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Saturday, April 29, 2006

 

Brick walls and bricking it.

This post is about events which took place over a year ago, but drawn from two particular incidents, just to muddy the waters for anonymities sake. This is my tale.
“I drew the short straw yesterday and got landed with everybody’s least favourite patrol; I won’t give our name for it, just call it beat Z. It’s characterised by low brick walls, round the front of council and housing trust houses, around the industrial estate without much green growing stuff in between.

Beat Z is not popular because it’s mostly limited waiting and single yellows bordering a Council estate. However, it has restrictions and we have to patrol them. Fortunately, apart from the double yellows it’s all Monday to Friday, so if you get beat Z on a Saturday or Sunday, you can leave this area well alone. This is where (Reputedly) a good many of the local low life’s live, and a uniformed presence on it’s own might as well have a target painted on it’s back. Some of our lot just won’t bother going there unless there’s a specific complaint. For my part, I just go in and do the job and get out again as quickly as possible. Most of the time there isn’t a problem, and the pigeons scatter the moment I’ve passed by, if you know what I mean. Normally speaking that is. Sometimes, despite careful ‘trouble avoidance’ strategies, I get caught out.

On the industrial estate close to the averred to residential streets of the salubrious beat Z there are several stretches of double yellow lines. It was mid afternoon and I’d spotted two cars parked right on a corner on double yellows, blocking the line of sight for anyone who wanted to get in or out of the road. I’d just finished taking observations and set the observation clock ticking on my hand held when I was accosted thus.
“Oy, what are you doing?” I look up to see a man in a T-shirt, shaven head and muscles, lumbering towards me at a trot.
“Booking these cars.” I respond, looking up and taking in the background detail of three or four other people emerging from the houses and flats along the road. “What for?” Oh dear, here we go.
“They’re on double yellows.” I said simply.
“You can’t do that.” Welcome to the delegation from planet bozo.

Again, I look up from my notebook, I’m outnumbered with more of them popping up all the time. I’ve got a choice – run, get beaten up, or bluff. You can’t run (Well I can’t) with all the kit you have to carry, I don’t want to get beaten up so Ma Stickers second son goes into full bullshit mode. Inside I’m quietly bricking it, but I daren’t let these sods see a moments weakness or else I’m in for a kicking.
“It’s my mates car.” A voice complains, as if this is a lawful excuse.
“If your mate don’t want a ticket he’d better get a move on.” I respond, pitching my language to their level.
“Fuck off jobsworth.” Someone feels brave enough to belly up and try to push me.
“Take your hand off.” I said, enunciating each word in a sharp bark. Well it works for sergeant majors. I get eye contact with the putative pusher and stare him down. The hand is duly removed and my assailant takes half a step back. I’m not too worried at this stage about getting written complaints about my ‘attitude’ or ‘conduct’ as this lot don’t look like they know what a pen is for. I get shoved again and brace my right foot back so I don’t stagger. “I said.” My hand is on the panic button now, but guess which idiot turned his radio down so he didn’t spook the natives? This idiot here. “Back off.” We are nose to nose at this point, and for me to back off now will get me kicked to hell for sure. My mobile goes. Miraculously they back off further as if there’s some unspoken code about interfering in other people’s mobile calls. Kerry has heard my ‘Emergency’ call and has phoned when she can’t raise me on the radio. She sounds more worried than me. “You okay Bill, you need help?”
“Corner of Melville and Oberon. I’ve got some people who don’t like their parking restrictions enforced.”
“What?” Complains a voice from the aggressive group who overheard my comment.
“Hang on.” I say to Kerry, taking the phone from my ear.
“We’ll come and get you.” I hear her say.
“What did you say?” Says the complainant again.
“I said, you don’t seem to want your restrictions enforced.” I’m facing them all now. There are a ripple of negative noises as if to say that’s not what they want at all. “Well do you or don’t you?” I say, putting my fists on my hips, leaning slightly forward. Roll the dice mate, best of luck. “I’m here to do a job of keeping your roads clear so you lot can get in and out. Do you want that, or do I piss off and let you think we don’t care?”
“Council don’t care.” Comes another voice, to this there are motley noises of assent, but the temperature has dropped from just about to kick off to mildly defensive. I relax a little and go into my ‘I’m listening’ stance, arms folded, half a step back. Kerry has rung off.
“Well I care about what I do.” I told them. “I can’t speak for everybody else on the council. You’ll have to talk to them.”

For the next five minutes I’m on the receiving end of complaints about what the council should and shouldn’t have done, bitching about their housing trust the lot. Stuff that is nothing to do with me or parking at all. You know, housing repairs late, rogue feral children, crime, next doors noisy dog, loud parties, every bloody thing except parking. The two cars I came to book are still there and I can see the works van at pull up the end of the road with Bernie, one of our heaviest built guys at the wheel. I give him a warning look and a sharp shake of the head in answer to his ‘do I come and get you?’ look. “It’s no good having a go at me.” I tell the complainers. “Have you contacted the council?”
“We’re telling you ain’t we? You’re council.” Is one response.
“Look, I only deal with parking – right? You need to talk to the right department. They won’t listen if I tell them.” Is my rejoinder.
“They don’t listen to us.”
“You and me both.” I sympathise. “Have you tried talking to your local councillor?” I ask. This brings a muttering of negatives. They don’t know who he or she is. “That’s who you want to be talking to. They can kick people’s asses and get things moving, not me.” I think I’m winning this argument at long last.
“Dunno who it is.” They let these people vote? I bite back heavily on my instinctive reaction.
“Phone up and ask the council. They have to tell you.” I suggest.
“I’ll do that.” Says one of the angrier voices, who disappears towards a front door. One down.

