More parking issues – this time in London

I drove into London the other day. Just took possesion of a BMW 1 series and wanted to make the most of it.

I parked just off Drury Lane on the street and went to the Pay and Display machine.

Now forgive me, but everytime I’d used a P&D machine it’s always worked the same way. You put money in, you get a ticket out.

I know, I know, there are issues – Like not having enough change, They always seem to charge just just over a natural point, i.e. £1.10 or £1.60 etc. – but it’s been the status quo for many a year.

Imagine my surprise that it only takes credit (or debit) cards. Duly dished out my debit card and popped it int eh machine. It asked how long I wanted to park for – 15 minutes should be enough for what I wanted to acheive – and waited. It told me to take my card out and I waited. After a short while the backlit display went off.

Hmm. No ticket, no receipt. Is this whats supposed to happen?

I was unsure so I phoned the number on the side of the machine (you could pay by phone as well) and spoke to the customer services person who was helpful.

I explained what had happened and that I had no ticket.  Having checked her machine she said it hadn’t gone through and offered to sell me a ticket. This took the best part of 5 minutes to get through and required the number plate of my car – which as it was borrowed from the garage I didn’t know so had to find the car again.

Having let her know all this (including my debit card) she took money for a ticket. Except you don’t get a ticket any more. Oh no. Tickets are a thing of the past. So last century it seems. Not sure how the traffic wardens work now. Rather than look in the window they must have to enter the number plates of all the cars in the road each time they walk down each one. Must take ages to do.

Strange part was the instructions on the machine. It said you must display a valid ticket or get fined. How? The helpful lady couldn’t answer that one. It seems no one has asked that question before. I hope they figure it out quickly and update the machines.

So if you are in central London in a car looking for a parking space I suggest you find a car park as it will be a lot easier than street parking.

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How to get a Criminal Record the Easy Way

This has been taken from a friend of mine who found out what British Justice is all about. I appologise to him as I was one of those who said Stand Up For Your Rights.

How I became a Criminal

A Chapter from the forthcoming “Best seller”

“YOU ARE ONLY HERE ONCE!”

My Memoirs – By Gary Roberston

I will try to tell the “whole” story, so that you have as much information, to hand, as possible. Then you can decide for yourself, what I am actually “Guilty”, of.

Saturday 21 June 2008 – It was the “stag day” for Carl, a long time, very good friend, sort of “extended family”. It was 2 more weeks until the wedding, at which, I had a very special service to perform. Not only was I doing “the reading”,(Karen had helped me out with a couple of verse’s from 1 Corinthians 13 – perfect I thought – Not so the vicar though – “Oh no” he thought the whole chapter would be much better- that way he didn’t have to do a reading. – “Oh great!”), but, I had also agreed to sing! Luckily I’d asked Louisa to sing with me and she is brilliant, so however bad I was going to be, with her singing and Russell playing, things wouldn’t be that bad and in fact, it wasn’t. Anyway, I digress, back to my little story.

The day started with about 10 of us go-karting at Q-leisure in Hassocks, a wonderful time was had by all. Hey, I can still compete with the youngsters, not only did I make the final, I managed to finish 5 places higher than I qualified and my lap times weren’t that bad and my opposition were all hardened Motocross riders at least 20 years my junior and 4 or 5 stone my inferior. Anyway, we raced, drank a bit and returned home at approx 13.30hrs. We then all had afternoon naps, a snack, got “spruced up” and left home again at approximately 19.00hrs.

My wife, Minnie, took two “car loads” of us to the “The Hub” on the Sainsbury’s gyratory where we met with the rest of the “attendee’s” and the Stag evening commenced in earnest. The construction of the group was The Stag (groom) Carl his 3 brothers, my Son – Brett (who will pop up in the story later) My Daughters boyfriend Rupert and about 8 other friends – the age range was between 19 and 28 with me at 47 being the “adult”. After a couple of games of pool we moved on down the Lewes Road via the kebab shop and a couple of pubs to Horatio’s bar on the Brighton pier, a couple of fairground rides, Karaoke songs and a fair few drinks later, we found ourselves in “TRU” the night club on West Street at approximately 00.30 on Sunday 22 June.

On Arriving at “TRU” there were only four of the original party left; Myself, Brett, Rupert, his friend Lewis, at this point we met up with my daughter Roz. The “party” continued in “good spirits” until approximately 02.25hrs.

