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Thursday, May 04, 2006

 

My mate Ken

On a day to day basis, I cross paths with other Council officers who deal with things like abandoned cars, skips without permits, trading standards, all that stuff. We recognise that we’re batting for the same team and talk to each other on a formal and informal basis.

Take for example my friend Ken who pays our mess room a visit every other weekend. He’s the chap who organises the removal of offending items like dumped cars that fall outside of the Police’s remit, enforcement of licences, that sort of thing. Making sure that the people who pay for their trading permits and licences are protected from unfair competition where people just turn up and do what they damn well please. Without him and his team we reckon we’d have regular little gang wars between the less scrupulous traders as everyone jostles for the same market and pitches. Unlike us, he doesn’t wear a uniform.

Between us over the past couple of years I think we’ve had at least a dozen occasions where we’ve teamed up to face down angry people over various issues. Me when they’ve parked on a restriction, and Ken when they haven’t bothered with trading licences. Ice cream vans, Hot dog stands, that sort of thing.

The events covered in this post happened on the morning of Bank Holiday Monday when I had that rather nervous experience with the footballers. Same place, just earlier in the day.

An unlicensed trader had dropped off an ice cream trailer on one of the municipal car parks on my beat. The kid who was manning it knew nada por nada, and couldn’t move it because the towing vehicle had left. I couldn’t issue a parking ticket because it was a trailer and not a vehicle.
“My gaffer dropped me off, he’ll be back this afternoon.” I almost felt sorry for the nineteen year old, but he was parked across two bays and the place was filling up rapidly.
“Well phone him and get this trailer shifted. I’ve just checked and you guys don’t have a licence to trade here.” Not strictly speaking true, but I've got to shift him somehow.
“Please..”
“Sorry mate. You’ve got to go.”
“I need the money..”
“Don’t we all, but you can’t just pitch up where you fancy. This is Council property. Phone your boss and get him back here to move it.”
“I’ve left my mobile in his car.” All of a sudden my internal ‘bullshit’ alarm goes off. A nineteen year old without a mobile? Hmm.
“Okay, I’ll get it shifted for you.” I step off a few paces and radio in to CCTV. “This is 515, is the Trading Officer on today?” I have to ask them because he usually operates on another radio channel. Five seconds later I’m answered with Ken’s dulcet tones over the air. “Hello 515, you got one for me?”
“Ice cream stand on the municipal lake car park.”
“Right, I’m coming over. Two minutes.” Didn’t know he was that close.

Two minutes later Ken is with us. He takes one look at the ice cream trailer and gives a wry grin. “Oh, he’s back again is he?” Is his opening remark. “Cheers Bill, I’ll take it from here.” I swan off up to the other side of the car park to carry on my patrol while Ken does his thing. Half an hour later, my radio goes off. “515, this is Trading. Got a few minutes?”
“Roger that Trading. Same place?”
“Yeah, just need a uniformed presence.”
“On my way.” It’s too early in the day for any overdue tickets, and the people who don’t cough up generally arrive don’t arrive until mid to late morning, so I can spare the time.

When I arrive about ten minutes later, Ken is in the middle of a heated discussion with the Ice cream stand owner who has hitched up his trailer, but is refusing to move. “You bastards stop a man earning a living!” Storms the owner, who has another ‘friend’ standing nearby.
“You buy a licence and we’ll let you trade.” Says Ken, standing there with his arms folded.
“Couldn’t make any money if I did that! Bloody Council!”
“The thing is, you ain’t got a licence. Now move before my mate here gives you a ticket.” Says Ken, hoiking his thumb in my direction. I keep my mouth shut and start punching the guys vehicle details into my hand held. Code 86 should do for this one as he’s parked in the middle of the alleyway between lines of parked cars.
“Fucking Council!” Owner legs it into his vehicle and drives off before I can get the minimum details logged in. Ken has a grim look of satisfaction on his face. “Same day every year.” Why do I get the feeling this is a regular occurrence?
“I take it you know him.” I remark.
“Oh yeah. He tries it on every Bank Holiday.” Says Ken, a little philosophically.
“Doesn’t he learn?”
“Don’t care Bill. He trades at Car boot clubs, that sort of thing, but trading standards have been after him about hygiene.”
“So he tries it on here because….”
“Trading Standards are out at the car boot clubs and markets – you got it.”
“How come you wanted me? You can fine people more than the cost of a parking ticket.”
“He don’t pay his fines.” Ken shrugs. “Bailiffs turn up at his house and lockup, everything’s gone or in his wife’s name. Parking ticket on his car works better.” He gives me a grin and claps me on the shoulder. “About time for tea break isn’t it?”
“Why not? It’s going to be a warm one later on.” What an excellent idea.

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Exasperated expatriate expostulations all the way from British Columbia, Canada. As if anyone really cared. Oh, I also watch Icelandic Volcanoes and seismic activity. Don't ask me why.

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