That broke the impasse. There was a general drifting off and I’m finally left with one bloke who pins me down for another ten minutes as I walk him through the intricacies of calling the council on his mobile and navigating the ‘Helpline’ phone options. Funny that, these people can set up their mobiles to do fancy tricks and yet navigating a simple menu system gives them a migraine.

Entertainment over, the Parking Enforcer isn’t going to get duffed up, so for the other onlookers it’s back to watching TV, eating pizza and drinking beer or whatever it is they do behind closed doors, although I did catch the sour smell of cheap cider on one of the guys pushing at me. They all wandered off - I even got to book the two offending cars which weren’t anything to do with the locals at all.

Afterwards I walk up to where Bernie has been sitting in the van for the best part of half an hour, open the door and slump into the passenger seat. “Drive.”
“Close one Bill. You look like you were pushing your luck there mate.” He comments.
“I got the job done didn’t I?” Bloody hell, I don’t want to have to go through one of those every day. I’m shaking. That was close, very close. “Anyhow, where was our Police backup?”
“Major incident mate. No units available.”
“Tea break time eh?” The lame joke breaks the tension and I’m still howling ten minutes later when we get back to base where the drudgery of incident form filling awaits.

“Bricking it were you?” Asks Bernie, not without a little schadenfreude. While I’m trying to recall what was said, not for my benefit, but to make sure the council, or more importantly me, doesn’t get sued at some later date.
“Er, yeah. Wasn’t it obvious?”
“Why didn’t you run?”
“Come off it Bernie, when was the last time you tried to leg it in full kit?”
“I see your point.” He’s still grinning at me. Bernie’s one of the old hands who has been a parking officer since well before decriminalisation. It’s like he’d seen me pass some test or other. He even made me a cup of tea (Although I won’t ask him to do it again – his tea making is foul.). Then he pushed off and left me to enjoy my writers cramp in peace.

Afterwards I felt slightly light headed and oddly unafraid. A personal Rubicon had been crossed. Had I seen any weapons I might have made a run for the van, but I didn’t see anything and didn’t give them an excuse to escalate. Job done. Phew, got away with it that time.”

Friday, April 28, 2006

 

This blog isn’t just about me

When I’m writing this blog I tend to write only what happens to me. Sometimes it’s easy to ignore the other guys I work with when they are not part of my personal narrative. Well in this entry I’d like to set the record straight.

We’re as diverse a bunch of people as you could meet anywhere. People like me digging their way out of a deep financial black hole. There’s the old hands who seem to have been Parking Enforcers since it was a simple job of taking fifty pence on a grassed over field. Then there’re the younger ones who are here because the money is good and there’s no heavy lifting. In short, a motley collection of losers, fools, rogues and vagabonds who have gravitated to the job of decriminalised Council Parking Enforcer.

Put together we’ve all gone through a range of experiences that I’ve detailed in this blog. We’ve been on the spot for RTA’s, Heart Attacks, Bomb panics, Deaths and all the shenanigans that life in our little corner of Chavland has to offer. No one out of our lot has been on the spot to deliver a baby so far, but I’m sure that will happen sometime this year. Collectively we’ve been there at the beck and call of the general dyslexic; booking, cajoling, bullshitting and often swearing under our breath at the eccentric thought patterns and memes we get faced with.

We don’t get a bonus or have a set ‘quota’ of tickets to get a day. We just get a beat to patrol with the idea that we cover as much as possible at least twice a day. This means a lot of walking (As my poor aching feet will attest). Our job is to keep the streets clear so that the traffic can move freely instead of being jammed up solid, pumping out fumes.

As for handing out tickets, some of our number treat it as a competition, which many of us feel is unfair and perpetuates the idea that it’s a revenue raising exercise for the council. They seem to think that ‘anything goes’. Others do it because they feel they have to justify their existence all the time. Most of the rest just get out there and get stuck in, move or book, doesn’t matter. There are two or three we reckon who don’t pull their weight, but there are those in every organisation, no matter what you do.

Most of us have been threatened with assault, a number have been assaulted; although not too seriously. A couple have actually had their houses firebombed but we’re all still breathing and very few have actually quit.

When booking, it is not unnatural to feel a bit guilty over some bookings as you personally feel the rules are too stringent. With others you get a ‘yes!’ because you know that particular driver has been taking the piss and laughing up their proverbial sleeve at you for weeks, sometimes months. Like guard dogs chained to a kennel, all we can sometimes do is snarl and bark at those rattling the junkyard fence. When our higher ups finally ‘slip the chain’ it can be so satisfying to take a figurative bite at our tormentors. Even if the only ‘teeth’ we have is in the form of a parking ticket.

