By Mini-van outside the Corn Exchange in the City of London.

By Mini-van outside the Corn Exchange in the City of London.


Returning from a gig one night I was going through the City of London in the dead of night. My brakes had been coming on progressively and I knew I was going to have to stop soon to bleed the brakes. It was three in the morning and London was devoid of life. I turned into the deserted road by the side of the Corn Exchange in the middle of the city at a fair speed and a cat ran out in front of me. I jammed on the brakes and came to a halt in the middle of the road. The engine stalled. This was another slight problem as the starter motor wasn’t working and the car was now locked solid so I couldn’t even push it to the side. Luckily the place was deserted.

I grabbed my spanner off the seat and slid under the car to start bleeding the brakes. I’d just completed the first one when I noticed a set of shiny boots next to my head. I crawled out from under to find four of her majesties constabulary standing round my car. This was of some concern because I had no road tax, no brakes and no starter motor. I also had hair down to my waist and the police were not usually receptive to pleasantries.

‘You can’t stop here,’ one of the policemen informed me brusque.

I was in a little bit of a funk. I did not fancy being bust for the tax and brakes. That looked on the cards. I mumbled something about a problem I was trying to sort and that I couldn’t move it because the brakes were on solid.

Just then four more policemen arrived. They had a mumble together and decided to lift the car on to the pavement. The eight of them got round it and picked it up as if it was a toy.

I thanked them and quickly scurried underneath to do the other three brakes as they stood around and talked. I was desperate to get the job done and get out of there.

A police van arrived and eight more Bobbies got out. I had come to a halt at precisely the spot where all the police in the City of London congregated to change shift. I now had sixteen coppers standing round my van which glaringly had no tax disc on display and would shortly have no brakes. I bleed the last brake and crawled out and explained to the gentlemen that I had no starter motor.

They kindly gave me a push to bump-start the van. I leant out the window and thanked them profusely and drove off with a wave, no brakes and a very sweaty brow. That goes down in my book as a close call. But they were a nice helpful bunch.

I later discovered the cause of the problem with my van. The big tin of brake fluid I had discovered in the basement, and had been topping up my brakes with, was paraffin. It had caused all the rubber seals inside the system to swell and block the rubber pipes and seals. It cost me a fortune. I was all summer paying it off.

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