A brown van pulls up in a nice housing estate. The driver has his door pulled back. It’s a beautiful day. The driver has long black hair and a beard. A stovepipe sticks out of the van roof. It is highly probable that the people who live in this nice housing estate have little in common with the owner of the van. In fact, some of them might have decided to phone the police.
The driver is my old friend Joe. He’s taking me to the festival. My first ever festival.
He pulls this black shape out of his pocket that looks like a Letts Diary. Maybe he’s going to have a last check of the itinerary: make sure we haven’t got any dental appointments or weddings that clash with our trip to the festival. But instead of opening the shape that I think is a diary, he strikes a match and starts burning away at a corner until pungent smoke starts to fill the cab. I don’t need a diary to know that the next few days are going to be a little strange.
He messes around with the Rizlas and ingredients until the joint is rolled. He puts it in his mouth and strikes another match. The whole thing fizzles and crackles and in the same instant a policeman appears in the open doorway of the cab. The policeman had ridden silently up on his bicycle and now he’s saying to Joe ‘could you step outside the van please Sir?’
Joe tossed the joint onto the floor and said, ‘yeah sure.’ He’d gone very red but I don’t think it was because of the dope. I decided to get out too. It was very cloudy in the cab and I felt that a breath fresh air would do me good.
Looking at the scene, I imagine that many of the people living in the nice housing estate would now seriously be considering phoning the police if there wasn’t a policeman here already.
‘Now then Sir,’ the policeman is saying. He hasn’t got a jacket. He looks very smart in his nice clean white shirt. Reassuring like a bread advert. Refreshing like a washing powder advert. It’s a beautiful day and the policeman says, ‘just look at that.’ He’s pointing at the number plate. It’s very dirty like a shirt that’s about to get star treatment in a washing powder advert. ‘You need to get that cleaned up. You can’t see the numbers.’
Joe jumps into action. He really is a model citizen. ‘Oh aye mate,’ he says, pulling a white hanky from his pocket. He starts flapping it around like morris dancer, rubbing at the number plate. The hanky turns black very quickly – another recruit for the all-new-reassuring-refreshing –washing powder advert. I even think about helping him. Maybe I could use my sleeve or something. The last thing we want is to be busted for having a dirty number plate.
The nice policeman stands with his arms folded watching over us like a benign school-master admiring his favourite pupils tackling a complicated mathematical problem with spirited enthusiasm. When the numbers started to appear like the solution we'd all been praying for, he rode away on his bike without saying a word.
I’m not sure how many years you get for dirty number plate possession but climbing back into the heavily scented cab, we realised that we’d come very close to finding out. So, next time you’re on the road, please make sure your numbers are clean.