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Monday, June 26, 2006

 

How to reclaim your streets in one uneasy lesson

I’ve been reading a lot of stuff in the mainstream press recently about how dangerous the Streets are, with huge gangs of hooded, machete and gun toting hooligans raping and pillaging everyone and everything in sight. Er, excuse me – not in my neighbourhood. Yeah we get a few noisy kids making a fuss, but the gun toters tend to wave their penis replacements in each others faces, mostly out of the public view and out of CCTV range. They also tend to inhabit the hours of darkness, rather than swan around in daylight; so if like me, most of you work the daylit hours out in the provinces – you are unlikely to see these ravaging armed hordes.

In another life, during my foolish and headstrong youth; I could lay claim to being one of the local bad lads. Never dumb enough to get pulled by the local Constabulary, but nonetheless a veteran of a number of ‘disturbances’. You know the sort of peer group fight, tribal conflicts, some very interesting parties with quite a bit of alcohol, noise, and the odd sniff or toke. It was a high attrition lifestyle, with only ten or so of our (30 plus strong at its peak) hardcore social group reaching the age of 30, by which time we’d either learned some sense or got killed. The survivors carry the legacy of some interesting tattoos and a few fading scars. That said, most of our misbehaviour was directed at others like us. Rival peer groups pushing through our ‘turf’ and vice versa when we paid their area a visit. Illegal firearms were known about and carried by a very small minority, but no one got shot (However, this was more by luck than judgement), apart from one murder by a chap who is still banged up in a secure psychiatric unit. Although a couple of near misses still wake me up at night when I’m feeling particularly low.

This being the case; I think I’ve got a handle on what people need to do to reclaim their streets. It’s very simple; be there. Right, okay Bill; what do you mean by ‘be there’, you glib son of a bitch? Do I mean vigilantes patrolling your street in combat fatigues swinging a baseball bat at anyone who looks like a threat? Most definitely not. Do I mean hiking Police powers to the point where they can arrest anyone for wearing a loud shirt during the hours of darkness? Emphatically not.

What I mean by ‘be there’ is very simple. Take an interest in your home surroundings. Pass the time of day with your neighbours and be seen doing so. Get to know them (Look, if your neighbours are complete arseholes find someone in your street who isn’t – there has to be at least one – hasn’t there? You don’t need to live in their pockets, just be friendly.) Be visible. Sit out on your front garden or porch where you can be seen when the weather allows. If you see a problem, call the Coppers, that’s their job. Don’t confront, and for crying out loud don’t jump in with all guns blazing – people have been killed doing that. Don’t respond to threats or intimidation – record them. Gather evidence and make sure (If you’re taking video footage) that the time and date stamp feature is on and correctly set. Times, dates and places are critical for successful prosecution. If offences have been committed – be a witness – help put the bad guys away. If intimidation is tried on you – report it to the court. Let them deal with it – it’s what they get paid for.

Don’t just whine and bitch about the state of law enforcement – help the forces of law and order by supporting them; and if it’s your little Johnny or Jenny causing the problem – you owe it to yourself, your neighbours and your erring offspring to support the law. Accepting “Mum, I din’t do it.” As a defence is not good for the state of a neighbourhood. The miscreants Mother will deny until Judgement Day that her precious life’s cargo could ever harm a fly, even if said offspring were found with murder weapon in hand and smothered head to foot in their victims gore. Such can be the blindness of parental bonding.

Don’t say; “It’s got nothing to do with me.” Because it bloody well has. These are your streets and roads. You decide what you are willing to tolerate. If you have a genuine problem and the Police front line teams won’t or can’t help – get on to your local Councillor. Put him or her to work on your behalf. Make them earn their expenses. Get them to nag the Chief Constable into dropping the paperwork and getting more of his or her officers out on the streets responding to incidents. Get on to your MP. Make the bad guys lives awkward. Make it difficult for them to operate unobserved. If the powers that be can’t or won’t act – get creative, but don’t do it alone. Community action works every time.

