…and hung around to hassle innocent motorcyclists.
As the weather forecast for Sunday morning was good (being England, this simply meant it wasn’t actually raining), there was a early rideout to the new Ducati Owner’s Club venue — the Punchbowl Inn, at Oakwoodhill near Ockley in Surrey. The early bit was dedicated to the production and consumption of large volumes of strong coffee, before everyone felt sufficiently aware to survive the ride down via breakfast cholesterol at Box Hill. That was the good bit of the day — things went rather pear-shaped thereafter.
Leaving Dorking on the A24 and pottering along at about 55 in a 60 limit, we saw a marked Volvo police car ahead. After a while, it slowed down, slowing down all the traffic behind it. We slowed down too. It then pulled over and stopped on the next roundabout and waited for the following cars and ourselves to weave our way around it, before moving slowly past us and pulling us over — on a bend of a busy dual carriageway.
The car door opened and out stepped a stereotype — short, spherical, piggy-eyed. And on a power trip. He waddled down the row of bikes, looking at each in turn, saying “You go. You go. You go. YOU STAY! You go.” The “STAY” was Christopher with his 996SPS. At this point, the options for the rest of us were hang around for solidarity or go and wait down the road. As we could see a storm a-brewin’ — Christopher’s arms were starting to flap and, knowing that an argument that led to closer examination would reveal a significant deficit in BSI stickers on exhausts and number plates, discretion became the better part of the argument. So we left Chris to his fate. In his words:
“Everyone else b*ggers off thinking all their Christmases have come at once, and yours truly is left alone with Mr Officious who then launches into “Your number plate is illegal, I must warn you that anything you say will be taken down and may be used in evidence in a court of law – what have you got to say for yourself?”
Well, I have to tell you that I was less than happy and was not really in the mood for the ‘contrite-schoolboy-getting-ticked-off’ routine.
We had, shall we say, a vigorous exchange of views during which the copper managed to associate a slightly unusual number plate with having to scrape motorcyclists off the road, bikers doing burn outs and wheelies everywhere and the rape of his wife and daughters while they slept in their beds.
It was clear that logic was not about to win with this character so I simply stated that the letters were 2.5 inches high so what was the problem.
I won’t go into the full conversation, but he backed off a little once I started talking data as he was not totally sure of his ground, but he did come back with his belief that the plate must be illegal because it did not have a British Standard mark and there wasn’t a clear border around the letters!! F*ck me we are talking Brinks Mat levels of crime here.
He did admit that it was readable from a long distance away, but whenever wrong footed returned to his theme that he could have me in court for it.
I gave him the responsible, elder biker stuff, clucked a little about the irresponsible few ruining it for everyone else and he then begrudgingly admitted that I ‘seemed like a reasonable person’ adding :”But I can’t tell if you are a reasonable person or not if I don’t stop you” :o/
This was getting like a conversation with someone on drugs.
Eventually I realised he was p*ssed off because he had failed to nail a couple of fast boys earlier (“This car can do 150mph, but I still can’t get some of you so we’re going to pick on smaller stuff to make our point” – that stops dangerous riding then, does it??).
Oh yes, when I said to him we may as well just stick to track days and not ride on the road at all he replied that he thought that was ‘quite a good idea’ and that the A24 is now a ‘Red Zone’ on Sundays.
By now he was back on the Pig Power kick and, having told me I had ‘gone off at the deep end’ without asking what my sentence would be or what fate he had chosen for me, he asked what I thought should be done to me.
(I’m sure I’ve been here before. Life is becoming a tad repetitive). I declined to comment.
“Do those exhausts have British Standard marks on them?” I have absolutely no idea officer.
“Well, it’s your lucky day,” (Oh thank you big G in the sky, this is lucky???) “I’m going to issue you with a warning, and if I ever see you with that number plate again then I’ll have you in court straight away, oh and by the way, it will be an endorsable offence from next month. “Now, I’m off to do a little speeding – I can get you before you even know it from a mile away with my laser gun, goodbye.”
The only thing missing was a charge of wearing a loud shirt in a built-up area. After leaving Chris, the Plod drove past us and promptly pulled in to the next layby up the road to set up his laser. So we spent a happy 15 minutes or so warning any other bike that came up the road, until he got fed-up and left. Childish for sure, but it cheered us up.
Nice move by the guardians of law’n’order — why not actually target the pillocks on the basis of observed behaviour, rather than gratuitously alienating every motorcyclist? — the result of course being that all are then less inclined to pay any attention to anything the police might have to say, no matter how worthy the message. So that’s my first direct experience of gratuitous hassle. What little prior contact I’d had with the police had simply given me an impression of generally decent, pragmatic people trying to keep an intelligent balance (most traffic police I’d hitherto encountered) while working in an environment of institutionalised ignorance and incompetence.
So back to the purpose of the day — the Ducati Owner’s Club meeting. At least that was the theory — I guess that of probably 40 bikes that turned up over lunchtime, about 15 were Ducatis. A fair proportion of the rest were Ducati owners whose machines were laid up for one reason or another and most of the others seemed to faill into the “I’ve always rather fancied having a Ducati someday” level of affiliation. Still, nice pub and a good buffet.