It was a beautiful evening in the summer of 1995, I was driving from Heathrow to Bristol on the M5 on my way back from Sardinia....
.....in 1993 my company had started an ambitious pan-european hi-tech project to develop an advanced 64 bit dual microprocessor for the multimedia market; the main scientists and engineers that had the ideas were in Bristol, the chip specialists in Grenoble, the software development was in Cagliari (Sardinia) with the support of a local development company....I had elected Bristol to be the headquarter of the project and with the enthusiastic support of my wife Andrea (always ready for new experiences) we moved there......
Back to that glorious weather that evening on the M5, I had some great music on, the motorway traffic was nil, my Volvo was smooth.... and then a siren pitch pierced my ears.....I went onto the shoulder lane and stopped, one of the two policemen came by my window, asked me to get out of my car and to go and sit in the police vehicle, he then proceeded to drive away while the other drove my car following us.
I was taken to the nearest police station where I was charged with speeding (100 mph in a 70 mph motorway limit), I was asked to empty and relinquish all of my bodily possessions and whisked to a cell (I was jailed!!).
Had to endure a drunken chant from the next cell about life's love lost for about twenty minutes or so and then I was taken back to the "front" where my bodily possessions were given back to me and I was told, that upon a call to my residence, they had decided to take me back there. A young policeman drove me back, while another followed with the Volvo.
When we got to the house, as per procedures, the young policeman asked my wife if she knew this man.....she said with a studied english accent "Noooo!", the young policeman was thrown for a loss, but immediately Andrea burst out into a laugh and I was "released".
That evening I called Michael in Felmersham (Bedfordshire) to tell him about it, he could not believe it...he asked me if I had a fight with the policemen as he was caught speeding quite a few times but never taken to jail (he is british).......
But of course I had, for what reason I did not know, to stand trial, then my company's appointed lawyer told me a couple of interesting facts:
. apparently not being a british subject (albeit a european citizen) I was subjected to a different treatment and,
. my looks (latin and all of that) had prompted the policemen to want to "inspect"(and they did) my car!
I was furious and asked if I could take my case to Brussels to the european court of justice, the lawyer was ecstatic about it, but close friends told me to regain my mental coolness and forget it as it would not have been worth the time and cost....
So a week later there I was sitting in the docket(!) facing three judges while my lawyer went on with his theatrics:
".....members of the court, here is this hi-tech manager, an esteemed citizen of the civilised city of Florence who had selected our country as headquarter for an illustrious european project, stopped for a minor speeding offense and thrown and locked into a cold cell in a county jail, despair gripping him, while his better half was in vain awaiting his return from mainland Europe......!!!"
The three judges rather unmoved and bored, just sentenced that I was to be barred from driving for two weeks!
Funny how Europe was, and maybe still is a distant continent, especially the southern edge, from some staid thinking, culture and tradition of certain British classes.
In the end I did not mind being chauffered for those two weeks (of course I could have driven with my italian license, but....) and now, funnily, I am the black sheep of the family what, with my criminal record!