Cardboard number plate. Flat tyre. Bald tyres. Fucked suspension. Rattle in the exhaust. Broken window shored up with eighties pillowcase.
“Do you know why we’ve pulled you over, sir?”
MOT due. Driving over the speed limit. Lockdown and I’m going from London to Brighton. Generally a seditious human being. Revenue generation. Boredom.
“No officer,” I venture. Then I hazard: “The numberplate?”
He agrees with me. “It’s not legal, that numberplate.”
“I’m aware of that, officer. The bloody DVLA are taking forever to transfer ownership of the car so I can’t get a new one.
The cardboard is soggy. The sharpie has run.
“Hmmm” he says. “And where are you going?” I tell him. “I’m going to Brighton.” Lou is basically my entire support bubble. I’m going to fucking Brighton. Anybody who has been reading between the lines can tell I’m not at my best mentally at the moment with darkness and money and careerpause and lockdown. “I’m going to scrap this car,” I add, with my usual habit of oversharing. His ears prick up.
“What’s wrong with it?”
Realising my mistake I try for subtextual begging. “When somebody smashed my window it was the last straw. It’s cost me too much money already.” His eyes are on the flat tyre. Has it held its air?
“Wait here,” he says, like I might run off. He walks around the car.
I’m near Horsham. I’m imagining having to get a bus to Brighton overnight with all my stuff. I knew this was going happen, I tell myself. Still doesn’t make it better.
His mate wants my driving licence. I don’t have it. Just a photo on my phone. I show it to him. Off he goes. “Same name as on the insurance,” I hear him say. I start chanting quietly. He’s seen my tyres. But they’re checking if it’s stolen and it isn’t. And I’ve told him I’m scrapping it so he knows I know it’s threadbare. I really don’t want to get stuck in fucking Horsham with another fine to think about right now when the world is dark and Christmas is cancelled.
First guy comes back. He can’t work out my route. “Why are you here if you’re going London to Brighton?” My satnav is set to avoid motorways. If my tyre explodes I’d prefer not to be going at 70 past a lorry. “I don’t like driving on motorways,” I tell him. “Your tyre needs inflating. And they’re just off the legal tread. You need to change them if you do keep this vehicle. And the numberplate. But we’re going to let you go this time.”
“Thank you officer.”
They thought the car was probably stolen. It wasn’t. They were NICE. Good God. Compare that to the last encounter. Lucky me. I drive off. A minute later at a roundabout a pursuit vehicle buzzes up being me at 100mph. I am very slow and processing all my adrenaline until Brighton. I think this really might have been the last hurrah, but I’m going to get a quote from a local garage first.
Now I’m here with Lou in her peaceful Brighton flat, warm and with tea. I’m going to stop this writing and enjoy the lucky fruit of my little encounter with plod.