Magazine

Big Ben

Bl*** y Columnist

Peter Guest

(Our intrepid columnist on all things British began using a typically English swear word. It may be banned in the UK, but not in the U.S., bloody censors.)

Bl***y Squirrels!

A few months ago, I wrote about my telephone landline disappearing for a week when squirrels ate the line; well, it’s happened again! The guy who came to fix it this time was very interesting – ex-army bomb disposal, served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan before a new wife and child convinced him that he should perhaps get a less interesting job with more chance of getting his pension.

The phone guy knew at once what the problem was and identified that a missing cap on the pole meant this would happen again, and again, and again. Why couldn’t his five predecessors see this was the problem? The cost of replacing the cap, say $50; the cost of replacing the line in time and materials, say $250 about once a year on average. He has submitted a report, but I won’t hold my breath. Is it only me who sees the blindingly obvious?

Bl***y Editors!

Attila the Hun sent me an email 24 hours ago saying that I had five days to get this column written; 30 minutes ago, he sent me an email saying he needed it NOW AT ONCE IMMEDIATELY. It’s his age, I guess.

Bl***y Government

Last time, I wrote about the UK government of losers’ fig-leaf consultation exercise before they stop local councils from using cameras to catch and penalize bad parking. The consultation closes this month and then, after “carefully considering” all the submissions, they will do what they want: that is, support the illegal parkers over the law enforcers.

However, on deeper study, their position just gets more and

more ridiculous.

As recently as 2012, they enacted a new law to deal with illegal parking on private land. There has long been a problem in the UK with the use of wheel-clamping (“booting” to you guys).

Some operators with questionable ethics, and sometimes criminal records, were booting people in questionable circumstances, sometimes without the land owner’s permission, and then charging telephone numbers to take the boot off. Incidents of clamping ambulances and police cars were reported, as well as little old ladies being marched to ATMs to get cash to release their cars.

The new law made wheel-clamping a crime, rather than regulating a necessary management tool, thus throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And, wait for it, they changed the law to allow the very same private contractors to use camera-based systems to enforce parking on private land!

So, according to our government:

Public servants working under the sanction of criminal law for misbehavior using a camera to detect and penalize a crime: bad.

Ex-cons working with no rules and no sanctions to take money off a motorist for a questionable “infringement”: good.

I didn’t vote for them.

Did They Check for Bodies?

When I was young(er), I remember reading about a car in Boston that was left parked illegally for several days. It got ticketed several times and then booted, and it was only when the city decided to tow it that someone noticed that the driver was in the car with a bullet where his brain should be.

I was reminded of this by the recent story of a car left in a carpark in Tiverton, Devon. As of this writing, the car has been ticketed every day since Oct. 25 last year, and the owner now owes well over $1,500.

The British Parking Industry Oscars

This week, I start my involvement in the annual madness that is the British Parking Association awards – the Oscars of the British parking industry. Once again, I am a “designated” judge, chosen to assess new carparks and newly refurbished older buildings. There is no shortcut to this; they all have to be visited and driven round or walked.

Last year, I was flying solo and did about 1,500 miles in three days. This year, thankfully, I will share the task with another old wrinkly who lives at the other end of the country, and we shall be able to split the load; I will do the south, he will do the north, and we will both cover a few in the middle so that we have a common reference point.

Given that this has been the wettest three months in UK history, I suspect that any shortcomings in carpark drainage will be obvious, and it is surprising just how many designers do seem to struggle with the concept that water flows downhill. I will update you on the results next time.

PR – What’s That?

Meanwhile, in the Colonies, or Toronto, Canada, to be exact, it seems that those tasked with the job of enforcing their new parking rules missed the first day of the training course, the one where they explained the concept of just what the words “No Parking” mean.

The new rules went live on Jan. 23, and you guessed it, these particular enforcement officers parked their car in a “No Parking” zone while they went for lunch.

This was definitely a case of power going to someone’s head, because the advice for the public, from Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, Chair of the city’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, was that if they see a parking officer parking illegally, call the police.

And Finally

Someone who was trying to sum up the differences between the UK and the U.S.A. once said that in the UK, a hundred miles is a long way, and in the U.S.A., a hundred years is a long time.

A hundred years is virtually a blink of the eye to the British builders R Durtnell and Sons in Brasted, Kent. While family-run companies usually last, at most, for two or three generations before the world passes them by and they disappear, Durtnells was established in 1591, and the company is still going strong under the family’s direction, handed down from father to son for 13 generations.

If you go to the BBC Four website, you can see a program about the construction company in which the current Managing Director, Alex Durtnell, visits houses built by his ancestors, including one in 1593. Wow!

Peter Guest, a Consultant in the UK, is PT’s Editor-at-Large on all things British, European, Middle Eastern and Indian. Contact him at peterguestparking@hotmail.co.uk.

Article Abstract from March, 2014




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