Driving into Trouble: Speeding Fine Double-Time

It’s been a while since I was in trouble with the law.

Truth be told, I don’t think it’s ever really happened to me – until last week, that is.

I’ve always prided myself on being a capable driver. More than capable, at least, of taking my family from point A to B without causing any major incidents. Although I wasn’t at the heart of a serious Road Traffic Accident on the way back from Scotland at the weekend, I did manage to get caught speeding and now I’m fretting over whether to tell my wife or try and contest the fine.

We’d been visiting family over the weekend and I’d been left in the thankless role of late-night driver. Constance had fallen asleep within minutes of leaving Dunblane. We’d been visiting her parents and had ended up spending much more time than we’d expected on our feet. Having recently become obsessed with exercise, the in-laws had been in a constant buzz of activity since New Year.

Galvanised by social media and spurred on by their similarly loopy friends, they had taken on jogging, cycling and going to the gym. Every day was a good day to exercise and our visit just gave them more opportunity to exhibit their new found lust for life. From the Friday we arrived we were pretty much whisked out of the door, back into the car and onto the nearby Highlands where the kids were allowed to run wild and we quickly lost our breaths.

Constance and I knew we were in for a few surprises, but hadn’t expected her parents to be in such good shape.

In their mid to late sixties they’d both lost weight and appeared to be more spry than ever, the kids were even struggling to keep up with them towards the end. It was a with a sigh of relief that we sunk back into the car at the end of the weekend, hence the sleeping kids and wife accompanying me on the drive back down South.

I don’t remember the speedometer rising to as high as the fine says, so I was a little surprised, to say the least when it popped up on my doorstep.

Luckily, Constance was out at work when the post arrived. So when I peeled open the official looking envelope and swore loudly when discovering the contents; the only witness to my indiscretion was the cat who – so far – hasn’t dobbed me in yet.

This being my first driving offence and not remembering the incident itself I felt like this had to be some kind of mistake. So, with a whole day ahead left until Constance would return and inevitably see the guilty look on my face, I decided to a little research and see if I couldn’t get the whole thing overturned. After all, if she found out that a camera had caught me barrelling through the Highlands at a hair-raising 80 mph, there’d be a good chance that I’d lose my driving privileges.

I’ve enlisted the help of a motoring solicitor in Liverpool, who specialises in getting completely innocent ordinary blokes like me off these kinds of charges. This whole debacle might end up costing me more than £100 in terms of actual money, but if it means that I get to keep driving the Land Rover then that’s all that matters!

Middle-Aged Money Traps

Does Age Really Come With Wisdom?

I’m willing to argue that although this may have been the case at the time of this saying’s birth, it was clearly thought of before the Gulf War, the Internet and Donald Trump existed.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where all these things exist and as such you can’t rely on age or wisdom to save you from the biggest enemy to your savings/bank account: yourself. As much as everyone loves to think of themselves as relatively ‘street smart’, there’s no substitute for true wisdom. With middle-age, for many, comes a time when more money is readily available and there are usually more bad ways to spend the money than good.

If you’re anything like this fool then chances are you’ve been drawn into at least one of these ‘Middle-Aged Money Traps’, I know I have, but can you guess which one? 

Waitrose

Its a rare occasion that Waitrose will be the only Supermarket in a town or city, there is almost always a cheaper alternative. I know what you’re going to say: ‘But you can’t put a price on quality Harry.’ You’re right. can’t. Neither can you. The retailers do that and they also know full well that they can stick a huge markup on any imported brand or ‘Extra Special’ product and excitable ‘foodies‘ (like me) will throw money at them until they hand them over.

Instead of needlessly tossing your money away on marginally better products, why not cut back and save the money for something really fancy…like caviar – that’s definitely not a waste of money.


The Forex Market (or any other form of gambling)

There’s something very alluring about dipping your toes into the Forex Market. Much like online gambling, it requires no formal education. As long as you’ve got some money in a bank account somewhere then the good men and women of the Market will always be happy to take it from you. It is, of course, a completely feasible way of making money, thousands of people do it every day. But for most, it simply amounts to an excuse to look very smart with a load of graphs in front of you, whilst getting a slight buzz from risking your money.