For all the politicians bluster, they can do nothing without the co-operation of the rest of us. If we want safe streets, then we have to do something about it ourselves with the forces of Law and Order in a supporting role. What the politicians can do is provide the facilities and legal framework supporting the ‘Queens Peace’. This means less bureaucracy, less statistics driven ‘measurement’ and a bit more latitude to the individual Police Officer. From what I can see, it is pretty much proven that the Police cannot operate as effectively without discretionary powers. With those discretionary powers and a bit of neighbourly co-operation, stuff like this wouldn’t happen so often.

Oh yes, and suitable deterrents for the guilty so that the generally law abiding are protected. If this means bringing back the death penalty to edit the monsters out of the human race – so be it. The rights of the generally law abiding should take precedence over an aggressor.

As for being outdoors, it’s a lot more interesting than the telly (In fact most things are), and far more rewarding just to get out there and talk.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

 

Well this explains a lot...






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Friday, June 23, 2006

 

Now where was I?

Apologies for the lack of service but I’ve been busy with other things of late; wife taking finals for her degree, eldest passing driving test, subsequent celebrations and temporary decerebration have all eaten into blogging time. There’s not much to report on the parking front, remarkably little in fact. Well apart from the past day or so.

“I saw it onna telly so it must be true.” Kind of thing. Now why are some sections of the motoring public so gullible as to take the TV as their sole source of information? Especially when the mainstreamers output can often be demonstrated to be spun finer than best worsted fabric. Let’s go through the list shall we?

Leading the utter bollocks brigade with sweeping generalisations are;
The House of Commons Transport Committee who think that a top down ‘one size fits all’ strategy will work. Wrong.
There's also one of the writers in the Daily Telegraph, who seems to imply that we enforcement officers are all struggling African immigrants who make the work of others nigh on impossible. Er, ahem. I think that's a bit racist, don't you?
The Daily Mirror who say that rogue Wardens are to be ‘reined in’.
The Sun ‘War on the Wardens’
The Guardian ‘Motorists Trapped by irrational parking rules warn MP’s’

The generalisations are so sweeping they could put Hoover, Electrolux and Dyson out of business.

Let’s get a few things straight shall we? Parking rules are set out in the Highway Code; which if you drive, you should be fully familiar with. They are also designed to reflect local conditions, as it is mostly the residents of a given area who actually ask for things like pay and display meters, limited waiting restrictions, bus stops and proper taxi ranks. No, no little Johnny, you can’t go that way up the street as everybody else goes the other way. No, you can’t put your nice shiny car there, no matter how pretty it is, yes I know you’re only popping in to get a pack of three from Mr Boots the Chemist but that bus stops there and you will make all his passengers very cross if you get in their way. If you want a low risk shag, park up a couple of hundred yards away and have a nice healthy walk. You’ll feel better for it. Yes Mister Builder, you might have a job to do, but the people who live in that street need to park within two parsecs years of their property too. It might be convenient for all seven of your lads to park nearby, but if they don’t have kit to unload they’re just getting under the residents feet.

Parking rules may seem erratic to the outsider, but they are a reflection of local issues and conditions. Just because there isn’t a problem right this very second, does not mean that there won’t be inside the next ten if you decide to plonk your pride and joy, your little extended piece of tribal territory, there.

Thinking about it, this is the nub of the matter isn’t it? A car is part of people’s comfort zone. An extension of their personal space. In these times of external intrusion into the home by every official agency down to the office cat, this is why people sometimes react in an excessive manner against those whose duty is to enforce the rules set by the locals. How dare you touch my vehicle! That is my territory! Rails the hard wired biological human guardian instinct. This is why we Parking Enforcers are so detested. We only have one legal tool in our armoury, and that is the parking ticket. A parking ticket is a violation of the motorists tribal territory. Yet we are part of the defence mechanism of a particular locale; and that brings me to my next point. We are the parking antibodies of a neighbourhood, and to anyone with a passing knowledge of biology, what does an antibody do? Right. It attacks the invader. If the invader does not possess the right biological ‘key’ it is not welcome. If a motorist does not posses a permit to park in a restricted place, then that vehicle is not welcome. The analogy holds. Like no one asks whether a bacterium’s ‘rights’ are being violated when it makes an unauthorised entry into a system, so should we not worry about the thoughtless individual who can’t read a simple thing like a parking restriction. If you have sufficient intelligence to drive and navigate a tonne or so of metal and plastic around, surely it is not too much to ask for you to spend thirty seconds checking out the local rules? Is this not reasonable? Face it folks, parking ain't rocket science, so why do so many get fined for doing it wrong?

