Friday August 20, 2004
After a day spent wrestling with the intricacies of the pension system, without success, I was all jaded and spent when I went to bed last night, and not much better when I woke this morning. It’s not a war, and there are no battles, but it’s easy nonetheless to feel a little like a refugee. Hey ho. I shall get there, of course, in the end. But I could really, truly do without the hassle.
“Would a trip to IKEA cheer you up?” asked Graham.
“Only if I can have a breakfast when we get there.”
“Come on, then, let’s go.”
The breakfast was good, and the main objective of our visit—a posh new desk for me—was achieved, along with several minor objectives of the lighting and decorative kind. My desire to buy a copy of a framed print I’d admired last time was thwarted. Darn thing is too large to fit in the car when it’s already filled with a couple of whacking great cartons containing an Alve desk. Actually, I’d need convincing that it’d go in the car even if we were not transporting other stuff. And they don’t seem to sell the print on its own so we could roll it for transport.
“Drat,” I said.
“We could always come back for it.”
“Perhaps,” I said. “I’ll take a snap of the display to remind me.”
On the way home we went through the section of the Nottingham ring road where I was speed-cammed on our last trip. It’s easy to see why I was fooled. There’s one small 30 mph speed limit sign positioned neatly behind a tree where you’re almost guaranteed to miss it. And, overhead, a whole string of the new generation of speed cameras, flashing merrily away and catching a new crop of perpetrators as they passed me. I was puttering along happily, doing about 28 mph. They’re not going to catch me again.
This stretch of camera-controlled road is not a safety measure, it’s a money-making scheme. The proceeds, so I understand, go to the police. Hey ho. Expect to see the Chief Constable with a nice shiny new car any time now. The road itself is designed to speed the flow of traffic around and away from the centre of the city. Apart from this one section, the speed limit, quite clearly marked, is 40 mph. Am I the only one who sees the conflict here? Or, perhaps, still bruised by my impending fine, I’m falling into the trap of the conpiracy theorists.
Just the other side of Grantham, there’s a fabulous old style road-side cafe we’d discovered on our way back to Wales when we came up to inspect this house.
“I could really do with a break,” I said. “Let’s call in and grab a mug-anna-wad.” [‘wad’ is RAF slang for a sandwich.]
“Okay. You’ve earned it.”
They do have a sandwich section on the menu but they also listed “sausage, egg, beans’n’chips.” Quite impossible for me to resist.
“Do you think I’ve earned one of those?” I asked.
“Oh, go on, then.”
It was delicious.
I pottered along the rest of the way home, happily observing the speed limits, and pulling over to allow those who wanted to go faster to overtake me. About half-way back to Boston I slowed down even further to go round a blind bend in the road, to come upon a police car and a mobile speed camera. I was way, way below the limit so I wasn’t bothered. A number of vehicles had passed me at a fair old lick, however, and I reckon a goodly number of those will have been measured, snapped, and will receive one of those pesky envelopes pretty quickly. This was in Lincolnshire. Perhaps the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire wants a nice shiny new car, too.
The problem on single carriageway country roads is the rather sneaky road sign used to indicate the speed limit. It’s a black circle on a white ground, struck through with a thick black diagonal line, and used to mean there was no speed limit. A lot of people seem to have missed the change, some years back now, when it became a sign that the ‘national speed limit’ applies. That’s 60 mph for cars, 50 for cars towing caravans or trailers of any kind, and for good vehicles of any size up to 7.5 tonnes, when the speed limit goes down to 40 mph.
The sneaky bit doesn’t end there, because there’s a caution in the Highway Code that these are upper limits, indicating the maximum permitted speed, and that in certain road conditions and ‘other circumstances’, a lower limit should be observed. Guess who determines that certain road conditions and other circumstances apply? Why, the police, of course.
Now, I wouldn’t want anyone to run away with the thought that I have anything other than respect for our police and the work they do. I never yet encountered a policeman, on or off-duty, who wasn’t a decent bloke, or woman, doing a very necessary job in a conscientious and effective manner. They are however controlled and directed by politicians, and in recent years it’s begun to show. We are well served by our police. The same can’t be said of our politicians.
I’ve heard any number of policemen say they don’t like the way the speed camera system is operated and financed. Not a lot they can do about it, though, any more than I can. So the cameras continue to sprout up all over our roads, the police send out the fines, and the Chief Constables get nice shiny new cars. It’s a funny way to run a country.
Small wonder I gaze with some longing at a picture of a guy standing in the doorway of a remote lighthouse, the waves swirling majestically round the rock on which it is built. In a different world I could easily have become a lighthouse keeper, safe from the waves and well out of the reach of the politicians. Too late for me, sadly. So I shall go on, puttering along happily, doing my best to ignore everything but the rock and the waves.
I shall also, if I’m able, never refer to my speeding fine again.