The car is revved up, the lights are on, the gates swing open. You've got to go out there, past the photographers who have been besieging the house since word got out that you did that thing you did – or didn't, depending on the truth and/or how good a lawyer you can afford – but it's OK, because you're in the car. The windows are wound up. The driver knows what to do. The paps will scatter. They can't get you now.
Then the flashbulbs go. There's no escape, as Steven Gerrard found last Tuesday after leaving a police station. The Liverpool footballer was being driven by his wife Alex, after he had been charged with assault and affray. Players use lawyers to protect their image rights, but windscreen glass can be penetrated by flash and fortune.
The image was captured in a fraction of a second, for which photographers will wait hours. The car may have swept past so quickly that those inside hoped they hadn't been caught on camera. No such luck.
None, either, for others whose most intimate emotions were revealed by shots snapped as they passed: among them Margaret Thatcher with an uncharacteristic tear in her eye as she is driven, literally, out of power. She would not have chosen to be seen that way.
Many of us view the interior of the car as an extension of our home – a private space, into which strangers cannot see – but as these images show, that sense of security is an illusion. Not just for stars but anyone on the public road. What, then, can ordinary mortals learn from all this? No more picking your nose at the wheel.
A big black Range Rover Sport will make the paparazzi scatter, but you can't make a windscreen opaque. So a full-frontal snap captures the Liverpool captain's face as he is driven home to his mansion in Formby, Merseyside, by his wife Alex Curran. The picture was taken last Tuesday, and shows Gerrard, 28, after he had spent 21 hours in police custody and been charged with assault and affray, following an incident at a bar where he went to celebrate a big win for his side. He could not look more sheepish if he was dressed in a woolly pully, munching grass and singing the theme song from 'Shaun the Sheep'.
She's in a police car, on her way to court (and ultimately jail) in June 2007. Pursued by snappers on motorbikes, with helicopters in the sky, the heiress might expect the cops to protect her from the lenses as she sits in handcuffs, sobbing. Tough, love.
No blanket over the head, no need to hide his face as he leaves the Old Bailey in August last year, after being cleared of the murder of Jill Dando. Also present is the psychologist Dr Susan Young, who helped him cope with imprisonment and court.
Tough as they come, the Iron Lady. Except here. Leaving Downing Street in 1990, looking back with red, tearful eyes after being ousted as leader of the Conservatives and the country. A shocking sight at the time. Denis seems quite jolly though.
Ashley and Cheryl Cole
How do a love-rat footballer and a pop star patch up their marriage? By spending all day with lawyers (in January 2008). What do they least want to see afterwards? A flash gun. Someone tell them the disguises don't work.
Driver, can't you go any faster? Where's that boy Lewis? The president of the FIA, governing body of Formula One motor racing, shows a stiff upper lip (and the hint of a sneer) as he departs HQ, having won backing in June despite allegations about his sex life.
Not exactly a bootiful day for the turkey king, dealing with bird flu at one of his farms in Suffolk in February 2007. His "first public appearance" of the outbreak is a lot less jolly than the TV ads. If he's seeking help from above, it worked: the business survived.