Do you feel that these days we are in danger of losing sight of our original goals, or that those original goals have lost their glister through well intentioned but vigorous polishing?
Over Christmas I witnessed something where the original objective appeared to have become lost. It involves that wonderful conundrum, parking.
Where we live is in the suburban commuter belt for London, and not too far from our local railway station.
Over the years, our station had lost its goods yard to car parking for commuters who had responded to the call to ‘Let the train take the strain’. Now, because of the need for more housing to accommodate yet more commuters, the station car parks are being turned into houses. But where do those letting the ‘train take the strain’ park?
They do the only other thing available to them, and park in local side streets. This enrages the residents who find strange cars arriving silently and unnoticed in the morning, staying all day and leaving equally silently in the evening. Under resident pressure, a ‘Parking Control Zone’ is created. Now, cars that are left on the street during a magic mid-day hour, receive tickets and fines. (Hopefully large enough to avoid it becoming a legitimate business expense!) Signs go up on lamp posts to notify of the timing of this magic hour, (12.00 to 13.00 Monday to Friday). Residents move more freely.
We now come to the serious foot shooting injury that could have led to a lynching. Those of a nervous disposition be advised and look away.
Monday the 26th and Tuesday the 27th of December; Boxing Day and the Christmas Bank Holiday arrive and so do friends and relatives to share in the festivities with their loved ones. While they eat, drink and become ever more merry, a scavenger comes prowling, looking for scraps he can pull from the festive tables. He slinks up and down the road almost invisible in his urban camouflage, placing not cards of good cheer, but plastic bags containing parking tickets on every car that is present within the magic hour!
Because of a desire to keep the area comparatively free of commuter vehicles during the working week, a pantomime is played out each day with residents moving cars from one street to another at various times of the day. When a friend parks at the wrong time, a shout of “Look behind you” can often be heard! But on this occasion, the Whitehall Farce like rushing around didn’t happen, which meant the very people who should have benefited from these parking measures, found their festivities tarnished by the mean-spirited ghost of Scrooge Parking Services, enforcing the words, but not the intention, of the sign’s “No parking between the hours of 12.00 and 13.00 MONDAY TO FRIDAY”.
Because we are now living in a far more litigious age, where we can no longer work to the ’spirit’ of the law but have to be explicit, the expression ‘Working Week’ would probably not suffice. Are we then to be faced with the prospect of road signs that will have to read:
“No parking between the hours of 12.00 and 13.00 Monday to Friday unless;
a, the Monday is a Bank Holiday;
b, the Tuesday is an extra bank holiday;
c, you have a resident’s permit available from the council offices (currently closed for the bank holiday) or
d, you are using your vehicle to box in the car belonging to the parking warden (who apparently has carte blanche to flout all the imposed rules and park wherever and whenever he wishes), thereby preventing him from leaving or issuing any more tickets until all the other neighbours have been advised and moved their cars, and those who have been ticketed have had the opportunity to put to him their side of the story.”
We didn’t see him on Monday 2nd January!