Off the radar
Back then, the curse of someone travelling 50,000 miles in a year – mostly travelled on their own time! – was the radar trap, no cameras as yet. But early on I led a charmed life.
Outland Road in Plymouth runs past Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park ground where there is a switchback section, dropping steeply and then climbing. As I blasted past another car on the downhill section a young copper stepped into the road to stop me, beside him was a radar kit. He said I was travelling at 40mph in this 30mph zone and I replied ‘Yes, I was overtaking’. He looked confused at this so I added ‘I was getting past promptly so I could minimise any problems to oncoming traffic.’ He countered ‘you were still going faster than the limit, after overtaking’. I said ‘I couldn’t just slam on my anchors (good use of nautical terms apt for Plymouth!), I was gradually slowing back to 30mph.’ He waved me away.
I confess that I often found myself in duels down the A38 between Exeter and Plymouth which helped to pass the time. The route consisted of a series of dual carriageways punctuated with single carriageways through small villages, some barely a few hundred yards long with little going on, but with a speed limit. I had seen off a duellist on a stretch of dual-carriageway and burst into a 30mph zone when a PC waved me into the layby where he had set up his radar. Something rang untrue when he said ‘You were going very fast’ – didn’t they normally mention an actual speed? I again played the ‘gradually slowing to the speed limit’ argument. It turned out he had just switched off the radar and was clearing it away with a colleague arriving as we spoke to take him back to the station. I would clearly have been his best catch of the morning, but there was nothing he could do formally.
|ASIDE: It wasn’t just in the UK. I was driving along the Massachussetts Turnpike and glanced in my rear-view mirror to see this police cruiser jump into my wake, I hadn’t seen him, had no ideawhere he’d come from and the warning printed on my side mirror – objects in mirror are closer than they appear – seemed implausible, he was right on my tail, I pulled over and realised a new problem. They were quite clear that in the States you should leave both hands in view as the officer approaches. But I had to open the window? I tried to gauge when he was in the blindspots created by the window pillars and dabbed at the electric window expecting him to shoot me if I’d got my timing wrong.|
He began the process, but I had heard a ploy and used it. I used an exaggerated plummy British accent, ‘Sorry officer, I’m going to the airport and running a tad late’. You could see his mind turning over and weighing the desire to book me, versus the hassle of processing a foreigner who might miss his flight, the latter won and he waved me off.
As you will learn later it was a Kent ghost that would lead me, much later, to getting three speeding convictions.
Morris 1000 Traveller
Ken Turner offered me a personal loan so I could afford a car that would not fall apart on me or be constantly in the garage.
It was a great car. It stopped me haemorrhaging money on travel, it soldiered on without complaint and was perfect for lifting cash registers in and out of the back doors.
Jane took her first driving test in Launceston, Cornwall and was failed for driving too closely to parked vehicles, although that was de rigueur in that town, as they parked on both sides of the road with one lane barely free between them. After we moved to Thornbury in Gloucestershire her second test was taken in Henleaze, Bristol in the Traveller. She was seven heavily pregnant at the time and it was her 22nd birthday. I sat in the test centre and she was out with the instructor for barely ten minutes. Fearful of her condition he did not even ask her to do an emergency stop. On arrival back at the centre, he told her to stay in the car and that he would send me out. She had passed and, in essence (aka amniotic fluid) Matt was driving even before his birth! Perhaps explains a great deal.