While researching the 1890s as part of a piece I wrote about the building of Blackpool Tower, I stumbled across the following rather fascinating fact.
The first person to be arrested for drink-driving was a 25-year-old London taxi driver named George Smith – in 1897.
I was slightly astonished by this, not least because I didn’t think there were any cars on the road back then (on closer inspection though I was wrong: the year 1886 is regarded the year of birth of the modern automobile, though it wasn’t until 1900 that mass production of automobiles began in France and the United States)
Smith, the drink-drive fella, slammed his cab into a building while sozzled, pleaded guilty in court and was fined 25 shillings.
But despite this – and this really is incredible – it wasn’t until 1965 that a drink-drive limit was introduced in the UK and not until the late 70s did public awareness about the dangers of drink-driving really begin to increase.
I can vouch for this as I remember my dad telling me a story about when he was driving home from a folk club near Manchester in the 60s after having consumed several pints of Holt’s, a powerful ale if ever there was one.
He was driving along a country lane when he became aware of flashing lights behind. He pulled over and a police officer duly approached.
“Sir, do you see the white line in the middle of the road?” he asked.
My dad replied that he did indeed see it.
“Well, sir,” continued the officer, “you were on the wrong side of it.”
My dad apologised, the police officer said ‘don’t worry, just be careful’ and smilingly waved my drunken father on his way.
Of course nowadays, after some horrible, tragic accidents involving drunk drivers, we are all aware of the dangers and of our responsibilities.
I wish I could say I was perfect in this regard but I feel I must confess about one of the more shameful episodes in my life.
On holiday in Canada several years ago with a couple of friends, and the designated driver on a night out, I had three pints early in the evening, then switched to water. Our youth hostel was about half a mile away and at the end of the night we trooped out to the car, which I was to drive back.
I felt fine. But as I swung onto the road, I forgot we were in Canada and drove on the left, as opposed to the correct side over there, the right.
Seconds later we had been pulled over by the police and I was ordered out of the car by a mean-looking Mountie with a revolver in his hand.
He pushed me into a spread -eagled position on the bonnet while all the while holding a gun to my head and screaming, ‘don’t move a muscle’.
It felt like being in an episode of Starsky and Hutch.
I was breathalysed and it turned out I was in a grey area, not under the limit but not particularly over it either.
I was free to go but the car was impounded and it cost me the best part of 300 dollars to get it back the next day (which my two friends, quite rightly, refused to contribute to).
Not quite George Smith standard but embarrassing enough, and something I don’t intend on doing again.
Well done to fun runners
There is something lovely about a fun run, a thought that went through my mind at last weekend’s Blackpool 10K, where you have to leg it – or in my case, stagger while coughing and wheezing – from the Hilton Hotel in North Shore to Starr Gate and back.
It’s the kind of thing Mo Farah could do blindfolded, while hopping on one leg and whistling the theme tune to Pointless, without breaking sweat.
But for the rest of us – who, if you’re anything like me, had a Chinese and a beer the previous night – it is more of a struggle.
The 10K is in aid of Trinity Hospice and expected to raise around £80,000. But it’s also great to look at all the different T-shirts and see people running for other causes too, especially the families doing it for a loved one.
You can’t bring back a person who has passed away but you can help others suffering from the same illness by raising a bit of money, which does, for some reason, make you feel a little better.
I know it wasn’t a race but I am proud to report I completed the course in a credible 46 minutes, which wasn’t bad considering my training consisted of playing badminton the previous Wednesday.
I suffered, mind. My thighs were so stiff that for the next two days I needed help to navigate the stairs.
Well done to everyone who bothered to get up on a Sunday morning and take part.