Sideboobs and speed cameras…

SIDEBOOBS or speed cameras? Oh go on, let’s go for a twin-track approach here. A skim through the newspaper headlines on the BBC website produces evidence of both.

In pointing us towards the front page of today’s Daily Mail, the website uses the bold-type words: ‘The Mail leads with fury…’ Well doesn’t it just every day of the week – in Mail World there is a superfluity of annoyance.

The Mail lead accuses police forces around the country of pocketing millions from drivers attending speed awareness courses. They reportedly received £54 million last year alone by sending more than 1.3 million drivers on the “controversial one-day sessions”.

Just to drop a pebble fact into the fury pool, they don’t last a day but half a day. And I should know because I was one of those 1.3 million shame-faced drivers forced to sit in a hotel and be condescended to among a ‘classroom’ of other motoring miscreants.

Many drivers attend these courses because they cost slightly less than a speeding fine and avoid three points on your licence (and possibly a more expensive insurance premium).

In the eye of the Mail’s fury is Olly Martins, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire Police who has threatened to strictly enforce the 70mph limit on the M1 to raise funds and fill gaps left by government cuts.

This would upset the motorists’ favourite urban myth that the 70mph limit is really 80mph, as any fast-moving fool knows. Except that if you go on one of those courses you will be sadly disabused of such notions, and one of the ‘teachers’ will put on a primary school voice to tell that this is not the case.

My offence took place on the road out of Skipton, while heading to Cartmel at the bottom end of the Lake District (lovely village, full of food and the prettiest racecourse anywhere).

After a slow stretch the road opened up, the traffic got moving and we swooped down a steep dip. At the bottom of this rollercoaster hollow a speed-camera van had parked at just the point where passing vehicles would be travelling their fastest. I was doing 66mph. Yards later, as the incline bit, the old Volvo slowed and slipped below the speed limit.

Was that dangerous driving or a momentary lapse? Bit of both perhaps. But that camera had definitely been parked in a lucrative spot and was there to milk motorists. Such cameras record your speed at that moment, unlike the average-speed cameras on motorway roadworks, which in effect tot up your speed.

What did I learn from the course? Mostly that a roomful of grown-ups being treated like naughty children tend to look uncomfortable and mildly pissed-off. I did pick up something useful though. I knew this once, but these things fade. On a main country road that isn’t a dual carriageway the speed limit is 60mph (and not 66mph or other approximations).

Since that dull morning in the conference rooms of a York hotel I have kept to 60mph on such roads. On motorways I stick to 70mph apart from when I don’t. Occasionally the needle nudges eighty while overtaking. Driving at 70mph on a motorway does confine one among the slow squad, but there you go.

What I didn’t do was drive at 192mph. Even fine old Volvo estates can only manage so much. The engine with its 140,000 notches would have exploded long before then. No such worries for a speed-loving driver from Northampton, who filmed himself reaching that speed.

That fast and furious moment earned him two years in prison and a ten-year driving ban. His daughter was banned for driving for two years for encouraging the offence.

Now to those partially glimpses breasts of the beautiful and famous. The newspapers are much taken with the fashion for dresses with an open panel at the side. Sideboobs are everywhere and there is something vaguely smutty about all those photographs. Yet isn’t it all a bit Carry On too? Perhaps that is because ‘boobs’ is a funny word, a snigger in five letters.

On the Daily Mail website you will find its now-infamous sidebar which is filled every day with pictures of famous women either wardrobe malfunctioning or wearing skimpy bikinis. Today’s column of mild shame includes the actress Jennifer Lawrence at the Hunger Games premier wearing a dress with a bit at the side gone missing. I had a glimpse in the name of research.

So there you have it. Sideboobs and speed cameras.

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