This week, I’ve been mostly attending my first ever Speed Awareness Course for the heinous crime of driving my WMD of a Triumph Herald at the eye-watering speed of 35mph on a country lane just outside Oxford. At 11.02am. I concede that I was in the wrong and deserved to be punished, and was happy to furnish the AA Drivetech team with the princely sum of £97.50 to spend four hours of what is left of my life on the second floor of a municipal building in Penge of a Monday evening, learning exactly why I would be little better than Slobodan Milošević if I persisted in my potentially murderous activities on our highways and byways.
You see, what I had failed to grasp is that behind every hedge, every level crossing, every parked car and post box lurks a suicidal child or pensioner, waiting patiently for that life-altering moment when they can leap in front of your vehicle and be claimed by it. Who knew? And yet the onus is on us, hapless harbingers of assassination, to save them from the fate they are so clearly yearning for. What they don’t tell you, when they hand over the keys just after your sixteenth birthday, is that you have unwittingly become another mobile member of Dignitas. In a country that just says no.
I sat next to Mike and Jeff at the back, making snide remarks to each other as John and Roz took to the floor in their corporate purple and yellow regalia. Intuitively, they countered our resistance to the outlandish fees (in relation to pettiness of offence committed) by diluting it into an hilarious joke we could all understand. Then, to lighten the mood, they showed us a digital representation of the 1991 motorway pile-up that claimed 51 vehicles and 10 lives. Because that’s what’s gonna happen to us, miserable sinners, if we fail to rein in our feckless ways.
Next up, a training film. Meant to serve as a deterrent, it showed a Vauxhall Viva ploughing into a cardboard effigy of a young lady (who had the poor fortune to resemble Posh Spice) at various speeds in a disused airfield. Sadly, this had rather the opposite effect:
“Chosen One: Using your skill and judgement, you must annihilate this monstrous minstrel at a minimum speed of 60mph, for which you shall secure yourself a place in the firmament of eternal paradise (with the statutory seventy-two virgins and whatnot). And if you can nail her at 70mph, we’ll throw in a copy of the Highway Code and a can of Fanta from the vending machine.”
So, what did I learn from it? Well, if I’m honest, not a lot. Maybe to paint out my number plates with that special stuff you can get on the Deep Web. Or simply to put my foot down as I approach a school or care home. It’s the least I can do.