Aren’t the police getting younger nowadays — and ruder, and scruffier and more intolerant of middle-class women? In other words, why am I always getting pulled over for no apparent reason? If I were a member of any other minority group I would be complaining to my community leaders of terrible bias and of hideously unfair ‘stop and search’ policies.
As it is, whatever minority I do belong to in my Volvo with a Countryside Alliance sticker on the back window and my gundog in a travel cage in the boot, it has absolutely no recourse to complain to anyone. So they help themselves.
The other day, I was driving past Wandsworth Common on my way to Surrey to see the horses when I was pulled over by police manning a huge road block. I had seen this road block before, and had assumed, with some considerable pride, that it was our brave boys in blue doing their bit to apprehend serious criminals, possibly even terror suspects. The sheer scale of it had struck me as really impressive. And as I passed it on this occasion, I thought as always that it was a jolly good job we had these fantastic officers doing their bit to keep the good citizens of our proud nation safe.
When a policeman stood out and waved me down I thought there had been some mistake. I parked up, wound the window down and gave the approaching officer a cheery smile. ‘Can I help you?’ I said. He looked like his mother had knitted him. I’m sorry, but this is just stating facts. He had an unruly ginger beard, creased shirt, baggy uniform.
‘Ye gods,’ I thought, ‘I’m not so sure he’s capable of apprehending many terrorists.’
But I needn’t have worried. Because this was not what he was trying to do. ‘Can I see your licence please?’ I reached into my wallet. ‘Is there a problem?’
‘You were on your phone.’
This was interesting. I had been on my phone, but the phone was connected to a speaker system. The phone had fallen off the holder, however, and I had placed it on my lap as I drove as there was absolutely nowhere to pull over and sort it out.
‘It’s all right, I’m on a hands-free kit,’ I said, detaching the speaker and holding it up to show him. He looked at it suspiciously. There was a long pause and I could almost hear the cogs turning squeakily in his brain as he tried to come up with a reason why I had still broken the law.
‘You had that phone in your lap and you were fiddling with it,’ he said.
And then I thought, how does he know? How could the police possibly have been able to see the phone fall off the holder into the central console when I was hundreds of yards away from the road block. How? How?! No matter how hard I thought, I could not work out how the police could see into my car without having some sort of hidden camera system along the roadside.
In any case, he wasn’t sparing the lecture. ‘You can’t concentrate if you’re fiddling with your phone.’ This would have been fair, if it had happened, but seeing as any ‘fiddling’ lasted one second then objecting to it ruled out doing pretty much everything else including changing gear. He sent another officer to check my licence and when she came back to say it was clean he sighed at her and agreed I would have to be allowed to continue on my way.
But I am getting used to this. I was once pulled over late one night on Park Lane and threatened with prosecution for having a paper licence, not a card version. That was after a policeman who was aged about 21 breathalysed me and was distraught to discover that my protestations of being teetotal were correct. The machine read zero. He was so annoyed he made me get my licence out and when he saw it was a dog-eared piece of paper he shouted, ‘I could do you for that!’
‘Yes’, I didn’t dare say, for his ego was truly brittle, ‘or you could go off in your little panda car and find some criminals.’ The incident that takes the biscuit, however, was when the police pulled me over recently for ‘running a red light’. I am 100 per cent certain I did no such thing. I drove through a green light and nearly collided with a police car coming the other way. Someone had run a red light, I’ll say that much.
As so often in these situations, there was only one way to handle it. I cried. I felt dirty afterwards. In fact, I went home and had a shower.
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