So no. I’m not the only one doing this job, but I think my function thus far has been to give a previously voiceless and much abused minority a voice, and so long as I’m a Parking Enforcer and don’t get ‘outed’ and fired shall continue to do so.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

 

A little local difficulty

There are times when events push things right onto your doorstep. So it was with me last week. For a change I’d managed to organise my beat so that I could get home and eat, instead of putting up with the bullshit and stale smells of our mess room at lunchtime.

Dave, one of my neighbours, caught me on street and collared me. “Hello Bill. Back for tea break then?” He asked just as I was opening my front door.
“No, I’m just about to get a spot of lunch mate.”
“This early?” Dave queried.
“I’m just making sure I get a lunch break. You know what my jobs like.”
“Yeah, glad to catch you on duty, I’d like a word with you about something.”
“No problem.” I was still in uniform and hadn’t signed off, so what the hell.
“You know that property at the top of the street?” Said Dave.
“Which one?”
“You know, where that blonde woman used to live; that divorcee with the two little girls. Moved out when she remarried?”
“Yes, I know the one, what about it?” Said I, wondering where all this was heading.
“The new owner’s got the builders in and they keep on blocking off our parking spaces overnight.” I knew who Dave was talking about. Three weeks ago I’d had an in-uniform run in with two of this particular builders labourers and almost ended up calling the Police.
“He can’t do that.” I responded. As an officer of the Civil law I can, if I feel it necessary, ‘suspend’ or block off an on street parking bay (But I have to clear it with the office first). Police officers can do this as well I’m told under road closure orders. The rest of the population does not have this right. The rule is, if it isn’t your property you can’t play with it.
“Can you do something?”
“If I see them at it, yes. If I don’t – no.” I saw his face fall. “Look, tell you what, if I see him doing it, I’ll read him the riot act and field it upstairs – okay?”
“Cheers Bill.”

Ten minutes later I’d had a word with one of my oppo’s whose beat crossed the offending parking bays. Turned out the night shift had picked up this builders cones and cleared the bays two nights before. Now, according to Dave, every night this builder had planted breeze blocks in front of the parking bays so his lads could roll up and park there at ten to eight every morning, much to the annoyance of the top half of the street. My problem was that they had a legitimate parking permit so we couldn’t book them once they were in. The other problem was that this unlawful blocking off of bays was happening when most of us had finished work. The natives were going to get restless, and guess who was in direct line for the flak? Got it in one.

On that evening, I took my dog for a walk and made a detour past the offending bays. Sure enough, there were the breeze blocks. Despite the fact I was out of uniform, and not currently (When not in uniform) legally empowered to do so – I chucked the offending blocks in the builders skip and stuck a wooden pallet over the top of them. Just after I’d finished and was halfway down the street to my house, three cars, one after the other slid into the now vacant bays next to this guys skip. Did I mention that parking spaces in our area vie with hens teeth and rocking horse shit for rarity value? Well they do. News of vacant parking places also breaks the light speed barrier in our neighbourhood. If Einstein had done my job instead of being a Patent Clerk, modern physics might be a whole lot different.

Notwithstanding, I paid the same area a visit the following evening. This time only two bays were blocked off. Same drill, breeze blocks in skip, cover them over. Dog stares at me like I’m more barking than he is. Walk down street, cars pull into spaces. Job done.

Following morning, it being my day off, I walk the dog past the top of the street. Four coppers, two pissed off residents, one incandescent builder and one labourer wondering whether to leg it or piss himself. Lots of effing and blinding with Coppers ready to pounce if it all kicks off. I wander past trying not to crack up. That night, more breeze blocks end up in the skip. Again the empty parking bays fill before I’m out of sight.

Three days later I’m doing my home beat past my own front door and patrol the street in question. Builder is having to find a vacant bay in the next street and hoik his kit fifty metres to where he’s working. New owner of house has been listening to builders tale of woe and decides to take it out on the nearest passing council employee. To wit, me. Mistake. Very big mistake.

“Oy you!” Came his outraged cry.
“Morning sir, how can I help you?”
“See that?” He demanded.
“See what sir?”
“My parking space.”
“Beg pardon sir?” Say I, trying not to grin.
“My parking spaces are taken up – you do something.”
“Such as sir?” I’m enjoying this.
“Those cars are in my parking spaces, the ones my builder uses. Book them.”

For my sins I made a bit of a performance of it, walking carefully around both vehicles before pronouncing them legally parked with valid residents permits.
“They’re in my space!” New owner insists. “My builder needs to park there.”
“Just a moment sir. I’ll check with my office.” So I walk ten paces down the street and phone my office. Their comeback was that the spaces were for any resident with a permit, not just him. That is what I relayed to him. New owner is joined by builder, who starts giving me verbal for not booking the cars in ‘their’ spaces.

