As we get older we tend to develop idiosyncrasies.
I do anyway and one of mine is a phobia of mail. The kind that drops on our mat I mean and not in to our in-box.
This might be for many reasons. That I don’t receive cheques anymore? Or that I am obviously on various charitable mailing lists and every day I am deluged with pleading letters?
And consequently my mail can pile up for weeks on end and have negative outcomes, like missing a payment deadline and so recently I resolved to break this habit and get my mail all opened and either filed or binned.
Yesterday, amongst my mail were two brown envelopes with my name misspelt – Mr Domonic Holland.
I opened the first and immediately, my spirits plunged. This is another reason why I don’t open my letters – because somehow we have allowed our grubby politicians to cover our great country with cameras to fine us with.
This letter, to Domonic Holland was from my local council and the words PENALTY NOTICE screamed out and seized my attention.
I glanced down the page – immediately in denial and readying my excuses for why I was in a bus lane. But then I looked at the photo of the car and I sighed with relief.
Because it was not my car but my son’s – it was Tom’s car, my eldest son and the letter came to me because his car is registered to me.
So it was still bad news – but it was his bad news and he will have to find the £130.
But what about the other unopened letter which looked exactly the same as the previous one. I viewed it suspiciously and then slide my finger along the glue and my dread returned.
It was another fine, can you believe it? I was aghast and almost laughed. Not actually laughed however, because it was another £130 fine and this time it was my car AND for being in the exact same bus lane on the same date but just 15 minutes later than Tom. I checked both letters again. Same bus lane. Same night, fifteen minutes apart. What are the odds…
Angry now I checked my diary and then it all made sense. Sure enough it was a Wednesday evening a fortnight ago. Mrs H and I had gone for dinner and a movie and Tom had done the same with a mate.
Kingston Council, in their wisdom have made it impossible to park anywhere but their hideously expensive car parks and the Bus Lane that caught us both is not clear to drivers that an offense has been committed. We were not taking a BUS LANE to avoid traffic or speed up our journey. This was more oblique and not a cut and dry BUS LANE. More a road that suddenly becomes a BUS LANE for about twenty yards but the NO ENTRY signs are not clear.
It is meant to confusing of course. This is the whole point, so that vehicles are caught out and lucrative fines can be levied. Cameras which are installed in the pretense of safety or traffic management when in reality they are a tax and nothing more. Just another Council Tax and way of creating revenue from soft touch motorists for their greedy councils.
Politicians eh? They clobber restaurants and shops with exorbitant business rates, make it difficult for their customers to get to their establishments and on their journey, they lay traps to catch us and and fine us and all the while, lecturing us on all the jobs and wealth that they create. How have we let this happen?
And yet there is an inadvertent upside to this tale because last evening, heading in to Kingston, again for dinner, Nikki and I decided to walk.
And coming home – having saved a tenner on a car park – and to my knowledge having not been fined for anything (as yet) we happened upon a pub called The Old Moot House. It was across the road but such was the noise coming from the place, it drew our attention and made us cross over.
In the pub were 20 of so musicians blowing, strumming, tapping and thumping out the most banging big band sound I have ever heard. It was as incredible as it was incongruous. We were drawn in to the pub which should have been packed but sadly there were as many musicians as there were punters. We ordered drinks and sat down to marvel at the endeavor and beautiful eccentricity of it all.
And believe when I say that this band was magnificent. Not just some amateur enthusiasts. Even my tone deaf ear could discern that these were great musicians and so it turns out – because we discovered that they are in fact a bunch of assorted professionals from the west end who assemble each Tuesday night at this pub to thrash out songs of their choice and all for the payment of a single pint of beer each.
For a pint of beer?
Isn’t that freaking exciting and doesn’t it make you feel somehow proud?
I am no muso and I don’t even particularly like the sound of Big Band but I absolutely loved their set and everything about what they are doing. I loved that they all were having such fun and their energy and proficiency. I loved that that they have all practiced for so many many years to be as good as they are. That they are professionals on their night off and doing it anyway – and for nothing. That they all spoke the language of music fluently and that they all combined united and with such amazing synergy. And I loved it because it made me feel proud of my great little country and the people that we have in it. I love the fact that kids somewhere right now are learning these instruments that I can’t even recognize or name, let alone get a note out from.
I congratulated the keyboard player afterwards and his face lit up to hear how much fun Nikki and I had listening to them.
And walking home, I realised that I would never have discovered this great experience had it not been for some flat foot at a council with his yellow paint and his cameras – so a begrudged thank you to Kingston Council.
And for anyone who loves a London pub and wants a fantastic night out in one – every Tuesday night at the Old Moot House in Kingston – you will not be disappointed. For the price of a pint – you will sit up close to musicians you would normally only hear if you pay a load of cash for a ticket to a west end musical.
And after their set they hurriedly packed up, no doubt rushing back to their cars to make their way home. And I wonder now where they parked and how many of them might have had a sticker on their windshield from our mates at the council.