CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Dom Joly: No need for speed

PUBLISHED: 14:47 03 December 2015 | UPDATED: 14:50 03 December 2015

Hear more from Dom in next month's magazine

Hear more from Dom in next month's magazine


I haven’t been in this sort of classroom environment since I sulked my way through the compulsory team-building sessions that the BBC used to make everyone go on

I know nothing about cars. Well, nothing technological that is. I know whether I like one or not. I know whether one is ‘naff’ or ‘wide’ or ‘too much’. I know that a personalised number plate can never, ever be excused. But I know nothing about spark plugs or camshafts; I’m not a mechanic, I’m a user.

Weirdly The Sunday Times ask me to review cars on a fairly regular basis. I’ve tried hard to explain to them my lack of knowledge but they think I’m being modest and just appear even keener for my stuff. This is a good thing as I get to drive all sorts of extraordinarily ‘naff’, ‘wide’ and ‘too much’ cars without the stigma of actually owning them. I will still always refuse to get into any car with a personalised number plate. You have to draw the line somewhere.

This does mean that I occasionally am tempted to put these cars through their paces. The long arm of the law enjoys these moments so much that they send me photographs of the occasions in the post. I got one the other day from a policeman in Wales who had spotted me driving through Cardiff in a car and thought he should make me a souvenir. Enclosed with the photo was an invitation to attend a ‘Speed Awareness Course’ that he said would allow me to avoid getting points on my licence. How could I refuse?

Three weeks later I parked up at a shabby hotel in Banbury and joined my fellow attendees in the ‘Garden Suite’. It was a little like attending an AA meeting (so I’m told). Everybody looked slightly resentful at having to be there. It was as though, in their particular case, there had been some annoying clerical error that meant that they didn’t really belong.

The course was run by two people: one was a chirpy, affable ex truck driver. The other appeared to have commuted in from the late Nineteenth Century. He was all pinstripe suit, watch chain and silk handkerchief popping out of his top pocket. He also appeared to have learned his people skills in the late 19th century as his ‘teaching’ style verged on the ludicrously patronising.

Everybody started off with crossed arms and sulky looks but the realisation that we were going to be there for four hours, whether we enjoyed it or not, meant that most people defrosted after ten minutes or so (not me).

I have to admit… I learned some stuff. I don’t think I’ve been in this sort of classroom environment since I sulked my way through the compulsory team-building sessions that the BBC used to make everyone go on (never saw Alan Yentob or John Birt, weirdly). Just so that you don’t feel the need to do one of these courses, here are the three things that I learnt.

1. The word ‘Slow’ painted onto a road is an acronym for ‘Speed Low Observe Warnings’.

2. If you have a car crash, ring 112 on your mobile not 999. It goes through to the same people but 112 works all over Europe and, more importantly, they can pinpoint you on a map using GPS. This is particularly useful if you are in an upside-down car in a tree trying to describe your location to the ambulance service while drifting in and out of consciousness.

3. Incremental increases in speed, such as the difference between 30 and 35 miles an hour make a staggering difference to your stopping speed. I know this because Tiff Needell, still clearly smarting at not being approached for the new, revamped Top Gear, demonstrated this in a particularly hammy safety video that we were shown.

I tweeted that I was going to attend one of these courses and asked my followers what I should wear? The consensus seemed to be that I should go dressed as The Stig or the enormous snail from Trigger Happy TV. Personally I was tempted to turn up dressed as my mini-cab driver character who uses a smashed-up stock car to screech into Euston station and do a handbrake turn in front of a long taxi queue before getting out and shouting “Mini-Cab?” through his battered helmet… sometimes, however, even I have to behave.

You can follow Dom Joly on Twitter.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & about

Mon, 13:15

Tracy Spiers takes an impressive, if hypothetical, budget on a shopping spree in Cheltenham’s independent stores

Read more
Mon, 12:23

Get out and enjoy seasonal celebrations with a Cotswold twist

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hundreds of participating National Lottery-funded visitor attractions across the UK are saying ‘thanks’ to people who have raised money for good causes by buying a lottery ticket, including a number of venues in the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, December 3, 2018

“We’re looking forward to lots of festive fun this Christmas festival and hope to welcome lots of people to our town.”

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

“Faringdon upholds old-fashioned values through its traditional shops, personal service and shop owners who go the extra mile to make their customers feel at home.”

Read more
Friday, November 23, 2018

Home to some of the country’s most breathtaking architecture and picturesque gardens, the Cotswolds boasts plenty of beautiful stately homes you need to visit. We pick eight special locations that are made even more magical during Christmas time

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Taking the classroom outdoors is fun, inspires fresh ideas, broadens horizons – and encourages a new generation to enjoy and care for the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, November 19, 2018

Chipping Campden – once the meeting place for a council of Saxon kings – now offers the warmest of welcomes to all its visitors, from the humble shopper to the seasonal shin-kicker

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search