What the beep did he want?
IHAD just ridden my scooter along Kensington High Street waving a very large Israeli flag. I’d been handed it moments earlier by a man on a motorbike who had so many flags he was trying to wave at once that he was about to fall off his Harley. “Here, take one of these, will you?” he said as he wobbled off. I gave it a few trial waves, almost managing to blind a lady from Finland who was just coming out of Urban Outfitters. “I’m terribly sorry, I was married to a Finn once”, I said. (I don’t know why I said that, either.)
I parked in a side street and was just taking off my helmet when a very large policeman ran up.
“Right! I’m arresting you, sir!” he shouted. “Really? What have I done, officer?” “Where is it?” he asked, pointing to the back of the scooter. “It’s not there.”
“What’s not there, officer?” “Your number plate,” he said. I looked. It wasn’t. “I’ve no idea, officer, It was definitely there when I left home this morning.”
“Well, it’s not there now, is it, sir?” he said. “And another thing; I’m going to arrest you for beeping.” “Beeping, officer?” “That’s correct, sir. Beeping. You were beeping the opposing group of demonstrators as you rode past them to incite them.”
“Officer, I was beeping to let your colleagues, standing in the middle of Kensington High Street, know that I was approaching. If I remember right the Highway Code clearly states that knocking down a policeman could be regarded as an offence. And frankly the opposition didn’t look to me like they needed any more inciting. They were in a state of high incitement already. In fact, I think they’d been incited earlier before they left home”.
I must have been gesticulating as I was talking and possibly, very slightly, touched his arm without even realising it. He leapt backwards.
“Right! Touch me just one more time, sir, and I’m arresting you for assaulting a police officer.”
At this point, any reasonable man would have shut up and grovelled. However, never let anyone accuse me of being a reasonable man.
“Officer, at this moment, haven’t you really got better things to do than arrest me for beeping?” I said. “There are thousands of people demonstrating 20 feet away from us. Is it really the best use of your valuable time to arrest me — a man of hitherto unimpeachable character, if you ignore the occasion when I was 14 and travelled on the Central Line tube from East Acton to Shepherds Bush without a ticket — for beeping?”
“Just one minute, sir,” he said and shouted excitedly into his sleeve. “Four males in a white 4x4 heading east towards Knightsbridge with no seatbelts on!”
You’d think he’d just spotted the caliph of Isis going in the direction of Buckingham Palace.
It was at this point that I made the decision to grovel.
He gave me a ticket for not displaying a number plate.
“Just remember, sir”, he said. “No more beeping.”
Knocking down a cop could be an offence...