Life, Simply Led

Teaching My Son to Drive, Magical Cars and a Hint of Harry Potter

Way back at the beginning of Summer we celebrated my eldest son’s 17th birthday. Exams, festivals, sailing and generally having a jolly time mean that it has taken us this long to apply for a provisional driving licence – either that or I have been in denial that he is old enough to be put in charge of a ton of metal on wheels; it doesn’t seem that long ago that he was whizzing around the sitting room like a mini maniac on his wooden trike!

Anyhow, he is old enough and it will soon be falling to me to teach him to drive – the cost of lessons mean that he will be stuck with Mama for a fair few practice sessions and, despite what he has suggested, driving games on his PlayStation will not have thoroughly prepared him for the road! ;-) This could get very interesting!

We do, however, have a problem. Mr Thinly Spread drives a Mercedes, it is very old, very battered and its insurance group is ludicrously high. I drive an even older, even more battered 7 seat Renault Espace which has to be persuaded with cajoling tones and gentle toes to change gear nicely and isn’t keen on hill starts. Neither are really cut out for a learner driver.

Consequently we are on the look out for a new car for either me or Mr TS. It has to be roomy enough for teen legs in the back and to carry full length floorboards without having to remove seats (we run a wooden flooring business, we’re not just weirdo floorboard lovers). If it’s for me it has to have six seats, if it’s for him it has to have five.

With impeccable timing Citroen asked us to test drive their new C4 Picasso down at the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studios with the promise of a tour around Potter heaven to follow. Yes, of course we jumped at it!

Unfortunately, this one is a 5 seater so Mr TS had to be left behind and go to work while we galloped off for a bit of a play, which was a shame as we have fond memories of Citroens over  the years! He learned to drive in a 2CV with the gear handle in the middle of the dashboard and we travelled around France with a boot full of camping gear in a Citroen BX on our honeymoon.

The Citroen C4 Picasso was waiting for us, all gleaming and shiny and I was given The Tour by a very nice Citroen man. I could waffle on here about the gadgetry inside, all the computery bits which mean you can set your temperature, listen to your tunes, work out where you’re going, find the nearest petrol station/pizza or whatnot all from the wheel of your car but, to be honest, I switched off a bit when that was being explained. This is my usual reaction to tech talk, I can’t absorb it, I have to try it myself and then it sinks in! I was keen to have a go at the automatic parking so I nodded obediently through the introduction and then jumped into the driving seat! Three of my children piled in, there wasn’t room for number 4 as I had to have a minder in the passenger seat. I therefore left my camera in the capable hands of Teen 2 who is very often playing the role of second shooter for me these days.

the citroen c4 picasso

It soon became very apparent why this event was taking place in the shadow of the Harry Potter Studios – this car is MAGIC. This car PARKS ITSELF! Look….NO HANDS!

citroen c4 picasso

citroen c4 picasso

My teen boys despaired of me – ‘That’s not new Mum, loads of cars do that’ No. They don’t. I’ve never owned one which did that! A car which at the wave of a wand/click of a switch will eye up a space in the supermarket and reverse me into it without me steering AT ALL!

citroen c4 picasso

A car which will parallel park without all that shuffling about while Mr Impatient is beeping at you from behind – how fab is that?!

citroen c4 picasso

citroen c4 picasso

I’m not actually bad at parking at all but this really takes the effort out of it! The young man sitting next to me while I raved about how marvellous it was did point out that Teen One will not be allowed to wave the wand during his driving test which seems a shame! It wasn’t quite as magical as this but it wasn’t far off!

harry potter flying car

The seats folded down flat at the, very easy, touch of a button for floorboard carrying (I’m used to struggling, fighting and swearing) and, as you can see, there is plenty of boot room even with all the seats in their proper places.

small car wth large boot, citroen c4 picasso

I was impressed with this little car and it is definitely on the list. The gears were easy, it handled well on our short jaunt around the car park and I think it would make an excellent car to learn in. We would be limited by its size, with only 5 seats, but as they grow I am using the big car less and less often and the times they are a changing.

