In Cat stuff, History, Philosophy, Sport, Transport, Words

In the morning, the first thing I do when I get out of bed is ride an exercise bike. I know what you’re thinking: “You? Exercise bike?” I know, I know. I used to mock the idea of a bike that didn’t go anywhere – and in my heart of hearts I still do – but this thing arrived in the house about a year ago and for most of that time has stood there virtually unused, like David Beckham’s piano.

So, with the thought very much front of mind that I’m at an age where I need to start taking action to stave off decrepitude in what I hope will be my happy twilight years, I decided I would ride it every morning, but just for five minutes, mind. I can hear you exercise freaks scoff. “Five minutes! That’s barely enough to get your heartrate up.” Barely perhaps, but it is enough, and anyway, there is a higher purpose to all this: the purpose of purification.

We all know that exercise without any competitive purpose is really about self-flagellation. Whenever I see a jogger, out in the sunshine and fresh air, hair bobbing in the breeze, smiling and waving at passers-by, I think, “Demons.” There is a deep and complex mental process effected by putting ourselves through pain. It’s probably to do with endorphins or elves or some other fantastical creatures, but it feels like a steady unravelling of the knots that tangle in your mind when the stresses of life start to bind you.

This morning I was so enmeshed in mental torment that I came round to find I’d done 15 minutes on the bike. It’s been a stressful week. Thanks to the combined plotting of the local Planning Department and Transport for London and BT Open Reach and my previous energy supplier and the people who certify solar panels and my broadband supplier and Pep Guardiola and the weather, I’ve been walking round like an irritated baboon looking for something to kick that won’t hurt my foot and isn’t a cat. Something like Piers Morgan. He’ll do. God, have you seen the trailers for his latest effort? Going into prisons, all big and brave, telling convicted criminals how bad they are? It’s the modern equivalent of bear baiting – goading from a safe place. But for one ecstatic moment there I thought it was him who’d finally been put away.

If Piers Morgan ran Transport for London, I wouldn’t be surprised. It has all the hallmarks. I’ll précis the details of my dispute. Last September I rode my 125cc 1983 scooter unwittingly into the newly extended ULEZ zone, parked at Purley station, trained it into London for an evening with friends, got back to Purley at midnight and rode home. I received two penalty notices, one for the ride in, one for the ride home. Two different days, you see. I paid the first, appealed the second, lost, and ended up paying £270.

Hmm, yeeeees, bang to rights, you’re probably thinking. You should have seen the signs. You should have known your bike wasn’t compliant. Except last week I acquired evidence from Honda that my bike actually is compliant. TfL had merely assumed it isn’t because of its age. So I wrote to TfL asking for a refund, as well as compensation for the inconvenience and stress, a grovelling apology and for Andy Lord, the Commissioner of TfL, to stand on a plinth in Trafalgar Square and admit via a loudhailer that his organisation was routinely fining people for offences they hadn’t committed, while whipping himself with a leather scourge, of the type Henry II used to self-flagellate after the murder of Thomas à Beckett. I was quite specific about that. It seemed proportional.

Believe it or not the reply came back saying, “…we are only able to refund charges from the time documentation was received to update the compliance of your vehicle.” So let me get this straight. If I walk into a bank, I could be arrested and imprisoned for bank robbery unless I provide proof in advance that I’m not a bank robber and I’m not robbing the bank. Is that how justice works these days?

Anyway, as you may have noticed, 15 minutes on the exercise bike wasn’t enough. And I’ll tell you why. It should be them on the bloody exercise bike!

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