“They’re my spaces. I’ll block them off so you can park there.” Says new house owner to builder, right in front of me.
“Hang on.” I butted in. “You can’t do that.”
“Why not?” Demanded new owner. “They’re my spaces!”
“No they aren’t.” I responded. Your property sir,” I told him; putting enough spin on ‘sir’ to cut through a log “Ends there.” I indicated his garden wall. “You do not have a right to the parking space in front of your house.” I pointed out. “If you have a valid permit and the space is available, you may park there, but it is not yours.”
“Yes it fucking well is!” He’s almost having hysterics, I’m wondering if I’ve pushed matters too far. However, I wasn’t going to let some petty little sod mess around with my neighbours. Not in my street. “No sir. You get in touch with my office, and tell them what you just told me.” I pushed a Parking visitors card at him. “They will give you the exact same answer as I have.”
“I can do what I want!”
“No you may not.” Is that my voice? “I am a duly appointed officer of the law sir and I am telling you that unless you have written permission to do so, you may not block off or suspend parking bays. Only a duly appointed Council official like myself or a Police Officer may do so.” I think I’m angry; this certainly doesn’t sound like me. “I am officer 515. You have my Managers direct line there. I will wait here while you call.” Is that Dave over there in his front window? I can see his shit eating grin from here. I turn my face away from the house owner and builder and give Dave a slow wink. In return I get a thumbs up. A couple of other faces peer cautiously out from behind net curtains. House owner is trying to shout at my Manager, but Kerry is not having any of it and tells him that he has no right to do what he wants. I can hear House Owner’s voice dopplering in through his houses front room while first browbeating, then cajoling and begging fail. After a while it all goes quiet. I hang around for two more minutes before carrying on down the street in the direction of a well earned cup of tea.

My work mobile rings. “Hello Bill.” Oops it’s Senior Manager. Fan. Shit. Incoming.
“Hello boss, what can I do for you?” I respond cautiously.
“Kerry tells me you’ve just had a problem.”
“No, no problem. Just someone who thought they owned the street, that’s all”
“Can you do me a favour?” A favour, for Senior Manager?
“Sure. What do you want?”
“Just before you finish today you can borrow a van and check your street after five. If he’s blocked off any bays, report directly to me on my mobile.”
“Of course.” Bloody hell.
“Oh and er, well done Bill.” Senior Manager rings off.

Well after that I needed a sit down. This praise from Senior Manager is heady stuff and fragile as thin blown glass. My mobile rings again, it’s Kerry. “You okay Bill?”
“A bit shell shocked.”
“Why?”
“I got a ‘Well done’ out of Senior Manager.”
“That’s one for the record books.” She replied.
“I think I’m going for a lie down in a darkened room.” My last remark is greeted with her laughter. A little stunned, I carry on patrolling.

Later that evening I run into Dave and another couple of dog walkers on my regular round. I’m greeted with smiles and “Here he is.”
“Cheers Bill.”
“Well done mate.”
“You got your parking spaces back then?” I asked.
“Yeah. Thanks again.”
“We take back all those horrible things we said about you.”
“If you’ll forgive me I won’t ask you what they were.” My guarded comment is greeted with multiple guffaws.

I’ll enjoy the plaudits while I can. Sometimes being a Parking Enforcer has it’s benefits. It’ll never last. Next time one of them parks on double yellows I’ll be a complete bastard again. Such is life.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

 

Risible things

This is utterly wonderful. Superbly amusing skit on the internet-phobic. Watch and laugh.

Dodderyoldfart from New Zealand e-mailed me to let me know that he’s named a pothole in my honour. Well, what can I say? (Modest cough) I’d like to thank the committee for this award and say how truly, deeply appropriate it is………

Friday, April 21, 2006

 

Little victories

A few weeks ago I seem to recall that I referred to my position as being in a three way car crush fighting public opinion, management and something else. Tonight I was wandering through the lounge towards the kitchen when I overheard a piece on TV about Parking Enforcers. A member of the public, when interviewed, said that we were “Doing a good job” unquote. Well I nearly fainted on the spot. Bloody hell! I thought. Are we actually driving the message home or is this a false flare of hope that we’re turning the tide in the Public Relations battle?

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.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

 

Why you’ll rarely meet Traffic Wardens socially…. Because they’re working – or maybe not

The trouble with working shifts is it plays almighty havoc with your social life. The money’s good and there are times when not having to drag your lazy fat arse out of bed until midday is a positive pleasure, but you miss out on the ‘bankers hours’ benefits of the nine to five crowd.

One of my greatest annoyances is shift times when there’s a movie I really want to see on at my local cinema. For example, I was keen to go and watch V for Vendetta, but my shift patterns didn’t coincide with the showings. Now I’ve missed it (bummer), and it’s pay per view or wait for the DVD. Similar thing for the theatre and a few other entertainments, like comedy nights. However, Mrs Sticker and I have installed a TV set in our bedroom with a DVD player. No aerial for the TV, just a DVD player to use as a primitive ‘home cinema’. Last rental was ‘Lord of War’ starring Nicholas Cage. May I recommend it as a wonderfully dark satire on world politics and the proxy power games of nation states. I don’t want to give the game away if you haven’t seen it, but the first pre title sequence is an absolute hoot. However, if you get frightened by loud bangs – hire a Disney movie instead. I like my entertainment with a surreal streak of midnight running through it, like this one.

Day off tomorrow, and I will be hitting the keyboard heavily. Youngest is on Spring break, Mrs Sticker is away on three day shopping jaunt with sister in law down in the smoke, eldest is either at work or out with boyfriend; so it’s just me and the dog. On the other hand I may just have a lazy day and take the weight off my blisters.

