But one rarely reads about Astley Ainslie time. Y’see, I went to the Astley Ainslie Hospital for a driving assessment last week. When I first checked in with my GP upon my return to Edinburgh in 2013, she told me that due to my stroke, I’d have to take a driving assessment test before resuming driving.
That was no big. We didn’t have a car, and notwithstanding having recently gained my NY licence, I’d driven a car very little during the preceding decade. We did live in New York City, after all. And when I took my first driving test in Edinburgh, back in 1892, it hadn’t gone so well.
However, there tends to be a waiting list to take the assessment and Scotland’s a pretty, big country, so when a spot recently opened up I thought I’d better take it. And last week, I found myself back at the Astley Ainslie for the first time since a series of detailed neurological evaluations that took place shortly after we first arrived in the country.
The Astley Ainslie, “located in the affluent Grange area of Edinburgh”, is an odd little city secret. Unlike the Western General Hospital and the Royal Infirmary, our fellow Edinburgers don’t seem to be terribly familiar with it. Maybe this is because it specialises in “rehabilitation services for adults with acquired brain injury, stroke, orthopaedic injuries, limb amputation, and progressive neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis.” And these folks don’t make it to the clubs that often.
Or maybe because it’s low-lying, and hides behind stone walls on all sides, spread across rolling grounds. And that’s the first part of the time-warp. As I make my way the to the SMART (South-East Mobility and Rehabilitation Technology) Centre, it feels like I’m roaming an Edwardian sanitorium. Or maybe slightly later. Shouldn’t Sebastian be coming out of that “cottage” over there, with Aloysius and Charles?
Or maybe Connery as Bond in Never Say Never Again/Thunderball.
Then I’m plunged even further back in time when I pass a building that, while of reasonably modern construction, presents a wooden gable-end to the pathway, and a plaque declaring
Here stood the Chapel of St. Roque who inspired many to succour victims of the Plague, 1506-1646
Finally, I reach the southern-most edge of the grounds. I take a seat on a bench, and call the DVLA. Revisiting the materials I’ve received about my assessment, I’ve found that in order to be allowed to sit the test I have to have informed the authorities of my condition.
I interpreted the questions as leading/leading to a point at which my interrogator could advise that I was fit to drive. But he did indicate that a fuller questionnaire would be sent. And in any event, an opportunity to regain a little driving confidence with a professional therapist and dual controls was a good thing. I moseyed on.
Here, hiding behind another building as if embarrassed to disturb the time-warp, sits the SMART Centre. It’s all mod and Copenhagen Airport-y (albeit on a smaller scale). When the clock strikes 0830, they can check me in. I’m not what my assessor expected.
“The file says you’re a solicitor. You don’t look like a lawyer.”
Soon enough, my assessment begins. We will run through initial neurological and physical tests, before I’m set up in a rig for peripheral vision and reaction testing, all computer measured for passing/failing. Then, we’ll have a wee burl around the grounds, and all being well, we’ll end with a drive around residential Edinburgh and the city bypass.
The therapist explains that the neuro-testing will be less extensive than in my prior visits to Astley Ainslie. We’re simply here to check that I’m safe to drive. (Hush, Longsufferinggirlfriendoftheblogbeth!) The neuro-testing is pretty low-intensity compared to what I’ve been through previously.
- Tap your finger each time I say the letter ‘A’ among this list of random letters.
- Draw a copy of this two-dimensional representation of a cube.
- How many words beginning with the letter ‘C’ can you name in a minute?
I set a new record for the last one. Or so he told me. Then we proceeded to the rig. It was totally steampunk. I strapped into a regular car seat, and Terry turned up to volume on the ZX Spectrum vroom noise that activates when you press the gas. Just above the faux dashboard was a big yellow light. I slammed on the brakes each time it lit up.
Above that was an array of LEDs set into a re-purposed garden sprinkler. Each time one of them lit up, I slammed on the brakes. Peripheral vision.
Surrounding the big light were two green lights and two red lights. More green than red light up? Hit the gas. More red than green? Slam on the brakes.
Computer say Yes, so we hopped in a Nissan Micra and tooled around the grounds until Terry was ready for us to cut loose. 14 miles/45 minutes later, we returned to the SMART Centre in one piece, and I felt a little less nervous at the wheel. Terry tells me that the Astley Ainslie will be moving soon. I’ve not been able to verify the report yet, but he continues with the detail that the hospital was built with funds/assets from a trust that was set up around the time of the 1914-18 war. Apparently, the granting clause required that the city maintain the facility on its current location for 100 years. Did I mention that’s in “the affluent Grange area of Edinburgh”? Aye. So. Flats, I assume. The AA will move out to a new location on the outskirts of the city.
As I make my way past the former site of St. Roque’s chapel, checking my Edinburgh Buses app to see when the 41 bus will roll up, I’m amazed to reflect that a year has passed since that bank of neurological assessment tests.
It feels like a lot longer, and it feels like a lot of things have changed. For the better.
Three tax-dodgers, Catherine Tate’s ex-boyfriend and a 60-a-day smoker walk into a bar.
The barman says, “It’s no How Deep is Your Love, is it?”