Saturday, July 29, 2006

Richard Branson

Joy asked me why I like the guy. In 1995, my brother-in-law passed away in Wales. I had to get a flight back from Los Angeles to the UK in a hurry. The only flight I could get was a Virgin (Ricahrd Branson's company) flight. The round trip to Manchester cost $1,700, but I was told that if I supplied a copy of the Death Certificate, they would look at reducing the price to a "bereavement fare". I duly supplied a copy of the DC, and a couple of weeks later, I received a personally signed letter from Mr Branson, expressing his sympathies for my loss, and stating that the whole amount had been credited to my credit card. The guy's a champ in my book, and I always fly with Virgin whenever I can. He's one of the people I've always wanted to meet, along with Lady Margaret Thatcher. And Dubya, but I won't go there.

Richard Brunstrom

No, the title is not a typo for Richard Branson who is a real gentleman in my view (I'll explain why another time). Mr Brunstrom is the well known Chief Constable in North Wales. His dream is to have a speed camera every 100 yards in said N Wales, making sure that everyone obeys the rules about speeding. He is obsessed with speeding. Sod your usual crime and thuggery. "Get those speeders" seems to be the order of the day. I was traveling last year from Birmingham (England, not Alabama) to North Wales to visit family. The best route to take is the highway called the A5. An old road, created by the Romans, who managed to annoy the Welsh who then occupied Southern England, and made them move to N Wales. The Welsh stayed strong, and defeated the Romans, but by then they were pretty much spent with all their war-mongering elsewhere (the Romans). Anyway, back to the plot. The A5 at the border of England and Wales used to wend its way around a tortuous road crossing a valley near a village called Chirk. The roadies built a bridge over the valley a few years back, and it is now possible to drive quickly over this bridge. Too quickly it seems in my case. At the top of this bridge, there is a road, just in Wales, and Mr Brunstrom's finest were there with a camera. I was clocked doing 70 on a 60 mph stretch. A couple of months later, I received a Notice from some of his minions at Prestatyn telling me I must pay a fixed fine of 80 Pounds, or go to Court, and face the wrath of the judge. I responded I would pay. They then sent me details of how to pay, but said that I'd have to send my license as well. As the Florida Police require me to carry my license at all times, I wrote to explain my predicament. I never heard again. I wonder if Mr Brunstrom finest has me on a list of Wanted Criminals List, and when I next cross into Wales, I'll be dumped in Caernarfon castle's dungeon. Now, the thing is that I also have a UK license, and it's in both Welsh and English! They just asked for my license. This is the second time that I have avoided hefty fines for speeding in the UK. I was caught by camera in Eastbourne in 1998 doing 37 in a 30 mph area. I tried to plead that I was driving a Volvo.... that failed. Again I refused to submit my driver's license (a California version at that time). I was called to Court. On my birthday. I stood in the "criminals' box". A bewigged prosecutor stood up and addressed the court. So I thought. He was addressing me, but due to my poor hearing I didn't understand he was waiting for me to answer. The judge took pity, and in a louder voice, asked if I could hear the prosecutor. She allowed me to move to the well of the court. Nice lady. I was asked why I had not furnished my license to the authorities, and I explained my predicament with California laws. The prosecutor said, "But you have a British license." I said that a condition of getting my California license was to hand over my British license, which I had done. I had (wrongly) assumed that the UK license would be scrapped. The prosecutor was livid. He'd wanted to fine me about 70 pounds, plus court costs of about 400 pounds. The Judge said I had to be treated as a foreigner, and fined me 40 pounds. Later that evening, in a very aimiable pub in Eastbourne, I was celebrating my birthday when the Judge walked in. I bought her a drink. Her husband frowned. So I bought him one too. Rik reminded me of my "Trwydded Yrru" yesterday. A cop here in Florida asked for my license once. I gave my UK one to him. He came back a few minutes later, "Now can you give me your Florida one?" He did let me off with a warning as his great-grandfather had been Welsh. Helps sometimes.