It has been an enormous pleasure teaching my youngest son how to drive.
He took to it like the proverbial duck to water and we soon realised that so long as we put the time in, he should be able to become good enough to pass his test, without having spent a small fortune on formal driving lessons. The other day, as per our plan, he went out with a recommended instructor in order to see if he is indeed ready to take the test.
When he got back, he was happy to report that the instructor told him he is an “excellent driver” – which I already knew of course but it’s always nice to hear someone else pay a compliment to your offspring.
Anyway, I recently read over Christmas, the incredible and now legendary story of the SAS patrol, Bravo Two Zero written by the patrol leader who has adopted the now well known pseudonym, Andy McNab.
For me at least, it was a genuine page-turner, never knowing what on earth was going to happen next. But it was a memory from his early army days, as a teenage raw recruit that got me thinking about life-long learning. McNab tells the story of the day a captain came into their classroom, strode to the window and pointed towards the perimeter fence…
“Everybody out there, the other side of the wire – they all think you’re thick as s@#!
“They think that’s why you’re here, in the infantry, and not in one of the technical trades, or driving a tank, or flying a helicopter.
“But you’re not thick as s@#! You’re just uneducated. The only reason you can’t read is because you don’t read. From today that changes.”
McNab goes on to explain how within a week, he’d read his first book. Nothing too complex. A Janet & John kind of book. At the end of it, the captain asked him what he’d learnt from it.
‘”Well…Janet and John like climbing trees.”
“Exactly, And the next book you read, you’ll learn something else won’t you?”
I nodded, “Yes, sir.”
“And the one after that, you’ll learn something else. Then you might decide to go and read another, different, sort of book; maybe science fiction, maybe adventure, maybe non-fiction – and maybe you’ll realise that you actually want to learn.”
I walked back to my desk with a spring in my step. I’d read a book, and somebody smart had told me I wasn’t thick, just uneducated. He was right. From that day, everything changed.’
How wonderful for a senior army officer to impart that sort of passion for learning to not merely one impressionable, young man but many others like him.
The key point here of course, is wanting to learn and my contention is that should never stop. It is one of the things that helps us to stay young and fresh, even if our bodies are not what they once were.
Much to my embarrassment, I learned last week that the story I repeated about the Ford dealer salesman was not entirely accurate at all. Apparently, the reception the prospective buyer was given was a very warm one and not as I had described. So for that, I apologise and I trust they will continue to sell many more Ford Mustangs.