I fought the law
and the workshop won
By Mark Perkins, 21 October 2011
I'm becoming more convinced by the day that God exists. Not only that, he reads Blokely, has a malevolent sense of humour - how else does one explain the West Midlands accent - and he very much has it in for me. In the last missive for these pages I wrote that the only invite I was likely to get these days was a summons. With perfect timing, not one, but two arrived on the same day.
The first was from my electricity supplier. In the age of direct debit and social media envelopes are something of an anachronism, the assumption is that everything has been paid for and they keep posting letters as a genial mark of thanks and we aren't actually required to open them. Not so. It appears I hadn't paid the bill for a separate meter which measures the power for the electric gates. That will shake them up at the Anarchist Society.
I never realised EDF could get so livid. Had Don Logan from Sexy Beast drafted it I couldn't have felt more intimidated. Within an instant, a call was made to their hotline. Contrary to the threatening tone of the letter I was dealt with by Cheryl, a pleasant woman who spoke with Estuary vowels and reassuring sibilance. All it took was a frisson of remorse, but more importantly my bank details, and I was no longer a desperado.
The other letter was postmarked from Sidcup. What ill will and irritation towards me could ever come from little Sidcup? Well, rather a lot it seems. It was from the Metropolitan Police who wanted to know if I was behind the wheel when my vehicle was snapped speeding towards Hammersmith at 37 mph at 10am on a recent Saturday.
The irony was not lost on me. Almost every other Saturday at around 5pm I can be found driving AWAY from Hammersmith at speed after an afternoon at Queens Park Rangers and certainly not with three points for my troubles.
The idea of doing anything at speed on a Saturday morning, in Hammersmith or elsewhere, is anathema to all cherished instincts and ideals yet I didn't think this declaration would've washed with the Met.
With no recollection of driving through West London at speed on this or any other Saturday, but with information to hand that I had been photographed doing so, what comebacks does a confused man have? Perhaps a picture of myself in my pants sitting at the kitchen table with big hair and a croissant, Anadin and the Times crossword sent back as a rebuttal? "Here is a picture of me moving at precisely 0mph at the time in question. Accusation denied.'
Unlike God, the Met probably doesn't have a sense of humour and when faced with impertinence the eyes of the law tend not to blink first. So I "fessed up' which was a task that involved ticking a box, posting a letter and waiting to hear back from the Met.
That verdict came in today from Sidcup. I could have £60 and three penalty points, but the Met are prepared to make me another offer: £97.02 and going to a workshop with no penalty points. Points or workshop? Which one is it going to be? There's something reassuring that when beneath the law's sword of Damocles the spirit of Jim Bowen is invoked as one is invited to weigh up the choices.
Common sense probably dictates I should go for the Speed Awareness Workshop, but I can't. Here's why. It's the word "workshop'. In an instant it conjures up 1980s images of drama students on Open University or feminists, all called Ros, with long skirts and unfettered chests sat in circle talking about the spirituality of their menstrual cycle. Latterly, like veganism, it seems to have slipped into mainstream acceptability, unpleasantly so into normal working life when, with no prior warning, any discussion involving more than two people can suddenly be branded a "workshop'. It bloody isn't and we must seize it back.
My late Uncle Ray was a carpenter all his life. He worked in a pre-fabricated hut with a dozen other blokes in a plume of smoke and choice language with a sun bleached pin-up of Linda Lusardi on the wall. Ray wore a flat cap, had a fag permanently attached to his lower lip, used power tools with no protective clothing, drunk mugs of milky tea and was permanently covered in sawdust.When he clocked off at 5pm he had a shelf unit to show for it. Now that's a workshop.
This misappropriation may have infiltrated even the Met as an alternative form of punishment, but I'd sooner do a spell inside than say "I'm going to a workshop' - I'd stake my license on the "Group Leader' being called Ros.
So, in honour of Ray and all those men who for centuries sawed, sweated and swore in confined spaces I'm taking the three points, Jim. Though I must confess to feeling the first pang of regret saying I'd take a proper punishment - given my current form, higher powers could be reading this, be they in Sidcup or himself so don't be surprised if the next instalment comes from my stint in the Scrubs.