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Sunday 25th July 2004

CNPS numbers spotted 12 (998).

Sunday morning is great CNPS time - provided you have extensive notes. The roads are clear so you can drive from location to location easily and also people are still in bed and their cars are thus parked outside their homes.
My records for the last few numbers seemed fairly exhaustive, with at least four leads on each number (apart from 998 which had only two, with no ticks - to remind you a tick is added after an address in my notes if the car is still there on a second passing on a different day). But if I could get up to 998 then surely I would finish in time for Edinburgh.
It all went like clockwork: I was even able to make a mental note of a few numbers I needed that weren't in my book. I saw two 998s quite early on, but over the next hour I became slightly confused about where I'd spotted them.
991 turned out to be an unexpected problem. I had four leads on it (though one with a question-mark which implies I suspected when writing it down that it was merely a visiting car), but none of them came up. I decided to take a drive down a few streets that were slightly further afield and which I'd not made notes on. The gods were shining down on me because within 10 minutes I'd seen one, and then as I was driving up to my 992, I saw another one.
Once I'd got 995 I knew it was going to take some kind of numebr-plate disaster for me not to finishe the game. I was feeling slightly nervous, a little emotional, but also beginning to worry. I have been playing this game for over twenty months. There have been times when I genuinely thought it had taken me to the brink of madness. How would I feel once it was all over? Would it be joyous, or would the vaccuum in my life send me spiralling into the well of insanity?
And would I get a divine revelation from the CNPS gods as I had come to believe. And if I didn't how would I cope with that? Would the belief system that I have based the last year or so on come crashing down around my ears?
There is a big part of me that has always been anxious to get this over with; that is looking forward to a time when I dont' have to continually glance at the road out of the corner of my eye. I also have started to wonder if the end of CNPS will mark the end of my childhood. That by defeating this demon I will now finally grow up and put away childish things.
Clearly seeing this 999 might have incredible ramifications - especially if on completion I was carried off to the heavenly CNPS kingdom on the back of a giant white swan to take my rightful place in the Pantheon.
I managed to recall the vague location of the 998s. I had already seen a 999 on my travels and had notes on four more.
But the one I was definite about was a personalised plate without a letter for the year and I wanted to end on the real deal.
I was also mindful that the moment shoudl be documented with a photo, so maybe I should wait.
Most of all though I was fearful about what would happen when all this was over.
Arrogantly, with a degree of foolhardiness, I decided I would leave it there for the moment. The gods wouldn't like that. Wouldn't they punish me for this hubristic gesture?
I didn't care. I needed some time. Perhaps to enjoy my last moments of adolesence.

Later that day I walked up to the location of one of the real 999s. It had a tick by it. It was likely to be there. I approached the spot with emotion welling in my chest. This was the moment. It was all going to be over.
But the car wasn't there.
It didn't matter, there was another car less than half a mile away. I walked up to the address I had written down. I was planning to take a photo of myself kneeling in front of the car. There were a gang of hard looking youths hanging around near the spot where the car should be parked. I worried they might take a bit too much interest in what I was doing. Maybe being beaten up would be my reward for completion.
But this 999 wasn't there either.
I had a couple of other leads, but took this as a sign that I should wait.
Maybe I'd see a 999 parked later that evening and could get arrogant Simon Streeting to take a picture of me in triumph beside it. All I knew is that I didn't want to see a moving 999 or I wouldn't get my photographic record. I drove to my gig, for once trying to avoid looking at number-plates in front of me. But occasionally I couldn't resist the temptation and would look. Luckily I didn't see it.
The gig was fine, but still much too long and still lots of writing to do.
I didn't see a 999.
I wondered if this would be the CNPS gods final joke.

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