So you’re a gambling man? Fantastic – create a cooperative, buy a lottery ticket, separate yourself a fund each month to do it. Gamble responsibly, don’t pretend to be a Wall Street pro and lose your savings.


Your Very ‘Own’ Website

I know it’s not been long since I was ripping into the aggressively pervasive nature of the Internet, but there’s something so perniciously greedy about it that its always worth reminding people that there is an option to simply not get involved. Prime time television, which is watched by mostly middle-aged people now, is chocked full of opportunities for hungry middle-aged people to ‘create-your-own-website’. The hyphens are the important thing to note there.

If you need a website built, talk to a teenager or find a programmer online. They’ll make you a good looking site, like this one, and you’ll be in complete control – don’t give your money to the charlatans at Wix.


Awful Electronics

There is an argument that the majority of electronics products are not ‘built to last’. Conspiracy theorists attest to Apple’s faulty design of the iPhone, claiming that the hugely popular £700 handset is only built to last two years at most, whereas less reputable companies have been accused of building their budget items to last even less time than that. I love iPhones so I’m not about to slate them here, what I will say is that, if you’re in your forties and you think buying a bread maker is a sounder option than simply buying a loaf of bread or baking one from scratch, then you need to take a long hard look at yourself.

If its a piece of consumer electronics and you’ve seen it advertised on a shopping channel, or the box proudly states ‘As Seen On TV’, then avoid like the plague.…

From TV Abuser to Internet Bruiser

There’s a certain guilty pleasure that I derive from roaring myself hoarse at the television.

I understand that the very act of doing it is the perfect example of ‘wasted breath’ but if all the yelling and cursing results in my sleeping better at night (regular glasses of Whiskey do help in that regard too…) then is it really wasted?

My wife would definitely say so. When she invariably wakes me from the armchair, the TV still blaring and a fine web of saliva slowly drying to my stubble, she makes a resigned sigh and asks me if I wouldn’t be happier simply reading a book each night, to which my reply is usually: ‘Blarglshmar-bloody-UKIPpers.’

Last night was a typical one for me. The boys barrelled into the house at 4pm, out of breath from their usual foot race home from school. They run back everyday, but somehow don’t seem to be getting faster or fitter – perhaps this is something that I should take up with their PE teacher…After throwing biscuits at them until they ceased their yammering, they disappeared upstairs to either do their homework or murder their classmates in a virtual war. Dinner was a simple pasta affair, made ready for my darling Wife upon her return to the homestead and we ate at the table, as is our wont.

Whilst Constance patiently pried precious pieces of information from our boys, I slyly kept one ear open to the World Service playing in the kitchen. The News has been particularly fantastic recently. Admittedly, the World may be collectively holding its breath for the the first sign of a Nuclear Holocaust and Racial Tensions have arguably never been more fraught, but its made for some of the best news that I’ve seen in a decade.

In the last two years there have been more shock resignations, blindingly odd referendum results and confusing press releases than I’ve ever seen before. Firing up and exaggerating every political oddity is the full force of the internet. From irate individuals sharing their opinions via Facebook, to the ‘unbiased journalists’ of Buzzfeed; from all corners of the web, opinions are flaunted and shared prolifically to thunderous acclaim and equal amounts of disdain. Now the internet has one more angry voice to join the baying mob: mine.

Since leaving my job in Investment, some 7 years ago or so now, I’ve been struggling in vain to still feel a part of the world at large. In my days, pre-Fatherhood, I would be meeting bankers and businessmen on a daily basis. Titans of industry would know me by name and I felt like the decisions that I made, from the pattern of my tie to the choice of my words, had a significant effect on the World.

Now, the main thrust of my work involves feeding hungry mouths, keeping kitchen surfaces clean and sucking the endless reams of cat hair out of the thick carpet that we never should have bought. My sons could well grow up to be important men with the weight of the world on their shoulders, but that’s an investment in time and effort that is a long way off returning.

For now, I’m going to see if I can spend less time drunkenly yelling at the oblivious faces on television and more time writing my thoughts down here…like a rational person.