My father in law had a chuckle at my discomfiture on our last visit to the south coast, pointing out that what we were doing was rather like the ebb and flow of his WWII experiences in the North Sea during the Battle of the Atlantic. Sometimes the Allies got the upper hand and the seas were clear of U-Boats and the air clear of Bombers, sometimes it seemed like the opposition were winning. His comment was that when you were in the thick of it, you never could tell whether you were winning or losing.
After initial scepticism I could see his analogy when I thought about one road in particular. For the sake of this piece I’ll call it Brightfield Street. Brightfield Street is around a quarter mile long and has a small row of shops with a ten car pull in for shoppers which is outside of our remit, half of the remainder is residential, the other half light industrial. Single yellows down it’s entire length on both sides, active between 8am and 8pm, seven days a week. Legends (Well, to us at least) have been made along this street, especially as you need to make a special effort to walk out that far from base. We once called it ‘The killing field’ because at peak times you could make a huge amount of bookings.
Brightfield Street is a special case because there is an Ambulance station not far away, and it is also a main thoroughfare for three bus routes. When I first started, illegal parking regularly half blocked the road, backing up buses and everyone else for streets around. The flak came from all directions. Our office regularly relayed complaints from Bus Drivers, Taxi Drivers, Paramedics, Fire Brigade and the Police with Uncle Tom Cobley putting in regular appearances on the list. Residents whinging about how they couldn’t get in their own driveways, the whole lot. You try coping with that lot on your own and keeping your cool – it isn’t easy.
Brightwell Street was also the place where you got the most abuse and threats, some of my less robust workmates just wouldn’t go there alone. At our lowest ebb, less than a third of our mob would go anywhere near it. I recall once being simultaneously shouted at by two Drivers whose vehicles I’d just ticketed. For a moment I thought it was all going to kick off (My Radio was playing up that day too) but I managed to stand my ground and tell them they would have to complain in writing, whereupon they went away littering the air with many abusive throwaway remarks. Speed booking records have been held for Brightfield Street for some time. During last summer, one of our guys booked twelve cars in one frantic half hour. Not all of them in the same place either. The rest of his beat didn’t get much patrolling either that day. There’s only so much a body can do.
For a while Brightfield Street was a stand off. We coped with the abuse and just kept on coming back until the lesson of the single yellows was driven home. Now every time we visit while the restrictions are running, the place is easy to clear with usually only five or six contraventions at any one time, and half of them disappear the moment you walk round the corner. Mostly the Street is clear, which is a relief. The odd resident walking his / her / its dog appears pleased that we put in an appearance and sometimes even bid us good day. The Bus and Taxi Drivers are quiet and even give our lot the odd wave. Not of the single or dual digit variety either, which makes a nice change.
While Brightfield Street may not be a patch on what really happened to my father in law sixty odd years ago, I like to think of it as one of life’s little victories. No one’s going to put up statues or memorials to what any one of us does, but just having done your job right and come out the other end intact is enough for me.