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.

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?