As if by magic, a sign that I am doing the right thing by moving out of London arrived in the post.
And not a moment too soon, for with all the to-ing and fro-ing over arcane anomalies in the floorplan of my flat I had become so heartily sick of the conveyancing process I was almost ready to jack the whole move in.
Two identical, suspiciously thin and official-looking A5 sized envelopes arrived at the same time. This is either the Inland Revenue telling me I am going to jail for believing that half-asleep guy at their call centre who told me I shouldn’t worry too much about my tax bill, or it is something even worse, I told myself, fingering the envelopes gingerly.
I ripped one open without further ado and a letter from Transport for London came out. It featured the usual photo of my Volvo doing something it shouldn’t.
The last one was only a few months ago, and pictured Vernon — for that is the Volvo’s pet name — looking shifty in an unlit yellow box junction in Raynes Park. That’ll be £65 please, the TfL letter declared on that occasion. I tried to blame the builder boyfriend because I had only been in the box junction at all after he insisted I swing by his builder’s yard and pick him up.
After a long dispute as to where moral responsibility for the fine truly lay, with the picker upper or the pick-up-ee, we decided to split the fine two ways. And they say romance is dead.
This time, I was on firmer ground. The picture showed a shifty-looking Vernon skulking in Elsynge Road in Wandsworth on a red route.
‘Ha! I knew it!’ I screeched. If I peered at it really closely I could just make out the builder b in the picture, standing in the gutter behind the opened passenger door.
I actually wish the police would do him as well. Teach him a lesson. What is it about men when they want to go? They are like four-year-old children.
We had been driving into London from the country with him getting more and more irritable. I had thought, oh here we go. It’s either food or toilet. If I can’t effect an immediate solution for him in these areas he is apt to become disconsolate very quickly.
As we climbed East Hill towards Wandsworth Common he suddenly declared himself ‘fed up with it all’ — and by ‘all’ he could have meant anything from my driving to the fact that Brexit is taking too long.
A few minutes later, as we skirted St John’s Hill, he snapped: ‘Pull over now! Quick! I can’t wait!’
‘Oh, for goodness sake, we’re nearly home,’ I said. ‘Please, can’t you just wait a few minutes longer?’ But I knew it would be no good.
‘Now! I need to go now!’ It was futile protesting, so I said: ‘And where do you propose I stop?’
We were on that bit of the south circular skirting the common where you cannot stop for even a second without a cacophony of beeping and a bus ploughing into the side of you. If we were pulling over for his convenience, it was best to let him make the decision where, and be it on his head when it all went wrong.
‘Turn left into Elsynge! Quick!’ he shouted, jumping up and down in his seat, throwing the seat belt off and swinging open the passenger door like Starsky and Hutch as we screeched round the bend.
‘This is a bad idea,’ I said, not knowing exactly why but knowing full well there would be some form of comeback. Naturally, there was no obvious sign warning us not to stop but there never is. They like to make it a surprise when the envelope comes.
The BB stood behind the open door making those loud exhaling noises men seem to think are perfectly reasonable sound effects and I sat there dying of embarrassment even though it was pitch dark. ‘What if the people in that house see?’ I asked. ‘Don’t mind them,’ he said, and then shouted in their direction ‘Welcome to multicultural Britain!’
‘I don’t see what that’s got to do with it,’ I said. ‘Well, everyone else is going medieval, aren’t they?’
He’s right. I couldn’t argue. I’ve seen people do far worse in the bushes on Tooting Common.
However, when the fine came, two fines, in fact — they sent a duplicate notice with identical photos but a different penalty charge number, so they seem to want paying twice — I handed them straight to him. ‘There you go. That was an expensive pee, wasn’t it, at £130?’ Affecting insouciance, he claimed he was happy to pay it.