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If at first you don't succeed ... quit

THERE'S an old adage (though not as venerable as some) that goes:

if at first you don't succeed, it's probably not meant to be. It's an unfortunate part of my make-up, brought to mind when I read in The Herald of Britain's most persistent learner driver, a woman in Wiltshire who earned her licence at the 24th attempt.

Question: should someone who fails her driving test 23 times really be on the roads anyway? If the problem was nerves, how does that augur for any encounter with Birmingham's Spaghetti Junction or, worse, attempting to leave the M8 at the Fruitmarket exit? If it's serial carelessness, are you comfortable with the thought that she might be pulling out of a junction just ahead of you? (Admittedly, the motorist in question lives 360 miles further south, but knowing my luck ... )

On reflection, I may be being churlish. She probably feels her licence has been so hard won, she'll do her damnedest to protect it. She'll be the safest driver since Noddy.

So good luck to her. I, of all people, should respect the determined nature. I wish I possessed such a thing.

I'm a severe let-down to my birthplace, Leith (motto: Persevere). I have no staying power. Some of my colleagues have unfinished novels; I have unfinished cheques.

Take this weekend for an example. We bought a lawnmower from B&Q. Alarm bells should have rung when I saw that the packaging bore no resemblance to the shape of the finished product. Horror of horrors, the thing required self-assembly.

I started off okay. I attached the frame to the body no problem at all. But I couldn't figure out the grassbox, which came in three sections. After 10 minutes (okay, three), I gave up and went back into the house to make a cup of tea.

The household overseer, aka the wife, took over, and had the thing up and running almost before the kettle had boiled. It turned out I had been attempting to affix the handle upside down which, I was scornfully informed, I would have realised if I'd bothered to read the instructions fully.

The upside was we now had a fully functioning lawnmower; the downside was we had a lawn in need of attention. I gave it a go, but after a few minutes I was sure I felt a few spots of rain and, hey, the Wimbledon men's final was on the telly. And rather like yours truly, the grass ended up half-cut.

This is why I'd be a disaster on Mastermind. John Humphrys would say: "I've started, so I'll finish," and I'd reply: "Ach, never bother."

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