‘We’re sorry your experience with us has not been a good one,’ said the press officer at Surrey Police.
‘You misunderstand me,’ I told the chap. ‘I didn’t expect being cautioned for breaking the law to be a good experience. In fact, I think it’s very important that breaking the law and being caught is not a good experience.’
I explained to the officer who had telephoned in response to my enquiry that I was not complaining about being fined for not having an MOT. I was unhappily happy with that bit. The bit I was questioning was where the young officer issued me with a penalty notice that hadn’t printed properly so I couldn’t read the offence number or the phone number to call to pay it, and the bit where he and his colleague left me broken down and stranded at the roadside with my battery drained, having detained me for an hour with my lights on while they checked every inch of my car.
The press officer said he would look into it and come back to me with a comment. But he never did. And nor did the person he said he was going to task with it when I chased it up.
‘I’m just catching up with this because it’s been passed to me,’ said a female officer, sounding harassed, a week later. ‘It’s taken me a while but I’ve now spoken to the special constable involved who has given me his version of events. I’ll get back to you with a statement.’
But she never did. So I can’t tell you his version of events, which I don’t expect would be any different from my version, because why would it be?
One thing the police did do, however, once I rang the press office to ask for comment, was arrange for an email to be sent to me containing the ticket details I could not read on the half-printed ticket, and the payment phone number.
While they did not explain why their officer issued an invalid ticket, then left me by the side of the road broken down, they did make sure I could transfer them the £100. And this they did promptly, demonstrating great efficiency.
So I decided to let the matter go. But then I was at Burger King with the builder boyfriend eating a slap-up Double Whopper after a hard day mending fences on the farm. Munching away in a dark car park, I realised we were looking out of the windscreen of my car at the spot where I had been pulled over two weeks earlier.
I remembered with a pang, as I chomped on my burger, that the premise for pulling me over had been, they said, that I turned the wrong way out of a filling station. It did seem a bit harsh.
I looked at the builder b, who was cramming fries into his mouth with that glazed look he gets when he’s finally being re-fuelled after a hard day’s toil making me and the horses happy.
‘When we’ve finished eating,’ I said, hoping he wasn’t too tired, ‘I think we should take a stroll across the road to that Shell station and look at the signage, because I don’t think there was a no right turn sign.’
He agreed wholeheartedly. He’s upset about the whole thing, not least because he forgot to take my car for its MOT having promised me he was going to book it in.
So, after licking our fingers clean of ketchup and glugging back our buckets of cola — how do they make a profit while giving away several litres of branded fizzy drink per order? — we walked from the retail park to the garage opposite.
We scrutinised the signs at the exit, the street signs, the road markings, but we couldn’t see anything forbidding a right turn.
As we stood there staring, we were half-blinded by a neon blue and white sign above a car parts supplier across the street. Squinting, the builder boyfriend spotted that beneath this neon sign, a good 30ft from the garage exit and way too high to see from a sitting position in a car even if you had night vision goggles, was a small, blue, unlit no right turn circle almost completely obscured by the blinding blue light above.
‘How the hell did they expect you to see that?’ swore the BB, in that endearing way he has of becoming furious on my behalf, even when I am, technically speaking, completely wrong.
As we stood there, a motorbike roared out of the garage past us and, without even signalling, swung right and sped off down the street.
‘Where are they now, eh?’ I shouted down the street at no one in particular. ‘Where are the police now?’
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