As for ‘Rogue’ Wardens. There is always an element of having to justify one’s existence as an enforcer. Poor management practice will demand that more tickets is best, no matter that the Enforcer must break the rules in order to meet artificial ‘targets’. As I have so often blogged, this spreadsheet driven corporate approach is deeply flawed. Revenue is not the only God. Successful enforcement can be as simple as just being in a place at the right time.

Disagree if you wish, but this is my blog and quite frankly my dears – I don’t give a damn what anybody else thinks. Not today, anyway.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

 

I get a bit....

Jealous of Coppers sometimes. They get to actually do something to people who act in a threatening and / or offensive manner, like politely point out to them that such behaviour may offend, or would they like a ride to a nice cosy cell block in the back of their purpose built van? Failing that, give ‘em a dose of CS or pepper spray, clout them round the ears with a baton and then give them the name of a lawyer so the malefactor can sue.

As for my good self; when people hand out shit, I have to stand there and take it. Worse still I have to keep a straight face when I just want to snarl a few choice words in theirs and maybe bite their noses off (Although this is strictly against Council Health and Safety guidelines and can lead to food poisoning.).

That’s right; I’ve had a day. Must be the weather or something because everybody in the whole damn town seems to have been on my case, from Senior Manager to the car park’s adopted stray cat. As it was, come end of shift I had to walk out quickly before I hit someone very hard indeed. Such was my mood I think even a bit of friendly joshing might have set me off.

Shame when a job gets to you that much. Life is too short.

Monday, June 12, 2006

 

Day of the Lobsters

Wandering around in full uniform over the weekend I was wilting a bit in the heat. Well, when I say a bit, I mean needing a half litre of water an hour to replace fluid loss while tramping the beat. Glad I’m off duty today. I don’t think I could have stood another shift out in the full heat of the day.

My troubles though are as nothing to the daft items I saw parading around in full sunlight, in the middle of the day with their ‘Ing-er-lund’ shirts, all freshly washed by Mum, tied around their waists. All the time their originally pallid backs and shoulders getting redder and redder. Ooh! That, as they say, has gotta hurt!

Very light traffic because it seems a lot of the idiots are in the pub or at home watching the football. Not that I’m a fan myself, Rugby is more my game.

Lots of Ambulances and Coppers charging around. Probably picking up heatstroke cases if what I saw was any indication. Dammit, it’s too darned hot and I’m off to watch next door go up in a fireball when he tries to light his barbeque with half a litre of unleaded. Being a good neighbour I will try to put him out without breaching the hosepipe restrictions.

Friday, June 09, 2006

 

What am I worrying about?

Today for me has been a crap day. I’ve felt too hot, been shouted at by a lot of people, refused time off by management and generally found out a couple of things about my job I’d rather not have known. All things considered I should be feeling a little depressed but for the brilliant sunshine.

Mrs Sticker has been having a bit of a down time as well; however, while we were partaking of supper out in the garden I noticed a bird. This particular bird was silhouetted against the setting sun in the top of next doors ornamental Cherry tree, singing his (her?) little lungs out. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it was ‘Look at me girls I’m sexy’, ‘watch out there’s humans down there’ or ‘this is my tree - sod off’, but who cares?

