Sunday, August 12, 2007
The law is a ass
There’s a village not far from here called Urchfont. It’s a picturesque chocolate-box English village with manicured green, Tudor thatched cottages, a little pond complete with ducks, and a Manor. In the middle of the village is a signpost, around the base of which a local resident, 79-year-old Mrs June Turnbull, has built a tiny alpine garden, which she tends with love. That was until last week, when a man from the County Council spotted her giving it its daily TLC. They have now threatened to prosecute her for not observing safety regulations. She must, they said, wear a high-visibility jacket, have at least three of these signs,
ensure that the Council have certified that there are no underground wires or pipes - and employ a second person for ‘Health & Safety’ reasons.
In the true bulldog spirit that has made England what it is today, Mrs T., disabled with polio since youth, has said hollyhocks to the Council. ‘I’ll carry on gardening until they jail me’, she says. Pity they aren’t so conscientious about collecting the rubbish.
For those whose friends think they’re weird because they collect train numbers or Dewey decimal classifications, there’s hope. You are not alone. I confess to a more than passing interest in car registration numbers. (If you’re a regular reader you will already have had your suspicions about this aberration.) I read every one I see, check that it’s using the official Charles Wright font, note where first registered and when, and – what must be infuriating to the person I’m with - make some puerile comment, usually preceded by a pensive ‘Mmm’ – as in ‘Mmm, he’s a long way from home’, or ‘Mmm, that’s the third Devon registration I’ve seen today’ – which can be pretty unremarkable, especially if you happen to be in Devon at the time. But I have to admit I find them endlessly fascinating.
‘OK, but what use is it?’ I hear you say. Well first, everything doesn’t have to have a use, but suppose you’re on the M25, confused about which is the best exit for the north-west. There in front of you is a Mini with the unmistakable letters ‘ME’ in its registration. ‘Ah! Merseyside’, you say - 'we just follow him and we can’t go wrong. Unless of course the driver bought the car when he was at John Moores University and now lives in Swindon.
Or say you’re sitting watching Crime Watch one evening and Fiona Bruce says, ‘The gang made off in a yellow BMW believed to have been stolen in Bristol. Then you ring up and say ‘I saw a yellow BMW with a WM registration outside Woolworths in Staines at 11.23 on Saturday morning’, and they’ll say ‘We’d like to applaud the sharp-eyed Mr. Thingy for his public-spirited action’ and you’ll be on national television and probably get a medal – perhaps pinned on you by the fabulous Fiona. That is, unless the gang catches up with you first.