After a long hard week at work I rose early on Saturday with the intention of stealing a march on the other weekend travellers. I'd had a less than restful night thanks to Dan and his 'friend' coming in late and banging around. But even so, I was looking forward to a nice drive up north.
I opened my curtains and surveyed the car park, a little bleary-eyed I was, but even so, there was definitely a car shaped gap where my trusty wagon should have been sitting.
'Oh flip', I thought, 'the local ne-er do wells have had it away'. I actually let a small smile creep across my face, I know full well it's insured above it's actual value. I made my way into the carpark, my be-slippered feet trudging through the dew and had a quick peer up and down the street.
No car. Gone. Best give Mum a ring I suppose, but before that I called the police (not 999 of course, just the local station), they asked me whether I'd called Trace - I've never heard of Trace, but it seems if your car gets nicked the first people you're supposed to call up are a global database for stolen property.
And that, I feel, is symbolic of the New Labour approach to crime. Stolen goods have been outsourced. In my day, back in Lincoln, I'd go and tells Steve's dad (a copper) and he'd go down the pub, have a few words, with a few people he knew, and the stolen good would likely turn up good as new.
Anyway, I told the policestation my car's reg. Then, she said 'Oh no, it's not been stolen, it was towed on Friday. No permit.'
I was flabbergasted, I've lived here for years, always had a permit, never been towed. So I called the number of the towing coming ZCSUK.Ltd and it rang, and it rang, but no one picked up. 'Ah well, it's early,' I thought. There has obviously been some sort of mix-up.'
I left it a while, until after 9:00 and called again. Nothing.
Then at 9:30 and then at 10:00.
Then I just kept pressing redial. Nothing.
I thought I'd better go and see Mrs Bradly, she's part of the neighbourhood watch sceheme, to see if she had a number to call. She did. In fact, she was able to throw new light on the matter.
Our block, it seems, has been taken over by a new management company and the new company had supplied new permits. Only, I hadn't received a permit.
Ahhh, a mix-up, no doubt my permit was missing in the post. I would call up on Monday and the whole affair would be over. They'd get my car back to me.
I called up the management company this morning and they said they had sent out a new permit. Indeed, they claimed to have sent out three letters to me.
Three letters, no of which I had responded to. Why send three letters? Surely, if they had sent three letters, I would have seen one?!
Thing is, I didn't get any of them.
They swear blind they sent them, I swear blind I never received them.
The lady on the phone said I need to call up the car pound and settle the debt. I called up the pound, the current bill is over £400. They say they clamped it on Thursday (£120) then towed it on Friday (£140) and are charging £40 a day storage (and that they were in all weekend, as they're open on Saturdays - open it seems, but not answering the number on their noticeboards - and since they do not give out their address, because "of the nature of the business" I was unable to even track them down physically).
The pound has agreed to put the storage costs on hold (very kind) but I need to pick it up and since they're shut in the evening, I need to leave work early, then get a train to Kent and give them a ring, they'll pick me up and take me to the car.
Apparently, I can appeal the towing (I've got seven days to lodge an appeal). Although I somehow don't think I'll win.
The towing company have acted within the law, they have rocked up and towed away a car without a permit, an open and shut case, so I'll need to appeal to the management company, I'm guessing that in this nightmare, they'll say, 'well, if you didn't agree with the fine, why did you pay it? there's nothing we can do retrospectively'.
So, I find myself down over 400 large, massively inconvenienced over the weekend, and having to work through lunch so I can leave early to go to Kent, then drive all the way back along the South Circular, and STILL not be able to park in my own parking space.
WHERE IS THE JUSTICE???????????????