There were actually many learner drivers (and their teachers) on the show, but it says a lot about the legacy of Maureen Rees that I hardly remember anything about them (apart from a woman who had a very annoying ringtone on her mobile phone and a boy who used to roller-skate to the nearby phone box in order to speak to his long-distance girlfriend).
Maureen Rees was a natural star. A cleaner at the local police station, Maureen’s dream was to set up her own cleaning business. The one thing stopping her was her inability to drive. She had tried to learn, oh yes. But she had failed on every attempt. As the underdog, she was therefore the ideal candidate for reality television. But who could have predicted just how memorable she would become?
Dave Rees was Maureen’s long-suffering but devoted husband. He was a driver for Cardiff Bus. Anybody who has travelled on one of Cardiff’s buses will testify that their drivers would usually be considered the most unsuitable teacher for a learner driver. But Dave was alright. He only reversed the buses into their parking slots at the Sloper Road depot, so he hadn’t been tarnished by the freedom of Cardiff’s bumpy roads.
Strapping himself into the passenger seat of Maureen’s blue Lada, he looked like a picture of serenity. He spoke calmly to Maureen, politely reminding her to check her mirrors while she fussed around with her seatbelt, grinning insanely at the dashboard-mounted camera. So far, so good.
Five minutes later, Dave was screaming like a mad man and holding his face in his hands as Maureen careered across both lanes of a dual-carriageway into the path of an oncoming truck.
This was not to be a one-off. During a parking lesson in the local multi-storey, Dave quickly got out of the car to check Maureen’s clearance. Within seconds, Maureen was reversing into a tight empty space. Unfortunately, she gave it a little too much gas and ended up running over Dave’s left foot. If Dave was a cartoon character, he would have turned bright red and smoke would have started pouring out of his ears. He stood in silence for a moment, before clutching his leg and yelling “JESUS CHRIST, MO!” at the top of his voice.
In subsequent episodes, Dave was seen hobbling around with a bandaged foot. To give him credit, he continued with Maureen’s lessons and eventually (after numerous attempts) she passed her test.
Some years later, I passed Maureen and Dave’s home on a daily basis as I made my way to university. Parked outside (in a haphazard, half on the pavement/half on the road manner) was a small yellow van. Emblazoned on the side were the words Top Banana.
I can’t think of a better description for such a memorable character.