When Major John Hewson retired from the army at the age of fifty, he soon found himself at a loose end. He had grown used to army discipline and he found civilian life dull and boring. For the first few months he was quite happy in the house that he and his wife had bought on his retirement, but he soon began to wish he had something to do. His wife, Mary, also pointed out that his pension wasn't sufficient for them to live on and that they needed some extra money. Unfortunately the Major had no qualifications, but he did know a lot about motor cars. And so three months later he opened his own school of motoring. He called it the Al School of Driving. At first the Major thought he would never get more than one or two clients, but everything changed on the day that the first of his pupils passed the driving test.
As usual, the Major rose early, ate his breakfast and was in his office at exactly eight o'clock. The Major was always punctual. People in the houses opposite the school checked their watches when he arrived; they knew that the moment he entered his office it was eight o'clock precisely. The Major's first job each morning was to go into the garage next door and check the car for oil, water and air. He returned to the office at eight fifteen. He looked at his diary and sadly noted that he had no appointments until midday. Nevertheless, he opened the office at nine o'clock as usual. Then he sat down at his desk, lit his pipe and opened the morning newspaper. He knew from many mornings spent in this way that if he read the paper very
slowly he would finish it at half past eleven — just in time to get ready for his first client. But he was still reading the front page
when the door opened and a middle-aged woman walked in. Mrs. Carruthers had read the advertisement for the A1 School in the local paper and had come for the free trial lesson. The Major offered one hour's free tuition to anyone; during this time he could judge whether a full course of twenty-five lessons was necessary or whether a short refresher course would be sufficient.
Mrs. Carruthers I do so like the name of your school. Al sounds
encouraging, and as it's run by a colonel I know
I shall be in safe hands.
Major Thank you for the promotion, madam but I am
actually a major.
Mrs. Carruthers Oh dear, I'm so sorry. Now is that higher or lower
than a colonel? I can never remember.
Major Lower. But don't let's worry about that. I think I
can fit you in for your free trial lesson now. But
first I have to see your provisional driving
licence. Thank you. Yes, that seems to be in
order. Tell me, have you ever taken the driving
Mrs. Carruthers Well, yes, I'm what you might call an old hand.
Major You'll have to be more precise than that, I'm
afraid. Have you taken it once? Twice?
Mrs. Carruthers No, my dear captain, a few more times than that.
Major Major, madam, if you don't mind.
Mrs. Carruthers Yes, of course. I'm so sorry. I knew a captain
once in the army. Or was it the navy?
Major Perhaps you could just tell me how many times
you have taken the test.
Mrs. Carruthers Let me see. There was the time I had a little
accident at a pedestrian crossing. And then there
was the time I had a bit of bad luck with the
I also remember...
Major I don't want to hurry you, Mrs. Carruthers, but
I'd like to start at ten o'clock.
Mrs. Carruthers Yes, of course. Well, let's make a nice round
number, shall we?
Major Yes, why not?
Mrs. Carruthers Put down thirty then, Brigadier.
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