught speeding but whereas my camera was set up so the background was the bedroom wall, others had their cameras in much more interesting positions.

There was Carole, who in her kitchen had a cage that contained a dog about the size of an elephant and which, at intervals, went berserk and began barking and clawing at the bars as if eager to eat her. When warned people can be expelled from the course, the woman hurriedly moved to a different part of her house.

A bloke called Martin was in his office where, in the background through a window, groups of men in yellow uniform and hardhats passed by and you’d hear a shout of, ‘you’ve put bloody sugar in my brew again, how many times do I have to tell you I’ve bloody well quit’.

Then there was Christine who had her lighting so low she was almost a silhouette – like she was being interviewed on a news channel about a sensitive topic and didn’t want her identity revealed. You couldn’t see if her eyes were open or not, so for all I know she spent the two hours having a pleasant nap.

All of those on the course passed and we were asked at the end whether we had enjoyed the online experience. We all answered yes – and with good reason; it was a worthwhile educational experience – although I’m not sure Carole’s dog would agree.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​