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Friday, September 22, 2006


A little trouble with the builders

Out in the leafy suburbs on a long stretch of limited waiting late this morning; I’m ambling along, sheltering from the light drizzle under the roadside trees when a well groomed lady in her Chelsea tractor pulls over next to me and bats her eyelashes at me. “Excuse me officer?”
“Yes madam, how can I help?”
“I’m a resident in Lowlands Avenue – do you know it?”
“Yes madam, I’m heading in that direction now.” Single yellow down both sides active Monday to Saturday. What’s up over there? No one’s ever been booked in that road that I’ve heard of. Oh well, first time for everything.
“Well there’re builders vans all over the place. Will you do something about it?” She smiles winsomely. This is nicer than I usually get spoken to. Maybe she’s been to Charm school? Whatever happened to ”do what I want – Now!”? Clean living must pay off.
“I’ll go over there right now and see what I can do, madam.”
“Thank you.” She drives off with a wave (Not two fingered – now that is odd.) and I take the next right which will lead me to the top end of Lowlands Avenue.

Previously, I’ve had several run ins with the residents of Lowlands, a very nice tree lined road with lots of big properties with big gardens, high gates and even higher hedges. Notwithstanding, over the last three years they’ve gotten used to the fact that they can’t just do what they like, no matter how much their houses are worth. We’ve got to the point where relationships are almost cordial between us plodders and the residents. A cordiality, I might add, which most resembles the armed truce between North and South Korea. Still, have to keep the natives on side.

When I arrive at the top of the road I can see at least six vans and pickups clogging the broad footway halfway down on the right. Heaps of bricks and sand outside a property obviously undergoing a serious revamp. I phone environmental and tell them what’s going on as there seems to be a lot of stuff just dumped any old how. They seem not to be surprised. At the top of the road a well to do Asian looking man waves me over from behind a tall iron gate. “Are you going to do something about that?” He demands angrily, indicating the row of vans from inside his gold tipped bars.
“Yes sir, just give me a few minutes and I’ll take care of them.”
“I shall complain to the Council!” Do that; right now I’m the best response you’ll get.
“Right sir, let me take care of them.”
“Do so!” He commands. I’m going, I’m going already. No pleasing some people.

I move towards the vans, hand held out, logging details in as I walk. With a bit of luck and the wind in the right direction I might not have to book anyone at all. All ahead bullshit factor nine. None of the vans loading doors are open and the drivers are all out on site somewhere. All six vehicles are liveried builders vehicles so protocol says I have to give them all twenty minutes observation apiece for loading, just in case they really are. Inside twelve minutes they are all fully logged in and the clock is ticking. They’ve all been there long enough for their engines to cool off. From an upstairs window there is an aggrieved “Oy!” as one of the errant parkers finally registers my presence. Took you long enough.

Just as I hear two pairs of running boots coming out to the roadside my mobile phone rings, it’s Control.
“515, is that you?”
“Yes Control, what can I do for you?”
“We’ve just had a complaint about builders vans in Lowlands Avenue. You’re on beat ‘J’ today aren’t you?”
“Oh yes.”
“Can you get over there as soon as you can and have a look?”
“Already there and booking Control.” I can’t help but sound a little smug.
“Well done. Call us if you need any help.” It’s actually rather nice when someone in authority sounds outmanoeuvred.

As I’ve been talking on the phone I’ve become aware of some hefty looking guys heading in my direction from the site. I look up and give them one of my humourless tight little smiles. “These your vans?”
“Er, yeah, we’re loading.”
“Looks like it.” I comment. “I’ll give you twenty minutes to finish loading.” I say, doing a quick neutral scan of their faces.
“Well I’m working out of my van.” Protests one bloke in a plaster smeared blue sweatshirt and jeans.
“If you want to stay on that single yellow, you’ll need a permit.” I tell him. I’m not here to get into any arguments, just let them know who’s boss. Out of the corner of my eye I catch a flash of the Environmental Services van at the top of the road. That was quick. Looks like he’s had a complaint logged as well. I hold out several Parking Office visitors cards. “Get in touch with these guys now and they’ll sort you out with the necessary permits.”
“Can I do it tomorrow?” Grins one older bloke who’s smoking a tortured looking roll up. He and I both know he’s trying it on.
“You can, but then I’d have to book you today.” I shrug, as if it’s no account. I’m in control and feeling comfortable, even though if these guys took it into their heads they could no doubt easily beat me to a pulp, but no one in their right mind wants to do that – it’s bad for business. Only one young lad at the back looks as though he might kick off, but he’s clearly outvoted by the older blokes who like a quiet life. Besides, heroes like him don’t like one to one. They’ll only start anything when they have at least three to one superiority. “All right?” I say. There’s a bit of grumbling and the odd muttered imprecation about my parentage, but all six vans are cleared off the restriction in less than two minutes. They even start clearing the sand and stuff they’ve dumped off the footway. I delete their vehicle details off my hand held computer and note down why in my notebook. Restriction cleared. Job done.

Another three minutes later I’m at the bottom of the road and the Environmental Services Van pulls over. “Hello Bill.” It’s Paul, one of the Environmental enforcers.
“Wotcher Paul, how’s your health and temper?”
“Pretty good. Book anyone?”
“Didn’t need to.”
“Nice of them to clean up like that.” He comments, leaning out of his van window, watching two hefty young lads with a wheelbarrow shovelling builders sand despite the increasing drizzle.
“Amazing what a uniform can do.”
“Reckon it’s going to rain the rest of the day?”
“Maybe.” I look up at the scudding patchy grey above.
“Oh yeah, Ken says thanks for the call, it’s appreciated.” Looks like he already knew.
“No problem.”
“Hey, Bill?”
“Don’t you ever get scared doing that? They had you outnumbered nine to one for a moment there.”
“All the time, mate, all the time. Trouser fillingly so.” Amen to that.
“Couldn’t do your job mate.” Don’t know how I do it sometimes.
“Wish I didn’t either.” I say instead. We share the joke. “I reckon there’s a bit more rain to come. I’m off to find a dry place to lurk threateningly.”
“Out of everybody’s way?”
“Right.” I grin back. I’ve got just the place in mind. Paul drives off, leaving me to the vagaries of a rainy English September afternoon.

Good enough for a skive off for a change.


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Location: British Columbia, Canada

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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