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I was reminded of this sorry tale of woe a few minutes ago when I saw a woman pleading with a traffic warden who was issuing her a ticket. It cut no ice at all. She got the stock reply,’ I’ve started writing it now. It’s in the system.’ She was going to get a £50 fine, reduced to £25 if she pays within 14 days, but she was whingeing nonetheless.

She got off quite lightly. Some years ago, Alison and a friend of ours went to a gig at the Marquee Club in London’s Wardour Street. As ever parking was a bloody nightmare, but I found a back street with single yellow lines. It was a dead end, with a derelict warehouse at the end, so no through traffic. It was gone 6:30, so the parking restrictions didn’t apply, and it seemed a good bet. Because it was narrow, though, I parked with two wheels up on the kerb to avoid forming a pinchpoint if an emergency vehicle needed access. I wasn’t the only one to do this; there was a neat row of us doing the same. We were partially blocking the pavement, but the only pedestrians were people who’d parked in the street, so who cared?

Went to the gig, got out about 11:15, and walked back to the street, which was full of people milling aimlessly around and declaiming, ‘Dude! Where’s my car?’ or somesuch. Every single car had gone. Ergo we had all fallen foul of the Parking Stasi, and our cars were now sitting safely in a pound somewhere. I managed to find a policeman who told me the pound was in Mount Pleasant, and would close at 12:00. Bad news, since it was now about 11:40, and there was no way we could get there in time for the pound still to be open.

Only one choice. Jump a tube back to Liverpool Street station and hope we were in time for the last train. Oh yes, I was the only one with any money, so I was going to have to shoulder the burden of cost. At Liverpool Street we found to our horror that the last train to Cambridge, via Stansted where we were headed, had long since departed. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth and rending of cloth. I’ve spent the night on a station in London, and it’s a bloody cold experience. However, I had enough sense to think outside the box. I knew there was a train to Bishop’s Stortford some time after 12:00, so strictly it’s an early rather than a late one. I paid for three tickets, and we scrambled aboard just as the train was about to leave. When we got to Stortford, I had to fork out for a cab to Stansted. Double fare after midnight, natch.

Next day, I had to hike down to Stansted station and pay for a peak rate single ticket to London, then fork out for a tube fair to get to my office in the wilds of Vauxhall Cross. Reason? I was due at a meeting in Hoddesdon at 11:00; Hoddesdon was about 20 minutes from Stansted. I went through it on the train. But I need the car, because from there I had to go straight to Hull for an afternoon meeting, and some clown had forgotten to give me something for that meeting. I got a cab from the office to Mount Pleasant, getting there just as the pound opened. Retrieved the car and headed back up to where I’d been about 90 minutes ago.

The cost of this little fiasco?

3x tube fares £3

3x train fares £27

1x cab fare @double rate £20

1x peak train fare £12

Tube, Liverpool Street to Vauxhall £2

Cab, office to Mount Pleasant £24

Parking fine £60

Towing charge, payable before the parking fine, both being paid before the car would be released, £100

TOTAL COST OF DEBACLE = £248

That was before the cost of the tickets for the gig, the cost of Alison and friend getting into town, a quick bite to eat, and drinks in The Marquee. Say £310 for the night out? I decided I was living beyond my means.

Now you can see why a £25 fine seems quite reasonable, all things told. Especially as nowadays you could probably add another 50% or so. Call it a nice round £450. I’ve had two weeks in India for less than that.