Tuesday, 4 December 2007


“Oh Alice!” Hubby’s tone was so condescending.
“How could you?” he added, reading the letter and tutting whilst shaking his head. “That’s another sixty quid down the drain. You really ought to be more careful” and you really ought to be less of an arse I wanted to add but didn’t, preferring instead to go for the shamed look and so I hung my head in disgrace.
The letter, to which he was referring and responding to like a disappointed parent reading their child’s awful school report, was from Somerset and Avon Constabulary. A speeding fine. Bugger. Caught at 37 miles per hour in a 30 mile an hour zone. It had been back in the summer, very early one Sunday morning as I returned my American friend to Bristol airport. I didn’t even see the flash.
“You’ve already got three points haven’t you?” he demanded rhetorically. I nodded my head meekly.
“What were you thinking? It’s so irresponsible. Honestly Alice, I’m so disappointed and bloody cheesed off that we have to pay the fine”. He was beginning to make me feel like Richard Hammond. It was only 37 miles per hour after all, not the world speed record. He chucked the envelope on the dining table and flounced out. I took out the letter again and was surprised to see that not only was there a speeding ticket but also another letter that advised I could chose the option of attending a speed workshop instead of receiving 3 points on my licence. It seemed a fair deal to me – after all six points looked so reckless. Evidently these things take time to organise because although I got my ticket last August and although I replied to the letter quite quickly, my ‘Speed Workshop’ date wasn’t until last Friday.
Because I had been ‘pinged’ or ‘flashed’ or whatever the verb is for being caught on a speed camera in the district of Avon and Somerset, the only workshop available to me in that jurisdiction was in Taunton. Now, I have never been to Taunton before and would have loved to have stayed longer, but by the time I’d driven off the M5 and negotiated at least 20 roundabouts and tried to find a car park in an unfamiliar city, I was feeling stressy and running out of time. So, after a very nice man generously gave me cash to park my car – my purse, on finding myself at the Pay Machine, was empty – I had a brief stroll and an even briefer lunch and before you can say chicken piri-piri it was time to find the venue. Let me tell you that reading the directions whilst once again negotiating the flipping roundabouts was probably more of an issue than driving too fast and more than once I almost mounted the pavement. I felt ever so slightly vindicated when, on arrival, several people were late because they had misinterpreted the directions and had headed off towards Chard.
I registered my details by way of saying to the lady at reception, “I’m here for the driving borstal”. This went down like the proverbial lead fart and she replied, icily, “Down the corridor. Second door on the right”. Blushing, I did as I was told, took my seat and quietly stared at my hands. Within ten minutes, all the other driving reprobates had gathered: all middle aged or elderly, rather aggressive men. Great.
Our instructor issued us with stickers with our names on, which we all duly stuck on our chests. I was on the end and thus the first to be addressed.
“Alice”, said the instructor, with teacher like expectations, “Would you please stand and tell everyone who you are and how fast you were going”.
Reluctantly I got to my feet. I don’t think I’d ever been this mortified since my mother had found condoms in my bedroom as a teenager, but they really had been a friend’s and we really had only been curious. Try telling your mother that when she thinks you’re a trollop.
So, clearing my throat I confessed my sins and sat down desperately willing the floor to swallow me up. But, if I thought that was the end of it then I was much mistaken.
“And when you got your fine, how did that make you feel Alice?” I’d like to say that I was the maverick rebel who cockily replied, “Bloody cheesed off to be honest. I wish I’d been going at 90”. Of course I didn’t and instead replied, “Very foolish and ashamed. I truly understand that it is very stupid to go over the speed limit especially in a 30 mile an hour zone”. This was obviously the right answer and he smiled as I sat down. Like alcoholics in an AA meeting every person there was asked to introduce themselves similarly, “I am Steve and I am a speeder” or something like that.
It was all very touchy feely. A lot was made of our ‘feelings’ and we were asked to work in groups . It was hell. At one point we were asked if we knew what a green light meant. I kid you not. There were a lot of moments like that. I could quite easily have been very rude. Jeremy Clarkson would have had a field day.After three hours, two cups of tea and several custard creams it was over. Was it worth it? Well, due to the current climate for political correctness we weren’t shown anything really horrific and gory that may well have made an impact on us lest we got ‘upset’. I did learn though that anywhere with street lamps has a 30 mph limit, I also learnt the definition of a dual carriage, which incidentally, has a speed limit of 70mph and there is no denying that it has made me more aware of the horrific ‘ripple effect’ of an accident. The Highway Code, my instructor can rest assured, is on my Christmas wish list.

N.B For all non UK readers: There is a tv show on in this country called Top Gear - it's a lads show all about shiny cars and speed and races and all manner of things that entertian seeminlgy grown men. Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond are the presenters. Jeremy loathes do-gooders and the politically correct and Richard Hammond was in an appalling accident a few months ago where he crashed at almost 300mph. Somehow he survived. They are both 'national treasures'.


thefoodsnob said...

"National treasures," huh?
The way Britney Spears is here?
That sounds like a horrible time, everyone pretending to be sorry, when really you're all just angry you got caught!
I'm really surprised they bothered with you-37 in a 30, I'm sure many more people were going much faster.


sally's hubby said...

In answer to Lisa...

No, not really like Britney. They are gloriously un-politically-correct. Environmentalists love them the way turkeys love Christmas. They're like great big kids who just love having fun, and they spread a bit of that joie-de-vivre around the nation once a week. Britney's just cheesy and sad.

...and in answer to Alice (and in male solidarity)...

Surely those can't be verbatim quotes from your hubby? He'd never have made it to the wardroom, let alone...


enidd said...

ooo, alice it sounds awful. enidd is sure she would have been very rude to several people.

Mary Alice said...

Well, I was all giggly here - love the AA analogy! Roundabouts scare hell out of me.

Domestically Challenged said...

Dear Alice

That was WORSE than taking the points!
I fear I may have been bad on purpose, with disasterous results!

Super to see you - but was hoping for update!


Alice Band's hubby said...

In response to Sally's Hubby, Pleas don't think for one moment that all Alice says is true!! She has re-written the parameters for artistic license since starting her column!

Roads said...

Not sure about that description of those Top Gear presenters as 'National Treasures'.

Shurely shome mishtake, Alice.

Because they look distinctly more like a bunch of puerile petrolhead tossers to me.

Sally Lomax said...

I once went on a very politically correct course on learning how to deal with angry teenagers...........

We spent so much time pussyfooting around each other that not alot else got done!!

I feel like throttling people when in such situations.....

Bad luck really. They are supposed to give you 10%+2, which is 35... so you were only just over. Mind you I was once done at 35 in a 30 limit.......

And in answer to Roads, have you watched Top Gear?

Roads said...

Sure have, Sally. Watching a bunch of wilfully ignorant and fuck-the-planet yobs driving fat fast cars doesn't seem like good viewing to me, though.