I’m fairly sure that there are various answers to this question, some of which may be less appropriate than others when voiced within the confines of a motoring website. But for me, right now, a black hole looks very much like this.

DVLA's Swansea headquarters

How so? Because last week my beloved Citroen ZX Avantage D finally, after years of resistance, failed its MOT. Which means it’s now destined for the breakers yard in the sky.

Except in my case it’s not as simple as that – because a while back I put a private plate on the car. And as far as the DVLA is concerned, that’s a bit like what happens at the end of 2001, A Space Odyssey – you enter into an alternative universe in which no one can hear you scream.

The reason why is because you can’t immediately apply to put a number plate on retention from a car that’s been scrapped or written off. Instead, you have to apply first for a SORN (a statutory off road notice) and then wait for a DVLA inspector to check that the VIN number on your car matches the one shown on its V5 registration document. And that can take up to six weeks. Apparently.

Except in my case it may take a lot longer than that because – and this is bit that’s causing parts of my brain begin to melt – in order to put a private plate on retention you need to prove that the car it is attached to is a) taxed and insured, and b) HOLDS A CURRENT MOT TEST CERTIFICATE.

And so right there you can see my dilemma. You can see how the ground has gradually opened up over the last few days to create a hole – a great big civil service loophole – into which me, my beloved Citroen ZX and my wretched private number plate that I wished I’d never set eyes upon (because it’s been a thoroughly rubbish investment since day one anyway) are about to disappear, never to be seen again.

In the end I put the whole shebang – V317, V5C, V14, last year’s MOT certificate, the insurance document, a cheque for £105 plus a quite extraordinarily long-winded cover note – into one large envelope, then sealed it up and aimed it in the direction of Swansea.