Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Not so very long ago in Londinium, there was no such thing as a Congestion Charge. Even more amazing, people taking their own vehicles into the city did not have to pay a full weeks wages and surrender their first born child to Beelzebub to get a parking space amidst the Bright Lights.
Even more unbelievable, sometimes one could find a place to leave their automobile for free!
On one of the City's Halcyon days, I travelled to the heart of the Theatre Land with a friend by means of his car. We had plans to meet some friends and see a play in one of the establishments before having dinner and drinkies, and was all set for a fabulous night.
My friend and I arrived early and decided to drive around for a while in search of one of the rare 'free parking spaces' in which to leave the car for the duration.
Eventually we found one of the much prized places and parked in it with great haste so that a BMW couldn't get in before us.
While my friend had a quick altercation with the Beemer driver who was a tad aggrieved, I had a look at our surroundings and spotted a notice high up on a lamppost that implied that maybe our space was not as 'free' as once we'd thought.
When my friend had finished shouting insults at the loser of the argument, I told him of my concerns and he peered up at the sign to read it.
"Don't worry" he said after a minute or so, "It's an old sign and it's about yellow lines, and look - there aren't any yellow lines by the car, are there?"
I looked around and had to agree that although there were yellow lines further along the street and also just behind the car, there were none where the car was.
And so despite my worries, we set off to enjoy our night out.
A few hours later, after we'd laughed at the show, laughed with friends over dinner, then laughed even more after the drinkies* we trundled off back to the car, ready to get back home and spleep.
As we turned into the street where the car was parked I thought it strange to see so many other cars still parked at so late an hour, and after espying large stickers on the windscreens of the vehicles that read
'Stop! Do Not Remove This Sticker! Call yadayadayada In Order To Get The Clamp Removed From Your Vehicle! Thanks, and sorry, but we really want your money. signed
The Coppaz, obeying orders from some Thieving Bastards from The City Council'.**
As we walked along the street I realized that all the cars had been 'clamped, and my heart sank further when upon nearing our car I saw that sure enough, so had ours.
Now this was the beginning of the end of the Halcyon Days of driving in Londinium, as wheel clamping had only been introduced to the area about a week or so before, and although many people had heard about these yellow perils, they had rarely been seen, and no-one I knew had been clamped before.
As we stared and pondered the situation several other people came back to their cars and also stared in disbelief as they wondered what they were going to do.
Now my friend and I were a few car lengths away from the next nearest clamped car which meant that we were sort of 'on our own' when the Police began to arrive and laugh at the poor sods whose cars they'd clamped explain to the clamped persons that they would have to pay lots of money before they'd take the clamps off again.
One 'clampee' began to shout at a rozzer and tried to rip the large sticker off his windscreen which resulted in the 'clamper' telling him that he was not allowed to take the sticker off the car before the clamp had gone.
It was then I noticed that although we'd been clamped, we didn't have a sticker telling us what to do and I told my friend.
He again pondered the situation before exclaiming "Eureka!" and getting the car jack out of the boot.
He set to jacking the car up and when done he got the spare wheel ready as well.
As he began to let the air out of the tyre on the car that was also attached to the clamp, a copper saw what was going on and slowly sauntered over to us.
I was perched on a nearby wall having a ciggy and the copper stared at my friend before turning to me and asking what he was doing.
I replied that he was letting the air out of the tyre so that he could remove the clamp.
The copper replied that we were supposed to obey the instructions of the Big Sticker, and I replied that we hadn't had one to remove, so therefore, how were we supposed to know what was going on?
The copper thought for a moment before telling me that even so, my friend was not allowed to damage, move, or even touch the clamp, as it was not his property and he could get into trouble for doing so, haha!
I pointed out that so far the clamp had not been touched; all that had happened was that the air had been let out of the tyre which was my friend's property, so nyer!
My friend continued his task (and although not acknowledging the copper, paying special attention not to move or touch the clamp) and after a further five minutes, the wheel was off the clamp, hurrah!
By this time we had a small audience of other 'clampees' and rozzers, all of whom watched as the clamp was left untouched in the gutter.
That was when we sussed a major glitch in the plan. Although the car was off the clamp, there was no way he could put the spare tyre on without having to move the clamp.
But then in a grand moment of solidarity, the other 'clampees' (mainly men) rolled their sleeves up and took hold of part of the car.
To the dismay of the rozzers, they moved the car back just far enough for him to get the spare wheel back on, which he did, huzzah!
The other 'clampees' that had Big Stickers on their cars sadly could not do the same, but we drove off into the night to the accompaniment of three cheers and a round of applause, punctuated by the swears of various Officers of the Law.
It was a grand moment which sadly can rarely if ever be re-enacted ever again as it costs far too much to even get a car into London, and if you could afford it and left your vehicle in an unauthorized place, it would probably get taken away or blown up rather than clamped.
But if you were one of those chaps who helped move the car, a very belated Thank You to you!

*My friend only had the one. I drank the rest of his quota for him.
**Or similar. I can't remember the exact words.