The 70-year-old retired nun stared at one of the questions in the K53 Learners Drivers Test.
She knows this…
Next to her a young whippersnapper, who hardly looks old enough to be in high school, put his pencil down and handed in the completed test.
“My, my,” said Cecilia Bailey to herself. “These youngsters are quick.”
Months later, after a whole lot of practice, Cecilia was finally ready to take her Driver’s Licence Test.
Suffice to say at her age, raised eyebrows met her whenever someone heard the woman from Table View was trying to get her licence.
In the end she put all the doubters in their place when she passed it in Milnerton on Saturday last week.
Here is someone who once walked solemnly in the halls of a convent for 26 years – now sitting behind the steering wheel of a Hyundai and taking gaps in traffic when they appear.
“People are so reckless these days,” exclaims Cecilia.
“They treat stop signs as yield signs!”
A lot has changed in the behaviour of motorists since the sixties, and Cecilia would know, because she did indeed drive for two years before she went into the convent in 1967.
“Once in the convent we didn’t even go out, so all my wonderful driving skills just went cold.”
In 1993 she left the convent and only got the opportunity to get a licence again this year.
She decided to take the learners and complete the Driver’s Licence practical instead of just renewing the licence.
“I thought it would be like riding a bicycle, but it was very difficult once I got behind that steering wheel!”
The word “difficult” takes on a double meaning here, as she explains: “I am very tall, so I had to concertina myself just to fit in.”
She gives a childlike chuckle.
“The Austin A55 I drove had gears on the steering wheel and back then there was no such thing as a four-way-stop.”
Cecilia is evidently no slouch when it comes to overcoming obstacles, but as with any great achievement, she couldn’t have done it without the help of someone else.
“Layzelle de Lange of The Yard deserves a lot of credit. I would have never passed the test were it not for her. She’s an absolute star!”
Cecilia found these cones invaluable in her quest.
She found that she is a natural in alley docking, but it took plenty of practice to get the hang of parallel parking.The dreaded clutch-control also took some doing.
“Once you’ve mastered clutch-control you can do anything,” she laughs again.
Layzelle’s support also prepared Cecilia for her greatest nemesis during the test – Cecilia herself.
“The test is not about knowledge, it’s about nerve. You’ve got to have the sense of confidence that you can drive. It isn’t about your skills as a driver, but your calibre of driving under pressure.”
Now that she has her licence she can go wherever she fancies, but she hasn’t driven anyhere alone yet.
According to her this will come in good time.
Perhaps one day someone will see a tall elderly lady laugh behind the steering wheel moments before she puts pedal to the floor and race towards the sunset.
While wearing sunglasses, of course!