This is a tale about my driving licence. I know, I know. I lead a quiet life….
Some years ago, I was the proud owner of a small car – until one rainy January evening. I was living in London and had come home from somewhere or other and had to park my trusty steed on the narrow street where I lived. There were two spots left: one a bit close to the corner – which I rejected on the grounds that it was a bit close to said corner and someone coming round a bit too fast might just clip my wing mirror or even dent my door – and the other a few yards further away from the corner.
I parked in the latter, went inside and sat at my dining table puzzling over my tax return. About half an hour later I heard a sound. “Hmm.. that sounded like a car hitting another, ” I mused, and in that same second just KNEW that it had been a vehicle hitting my carefully parked car. I jumped up, looked out of the window and there in the light of the street lamp, could see four heads in a car which was at a strange angle across the street and obscuring my view of my car. I raced outside in my slippers to confront the lunatic that had no doubt caused damage to the Magic Mushroom (as the car was known to some – on account of its colour rather than any druggy properties it might have been erroneously accused of). This beslippered dash took fewer than 20 seconds but, in that time, the four heads – and their bodies – had disappeared into the drizzly night.
I called the boys in blue and spent a considerable time sitting in a police car giving as much detail as I could when a crackly announcement came over the radio about a stolen car in XX Road. The officer asked me where that road was…I replied it was the one about 25 yards away. It turned out that the car embedded under the wheel arch of my car had been stolen from outside a neighbour’s house (just 4 doors from me), driven fewer than 75 yards before crashing.
Jack the Lass, who, if reading this tale, may remember that the next Saturday, she and I drove separately to some wasteland in South East London (beyond Plumstead…possibly over towards Erith or Thamesmead) to a wrecker’s yard to leave the poor Magic Mushroom to its sad fate. JtL then kindly gave me a lift back to HQ. An irony here is that the Magic Mushroom’s licence plate always came in for some stick as it was KxxxPUT. The wrecker’s yard certainly made sure it was forever kaput.
So, the years passed and I did not replace the poor old mushroom – mainly because having a car in London was something of a luxury when I only ever used it at weekends. And then I moved to the ARC where I live within walking or bussing distance of almost everything so have not needed one.
A few weeks ago, I received a communication from the DVLA telling me that according to a random check they had carried out, they believed that my address on my driving licence was incorrect. They enclosed the forms and guidelines for applying for a new one.
I realised that they were right – and realised with horror that I could be in a bit of trouble for not having updated my licence more promptly. (How do you explain away a delay of um, 5 years, m’lud?) The guidelines had dire warnings of a fine of £1000 and even imprisonment. My existing licence was an old non-photo style one, so I had to get a mugshot taken and then verified by a professional person that it was a true likeness. I asked my friendly local vicar to do the honours. After we’d laughed at the photo (tricky situation: does he say it is a true likeness and insult me, or say that it isn’t a true likeness and destroy all my chances of getting a new licence?) I told him that if the official processing my application was a bit of a jobsworth I could end up serving time. His comforting response was: Don’t worry; I’d come and visit you. [Thanks, Rev…the thought is much appreciated].
I filled in the form and gave my new address and wotnot. Then re-read the guidelines. The bally things were rather ambiguously written concerning the fee I should enclose. I thought I would phone them to clarify the matter. The first number was no longer in operation – please use this number.
The second number said all their operators were really busy – please listen to this long-winded announcement while you’re waiting and now we’ve said everything, thanks for your call, goodbye. And cut me off.
I found a third number lurking somewhere which was also completely useless, so I resorted to the written word. I sent a letter with my cheque and asked them to contact me if the amount was incorrect.
A few weeks later, I received an envelope containing the return of my passport and a note to say that my new licence would arrive under separate cover. “If you have a query, please ring between 8.15 amd and 4.45 pm Monday to Friday.” Fair enough-ski. But they didn’t give a number to call. (Humph).
A few days later, my shiny new driving licence arrived complete with its prison mugshot and new address – and my cheque. “You are not required to pay a fee so please destroy your cheque.”
I am, of course, delighted not to be donating money to the government – but I would like to point out to anyone interested that if I am not required to pay a fee then their instructions are even muddier than I first thought. My problem was given the conflicting advice in your guidelines: do I pay fee x or fee y? because depending on how you interpret the official-ese I seem to fall into two categories. Now you’re telling me I don’t fall into either of them. I’m not going to argue but I really think I fall into at least one… – Happy to proofread your documents, dear DVLA, for a healthy fee, of course!