Never one to shirk La Dolce Vita, my plate-researcher’s soul was ever drawn to warm, safe places and I felt it could be left to other, bolder members to deal with Chechnya, DRC, CAR, North Korea, Nigeria and New Guinea. In modern times, Mr Ralidis appears as a heroic figure, who chances life and limb to snatch plates from the jaws of cruel zones such as Iran and Pakistan. A medal may one day be his. The islands of the Indian Ocean always seemed to appeal on hedonistic grounds, and save, now, for the marauding bandit sea-pirates off the Somali coast, it remains one of the world’s fine zones.
British Airways catapulted me to Mahé Island, and to the capital village, Victoria in 1991. For a tiny place, it had a pleasing variation of plates, designed after the style of the British, who controlled the islands from 1903 until independence in 1976, when they fell under the stultifying spell of Russian communism. From the first cars there, about 1937, straightforward white/silver on black plates with an S prefix followed by up to four serial numbers were, and remain, the normal private series (though now using five-digit serials).
Musician/Beatle George Harrison had invested in a grand hotel project with Peter Sellers and others on Mahé – and in the British rowing town of Henley-on-Thames, where he lived, near my home, I saw his gold Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible on Seychellois plates AND sporting an SY oval – clearly a souvenir of the islands which he had had flown home! Sadly no photo – he was driving the other way – and George was no slow driver! Among his many quick cars was one of the first V12 6-litre F1 McLaren streetcars.