What I liked about 100 Year Old Driving School was the sheer humanity of it, unusual in reality TV. Here were a bunch of centenarians and near-centenarians (91 being the youngest) who love life and are game enough not only to take to the road but to be assessed on their fitness to drive.
In fact there are 248 people over the age of 100 out there in cars and on bikes, and about 100,000 more in their nineties. So it isn’t the driving school that’s 100 years old, in case you were wondering, it really being an exercise in public safety run by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, whose experts were on hand to put the oldsters through a driving test – one of them for the very first time.
But it was the way they did that was so sweet. Rather than taking the keys off them there and then, they gently suggested “changes in technique” or, in the case of Ms Joan Beech (91), who didn’t seem to realise her Nissan Micra had more than two forward ratios, getting an automatic. And, in the case of one remarkable old gent who’s never bothered with it, reading the Highway Code for the first time in his 82 years of motoring.
Yes, that’s right: 82 years of motoring. John Errol Manners got behind the wheel for the first time in 1935, just before the driving test became compulsory for new motorists. So this was indeed his first outing with a driving examiner.
Mr Manners is an extremely lively 102-year-old who not only still has control of his mind but knows it rather well, and enjoys speaking it. He was born just after the Great War broke out, and he probably regrets having missed that shooting party. He was a cricketer (making his first-class debut for Hampshire in 1936), and naval officer (Lieutenant Commander, Distinguished Service Medal) during the Second World War, proudly pointing to a photograph of one of the ships he was on shortly after it was torpedoed. Revenge arrived in 1945 when he sank a U-boat.
He amounts to a sort of poor man’s Prince Philip, another elderly sea dog with outspoken ways. Pottering along a little too close to the wrong side of the road in his Skoda Fabia, Mr Manners was, for example, asked by the assessor about the parked cars lining one side of the lane and what they meant. “It means they haven’t got garages,” he shot back with a slight air of “damn fool question”. When it was suggested that he might thus look out for opening doors or pedestrians crossing behind them his attitude was “they can blinking well look after themselves”. He put his glasses on to read the number plate of a nearby car, but having successfully done that, blithely removed them and informed his Rospa minder that of course he didn’t use them when he was driving. Now, there’s the spirit that got us through Dunkirk (and into it in the first place).
Brexit, I guess, doesn’t scare him either, and I can only hope he gets to see it before he runs out of road in a more metaphorical sense. Anyway, he, and all the other oldies who got to keep their “lifeline” personal transport cheered me up and made me suddenly feel very young. Mr Manners richly deserves his later-life TV celebrity status.
A word of thanks, once again, is in order for the spectacularly talented team who bring us People Just Do Nothing, which has taught me the new, contemporary meaning of “sick”, now being used as a term of approbation. And I’ve only just got used to the misappropriation of “wicked” and the reclamation of “queer”. Anyway, you need to watch this mockumentary about a rubbish pirate radio station called Kurupt FM, now engaged in a “Kold War” with equally pathetic Kold FM for musical supremacy in Hounslow.
The characters continue to evolve, amazingly enough because they are so pathetically and inherently two-dimensional in nature. Thus hairdresser Miche (Lily Brazier), who has hitherto been relatively naïve and good-natured, tries to exploit her little daughter Angel (Olivia Jasmine Edwards) to make her some money and break into showbiz, the deluded Miche appointing herself Angel’s “momager”, or mum and manager. Another new word for me. Sick.
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