I think this was one of those ‘Robert the Bruce’ moments. Here was I, feeling that life has done me down, and there’s this bird, singing its little heart out for no better reason than it could. For the joy of living, the sheer exuberance of letting air flow in and out of its lungs. Giving thanks to the world at large in song for the gift of existence.

This has rather put all my own worries and concerns (I won’t bore you, telling you what they are) in perspective.

If I got fired tomorrow I don’t think I’d be too fussed. For too long I’ve been scurrying around at the behest of others, too wrapped up in their agendas to think about my own wants and needs. Too busy chasing around after people who loathe the Uniform (And by proxy the person in it) because that is what they are programmed to do; not because they have actually thought through the reasons why I’ve been doing the job I do, but just because I thwart them when they cause inconvenience to others.

All things considered I should be paying more attention to my own needs and desires (So long as I do not harm others). Raising my own game and playing according to my own talents rather than being the ‘square peg’ that I currently am.

Perhaps I will start paying more attention to that side of my life. It is too short to do otherwise.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

 

Three Reasons to be cheerful

  1. It’s been a really nice sunny day
  2. Psychotic murderer Abu Musab Zarqawi is dead and hopefully facing God for his crimes followed by the rest of eternity having his head hacked off with a blunt knife.
  3. Lots of pretty girls aren’t wearing quite so much in the way of clothes. Sod the Parking Tickets.
 

End of the world

I meant to post this last night, but couldn’t log on to blogger for some reason.

My Dad, in one of his more scathing moments, once told me I’d be late for my own funeral. At the time, feeling a little flippant, I replied. “I hope so.” I got a smack round the ears for my pains.

Thus it is with huge relief that I have escaped the end of the world that was supposed to have gone ‘foom!’ yesterday on the 6th Day of the 6th Month 2006. Personally I think it’s all a load of bollocks, and seeing as we all appear to all be here on the 7th June 2006, I feel that the people who mooted this asinine notion have pretty much been proved wrong.

Where, I ask, does all this half baked insanity come from? Can anyone rationally explain please? There was all the frenzy over the millennium (Not to mention the Millennium computer bug scare which failed to materialise – mainly because a lot of Engineers burned the midnight oil and sorted systems out well in advance). The Jehovah’s Witnesses were once notorious for getting the worlds final sell by date wrong and have since, I am given to understand, given up such prognostications.

Out on the Streets, where I earn my living the birds sing despite the traffic noise, the insects buzz and scuttle; small rodents scavenge and multiply. In spite of everything man does, the world continues. All else is a big human ego trip. Even if all the bombs in all the world wiped all species out of the biosphere, something, somewhere would survive. A bacterium; an amino acid fragment and life would spring anew.

Isn’t this a cracking planet to live on? Why do people feel they have to worry and make up stories about it ending so soon? Isn’t there a beer in the fridge – why so there is! Doncha just lurve modern miracles. Hallelujah!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

 

Cyclists bloody cyclists

I just don’t get it. I really don’t. They don’t pay road tax, they have no VRM (Licence plates), no insurance, no nothing. They slip below my (Often very cluttered) radar with ease, yet why do we get such crap off them? It’s not as if I can book them for anything. Anything motorised and licensed by the DVLA, yes. Bicycles – no.

You get all sorts; from the half witted “You’re not going to book me are you?” Prurient curiosity to the bellicose “Effing Traffic Wardens.” Abusive approach. We can’t do anything to them, so why do they bother?

Take for example this little incident which took place some time ago. Yours truly is standing in a corner of the Municipal Parks car park, having patrolled and found everyone to be legal, decent, honest and truthful re parking. I’m just making a couple of notes when a cyclist; male, early thirties and about my height, cuts so close to me that he damn near knocks my notebook and pen out of my hands. I ignore him (Apart from a brief glance of irritation) and finish what I’m doing before moving on to the next point on my beat.