That reminds me, must book a holiday. Somewhere quiet where there aren’t many cars would be nice. Maybe a farm holiday down Devon somewhere. Sea views, fresh air, the odd spot of sunshine and a pub with real ale within walking distance. That’ll do me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

 

Right foot forward?

There’s a lot of comment in the mainstream media at the moment about the much vaunted report from the Joseph Rowntree Trust, which says that 20% of the electorate would, or would consider voting for the right wing British National Party. My comment is simple; Large party politicians are further out of touch with the wishes of the electorate than they should be. After all, is not the Government supposed to work for us? Not the other way around.

Just an observation.

On another tack, my good friend Bina Lobster sent me an E-mail from with a link from the Guardian about bloggers having ‘disproportionate’ online ‘influence’ on public opinion. Werll, yers, sort of, maybe, kind of thing. Personally I’m sceptical. Certainly about any ‘influence’ this particular blog might have. I mean come on. I’m a particular minority voice here. Parking Enforcers, sometimes with good reason, are amongst if not the most despised and maligned workers in the Law Enforcement sector. There are voices out on the Internet who would cheer every one of us killed doing our job. How many other Parking Enforcers blog? Two, three if you include this one. How many people read this blog? About eight hundred regulars by my reckoning. That’s all you lurkers included. Influence? I’m yet to be convinced.

Helm all ahead rant factor 6 for the next section. Phasers on stun. Right. I went in for tea break this afternoon to be confronted by the two biggest airheads on the team gabbling loudly to their friends on their mobile phones. Their work phones, which are for working purposes only. The mobile phones which are our back ups for the occasionally intermittent radio’s we use. Look, I’m no killjoy, but these guys are just taking the piss. All they seem to do is wander around with a mobile clamped to their ears while the rest of us carry them. We can see these guys slacking, organising their social lives, while the rest of us graft like good ‘uns. In essence, we are doing their jobs for them, earning them their pay packets. How the hell they get away with it is beyond me. Cell phones and ring tones – I’m with this character.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

 

Fatigue….

I’m too tired to post much right now, but I’ve got quite a bit of sympathy for this point of view in the Independent and the Sunday Times. Some of my erstwhile colleagues, as I have detailed before, are less than ‘honest injun’ when it comes to issuing a parking ticket. Rather like these guys.

Monday, April 17, 2006

 

Target rich environment

Easter Sunday morning was quiet, and I was thinking to myself that I could have a quiet daydream around my beat and play with a novel concept to follow up the one that’s in the final (I hope) rewrite stages. No such bloody luck. From eleven o’clock onwards I found myself in the middle of a bedlam of illegal parking. No sooner would I walk up to one end of a street than three vehicles would plonk themselves on double yellows on ‘No Loading’ restrictions. Residents came out of their houses to complain at length about people blocking driveways and causing mayhem. One even ran round the corner to breathlessly demand that I ‘Did something’ about his street. Well dear reader; that is what I did.

At one point I had a line of six vehicles half blocking the gentleman’s street, three of which I had already booked. The driver of one came back, looked surprised at me, but said nothing and just took the ticket off his windscreen. His expression said it all. He didn’t care about the restriction; he was just amazed that he’d got caught. Not a thought about the annoyance to people his lack of consideration was causing (Obstructing a street so wider cars had trouble squeezing past unscathed).

For three solid hours I was stuck in the same three streets, back and forth, chasing, admonishing, booking and cursing my blisters. Managed to get back to the mess for a sandwich and nervous collapse around three, then get out on beat around four, just as the streets started to clear. Quite frankly I was knackered and RSI in my writing hand was a distinct possibility.

Apparently it was the same on all the town beats. End of shift saw most of our lot discussing the day’s bonanza. End of shift banter was riddled with quotes like; “They just don’t care, do they?”
“Like shooting fish in a barrel.”
“I don’t get it – they do know we work seven days a week don’t they?”
“Don’t care mate, they just don’t care.”
“Nineteen tickets! Nineteen sodding tickets!”
“My writers cramp has got writers cramp.”
“You working tomorrow?”
“Nah, I’m off.”
“Lucky sod.”
“All this and a bank holiday tomorrow.”
“Weren’t a lot of people supposed to be jetting off overseas for the holidays?”
“Not round here me old pal. Wish I had though.”
“You can say that again.”

Ad nauseum. Hi ho. Back to the long Spring and Summer treadmill.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

 

Political cycles 1964 to 2006

Growing up in 1960’s Britain I remember our household being a place where ‘current events’ were often discussed and judgement passed. Being the second son, it was my portion to listen and soak up what was being said; not being old enough, or having thought processes developed enough to make an informed judgement. Now I am (Ahem) mature enough to have developed such a faculty, I can see parallels between now (1997-2006) and the 1960’s (1964-1970).

In 1963 the Labour Party narrowly won the Parliamentary election (See this table) after a number of scandals (Profumo etc.) rocked the incumbent and economically stabilising (but split) Conservative government. Rather like in 1997. Labour were re-elected again – does this sound familiar?

The Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, like Tony Blair, turned out to be a bullshit merchant who tried to foist the doctrine of state socialism upon the British. What happened after the 60’s? Ah yes, let me see; 1970 to 1979, economic collapse and a trip to the IMF to bail us out. (Forget the Heath government, they were neutered by Trade Union power used for political ends) Now we’re heading the same way.

