Our driving skills weren’t great as a nation pre-Covid, but now... | Blaise Tapp

Like millions of others across the country, I’ve spent this last week coming to terms with the fact that I’m no longer on holiday.

Friday, 11th June 2021, 5:00 pm
Traffic jams are back with a vengeance. Picture: Paul Jacobs

This bout of back-to-work blues is particularly pernicious as so many of us were actually able to go somewhere other than our local park during half term – a sensation not experienced by some since 2019.

From where I was slouched, the nation’s harassed parents more than made up for lost time by snapping up every room, cottage, patch of grass, converted cattle shed, and mobile home in the British Isles, due to the fact that the Falkland Islands are now, pretty much, the only place we can visit overseas if we don’t want to quarantine on our return.

I don’t know about you but I can drive to Marwell Zoo if I want to see some penguins.

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This surge in demand, coupled with the glorious early June weather, provided an overdue boost to those businesses who have endured the worst of times.

A solid indicator of how busy a seaside resort is is the length of the queues for ice creams and wherever I went last week, they were off the scale.

Such was my desire to sink my teeth into a popcorn-infused salted caramel cone that, on one occasion, I waited patiently for more than half an hour.

To be fair, I had nothing better to do.

But the seemingly endless sea of people on beaches, seafronts, and promenades was nothing compared to the scenes on the nation’s roads last week, which weren’t a place for the faint-hearted.

In just seven days I covered more miles in the family motor than I had in the previous nine months and, judging by the standard of driving I witnessed, this was clearly the case for many.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on so many aspects of daily life but it is the impact it has had on the nation’s driving skills that concerns me the most and, let’s be honest, they weren’t that great to start with.

Our unspeakably long odyssey into deepest Wales was made all the more challenging by fellow motorists who appeared to have lost the ability to indicate when constantly changing motorway lanes, a hazard which was increased by the fact that a fair number were towing a caravan.

For somebody who grew up on marathon journeys on the 1980s’ road network, last week brought home how out of practice at driving I’ve become.

There was a time that I could motor from suburban Manchester to the south coast without stopping once, driven by the motto that ‘comfort breaks are dictated by the strongest bladder, not the weakest’.

Now, I’m lucky if we get away with two hour-long stops.

After nearly 18 months of almost exclusively driving to and from the supermarket, my love of spending hours behind the wheel has significantly diminished.

I had also forgotten how fiendishly difficult it is to drive anywhere of any distance with the family in tow, even with the vast array of technology that they have at their disposal.

Children have never been very good companions on long journeys but mine appeared to have forgotten that it is sometimes necessary to travel significant distances with mum and dad.

This time, our own record for ‘are we nearly there yet?’ was smashed to smithereens when our youngest asked that inevitable question within the first three minutes.

Our valiant attempts to ease the boredom were quickly dismissed – how many times can any parent make spotting a cow or a tractor seem genuinely appealing?

Games of I Spy are now as outdated as white dog poo and three-wheeler cars, meaning that listening to dad’s playlist is the only group activity left available to us.

That never ends well.

The continuing uncertainty over foreign travel is likely to persist for some time, meaning that we’ve all got to get used to driving again.