A Fine Romance

Because nothing says I love you like a speeding fine.

Not even the M&S heart-shaped sausage.

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Say it with sausages

One mph over the limit. One!

I know, I know (Dad) – I ‘broke the speed limit’ regardless. And when that camera flash goes off at midnight, it gives you the fright of your life.

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Say ‘cheese’

Was it me?

Maybe it was it the car in front of me? (Please let it be the car in front of me.)

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Or maybe, just maybe, for once, please let that ‘urban myth’ be true…

The one that claims if the camera does a ‘double flash’, then there’s no film inside.

Letter confirmed there was definitely film inside the camera. In some situations it’s worth contesting…

“I think I was being followed by a gang”…

“My foot slipped on the pedal”…

‘It wasn’t me”…

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It wasn’t him either

I now have a choice to make. Points or speed awareness course? No prizes for guessing the choice I made.

At this point, I will admit that I reckon I’m probably one of the few people to actually quite enjoy attending a speed awareness course. Seriously.

1) I got out of the school run

2) No-one could bother me for 4 hours

3) I could ‘people watch’ to my heart’s content

What’s not to like?

So, for anyone who hasn’t ‘done one’, you basically book a morning or afternoon slot on any chosen day, at a venue close to you. A bit like a cinema booking for a very long film, but one that costs you about £100 and doesn’t offer any fun snacks.

I opted for the morning slot to ‘get it out of the way’ and when you book, you have the choice of a ‘flexible’ or ‘non-flexible’ booking:

Non-flexible: you’re booked on. That’s it. If you can’t make it on the day for any reason, they don’t care and you have to pay £100 again to book in for future date.

Flexible: for an extra £12, you can change your time and date as many times as you like in the build up to the course date. Initially I thought “no way, I’m not giving them any more of my money!”, but course-savvy friends said it’s worth it in case things crop up and you need to re-arrange. I think I changed my date about 4 times in the run up because stuff kept cropping up.

The day finally arrived – rotas were in place to take my kids to school, whilst their criminal mother went off to serve her time.

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These gals chose the afternoon course 

As I pulled into the hotel car park where the course was being held, I felt like I was off to have an illicit affair. (A few people loitering outside having a morning fag looked as if they were just finishing up their illicit affair…)

I followed signs ‘welcoming’ me to the course, signed in and took a seat at one of the circular tables in the conference room. On the tables were water, informtation booklets, pens and some Murray Mints in a bowl. It was a bit like a supper quiz. But no supper. And no prizes.

The room filled up and the guy who had checked us in did some intros and ‘a quick bit of housekeeping’ for the 25 of us in the room – fire exits, phones off, etc.

Four hours to go.

The door then opened and another guy waltzed in and joined the star act at the front, cracking a joke about being late and ‘don’t worry – I didn’t speed to get here’. Oh hurrah – a double act.

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No. Ant wasn’t there…

The first question was posed.

‘Why do you think you’re here?’

This was swiftly answered with a heckle of ‘cos we got caught!’ from a bloke at table one.

I took a look around the room and there really was a broad cross-section of people. All ages and races. Real sweet faces. Every different nation, Spanish, Hatian, Indian, Jamaican. Black, White, Cuban, and Asian. I only came for two days of playing. But every time I come I always wind up stayin’. This the type of town I could spend a few days in
Miami the city that keeps the roof blazin’…

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Sorry – briefly lost myself there. Which happened a lot during the course.

I can’t help it. I get easily distracted by things.

There was a pen spinner sitting at my table – this fascinates the hell out of me. I have a friend who can do this. I am unable to do this. I want to be able to do this.

I started doing an awards ceremony in my head: best dressed, worst dressed, most annoying, etc.

An hour into things, I thought I would cash in the first of my toilet breaks. They mentioned loo breaks during ‘housekeeping’ but didn’t mention any limits and a friend told me to take lots of loo breaks to kill a bit of time. Which I did. One every hour. If anyone was doing the awards thing, I definitely won ‘worst bladder’.

There were lots of presentation slides where you had to anticipate things that might ‘happen’, based on positioning of cars, roads, signage. A bit like that scene from ‘Men in Black’ where Will Smith is on target practice.

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“Eight-year-old white girl. Middle of the ghetto. Bunch of monsters. This time of night. With quantum physics books. She’s about to start some shit. She’s about eight years old, those books are way too advanced for her. If you ask me, I’d say she’s up to something.”

(Fully aware this is the second Will Smith reference. I’m just over-excited about Bad Boys 3.)

More slides, more discussions about scenarios, more hammering home about speeding and the catchy ‘only a fool breaks the 2 second rule’. (Basically, as a driver you should stay at least two seconds behind any vehicle that is directly in front of you. Applicable at any speed.)

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Far simpler than understanding the offside rule

I honestly did learn alot, including the speed limit for goods vehicles on a single carriageway. (50mph if you wanted desperately to know.)

