I didn’t really need a reason to dislike Boris Johnson even more but I got one in the post last week. I drove home to Aberdeen from Clapham at the end of my extended birthday party and was well pleased with myself for taking all the correct turns, following the signs and weaving my way through Battersea and such places to get to the M4 and relative safety. I have a friend as well as a daughter who drive about London with panache, creativity and a bewildering lack of concern. They even manage to talk calmly as they twist their way past buses, kamikaze cyclists, taxis driven by people who obviously own the streets they’re in and buses which do their bit for the environment by making it clear that it’s far safer to be inside than outside them. For me, driving there is a nightmare.
Anyway, it was a bright, sunny day and I was soon clear of the mayhem and on my way north listening to an R J Ellory novel. When I eventually got home, I’d driven a total of 1500 miles on the trip and only had to answer a few million emails before I could get back to normal. Then came the letter. It seems that some of those 1500 miles had been inside the congestion zone. The letter included two grainy pictures of my car to prove it and demanded sixty quid, adding that, if ‘they’ didn’t get it within a couple of weeks, it would be upped to one hundred and eighty. Now, before you say ‘Serve you right. Cars are a blot on civilization and shouldn’t have free access wherever they like’, I agree with you. The experience of being a pedestrian in central London has been immeasurably enhanced by thinning out the herds of vehicles (yes, I meant ‘herds’ – it used to be like the Serengeti in the migration season) in areas such as Trafalgar Square and making the air close to breathable. But I had no idea I’d strayed into the forbidden zone so giving the mayoral buffoon sixty quid hurt.
No, there’s no moral to the story – just the usual vengeful simmering and a mental note to make sure one of the corpses in my next novel is fat and has untidy blonde hair.