United We Stand

Entry by: jaguar

8th September 2017
It started well. One of the more community-focused mothers contacted the Residents’ Association, asked if we’d be interested in the County Council's self-policing parking scheme. There was universal enthusiasm at the committee meeting and I’m not sure that’s ever happened before. I joined when I first moved here, keen to meet new people now I'd retired.

Sadly it’s the same bunch of tutting bookends month after month. There's nobody lively, like me, no one I would want to spend more time with. Every time I suggest something new they gather themselves up and point out it didn’t work back in 1982. The meetings have got so dusty I start sneezing the day before.

But this time they listened so I met with the proposer straight away and it sounded straight-forward, a perfect project, a way to make a difference, unite our little community. We both had a bit of time on our hands so we agreed we would lead it, be the ones that came out if there was a problem. We made ourselves a poster, contacted the organisers, asked for more details.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when those details arrived. It was a proper, serious set-up and they were giving out high-vis jackets. I showed the proposer, otherwise known as Pam, the signs to erect, mobile numbers to call, direct links to the police and the County Council. All we needed now was someone to park illegally.

Sharon didn’t count, of course. I mean where she is you have to park on the pavement, the road isn't wide enough, we measured it together. George too, he can’t walk all the way from the parking bays to his apartment, there was no way we could send the pictures of his car.

I was more enthusiastic about the cowboy mothers dropping off at the primary school but they all seemed to know Pam’s name. After a couple of weeks they all knew mine too, I’m doing a bit of child-minding for a few of them now. I mean Charlotte has no time at all, she can barely still the engine as she flings the kids out.

Well a month went by and I got a snarky email from the scheme leader pointing out the kit was expensive and we didn’t seem to be very effective with it. I nearly sent his high-vis jacket where the sun doesn’t shine but Pam thought we should have a meeting. We invited everyone, we really did but when I looked round the room it was the same old suspects sitting there. My nose started running.

They all agreed we should be extra-hard on the tradespeople with big vans, the idiots with campervans who used them twice a year and blocked people’s views the rest of the time. We thought there might be a problem with people moving here from London – they didn’t seem to understand not parking on yellow lines. I agreed with that one. The young guy opposite me had obviously just split with his wife and she seemed to be always dropping the kids off, sat in the middle of the road like a great, squat toad.

The next time I spoke to her, showed her the signs and she told me to stuff myself. I took a video of her car as she screamed abuse at me. He came out and told her she couldn’t treat people like that and there she went again ruining everything for him. We were left in the road with the kids after she’d fingered both of us in turn and screeched away. ‘Well really,’ I said.

‘You try being married to her. I’m Duncan by the way.’ He held his hand out while the other arm gathered the children to him and shepherded them on to the pavement. Turns out he wasn’t from London at all, nice local boy but he’d rather I didn’t send the video because it would be him who had to pay the fine, not the woman we both now referred to as bitch-face.

Undeterred I tackled the family with four cars. It wasn’t illegal parking as such but they weren’t leaving much room for the rest of us which might contribute to the yellow-line problem. The parents were charming, virtually running the scout group singlehanded, him a solicitor on call at night and her a social worker who did complicated adoption cases, often in other bits of the country. In other words they needed two cars. Then the eldest daughter worked at Gatwick and couldn’t get there on public transport for the night shifts. The younger one was a community nurse. I came away thinking we should be providing them all with chauffeurs.

Then Pam got lucky and found a company van right on a corner blocking the way. She called me and I marched right round to join her. I was so disappointed when I saw that it was Colin, the local handyman, even worse when we found out he’d abandoned the van to try to help Pauline at Number 22 whose water was doing a fountain impression in the kitchen. Although we did have a bit of a laugh while we were mopping up he also put us right on the making vans park elsewhere thing. Colin reckoned there was expensive equipment in his van and he needed it within earshot overnight.

Finally an HGV ignored the specific no entry for HGVs sign and blocked the top road good and proper. Both Pam and I were there in our smart vests snapping away while the driver swore at us in a language I still haven’t identified.

‘Please,’ the driver stopped swearing and gestured at me, ‘come and see my problem.’ He opened the back of the lorry up and there was a huge bathroom suite, one of those specialist disabled ones. ‘It doesn’t fit in the smaller lorry and the Mr Albert is coming home from hospital tomorrow. I have to get it there for them to plumb it in. I can’t carry it from the main road, can I?’

Probably not. We knew who Mr. Albert was, our oldest resident, been here since he was a boy. Mrs Albert, Jean, had told me the hospital wouldn’t let him come home unless there was a ground-floor bathroom and he’d been stuck in there for months. She thought he was losing the will to live. You don’t argue with that so Pam, Colin, Pauline and I helped the guy unload. He told us his company didn’t care about finding the right sized vehicle for the job. He was forever being sent places his lorry didn’t fit. It had been good for his turning skills but not for his nerves. He didn’t like upsetting people.

We supervised him reversing back up the one-way street. Neither Pam or I took any photos at all, just waved him off at the end. Then we looked at each other as we took off our vests. ‘You know what?’ I said. ‘I think we should send these things back.’

She grinned at me. ‘Too right. They’ve done nothing for the community at all . We haven’t gained any insight into our neighbours, we’ve made no new friends and neither of us looks good in that yellow.’