Those with a little economic nous will understand that the British Isles are currently batting on a very sticky wicket indeed. The only elements propping up our whole shaky economic edifice are consumer credit and soaring house prices. The tax burden has increased (Rather like in the 1960’s), with more and more being demanded from an inefficient and increasingly overbearing State. Remember Dennis Healy’s stated objective to ‘Soak the rich’ in the 1970’s? Emigration by home grown talent, the ‘Brain Drain’? Too stoned at the time to care? Yeah, well. You missed all that then.

The 60’s set the economic trends which manifested themselves through to the late 1980’s, when the hard nosed free market policies of the Conservative Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, pulled UK plc out of the nose dive the Wilson (And Heath) years had pushed it into. Now Britain is fragmented and already pitching into a new economic anticlockwise nose dive under Gordon Brown’s regime of increasing tax pressure. The only way out will be another decade of unrestrained free market forces and harsh economic truths. Full right rudder, if you catch my flying metaphor. Not a happy thought, but there you go.

Not convinced? Didn’t expect you to be, after all I’m only a 40 plus year old Parking Enforcer and this is only a tiny blog in a miniscule corner of the blogosphere, which is itself mostly ignored by the rest of the world. This is my toxic thought landfill. Don’t like it? – Tough. Now sod off or I’ll book yer.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

 

A little Easter amusement

If this blog ever joined the queue of bloggers who have gone into mainstream print. I wonder what the cover might look like. Here’s a sample from signgenerator.com. Thanks to Dodderyoldfart for the link.

The news in politics is looking up, with the distinct possibility of the current administration having it’s hide deservedly nailed to the barn over the cash for honours scandal. The Abolition of Parliament Act has run into problems and will hopefully end up as emasculated as it’s 2001 forbear.


On a lighter note, this Mastercard advert, which never saw airtime is a jolly good wheeze.

Tom & Jerry fans should definitely visit this little bit of heaven. Over an hour and a half’s worth. Bliss.

Friday, April 14, 2006

 

Straightening up and flying right

Every so often this blog gets a splurge of visits from the Professional Pilots forums. This is very painful for me. When I was not such an impoverished physical wreck, I had a fond dream about learning to fly a light aircraft (Still have really). All I’ve managed to do since then is have a few trial lesson flights at a local (ish) flying club. You know the sort of thing, get your hands on the controls of a light aircraft / glider / helicopter at a reduced rate. For the price you get a precious half hour with your bum 2000 exhilarating feet from terra firma. Reminders of these rare occasions are emotionally very taxing. Same thing for riding a large motorcycle, once you have ridden, very little else comes close.

What is it with me and aircraft? I can lean on a gate and watch light aircraft take off and land all day if there is nothing else for me to do (DIY, walk / wash the dog, write, shop, yaddada yaddada.). A partial answer came to me when I was given a Helicopter flying lesson as a birthday treat a few years ago, and more recently when the Air Ambulance came calling to pick up a heart attack case late last summer from one of the local parks.

I was close by on the Municipal grounds car park and got roped in on a little impromptu crowd control as there was a shortage of other ‘Units’ as CCTV likes to call everyone in uniform, from PCSO to Chief Constable. The problem always is that certain people want to have family photo’s taken right up close by the Air Ambulance, and don’t seem to realise that they are getting in the way. The Air Ambulance is not some touristy thing laid on for the gawping masses. The crew can’t wait while little Johnny has his photo taken by granddad who doesn’t quite understand how his new digital camera thingy works. The paramedics and crew have a job of work getting someone with a life threatening condition to hospital, and don’t have time for idly dawdling civilians to clear the area.

Any old how, Here’s the impression it made on me at the time, written on that same evening.
Whoever coined the term ‘Chopper’ for helicopter knew exactly what they were talking about. It is an earthy, elemental word for a flying machine, which literally hacks its way into the sky, grabbing at every wisp of air in it’s bid to clear the clutches of the ground.

At take off, being near a helicopter is an adrenalin inspiring and near deafening experience. The accelerating whup-whup-whup sound of those four blades and screaming whistle of the turbine touch something primeval in the soul. Something that feels the thrill of raw power grab the spine and create the overwhelming, almost visceral desire to fly in everyone who gets this close.

As the blade rate increases, the helicopter becomes more than some brute machine smashing and flailing at the air. Under the pilot’s skilled hands, a twist of the controls alters the rotor pitch; suddenly giving this beast life, performing an unusually delicate, almost dainty, bob and skip. Half a second later, with a sudden blast of hot summer air, it literally jumps from the ground and undergoes an abrupt change. No longer the noisy, ungainly, awkward, clattering monster of a moment before, now in its true element, it soars away on its mercy dash like no bird ever could.

Dramatic or what? No wonder I love flying. Cessna 152, rattly old T20 glider or just a passenger in a 747 (Best of all, sitting with my nervous left hand on the collective of a Robinson 22 helicopter.)

To all you pilots who visit this blog from the Professional Pilots forums; have pity on we poor souls with ground imprisoned feet. We too have dreams. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde; “All of us are in the gutter; but some of us would reach the stars.”

