Hunter Davies: My number's come up and I don't care

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Indy Lifestyle Online

I got such a shock when through the post arrived the offer of a cherished number. "We are saving this special number exclusively for you," said the letter. The shock was not the price - £350, which seemed to be at the cheap end of the personalised numberplate market. It was how they had tracked me down, that was the surprise.

"You'll be binning that letter,'' said my wife. "People who have personalised numbers plates are beyond the pale. It's bad enough you having a Jaguar, that's embarrassing enough.''

I'd had a Jag for about three years. That was a surprise in itself, me owning one. I've got no interest in cars, never have had, but one day I happened to wake up and say to myself: "I'd like to have had a Jag in my life, they do look so attractive." Then I thought: "Hold on, I am alive, I can have one, while I'm still here, so why not? It will make the long haul from London to the Lake District each year much more comfortable." So I bought one, second-hand, an XJ something, K-reg, price £10,000.

The numberplate they were offering me was M2 EHD. Amazing. I mean how did they possibly know my wife's name is Margaret? And that she was someone who had only recently learned to drive.

More mysterious, how come they knew my real initials are EHD? I have gone through life disguising the fact that my real first name is Edward, mainly because from birth I was never known as that, always by my second name, Hunter.

It did come out once when Paul McCartney was staying with us in Portugal, that my proper first name was Edward. He laughed then went off to the lavatory with his guitar. Later he played me a little tune he had composed: There You Go, Eddie (never recorded but it can be heard on one of the bootleg sessions from the Let It Be period). I don't know why he was poking fun, as he was christened James Paul McCartney.

I rang the firm offering me the number, purely to find out how they had tracked me down. They pay a fee to have access to the electoral rolls and on their computer they had identified about 20 people in the UK with the initials EHD whose wife/husband's name began with M. They then analysed the postcodes, eliminating people if they happened to live in slum areas, poor things. Before I could stop, I heard myself trying to get the price down. Which I did, to £300.

It was only when I became the owner of M2 EHD that I realised how daft I had been. I couldn't put M2 EHD on my car, the K-reg Jaguar. Under the law, you can't change a car numberplate to make the car appear newer. You can only have a plate which is the same age as or older than the car. I needed to buy a newer car.

Not only had it never come into my mind to buy a personalised numberplate, I'd had no intention of getting another car. For about a year, I was the owner of a notional numberplate. Not a lot of fun driving a numberplate, unless it's attached to a car, though it impressed the tortoise when I went into the garage and came out going: "Broom, broom, look at me - oh, I've got my own special numberplate."

After a year, I did buy another old Jag, XJ6, 3.2 litres, a P-reg, from 1996, so it was OK to stick on it the M-reg plate. Again, I paid only £10,000.

I do like having my personalised number, despite what the rest of the family think. It's not a flash number, the sort people stare at to try to work out who you are, you bastard. It's discreet, easy for me to remember. And for that, it's been worth it. For 40 years, I have gone through life never knowing my car number. Now I'll remember this one, forever.

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