I didn’t have a long enough test drive to put it properly through its paces as my brood were chomping at the bit to get into the studios so I am hoping to have another go soon.  If Teen One moves as far away as it seems he may do when he heads off for Uni next year I need to know how it performs on a long journey carrying his belongings from our home to his first home from home. It will also need somewhere handy for my tissue box and soothing music at the touch of that button for my return journey, alone!

I will be writing about our experience at the Harry Potter Studio Tour very soon, we had a whale of a time! But for now, I’ll leave you with Teen One taking the wheel…watch out world!

harry potter flying car


harry potter flying car

Disclosure: We were invited to test drive the Citroen C4 Picasso. Citroen kindly provided us with a veggie lunch and tickets for the Harry Potter Studio Tour. All words and pictures are my own. I don’t pretend to be car expert so for more details (especially the techie bits etc) visit the Citroen C4 Picasso website.



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  1. I hated the fact that it parked itself! I am a control freak and for one very good at parallel parking! Different strokes for different folks

    • After years of living in a city I’m very good at parking too but I still think this is tremendous fun and I do think driving should be fun not just a practical exercise in getting from A to B!

  2. In the style of a Victorian being shown a telephone, I think this is amazing. Unlike Jen am rubbish at parallel parking, I live on a narrow road where parking spaces are at a premium. I’d love this car! Ps. Get the teen one of those Harry Potter cars – how cool would that be?

    • REALLY useful for city parking! He’d love a vintage jalopy, suit him down to the ground! :-)

  3. I’m rubbish at parking and would love a car that did it for me! We recently changed cars and my new (tank of a car) has parking sensors, I must be really out of touch because I wan astonished about those.

    • I know! Me too! My Mum has one with sensors but all that frantic beeping can be quite stressy, this was a lot of fun! I can park on a sixpence but it’s nice to have for an emergency park when you’re in a strange city and everything’s a bit ‘oh my goodness’! :-)

  4. Love these pictures – brilliant. And can’t wait for your piece on the tour. We thought it was fantastic, wrote about it a few months back (and compared to the Wizarding World in Florida. Leavesden was better!!)

    • Oh I read those posts at the time! I love that Leavesden is better – it should be really as Potter is British! I’m looking forward to writing the post I just have a LOT of picture editing to do! :-)

  5. I like the idea of it being able to park itself but like Jen I think I’d be too much of a control freak. A car that could fly on the other hand…
    Slummy single mummy recently posted…The ‘What I See’ projectMy Profile

    • I do think it would be brilliant for all those nervous parkers – we’ve seen them…massive gap, backwards and forwards 50 times, big queue forming behind them! Also for all those parents distracted by kids yelling in the back trying to park at Sainsbury’s in a teeny tiny space because all the family spaces have been filled by people who haven’t got children with them but ‘just popping in for a minute, sorry!’

  6. As far as long trips go, my mother had a Picasso for ages and it took all of us on very long trips around France — she lives in the south and my sister lives in the north, my brother was a weekly 2+ hours’ drive away to get to his boarding school and my boyfriend and I used to borrow it to drive out in the mountains for hikes (sometimes with a gigantic Scottish deerhound in the boot). It’s definitely a good car to travel in, and you can fit so much in the boot that my step-dad has taken it over and my mum now has something much smaller just for getting to work and back.
    Orange recently posted…augustMy Profile

  7. I cant drive, so I dont only need a car that parks itself, but one that drives itself! I am of no use to my learner driver at all!
    Sonya Cisco recently posted…A Blog Makeover!My Profile

  8. Ah the teenage drivers; I have two now and boy did my car take some knocks. What I would advise (strongly) is to get a good second hand car that you won’t mind being bashed now and then because it will happen. When they were learning, I had a big minivan a bit like the Espace; I decided to sell it and actually had to ban the teens from driving it in the two weeks before the new owner bought it because they were literally adding to the dings every week.
    I now have a second hand Volvo C90 which I love, It’s like a tank AND has a third row of sets that the little guy fits into. (Can’t say the 6.3″ 18 year old would, but he’s fine in the middle row.) The petrol consumption is a bit crap I have to say but I don’t drive it very far.
    Expat Mum recently posted…Lens-free LivingMy Profile

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