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A moment of fear on Highwood Hill
THERE were hair-raising moments galore as I learned to drive in a 15 cwt truck on the Khyber Pass years go, with buses and lorries careering round corners towards me at speed with dozens of excitable Indians hanging out of the windows.
But the moment of real fear for me came as I drove my Toyota up Highwood Hill, Mill Hill, the other day pursued by a lorry whose driver was honking his horn and perilously close to the boot of my car.
I must confess, with great shame, that I was not acting to the high standards of the old Evening Standard Courtesy Club campaign of many years ago as I drove out of Lawrence Street without pausing by the stop line and cut up the lorry.
I acknowledged the first honk from the lorry driver by raising my left arm to admit I was in the wrong ... but as we went up the hill the hooting got louder and seemingly angrier. I locked myself in the car and prayed that the traffic lights at the top would be in my favour to enable me to turn right and shoot off along Totteridge Lane.
'Twas not to be. As I pulled up in the right hand lane, the lorry eased in alongside me on the left. The driver was shouting at me. I again waved my acknowledgment of my error ... but he continued shouting.
I unwound the nearside window. "I've said I was sorry", I cried.
"Forget that", said the husky looking giant at the wheel of the lorry. "I'm lost - which way to the M1".
I gestured to the left - which I would have done whether it was right or not - and drove on with heart pounding. Whatever happened to the fearless warrior who mastered the perils of the Khyber Pass and enjoyed pitting his wits against French drivers going round the Arc de Triomphe and forcing them to grind to a halt.
Composure was only restored a day or two later at the doctor's surgery when I answered a call to have my blood pressure checked. "Perfect", said the nurse, Apart from being chased up Highwood Hill, life has been a bit traumatic of late. Younger son Richard has directed his last two episodes of "The Bill" before it ends its long run and I have been subjected to the usual question. "Are you Richard's father?" I have been asked. "No, Richard is my son", I reply. A man has got to be his own man even if having my name in national papers read by millions of people is a thing of the past.
Being something of a big fish in a little pond has its compensation. The editor of the Barnet FC programme, in his wisdom, used a full page picture of me in the programme against the Arsenal. Three young men asked for my autograph and another shouted "Barnet legend".
The antics of Barnet Council in awarding members huge pay increases in the face of public opposition did little to help my blood pressure. In my days as a young reporter there were no expenses, one became a councillor to serve the public - I remember clearly when they were first instituted and I insisted that they be made known to those of us who footed the bill.
I can remember clearly sitting alone in a room at the town hall under the eagle eye of an official who quite obviously felt that the Press were not really entitled to the information. I duly reported that a huband and wife team collected the most - but, more importantly, a large number did not make a claim.
In years of chairing police committees and Mayoral fund raising I never claimed a penny. My total admiration for Councillor Kate Salinger, who stood alone against her fellow Conservatives on a point of principle and was then spitefully removed from all her posts knows no bounds.
I saw Kate's son Tom at football this week and asked him to convey my admiration to Mum and to suggest that she had grounds against her husband and fellow Tory councillor Brian. I am told he did not vote .... but he could have spoken up.
PS: I don't know if a blogger can express admiration for the editor of the newspaper in which he writes, but I'll have a try. Congratulations to Rachel Sharp for her front page lead - 'Reject the rise'. It was in the best traditions of the paper.