To better understand the thought processes about what happened next, I’ll do the best I can to give you an idea of what was going through my head at the time.
What was his problem?
Right, out of here. Right yeah; traffic looks okay.
No queue’s. Double yellows clear.
Better pay Allenby Road a quick visit just in case.
Cut through on the footpath so I can cover the school run on those double yellows on Peterloo Street in an hour or so. Better keep them on their toes.
Sod it, too far out to get a tea break. I’ll log off for a short while on that bench at the top of Wilson Meadow on my way through.
All up to date and - bloody hell!
Same cyclist damn near runs me over on the footpath. I’ve been so lost in planning the next phase of my afternoon patrol that he almost knocks me down. He shouts something short and Anglo Saxon in my direction about comparisons to female front bottoms. Yeah, and you pal.
What’s his problem? This is a footpath, not a bloody cycle track.
I allow myself an internal joke “Cyclists and skateboarders should not annoy the enforcing officer, as an elbow in the throat often offends.” With a brief smile. Not that I ever would, the resultant paperwork would reach half way to Australia. No doubt a P45 would figure somewhere in the proceedings too. Hang on, he’s coming back. Sod it, no peace for the wicked.

This time I’m alert and side step as he comes chasing back at me. Cheeky sod! Well I can play this silly bloody game all day. He just wants to pick a fight and I’m not having any of it.

Cyclist slews to a squealing halt some fifty yards past me. I’m approaching one of those double half gates to stop cyclists pelting down the footpath and frightening old ladies. Okay, here he comes again. Emergency stop, turn around theatrically checking belt pouches. This’ll drive him crazy. Cyclist goes whizzing past as I side step through the half gate, casually up a couple of steps over the footbridge crossing a muddy ditch that passes for a stream. Make it look like he’s being ignored. Cyclist has stopped on the other side of the half gate. He knows he’s been rumbled and will have to make a special effort to come and get me. Is he willing to up the stakes? Not this time. Stop casually and take out hand held computer and take the briefest of sidelong glances. He’s still there glowering at me. Bloody hell, it just isn’t my day. Log on to the next street as if I’m not in a hurry.

Nice and easy down the path which connects to Allenby Road. Aha, a couple of customers on the double yellows, no disabled badges. Book ‘em Danno. I get busy.

“What are you doing!” Oh no, it’s the pedal pushing pillock. I look up briefly.
“My job sir.” I carry on and ignore him as best I can. The best way to really screw with this type of annoyance is to get literal.
“What, being a c**t?” Yes, very witty. Now push off, retard. I ignore the insult and carry on. He keeps on trying to get in my way, but I keep on positioning myself so he has to go right round the cars to get anywhere near me. I can’t be arsed to play his game. Mine is far more fun.
“You ain’t going to book them cars.” Hah, a challenge.
“I just have sir. Now if you’ll excuse me.” Slip slap slop. On the windscreens, snap, snap, grin, grin; that’ll teach ‘em. I move on. Oh no, the dickheads following me like a lost puppy. Hasn’t he got something better to do? Why is there never an annoyed motorist when you really need one? Right. School run here I come. Bit early, but that never hurts.

Four hundred yards later I plant myself on the corner opposite the Junior school and do my ‘Street presence’ routine. Bid a couple of parents I recognise the time of day. One lady comes up to me and fills me in on certain people who have been clogging up the street. She sees the bicycling bozo lurking at the end of the street and gives him a sharp look; that’s it. He sidles off rather than risk having a potential lynch mob of paranoid parents on his case for being a suspected paedophile. Apart from that, everything’s fine. No one takes the mickey and they all behave (More or less). The buses can get through and apart from an offensive hand gesture by one person (Male) in an ageing Ford Escort, most of the parents seem happy to see someone in a uniform paying attention (Or rather not booking them personally) while their little darlings run amok. This is also when you find out which Mums are wearing sports bras (See yesterdays blog entry).

Back at base, I recount the story to a couple of the other guys who have similar tales to tell. Word is that the cyclist in question is just one of those right royal pains with a bee in his bonnet about parking enforcers. Not that he’s ever had a car you understand. Just hates us because he’s got little else to occupy his time. A pain, but not enough of one to justify calling for help. We were still swapping cyclist stories fifteen minutes later when our shift clocked off. Oddly enough, I haven’t seen that particular cyclist since. Maybe he went off and got a life? Nah, that's too much to ask.

