In New Zealand you are legally allowed to drive for up to a year on your UK licence. So I was not worried about sorting my licence out until later in the year. That was until I found out that I had a $800 excess on my car insurance whilst I still had my UK licence. This would be reduced to $4oo as soon as I got a New Zealand licence.
So last week we searched out the local "driver licensing agents" which turned out to be our local AA shop. The AA (Automobile Association) unlike in the UK, doesn't just operate over the phone and from their mobile fleet of yellow breakdown vans, but has shops in most towns. These shops seem to operate as driving licence agents and a general centre for AA products.
We made a memorable entrance to our local AA shop when I went to pick up the application form for my licence. My two year old daughter managed to get herself tangled up in the rope separating the queue and brought down the two metal poles onto her back. She consequently screamed the place down and gave me a heart attack at the same time. I managed to extract her from the poles and despite my imagination picturing her being in a wheelchair for life, it turned out there wasn't a mark on her. I think we rather disturbed the people who appeared to be filling in theory tests in the booths and I felt like asking if they could get a few extra marks for having the distraction to deal with!
Anyway despite the embarrassment I was very brave and returned to the AA shop again this week to hand in my completed form and get my licence. This time however we had to wait in the queue 40 minutes before being seen. Thankfully a miracle seemed to have occurred and my two girls were extremely well behaved and sat quietly for the entire time.
You don't need to take a theory or practical test if you have a current UK licence but what I didn't realise was that you have to have an eye test to get your New Zealand licence. They have a machine on the desk which looks like a cross between huge binoculars and a magnifying glass. You have to look through the top and read the letters appearing in rows, just as you would in a normal eye exam. I looked through the top and found that I could see the letters OK, at least I could see the general outline, but I was unable to see which letters they were. All very embarrassing as I had to admit I couldn't see a thing, and once again there was a huge queue behind me. I had to trudge back to the car with the girls and collect my glasses and take the test again.
I must be having a run of bad luck when it comes to cars as only a month ago someone backed into me and today I managed to back into a post and break my back light. Its going to cost me $200 to replace. When I phoned my husband to let him know the good news he responded by saying "don't worry, I know you were feeling a bit dopey this morning". Not patronising in the least!