Good morning, Mr McKafka.

Mr Counsell, we meet again.

Not very often, what with your window only opening for business minutes at a time on days of the week with a “K” in their names.

Your ready wit never fails to bring a smile to my routine. What quotidian but essential goal can I divert you from today, sir?

I’d very much like to renew my road tax.

A-ha. My favourite. I take it you have your V11 form?


Valid insurance?


An up-to-date MOT for that motorised wheelbarrow of yours?

But of course.

And a skinned water vole?

Nice try. [Rummages around in holdall and produces slimy ex-rodent with a flourish.] I took the precaution of reading up on that particular parish amendment to the UK Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 and furnished myself in advance with the same, courtesy of the druid who works at Libra Aries. Hit me with your best shot, old timer.

You do realise that you cannot renew your tax too far in advance of the relevant expiry date?

I’m exactly on the button, McKafka. Anyway, I can’t be too early; I have my V11.

[Flips watch open and regards its visage through half-moon reading glasses.] By my reckoning you are 2 minutes and 15 seconds premature, young Jedi Padawan.

Well, I’ll just have to wait at the front of this queue until the moment is upon us both.

I think not. [Presses the “Next Customer” button and a cheery Scottish voice comes over the PA inviting another punter to step forward.]

[Left eyelid twitching slowly] Bastard! In the past hour I have listened to Doris and George discuss their respective offspring’s garden furniture; I have watched you fail to make any allowance for Mrs Johnson’s Parkinsonism while she attempted to stamp her grand-daughter’s birthday parcel; I have endured the spectacle of you trying everything in your power to destroy the spirit of Mrs Saffron—a spirit, I might add, that the Allgemeine-SS failed to extinguish—with your litany of infinitesimal quibbles over her various requests for state assistance; and now you try to turn me away on this trumped up technicality? Do you think I am going to join the queue again behind the man who runs the online videogame exchange and his menagerie of parcels, each requiring a different arcane Royal Mail handling procedure?

But of course.

Well, you’ve got another thing coming, you obstructive scumbag. [Pulls sawn-off shotgun out of holdall.] Everybody back against the wall with their hands up! Move it! You! Put down the People’s Friend and put your thermal mittens where I can see them! Right, you Orwellian Jack-in-office, no one is leaving this shop alive until I have a tax disc in my possession. And no tricks—or I start killing your customers one at time, beginning with the ones who can walk unaided.

[Grudgingly, but still checking the angles] Very well. [He sets to work.]

Wait a minute! Hold that date stamp up to this mirror. [Peering at the tumblers] Good. I’m not having you fiddle your way out of this one, you devious scrote.

[McKafka slides the requisite documentation under the glass.]

Excellent. It’s alright Mrs Saffron; it’s just an ordinary black raincoat. Now everyone can just stop whimpering and drooling. Nobody was hurt. I got what I came in for. McKafka here had a lesson he won’t forget till the blessed day when he is finally functus officio. And I’ll be driving legally for another year.

You’ve overlooked one detail, Counsell.

What is it now?

I can’t process this without payment, you know.

Sweet Mother of God.

We accept many methods: exact cash sum in groats and farthings, cheque drawn against the Bank of Bahrain, promissory note bearing the wax seal of the House of Windsor, Green Shield Stamps…