Monday, June 05, 2006

 

School runnings

Now I’ve been in this game for over two and a half years, yet one sight that never fails to bemuse is when you do the school run. There are a number of Primary (Junior High - ish) schools which we have to patrol, as the parents insist on parking where they shouldn’t.

Before anyone has a go, may I say this; I have no objection to people picking up and dropping off their children in close proximity to the school gates. So long as that is all it is. You have every right to be protective. After all they are your kids and your life’s work. Life’s work? Think not? My, have you got a shock coming. They are your soul and immortality. This much I understand.

What I do have a problem with is people who jeopardise their own and other peoples children’s safety by parking thoughtlessly. Things like half blocking the street so the buses and other drivers can’t get through; parking on the apex of blind corners; blocking a drivers critical line of sight at junctions; and where double and active single yellow lines cover all these hazards. All to save a few metres walking. Now there’s a key word, walking. People don’t do enough of it. Mind you, they do seem to do a hell of a lot of running, at least while I’m about.

This brings me on to attire. Girls, some of you are going to have to sort out your underwear, especially for your top half. A sports brassiere would be favourite. I’ve lost count of the times a female parent has come running up the street screaming; “Don’t book me!” while her top half has been performing bewildering and acrobatic peregrinations of her wobbly bits. On one occasion last summer term I was forced to avert my eyes in case I cracked up when a young lady wearing an overly low cut top literally ‘popped out’ on one side.
She looked at me curiously when I, as the gentleman I was brought up to be, put a hand over my eyes and went “Ahem!”
She looked down, and I heard her say “Oh shit.” In a very small voice.
“Mummy, mummy, the car, the car, we’ll get a ticket!” Shouted excitable offspring.
“Wait a moment dear, Mummy’s busy.” There was a brief rustling of clothing being rearranged and children jumped into her car. “Am I being booked?” She appeared in front of me, personage once more decently arranged, batting eyelids at my feigned embarrassment.
“Not on this occasion madam.” I said, an apologetic wince on my face.
“Thank you.” Was that a girlish giggle? Well, it probably gave her something to gossip to her friends about.

Friday, June 02, 2006

 

Google Earth


I’ve just downloaded Google Earth and it works a treat with my new graphics card. This is what my shed roof looks like from low earth orbit. Good eh?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

 

Why oh why oh why

All right, whose clever idea was it to print pictures of John Prescott playing Croquet instead of running the country? Own up. Which one of you was it? What flaming genius decided that instead of keeping the buffoon safely under effective house arrest at his grace and favour house, Dorneywood, he had to be ‘exposed’? He couldn’t do any damage there could he? Oh no, but some complete dickwit decides that Prescott needs to be ‘doing his job’, no matter how bad he has proved to be at everything else. Bloody hell fire. Dogs, lie, sleeping, let; or is that too much to ask?

May I make a point here; I, and I suspect a great many other people, am happiest when certain politicians are not ‘running things’. I base this assertion on the experience that while they are not poking their overpaid dogma driven noses into every crevice of everyday life, the rest of us can just get on with the business of day to day living and working without undue interference. For this I do not begrudge certain politicans a game of Croquet, Bowls, or whatever. It means that they are not messing around with anything else, setting ‘targets’, paying expensive ‘Consultants’ to come up with whizzy glamorous answers to questions which are far better dealt with locally at the other end of the Management food chain.

I suppose that certain parties think that by bringing Prescott down they will also get rid of King Tony, as the two appear to be joined at the political hip. Don’t see it myself. The words of political doom ‘Has our fullest confidence’ have already been spoken, which means old Prezza is about to go down like the Titanic in very short order. Think not? How many other recent resignations / sackings / reshuffles have been preceded by these very words?

Yours Truly, the Mystic Traffic Warden. Visit my favourite horoscope page here.
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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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