Now I’m going for a very large drink.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

 

Aggro

“You want some aggro?” Was a repeated demand I came across in my late teens and early twenties. My answer varied on my mood / the odds from a “Not really, no.” Through “I’m a bit busy right now, can I fit you in later?” To “Oh piss off dickhead!” Or other such erudite witticisms. This hasn’t always worked as my once-broken nose and two missing teeth will attest (No, these things aren’t flagged on my personnel file).

When it comes down to violence, I have learned to deflect most of it with a well timed bon mot, but sometimes (Fortunately extremely rarely – almost never) that just won’t do. That’s when the Judo used to come in handy. Although not always. Even when I was a Judoka, my Sensei told me I was never going to make it to a black belt because “Bill, you’ve got no style. You’re a street brawler.” Until that time, I’d never heard the word ‘brawler’ spoken in anger. So I looked it up.

Now I don’t think that ‘brawler’ really sums me up. On the one hand I’m more of a trickster who is fully capable of taking it down to the wire if need be, but would rather not. I’m too easy going, too laid back. Life’s too short to spend half of it in custody or the local A & E department. On the other hand, I grew up alongside a few guys who were the real deal. Real tough guys who were missing bits like half their teeth, half an ear here, an eye there; knuckles which were predominantly scar tissue. Hard drinkers (Which happened a lot) and hard fighters (Which happened surprisingly very rarely). Now they were scary. Great bunch providing you learned to stay on the right side of them. If you were part of that peer group (I wasn’t, but I drank elbow to elbow with them on occasion – they tolerated me) you were accepted and officialdom didn’t get bothered with your groups internal disputes, except to pick up the pieces. They dealt with their own disputes and so long as no one got seriously hurt, that was it. Now they were brawlers. Noisy fighters. Two guys with a dispute would ‘step outside’ and deal with it in the car park – no one else was allowed to intervene. Each one had a ‘second’ or friend to watch his back against intervention from the other guys mates. Rather like in the ‘Code Duello’. Nowadays you can’t do this because the sense of personal ‘honour’ is missing and a ‘winning at all costs’ mentality rapidly escalates what used to be single combat into a minor tribal war. Usually, as our local constabulary will no doubt confirm, every Friday and Saturday night.

I think we should allow a form of duelling once more. Non lethal of course. You get into a fight, you get hauled off the streets and put into a quiet yard somewhere first thing the following morning to settle it between yourselves until one party surrenders.


Ever tried to fight with a stinking hangover? Right. Perhaps it would save the magistrates some work and cut down the social services budget. Oh yeah, private medical treatment would be mandatory - don't want to put more strain on the NHS than necessary, do we?

Cartoon by George Cruikshank, Caricaturist

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

 

Bypassing the bureaucracy

Sometimes in this life, the book has to be thrown out of the window. If the procedures ain’t working, they just ain’t working. I booked three vehicles in one street, one after the other with no road tax. Being a law abiding sort, this irks me somewhat, as this means some cheating sod is getting away with not paying their due like the rest of us. This in turn means that rob dog Gordon Brown (Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer – chief finance minister – thief, enter own rabid adjective here ……….. ) has to make good a shortfall in Vehicle Excise Licences from elsewhere. Ergo, the rest of us end up paying more tax.

I phoned in to control, asking them politely if they would pass the vehicle number plates on to our friends in blue, only to be told that the Police weren’t all that interested. Having had a couple of run ins with Control over the past year, this translated into my head as Control saying “I can’t be arsed.” Okay lads, now let me see what I can do, methought.

Later in the day I’m patrolling a road to find two coppers in a squad car pulled over for a couple of minutes. I wandered over to them and asked. “Hello guys, you got a minute?” They recognised my Parking enforcer uniform and nodded.
“Would you be interested in three vehicles without road tax?”
“Yeah sure, where are they?” Said the passenger; I told him the street and reeled off the vehicle numbers.
“I did try to put it through Control, but they said you wouldn’t be interested.” I added, stirring vigorously.
“Really?” Came the intrigued response.
“Well, I’ll leave it with you then.”
“Cheers mate.”
“All yours – ta-ra.” I said and walked off, leaving then some easy ‘Fixed whizzers’ to hand out at their leisure.

Control is going to have to answer a few questions about this one. We keep on fielding stuff to them and sometimes it just doesn’t seem to get passed on.

This time it did. Heh, heh, heh. Weasel your way out of that.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

 

Back in the old routine

Back out on patrol after a couple of days feeling like the sky was falling into my head and out of my bottom. It’s actually quite pleasant to see the blossom out on a lot of the ornamental cherry trees out on my leafy suburb beat today. The fresh air has chased what was left of the lurgi out of my system, the publisher has paid up (Finally!) and I’m feeling pretty cool and froody.

I’d just caught a car on double yellows. Gave it a full ten minutes, standing bold as brass right next to the front offside; printed, issued, stuck it on the windscreen and taken a couple of photographs – Job done. Half way up the next street I’m busy taking observations when the plaintive cry of the nicked driver came to my ears. “Oy! You!” Which tailed off as he got closer and realised I’m almost half a foot taller and broader than he was.
“Did you stick this on my car?” He stood back about six feet while gesticulating at the ticket I’d issued.
“Ah, you would be the owner of..” I rattled off the vehicles number at him.
“No I’m not!” Came the affronted reply. “It’s my girlfriends!”
“If that is the case sir, she was parked on double yellow lines, and it clearly says in the Highway Code that you may not park there.” I gave him a long cool look and stood my ground, watching just in case he wanted to kick off at a bigger bloke.
“Yeah, but…My Girlfriend!” Came back the plaintive response.

