When I read complaints about the police stopping and searching certain sorts of people, I feel slightly deprived (only slightly – it isn’t a big hang-up). I have only ever been stopped once.
The first was ages ago when I had an Austin 7. This car, made in 1936, had many idiosyncrasies including cable brakes that caused the car to go sideways whenever you braked. An emergency stop was remarkably effective, not because of the braking distance, but because the car shot off at a 90 degree angle thus avoiding any potential obstacles. However, the fact that I was driving an old Austin 7 that had a propensity to go sideways, turned out not to be the reason why I was stopped.
The car was registered in the Isle of Man (I lived there at the time) and, as the law required, had a GBM plate on the back. I had brought the car across the Irish Sea courtesy of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and was stopped by a police patrol car somewhere just outside Liverpool. The policeman did the all the usual things; asked if I was the owner of the car, looked at my driving licence, wandered slowly round the car looking at the tax disc and the tyres. Finally he said, ‘GBM, sir, isn’t that the Isle of Man?’. I confirmed that it was, to which he replied, ‘I had my honeymoon in the Isle of Man’. He then proceeded to quiz me about the Island, whether I knew the hotel where he and his new bride had stayed (I didn’t – Douglas has lots of hotels), whether the horse drawn trams still ran along the promenade, whether I had been to the top of Snaefell (the only mountain on the Island)……..and so on. After sharing a few more happy reminiscences, he let me proceed on my way.
My last encounter with the police (I realise I’m tempting fate by describing it as my last encounter!) was the reverse of anything resembling stop and search. I was driving along a motorway past extensive road works in a rather narrow single lane with cones on both sides. It was very early on a summer’s morning with practically no other traffic and, in an empty lane, I was being careful not to exceed the 50mph speed limit. Suddenly a police car screamed up behind me, siren blazing and lights flashing. I checked my speed nervously and looked in my rear view mirror. The policeman in the passenger seat was gesturing for me to go faster. So I increased my speed. He still waved impatiently, so I went faster, and faster, and faster. By the time we reached the end of the contra flow I was doing a little over 100mph. Once we were beyond the cones, the police car flashed past. The policeman gave me the thumbs up and the police car disappeared over the horizon. All very exhilarating.
It was only when I had slowed down to 70mph (and boy, did that seem slow!) that I fell to wondering if I had been tricked into speeding. But nothing ever happened.