WHEN I dropped each of my daughters off to sit their driving theory test I remember thinking that I - a competent driver who has motored around safely for almost 40 years - would probably not be able to pass it.

I doubted very much that I would meet the required standard of correctly answering at least 43 out of 50 multiple-choice questions, as well as passing a hazard perception test- identifying various hazards on pre-recorded footage.

I am often uncertain as to what some road signs mean - the white circle/black slash, and blue circle/red cross, being two examples that spring to mind. Then there’s the blue circle with one red slash - what on earth is that? And I know you can’t park on double yellow lines, but what does one yellow line allow you to do?

I’d have to do a lot of swotting up to pass the theory test. As it was only introduced in 1996, many drivers have never had to sit it and, according to research, just four in ten British motorists think they would pass it, were they were to take it now.

It’s a far cry from the driving test I took all those years ago, when ‘theory’ was the least of your worries. In those days, it was a five minute add-on to your test. The examiner simply opened the Highway Code book and selected half a dozen questions at random. That was it.

Back then, I would say most of our worries stemmed from the reputation of the examiner. “You don’t want to get the German, you’ll definitely fail,” people in my school sixth form used to say. I’d heard a lot about ‘The German’ - a large, stern, bald-headed man whose very presence was intimidating.

So imagine my horror when I turned up for my first test to find him striding towards the car. He was monosyllabic and tutted loudly and disapprovingly when, during the test, an unfortunate incident occurred. When I slammed on the brake for an emergency stop, a dozen tins of cat food - picked up earlier at the supermarket - shot forward from the rear seat. A couple ended up in his footwell and, as I apologised profusely, he moved them without comment.

He seemed to be writing all the time and when we pulled over I couldn’t help but notice the letter D for dangerous he had seen fit to award me for more than one manoeuvre. I knew the result well before arriving back at the test centre.

On my second attempt I was accompanied by the examiner widely known as ‘John Cleese’, a lookalike who, despite being bureaucratic and humourless, was seen as something of a pushover. Many of my friends had passed with him and rumor had it, barely anyone failed.

So I was relaxed to start with and, being market day, we spent most of the test in queues of traffic. I barely shifted out of first gear and we were stuck in a part of town so flat that I did my hill start on a speed hump. After a blink-and-you-miss-it blast of ‘theory’, I was thrilled to hear I had passed.

More than 30 years later, listening to my daughters’ friends discussing their tests, it was clear that examiners today are still pigeonholed. I heard phrases like ‘you’ll never pass with him’ or her, and ‘he’s like Freddy Krueger’ are still common.

Driving tests can be unnerving even to the cockiest of youths. I was amazed when I passed and still appreciate being able to hop in and take off in my car.

Give or take a couple of speeding offences, one minor bump and reversing into a bollard, I have a pretty sound driving record. Yet, like many people my age, my knowledge of the Highway Code is sketchy. Maybe it should be compulsory for all drivers. Only no repeat test - that would be far too terrifying.

*MY CAT’S incarceration continues. We have kept him inside for the past six weeks to allow birds we know to be nesting in our garden to fledge. That’s the only thing I don’t like about cats - their killing sprees. The Mammal Society estimate that cats in the UK catch up to 275 million creatures a year, of which 27 million are birds.

Our male cat is a killing machine and has already dislodged the bird box, where a family of bluetits is nesting. Our female cat - who could not catch a mouse if it sat in front of her - is still allowed out.

On the plus side, little lives are almost certainly being saved. The down side is that we have had to sacrifice our sofas and curtains, which are getting ripped to shreds by a frustrated feline.

*SURGEONS warn that dog owners are suffering serious hand injuries through holding their pets’ leads incorrectly. Experts from the British Society for Surgery say they are regularly having to treat fractures, lacerations and dislocated fingers caused by dog collar or lead misuse - in particular wrapping the lead around wrists, or fingers or hooking fingers under collars. I imagine injuries are also caused by owners yanking hard on leads, lifting their pets off the ground and half-choking them. I’ve witnessed this many times, and in these cases, it’s the poor animals we should feel sorry for.