I hope you enjoyed reading this and if you’ve got a course coming up, there might be a slide about observation. And how quickly you can react to something. It’s a picture of a messy desk with all kinds of stationery on it. The question that preceeds the slide is ‘how many pencils are there?’

I got the answer immediately. Just remember to alway look outside the box… Unknown-16.jpeg

x

 

 

Reverse Psychology

I asked a friend if she knew what ANPR meant and she had absolutely no idea. To be fair, neither did I up until a couple of years ago. I just thought was a generic plate meaning ‘A Number Plate Registration’, like when you see ‘A N Other’ credit card template.

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(I also had no idea what DHL stood for. ‘Delivering Heavy Loads’?)

I remember when I first passed my driving test aged 17. Buzzing, I drove straight to school in my terracotta (not brown) Ford Escort – PLW 930W. I have a freakishly good memory for things like number plates, most of my bank cards and the rap to ‘Buffalo Stance’ by Neneh Cherry, which was most likely playing on my car stereo at the time. It was a face-off one that I would casually hold with my car keys to indicate, “Hey, I’m driving”. Then it got a bit boring lugging the case around so I’d hide it under my driver’s seat instead. (Yes, the radio got nicked.)

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I actually think this current eBay listing is my face off. I might bid. My ‘Five Star‘ cassette may still be in there and I want it back.

In the early days of passing, me and my Escort plus my suction-cup Garfield (still available at Argos) didn’t stray too far from home. On Day 2 I got a bit gung-ho and ended up heading North on the M1 instead of the North Circular. I pulled over in a panic onto the hard shoulder (I know.. so illegal) and called home on my Mercury One2One, sobbing down the phone that I wasn’t sure if my petrol would last. Dad calmly told me about these clever things called ‘exits’ every few miles.

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Simpler times

I was taught road courtesy early on and if someone lets me out of a space or at a junction, I’ll give the universally understood ‘cheers mate’ with a palm raise/blink of the headlights or a hazard flash if they are behind me. Careful on this in Spain – it means “Hola mi amigo. I’m slowing down”.

Call me OCD (you can, I really don’t mind), but I always prefer to face the direction of traffic when parking on a road. It feels ‘neater’ and it’s a bugger to pull out if you’re on the ‘wrong’ side of a busy road. Plus, as my local dry cleaner who is based on a congested roundabout says, “People get really horny.”

When it comes to parking in a car park, I will almost always reverse in. Again with the neatness, plus it’s quicker and easier to pull away. But back up a sec and let’s get IN to the actual car park.

Pop Quiz:

Two barriers, the left one has three cars queuing to go in, the right barrier has just the one car just pulling up. Go for the shorter queue on the right you say?

Don’t be so hasty. I try not to create stereotypes but watch out for:

1) Foreign number plates: think about it.. LEFT HAND DRIVE!! They’ve got to lean over, or even GET OUT ALTOGETHER AND WALK ROUND in order to ‘press for ticket’ (painful)

2) Lil ole folk: the arms don’t quite reach the button, or they can’t quite achieve the ‘lean n reach’ out of the window. They open the door to get out. Then they press the assistance button instead of the ticket button. Then, they still have to get back in the car, buckle up and get back into gear.

Face it – you’re already well and truly through your barrier on the left. And yes, I know I will be this OAP one day.

Husband is a big driver – literally and metaphorically. He is very, very tall and often referred to as ‘Hightower’ from ‘Police Academy‘ fame. (Go on, watch the link. Best scene ever.) He drives in to Central London for work every day and I have suggested that he and one of his equally route-savvy mates pack in their day jobs and start up ‘Jewber’ – a private taxi service run by ‘Nice Jewish Boys’. MESSAGE FROM DRIVER: “Hymie is coming in a minute. Hold on. I know you’re on schpilkers to get to dinner.”

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In case you can’t be bothered to watch the link it’s the bit where he rips the front seats out and essentially sits in the back

Whilst we are still on the car park thing, big props to Spanish car parks I use on holiday in the summer. No time wasted cruising up and down aisles looking for spaces, for they have these genius lights above each parking space:

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Green = available. Red = occupied

No false hope of a space when you discover a smug little Micra (or worse still, a motorbike) nestled in what you thought was an available space.

I’d say I’m pretty calm on the road but bus lanes throw me. We’ve become so trained not to enter them that it doesn’t matter how many times you read the sign, you’re never quite convinced that you can drive in them because no-one else is. Pack mentality – much like when you go as a group across a box junction, praying you will all make it to the other side without stopping.

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Yes? No? Maybe? What about Bank Holidays?

It’s a similar thing I suppose with parking. Even if you chance it because you’re 99.9% sure that sure it’s ok to park between 2:48pm and 4: 36pm on a residential road with a yellow line, your heart still races when you approach your car.

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Even worse when you think you’ve got away with it but it’s tucked down below the wiper

I usually contest these tickets to the bitter end, with evidence, photos, back up documents etc. I like to present it all as if I was fighting a high profile court case, sending everything off by courier. Usually DHL – that’s Dalsey, Hillblom & Lynn, the founders, if you were still wondering.