The dynamics of the village can only be understood with reference to what’s happening to the parking.
Unless you study the parking, you have no way of understanding the village. Not really. You may think you understand it, but you are just scratching the surface of the alliances and enmities that make the village go around.
For example, we recently lost the residents’ parking sign relating to the dozen spaces down the unmade track that leads to my house which had been used by those of us stuck down this track through no fault of our own, other than we had a rush of blood to the head and decided it would be nice to live on a village green.
My lawyer friend at the time I bought my house warned me not to, but I wouldn’t have it. ‘Village greens are a nightmare,’ he said, with unusual fervour.
I rejected this notion. In any case, there was designated parking, and an access track which was coloured yellow on the plan on the deeds of the house, with historic rights to use it with a vehicle established over so many years, and so on.
It quickly turned out to be a rum do, as my friend predicted, because all the residents had an unusual idea of how much of the parking space they should have.
While those to the right of me had two or three spaces each, we and our neighbour to the left, for no reason we could make out, had been allotted one space each between two houses. The builder boyfriend and I parked two cars anyway, with predictable results.
But through all of this, there was a sign saying ‘Residents’ Parking’ and that meant that no matter how hot the turf war over how many spaces each of us nabbed, the dog walkers and the day trippers did not stop here, but went further on to the larger public parking area by the children’s playground instead.
We were all as happy as a sack full of rats, sharing our dozen parking spaces in a never-ending game of car chess, trying different angles to thwart each other, while the rest of the world battled war and famine.
Until one day the residents’ parking sign disappeared. And this is how it happened.
The builder boyfriend and I happened to be looking out of the upstairs front bedroom window one Friday afternoon before the Saturday farmers’ market, as local busybodies were marking out the green with white chalk.
A lady who is the big hotshot round here, one of those über-WI types who does everything and runs most things, unofficially, without having the title she ought to have, which is Head of Everything Because This Lot Need a Leader, came up the track in a big black Defender with a male friend, and got out of the passenger side. The friend got out of the driver’s side so presumably this is where the resident who rushed from her house made her bloomer. She did not see the village chieftain emerge from the other side of the car, and noticed only the driver, who she did not recognise as being anyone to do with anything.
She came down the pathway of her house and yelled at the top of her voice to the man: ‘Excuse me! Could you not park here! This is RESIDENTS’ parking!’ And she said ‘residents’ with particular venom, as if to emphasise that the man was less than nobody.
A sharp intake of breath came in unison from the BB and I as we looked at each other in horror. The man carried on with his business, opening a gate on to the green to help prepare for the farmers’ market.
But the lady chieftain turned to the resident and with an ice-cold glare, and in a voice so quiet and calm it put chills up the spine, said: ‘I can assure you I have every right to be here because I own that house there,’ pointing to a property she rents out. ‘And I can also assure you this is NOT residents’ parking.’
And nor was it, any longer. The village chieftain must have made an immediate call to rescind all private parking rights hitherto enjoyed by those of us down this track, for the very next morning a man who does the grunt work for the village elders drove down in his battered Land Rover and hacked away the residents’ parking sign.
The day trippers and the dog walkers drive their cars up here now like it’s going out of fashion. And good for them.
I enquired of the parish council and was told the track had never been private parking, legally speaking. Evidently it just suited someone important at some point that it was. And now it doesn’t suit them.
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