Anton Rippon: Driving too fast and my brushes with the law as a young lad
ALF wasn't his usual jolly self. Altogether too quiet for my liking. Normally, his machine-gun laugh will have people turning their heads across a crowded bar. But, on this day, my pal was a picture of morosity, down in the dumps, looking most glum.
"What's up, old chum?" I asked. "Have you lost the proverbial pound and found only a penny? Have you forgotten to post a winning pools coupon? Or is it just that the wet weather is getting you down?"
It was none of these things. Alf had been done for speeding. Driving on a deserted road through open countryside on the outskirts of Scarborough, he had been clocked doing a few miles over the limit. The result had been the choice between accepting a £60 fine and three points on his licence, or paying £92 to attend a four-hour speed awareness course. Alf had opted for the latter.
"Do you think you'll find it useful?" I asked.
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"Well, it's common sense, really," he said. "I'm just annoyed. I could come up with all sorts of reasons why it happened. The road was quiet, there were no houses or other buildings – and, to be honest, the speed limit wasn't all that clear anyway.
"I actually thought I was under it. But there's no argument. You break the law and you pay the price if you're caught."
So Alf wasn't complaining, although confusion, or rather alleged inconsistencies, over the speed limit sometimes engages readers of this newspaper. The main job at hand, though, was to cheer up Alf.
"What we need here," I said, "is a copy of the Beano. Do you remember the jokes page? It read, 'Feeling glum, chums? Then try these gloom chasers.'
And then there were lots of jokes sent in by readers. I think you received half-a-crown if yours was printed. I sent in a joke once but they never used it."
Can you remember what it was?" said Alf. I couldn't, although I had a vague memory of it involving a dim policeman, a dead donkey and somewhere called Constantinople Street.
Instead, I began to recall my own brushes with the law, whereupon I realised that I had once been a serial offender.
Twice in one week, the same policeman had caught me playing football in the street.
On each occasion it amounted to no more than kicking a ball against the side of our house on the corner of Gerard Street and Webster Street. The latter was a cul-de-sac, it was Saturday afternoon, the bakery at the top of the street was closed, no-one in the street owned a car, and the only person I was annoying with the steady thud-thud of the ball was my mother.
None of which dissuaded PC Robert Bromilow, of Derby Borough Police, from noting my particulars and promising me a clip around the ear if he caught me a third time (there were no awareness courses in 1956).
Then Ron Midgeley was giving me a ride to school on the crossbar of his bike and another policeman took exception to that. Again, there was the threat of a thick ear.
"Blimey," said Alf, "You've got more form than me. I'm feeling better already." And then he began to laugh…