Dear Assistant Chief Constable,
Further to my letter of the 8th January, I have now completed the speed awareness course you kindly invited me on, and I wanted to let you know how I got on.
The short answer is swimmingly. I attended, and my 38 mph oversight has now been struck from the records. Simples, as that annoying meerkat says in the advertisement.
The intermediate answer is swimmingly, too. I met and saw all the eccentric bits of Britishness that I hoped to meet and see: the angry pensioner who is carried away by the unfairness of it; the teenager who can’t believe his luck, and is consequently showing more earnest interest in stopping distances and hazard perception than he has ever done before, or will ever do again; the middle aged lady for whom this is the very first time on the wrong side of the disciplinary tracks, and who can’t quite find the right face to wear between contrition and injured pride; and the class comic (‘come on, guys, we all hate cyclists, don’t we?’) whose social awareness skills had clearly leached out onto the Chichester Bypass when Harold Wilson was still Prime Minister.
I also got to pass time in a roadside hotel of such achingly sad lack of character that it seemed to suck the very joy out of the surrounding area, indeed, from the sky above; whose choice of carpet defied the laws of taste of any country I have visited, and on whose grim yards were the stains of the detritus of a hundred corporate functions; whose peculiar diet of black felt table-cloths, bottles of Hildon water, and individually wrapped mint imperials harked back to a less imaginative era, some 60 or so years ago. I saw presentational equipment that I don’t think has been made these last four decades, on whose screen the sound lagged enough of a split second behind the action as to render it all a major sensory challenge. How bad, we all asked, would your function have to be for you to want to hold it there?
But then it gets more complicated, and I now find myself wondering why the episode hasn’t already become a distant memory of a pleasant instructor saying things like: ‘Red circle. Obligatory. End of’, or ‘Thanks for sharing that one with us, Jennie’.
And in searching for the answer, I find- boringly, maybe- that its effects have gone far deeper into my system than either you or I had a right to believe would be the case. If you wanted it to change me, it has.
Two things seem to have risen to the surface of my mental casserole after your instructors gave it a stir. First, I find more and more I actually wantto be a better citizen. No, reallywant. Not just playing- at-it-want but wishing-to-deliver-the-goods-want. And secondly, after being prompted to ask ourselves why we had all been speeding, I joined all the dots and came up with the truth that I have been hurrying all my adult life. Hurrying and fitting one more thing into each day than the day was properly designed for. And that not only did that hurrying put me at a higher risk of speeding, (and therefore being a worse driver), but that it also stopped me on countless occasions drinking all the available pleasure out of the thousands of things that I organised and did. By the time I left your speed awareness course, Assistant Chief Constable, I was actually quite emotional about it.
So, without over-egging the pudding, and reserving the right to poke fun at whatever I want in due time, I would like to pass an unequivocal ‘thank you’ for giving me this extraordinary opportunity.
Plus, of course, the ‘Safer Sussex Roads’ pen. I hope you don’t need that back