The light dawned. He had obviously been given an ultimatum to try and bully me into cancelling the ticket, which I’m not allowed to do. I could almost see it in his eyes, the agonised look of a sex life in the balance. For a moment I almost took pity on the poor sap. If the ticket stood, no more nookie. Then my mind picked up on the “Oy you!” means of address and any sympathy went out of the window. I just clicked my face into defence mode and said “Sir, the challenge procedure is on the back of the ticket. If you think it was incorrectly issued, please challenge it. You may say that you have spoken to me and I will record that fact. I am officer 515.”
“That’s no good!” He went into last ditch mode. “I want your name!”
At this point I stopped, took a deep breath and tried to keep a straight face before answering; “My name, is for my friends.” Yes! Bloody yes! I’ve been dying to use that line from Lawrence of Arabia for ages. Thank you. There is a God!

Chummy of course didn’t get the reference, and I wasn’t about to explain it to him. He just stormed off and let forth an outraged cry of frustration. Lots of sound, lots of fury. Nothing of any great significance. Oh yes, I didn’t tell him that I was going to report his girlfriends car for having no road tax displayed either.

Poor sod.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

 

Bug

When one is bitten by the short story ‘Writing bug’ it’s rather like having malaria. Even if you don’t do it for a while, the disease always recurs and the need to do something about it is quite intense. Rather reminiscent of an addiction. The need to polish and perfect surfs over everything else like a wave, washing ‘normal’ life out of the way. Thus it has been in the Sticker household. Repeated rewrites and editing before casting figurative bread upon the waters and hoping the big fish are biting. A comma here, a rephrase, a contraction and expansion, cutting some of the metaphors completely. It’s been quite obsessive.

When I’d finished, I was so bloody drained that I spent the next two days in a bit of a daze. That was before the copy went off to the publisher for further consideration. All this and patrolling too.

All said and done, the stories felt good before I began the rewrites, but now the characters have heartbeats. They breathe naturally on their own. There is flesh on the bones and a palpable chill in their atmosphere. They are not perfect, I don’t think I’ll ever please everyone, (Perhaps the publisher will reject them) but I like them, and perhaps that is all that counts.

As for the past day or so, I have been laid low by some bacterium or other. Don’t ask me what it is – I’m no doctor. Suffice it to say my bowels were liquefying and my head felt like it was ready to implode, vision was a bit foggy for half a day, but I’m over the worst of it now. A brace of paracetomol every four hours and ten hours uninterrupted sleep seem to have broken the back of it. Still a little woozy though. Some fresh fruit, fresh air and plenty of fluid should help flush the rest of the toxins from my body by tomorrow and I’ll be back on the streets looking for trouble as usual.

Post script: A couple of readers have asked for ‘links’ to my published work. Er, sorry chaps, but this is non-internet publication stuff which doesn’t appear on the jolly old interwebby thing, so links are not going to happen until said publications go online. There is the anonymity angle to consider as well, and I’d be a complete idiot if I, in effect, told everyone who I really am and left myself wide open to possible censure or dismissal for what I’ve written on this blog. I’d like to help, but it’ll have to wait until I finish walking the streets for my living. Trust me, I hope the wait will prove worthwhile.

To conclude; Some reciprocal links to some of the people who link here.

Down under
Dervish, a Muslim woman in Oz

Law Enforcement
Monkey with a gun

Personal
One nutty woman
Barmans Blog -
Everything is electric
I am not a drain on society - ph.D student
If I had it all
Jeyadev uncensored
Yorkshire lass in London

Politics
Wat Tyler’s excellent ‘Burning our money’

Public Service
More insanity via Diagnosis N.F.I.
and Wiping bums for fun and profit

New Address for the Enlightened Cavemen amongst us

Happy reading.

Regards

Bill

Sunday, April 02, 2006

 

A sad story from the near future

A man is arrested and tried for writing an offensive blog and ‘Incitement’ inder the new terrorism act. The court duly finds him guilty and he is talking to the receiving officer at HMP Blakenhurst as he is being processed.
“I don’t understand!” Wailed the man. “All I did was post a comment about Tony Blair and his government.” He snivelled as the last of his dignity was removed and put in storage until the end of his sentence. “What’s wrong with telling the truth?”
“Telling the truth?” Said the receiving officer. “That’s not what you’re in for.”
“That’s all I did. Now they’ve given me three years under the new terrorism act.”
“That’s not what I’ve got here.” Commented the receiving officer. “What did you really say?”
“I just pointed out that New Labour were a bigger bunch of crooks than the Tories ever were.” Cried the prisoner, helplessly.
“Oh.” Said the prison officer knowingly. “Breaking the official secrets act.”
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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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This net ring exposes political correctness for the fraud that it is and advocates universal values of individual freedom, free speech, and equal rights for all.

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