Alexei Sayle: 'Spit, swear or fight. But don't get a navigator'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

I was in Liverpool a couple of weeks ago, taking my mum to the local Tesco, and, just as I was pulling out onto the main road, the sky suddenly went dark, birds took flight in fear and a terrible rumbling filled my ears. The cause of this disruption wasn't the apocalypse, but its close cousin, a giant American Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) - in this case a black Lincoln Navigator sporting the personalised numberplate "DIOUFI".

It didn't take much to figure out that this leviathan belonged to the ex-Liverpool FC, now Bolton, player El Haj Diouf who, though he's now plying his trade further up the M62, has chosen to continue living in Liverpool.

Now, normally, I despise those who have personalised numberplates, but in El Haj Diouf's case you could say it was a necessity since its a fact that, because they are such herd animals, every single footballer in the Premier League drives a black Lincoln Navigator. So if he didn't have his own distinctive numberplate El Haj would probably have as much trouble finding his ride in the training-ground car-park as he did finding the goal when he was playing for Liverpool.

If you drive, as I do, on the country roads around Southport, where a lot of the north-west's footballers live, then you find that, these days, they are effectively single track because of the huge number of these fuel-inefficient behemoths trundling around. If two of them from rival teams ever meet, the roads are effectively closed for days until a Premier League referee can be located to force one of them to back up.

I don't mind footballers setting a bad example to the nation's youth by swearing, spitting and fighting on the pitch, but I do object vehemently to the appalling example they are setting by driving such a terrible, ugly, antisocial piece of automotive junk as the Lincoln Navigator.

I do wonder sometimes if, apart from being El Haj Diouf, there is ever a legitimate reason for a person to have a personalised numberplate on their car.

I think that there's never an excuse for having something that spells out your name or anything crass like that, but I can see why somebody might like a non-dating plate. From time to time I have been tempted to get one myself. For example, with the old BMW 5 Series, or Jaguar XJs, which were in production for many years without any external changes, it was only the numberplate that gave away the car's age. If you looked after your car nobody could tell whether it was brand new or 10 years old. So I can see why, in those circumstances, you might want to get something from the DVLA that is just three random numbers and letters for a few hundred quid, to disguise whether your car cost £5,000 or £45,000.

Actually, now that the people who do your car licence-plate are a money-making enterprise, I have an idea for them. If it's possible to have a personalised car number, then why isn't it possible to personalise all the other important numbers in your life, such as your National Insurance number or your VAT number? I reckon if my VAT number was distinctive and easily remembered - such as 1 GIT or BUM 27 - then I'd almost certainly start paying my VAT.

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