All you need is dove

There he was then, our friend Hans, pinging his car merrily down a German street in the western town of Viersen, happy as a sand boy but unfortunately breaking the old geschwindkeitsbeschränkung (the fantastic German word for 'speed limit' that I learned in school and always knew would come in handy) into the bargain. He was doing 54km/h in a 30km/h zone. Naughty Hans.

'Snap!' went the police cameras. 'Oh, nein! Nein!' yelped our hapless hero picturing the inevitable fine plopping through his letterbox over the following weeks. Poor Hans.

Except it wasn't poor Hans at all, because rather brilliantly, a snow white dove had flown past his windscreen at the precise moment the incriminating photo had been taken, completely blocking any view of his face. Equally brilliantly, the police decided that, although they could identify the car by its registration number, thanks to the passing bird, they couldn't definitively prove who the driver was at the time and would therefore let him go unpunished with a just stern ticking off this time. They even cited the Holy Spirit when explaining their decision to the press. Lucky Hans.

There are so many great aspects to this story that it's hard to know where to begin. The German police authorities wouldn't generally be known for an abundance of unbridled bonhomie; I think it's fair to say yet, on this occasion, their goodwill gesture sent feel-good ripples all around the world and, Lord knows, feel-good ripples are sorely needed these days.

It's also quite marvellous to picture Hans standing there, resplendent in his beige lederhosen, big red face beaming as he received the news of his good fortune and subsequently falling to his knees to offer thanks to the heavens for the timely 'doveine' intervention (sorry, couldn't resist).

According to the police, the bird was actually breaking the speed limit too but also avoided the 105 euro penalty because, as one officer pointed out, it may have been in a hurry to complete other holy duties in the area and it didn't seem right to penalise the poor thing somehow.

We don't really know the driver's name, of course, but I did feel the necessity to choose one for the purposes of this article if only to be able to finish the piece with the following observation: it's surely true what they say - a bird on the Hans is worth two in a rush.