I keep hearing that 40 is the new 30. I attempted, unsuccessfully, to pass this fable off as an excuse after being caught speeding in Hertfordshire recently. The cameras are similar to backstreet mechanics. They are well hidden, unforgiving and attempt to fleece random strangers of all they have. They are the embodiment of local councils. Like a modern day Robin Hood gone feral, they take from those of middle income and give to the rich via tales of righteousness and public service. Through fear, the peasants never revolt to save being taxed twice the amount if they dare to question the public servants who have now become the motorists' masters.
In Hertfordshire County Council's defence, the £28 million they lost in ill-judged Icelandic bank investments needs to be recovered by hook or by crook. Of the two, some may say they chose the latter.
Rant over. My punishment on this occasion was not points, despite the heinous crime of driving at 35mph at 10pm on a well-lit, sparse road. My penalty was worse than that - the speed ‘awareness’ course. There are a number of indignities of partaking in such venture. Yes, you ‘save’ three points. You are however still whacked with being charged to go on a course you don’t want to go on. Furthermore, you are then obliged to inform your insurance company, who increase your premiums for a number of years despite your not receiving points or being ‘convicted’ of any wrongdoing. In total the extra cost was well over £300, which is punishment akin to levelling a trifle with an angle grinder.
The venue, a nondescript hotel in Borehamwood, allows exit via a car park pass code. My initial observation as I sauntered in was middle aged people styling it out with a limp run from their cars to reception as they had forgotten the code. Idiots.
After a long day at work, the 7pm start of the three-hour long course was inconvenient in the extreme. I sat in a room with 30 other kindred spirits, all equally under duress. The event commenced by being patronised by a shoehorn of a young man who had probably not even gained his cycling proficiency. He quoted facts such as: "In the UK, 560,000 people per year are killed on the roads. Fact". One man, an eminent pathologist, informed him he was talking nonsense. He replied: "It’s in the figures. It's statistics. Proven. Fact. Let’s move on." before briskly igniting the worst ice breaker to date: "How fast were you going and why were you doing that speed?"
My personal favourite was a boy racer who was clocked doing 58 in a 50 zone. When questioned as to his reason, he responded: "Two seconds earlier I was doing 85 and didn’t have time to slow down."
Some 90 minutes dragged until the first break. I had made my escape plan. Having sat there discreetly at the back like a stealthy Yul Brynner, and having signed in upon entry, no one would miss me.
"OK, we're taking a break now... By the way you must re-register after the break otherwise it will not be logged that you attended."
The last 75 minutes seemed to last longer than the same in days. At one point I contemplated selling my car and becoming a public transport user. I seriously considered the prospect of a daily bus commute, staring into the eyes of grouchy drivers who never get out of second gear, and take pleasure in driving off in the rain as a single mother with twins arrives a nanosecond after the door has shut.
The final straight couldn’t come soon enough. I jumped in the car and wheel sped off before slamming the brakes on when faced with a car park barrier. Cue irate fellow awareness attendees beeping me as I skipped off to reception to get the gate code. Idiot.