I set off from Whiteley as usual, with a little struggling over pulling away at first until I got into the swing of things (the karting last weekend probably didn't help), but instead of heading into Fareham along the A27 I turned off earlier and took the back road into Titchfield. This is one I've walked quite often and so I'm aware it's rather narrow, but it's not until you start driving that you realise just how awkward narrow twisty turny country roads are (especially when the narrowest point is at a bend in the road). Titchfield itself is also full of awkward narrow roads, including one tight sweeping bend leading up to a mini-roundabout that you've got no chance of taking properly. Fortunately, as it's a mini-roundabout you can just drive straight over the top of it.
Anyway, I continued along to Stubbington before again turning off the main road, cutting through a housing estate, and ending up in Hill Head. Next it was along the coast to Lee-on-Solent, zig-zagging into the one-way system that is the high street before eventually ending up in the Stokes Bay car park. There it was time to practice parking - both reversing into spaces, and then for a change driving forwards into them. Driving forwards seems easier, but has the disadvantage that once you're in the space it's a lot harder to get out of - you have to back almost all the way out before you can turn, and you can't really see what's happening while doing so. Reversing in isn't all the hard and driving forwards out is a lot easier.
That said, you can always do the really cheeky thing and drive forwards through one space into another. You do have to be careful though that someone coming down another aisle doesn't also go for the same space!
After a few goes at both (and managing to perfectly line myself up on the final attempt at reverse parking - go me!), we then left the car park and found a quiet corner to have a go at reversing round. This also served to show that no two corners are the same - this one wasn't so much a corner as two 45-degree bends with a short straight in the middle. It didn't help either that the corner contained a tree and the shade from that almost completely obscured the edge of the road! Fortunately I made it round with prompting from my instructor, and then as time was getting on we set off back to Fareham.
The return journey gave me my first taste of stop-start commuter traffic. So far we've managed to avoid getting caught in the rush-hour jams, but no such luck this time as the A32 was packed. On the plus side, it gave me plenty of practice at reacting to changing traffic speeds and starting/stopping. Interestingly that bit of driving didn't require as much clutch/gas control as I expected, though part of that is down to the car. The Ford I'm learning in has an anti-stall feature which allows you to trundle forwards in 1st/2nd with all feet off the pedals - if the ECU detects that the engine revs are dropping too low, it automatically adds a little more power to stop it stalling. It's a bit disconcerting at first but very handy.
Today was also the first time we discussed doing the theory and hazard perception tests. The theory test I've already mentioned is a multiple choice exam, but the hazard perception is a very different beast - you watch a video clip, and press a button when you spot a hazard in it. I recall trying some samples when Dom was learning in Brighton and finding that the problem is not just spotting the hazards (car about to turn out of a junction, someone crossing the road, BOB and TOM, ...), but waiting to flag them until when they think you should see the hazard and not before. Now, I've already got the AA package from a couple of years ago, but my instructor recommended another software package that not only has the sample videos but lets you go back over them and see *when* you should have flagged the hazard up. I'll have to give it a try and report back if it's any good.