Forgotten your car number? Make it up

I can remember the number of the very first car I owned, a Renault Dauphine called RUN 169, but I cannot remember the number of any car I have ever had subsequently.

That includes the one I have got at the moment.

Which has sometimes been embarrassing when I have been filling in registration forms at hotels or simply reporting to places with private car parks. "Car registration number?", says the form sweetly or the desk man roughly, and I sweat with humiliation. You can't say "It's G something, I think", because that is plumbing the depths of whatever the opposite of machismo is. Usually I wink and smile and say, "I'll just go and have a look", and pop outside to have a look, and they smile when I come back, because they cannot imagine that I am possibly popping outside to have a look and think I must be joking.

But I am not.

Now, however, I have learnt to remember my car number, because it has been stolen from me here in Edinburgh, and I had to memorise it before I reported it to the police. I had parked the car outside the Pleasance, where I am performing, and when I left it it had two number plates and when I came back it only had one. The front number plate had gone. It's strange how naked a car looks without a number on the front. Or perhaps it makes it look as if it is wearing a mask.

"It's almost certainly illegal to drive around without a number plate," my wife said. "We are almost certainly breaking some regulation every time we go out in a car," I said.

"True," she said. "But seldom as obviously as by driving around without a number plate."

True. So the next morning I got up, fed the meter and approached a friendly traffic warden. At least, he was friendly when it became clear I wasn't either going to plead or argue with him.

"I've had my front number plate nicked," I said. "What should I do?"

He had no idea. He talked into the little phone on his shoulder to the boss. "There's a fellow here had his number plate stolen. What should he do ? Uh huh ... Aye ... right..."

He turned to me.

"Report to to the West End police station in Torphichen Place."

When a Scotsman says "Torphichen", it comes out as a cloud of saliva, but eventually I got him to write it down and off I went to the West End police station, which is not half as grand as it sounds - in fact, all police stations seem to acquire a dusty brown air of resignation and sloth from their birth, and this one was no different.

"Took the number plate and left the car, did they?" said the policeman. "You were lucky."

"But why would anyone want to steal a number plate?"

"Well, these days a lot of cars are stolen to order, then they have to get a number plate to go with it. What's the number of your car?"

I resisted the urge to say that I would pop out and have a look. In fact, to guard against this I had already written the number down on my hand. I sneaked a look.

"It's G357 UAM."

I wasn't quite sure of this, as the way I had written the G looked like a C, but it sounded near enough, and I thought a C reg car would probably be too old. (You can tell how much I know about cars.) "Right," said the friendly policeman, waving a theft report form at me. "Take this and if anyone stops you, show them this. That'll get you on your way again. We'll be in touch if we find a stolen car with your number."

What he didn't say was whether or even where I should buy a new one. I don't know where you should go in Edinburgh to get car number plates. What I do know is that in the print shop round the corner from me they sell self-adhesive letters of just the right size and typeface for a number plate, so as a temporary measure I marched in and said that I wanted a G and a 3 and a 5 and a 7 and a U and an A and an M. Already I was beginning to memorise my number.

"Sorry," said the man. "We've got the rest, but we're out of the letter A."

After a little debate I bought a V and a hyphen, so that I could turn the V upside down and stick the hyphen across to convert it into an A. Seconds later I was kneeling in front of my car, peeling the backing off letters, getting them stuck on my hand, peeling them off my hand and sticking them on to my car. I now have the only car in Edinburgh with paper letters on the front which look as if they had been arranged by a child during her first day at kindergarten. But at least I can remember the number of my car.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London