Konnie Huq’s husband won’t learn to drive. She explains why she is quite happy with the arrangement.
Ever since the birth of our first son, Covey, a common question intermittently asked by friends has been, ‘Will Charlie (my husband) finally learn to drive now?’
Not a bad idea: handy for the school run; ferrying your offspring around from one activity to another; and then there’s the kids parties. (They have a way better social life than us.) Sharing the role of the parental designated driver could be one burden halved. When I floated the idea it was met with fake interest laced with lethargy. Baffling.
So why doesn’t my semi-geeky, technology-loving husband want to learn to drive potentially the most ‘blokey’ of all inventions, the ultimate boy’s toy, the motor car. He loves playing Need for Speed: Most Wanted on the Xbox, he got Covey a toy steering wheel for his buggy… This should be a no-brainer. Could his concern for the environment be a genuine one? But he didn’t seem to worry about the carbon footprint on our pre-baby global travels. Maybe it is like he says – down to London having one of the best public transport systems in the world. But that doesn’t explain all the cabs he takes. More baffling.
Besides, if his concern was an eco one it would make no sense as we drive an electric car. Does he not care that my role as designated driver will be stretched to the limit if we are going to have any more kiddies? Perhaps it’s a ploy to make sure we don’t have any more. I’d end up spending my life as a chauffeur.
Growing up in the suburbs of West London I knew a driving licence would open up a world of possibilities for me.
Enhanced freedom, enhanced social life, a swift trip up the A40 to get into central London, all things not to be passed up or scoffed at at the tender age of 17. Furthermore, the fact that this was in a pre- ‘Weinstein/#MeToo’ era meant for me, as a girl, the prospect of increased confidence and increased safety. Any female who grew up in or frequented London in the 1980s and 1990s will know being flashed at, or witnessing a man exposing himself, or playing with himself on the Tube was a given, a normality, just something we had to endure.
The Tube at night seemed to be a hotbed, or easy target, for perverted men to get their cheap thrills. I remember a particular incident on an empty Central Line carriage one night in which a man sat down in front of me behind a broadsheet newspaper, which he then proceeded to move away, so I could see his repellent, erect, reproductive organ. When I got off the carriage at the next stop, he did too. I ran. Terrifying.
Cutting out horrors like this made driving even more attractive. And so I passed my test as soon as legally possible and, being a complete teetotal, have had the role of designated driver ever since, giving the great and the good – and not so good or great, for that matter – lifts home from pubs, clubs and parties at all hours.
I know all the secret central London parking spots and how to time journeys so I cross the Congestion Charge line at 6.01pm. I’ve got it all down to a tee. From sixth form at school, up until today, I have relished this role. Being a control freak I love relying on myself and no one else to get me home when I want. But my husband is a control freak too, so why doesn’t he want to learn to drive?
A friend said she has a theory that when it comes to men – and sometimes women, but less so – if they don’t learn early, they often don’t want to at all. They don’t want to regress back to school.
Driving is something that is better learnt when you are young and fearless. I have two friends that passed their tests in their mid- to late-thirties and sitting in a car with them at the wheel is not a relaxing experience. Worse still, you have to act like it is, when in secret you are fearing for your life. Both of them hated it too, so much so neither really drives at all now. They both hated learning so late and they both live in London – not the best place for a relaxing drive.
The thought of going ‘back to school’ when you are clever, or successful, or cocky, or over-confident can’t be a pleasant one. This is compounded by the fact there seem to be so many dumb people on the roads and they all passed their tests. How hard can it be? A lot harder when you’ve lived life as an adult longer than a fearless, risk-taking youth.
There is no control for a control freak when your instructor has to keep emergency braking on the dual controls of a learner car which is emblazoned with L plates and driving school logos that feel more like a dunce’s hat at times. There is nothing clever about stalling in a three-point turn when you have caused a tailback and a tirade of beeping horns.
I think I’ll leave my genius husband to not drive.
After all, it enables the control freak in me to exert a little more control and a little bit of freedom in the process – much cherished freedom since marriage and kids!
Konnie Huq is a writer and broadcaster and an ecodriving ambassador for Mitsubishi. She drives an electric car and thankfully no longer gets flashed at on the Tube. Her husband is Charlie Brooker, known for being a technologically loving geek, writer and broadcaster. He still has no plans to learn to drive. Thankfully.