Roz found me outside in the smoking area and told me that Brett had been “beaten up, by 3 blokes” and was going. We immediately proceeded to leave the club and I found Brett outside the front door with a seeping cut on his eyebrow, we walked to the opposite side of the road, towards the West Street taxi rank, where as we got to the centre of the road, 3 taxis’s pulled up together. Brett and I proceeded to jump straight into the first (London) taxi as he stopped, where I tried to look at my son’s eye, ascertain whether we needed to visit the hospital and ask him what had happened. After fastening my seat belt and starting to question him, we realised, (as the others had not properly got into the taxi) that the people standing on the pavement were in fact in an orderly queue awaiting taxis. I had no idea there was a queue as everything was happening in such a hurry and we had not even reached the other side of the road when we hopped in. My son then left the taxi first, as I made a comment along the lines of “I’ve only just got comfortable”, then removed my seat belt and alighted the taxi in order to apologise to the driver and the waiting queue. At this point, as I was stepping out of the taxi in a stooped position I was pulled by my arm and then pushed with 2 hands squarely in my chest. I didn’t even have time to see my “assailant” as I had not actually stood up properly yet. Being of fairly a substantial stature I didn’t move very far and immediately reacted with a two handed push back against the person who had pushed me. (I think the push I gave was of a similar strength to the one I received – a bit like gravity, with a force being equal and opposite to the one applied) At this point I was surrounded by uniformed Police officers and realising the situation, I immediately put my arms out horizontally at my sides and stated quite clearly “I am not resisting, I am not resisting” when two officers had an arm each, my arms were forced behind my back and I was bent over the bonnet of the taxi and someone handcuffed me. During this, I could hear shouting going on, as my son and daughter were protesting our innocence of anything (other than attempted queue jumping). On seeing the treatment given to me, my son, who was already injured from his previous encounter, decided to push his way toward me and was jumped upon by several officers, treated very roughly, arrested and taken away. (He was subsequently given an “On the spot” instant fine for being “dunk and disorderly” the following day on his release from the Brighton holding cells). When I was allowed to stand from the bonnet of the taxi, I was taken to the entrance of the Oak hotel and stood facing the wall. At this point, my daughter came to see me and told me what was happening with my son. I then shouted out “Who is the tall bloke in the white shirt” as this was all I could recall of my assailant. A voice from beyond replied “I am Inspector B—s, the only inspector here”. I then replied “Why did you push me”. I was then, after a further 5 minutes or so, taken around the corner and put into a Police car with 3 officers and taken to the “Hollingbury” Police cells. I remember thinking at this point, “Why are you wasting your time taking me in? They will let me go later, anyway! – Probably with an apology! And why, 3 Police Officers? I’m a 47 year old respectable man, being well behaved and I haven’t done anything wrong! Surely you will need these Officers if any real trouble starts!”

On arrival at the cells I was stood in front of a Desk Sergeant and formally “arrested” for assaulting a Police officer and criminal damage. Both of these charges were, I must admit, an absolute surprise to me as, other than mistakenly “queue jumping” and shoving someone back who had shoved me, I really had done nothing wrong. (The criminal damage charge, apparently related to the taxi, I can only imagine something to do with the way I was hauled over the bonnet)

Following a night in the cells, I was finally fingerprinted and interviewed at approximately 13.00 on Sunday. I declined a solicitor at this point as I was convinced that it was all a “big mistake” and that I would be set free as soon as the facts were known. During my interview, the interviewing officer asked me what I expected to happen next. I replied “I suppose an apology will be out of the question – If he apologises to me I will apologise to him” He replied “What you have said is exactly what is in the inspector’s statement – he is a decent chap and I am sure that will be the case. Wait here a minute I am just going up stairs to see someone”. The officer then returned about 5 minutes later to say that he had cleared it upstairs and I could go now, only, I would have to be bailed to return, as there was a question of criminal damage still outstanding. On returning to the desk Sergeant, I was clearly told that I was bailed to appear at the police station later, relating to the “criminal damage” and that the charge of Assaulting a Police officer had been dropped – this was confirmed by the bail sheet given to me. I then left.

When appearing for my bail at 5pm on the appointed day I was kept waiting in reception for over an hour, when eventually I was seen, an officer interviewed me and started his conversation with “Sorry to keep you, I am afraid nothing has happened about the criminal damage yet, as we are still waiting for information, but I don’t expect it will proceed. With regard to the assaulting a Police officer charge, would you be willing to accept a caution”. I replied that the charge of assaulting a Police officer had been dropped and it was a shame we had both wasted our time. The officer then took me through to a Desk Sergeant where he again apologised for wasting my time and reiterated that the charge of assaulting a Police officer had been dropped and that he didn’t expect anything to come of the criminal damage charge, but he would bail me to appear again later. I remember joking at this point “same time, same day” as it was for 5 pm and it was obviously a busy time at the police station.

On arrival at home feeling that this whole, horrible “mistake” was probably behind me, I put the paperwork behind my calendar thinking to fill it in later as I was due to go out immediately on my return. Not looking at the form to get the exact date, I assumed that the bail was for the Friday as was the previous one, not the preceding Monday.

I was just getting out of bed on the Morning of 19 July when the door bell rang. I looked out of the window to see two uniformed officers at my front door. I immediately thought “oh no, I must have missed my bail”. I was subsequently taken to the Police station and charged with breach of bail. I was told of the charge of Assaulting a Police officer. I said “that was dropped at my first interview and that only the charge of criminal damage was valid”. The officer said that, that charge had now been dropped, but I was still charged with assaulting a Police officer. At that point I asked if I was still entitled to see a solicitor as in my naivety I had refused one on previous visits.

Frankly at this point I began looking behind doors and round corners, expecting Jeremy Beedle to jump out at any moment, as this seemed to be an ever perpetuating farce. If the Police officer hadn’t pushed me in the first place, I would have apologised to the taxi driver and the queue and none of the subsequent events would have taken place!

There is still more to come, because now we were actually going to Court. My first ever court appearance had me pleading “Guilty” to failure to surrender for bail. Great – so now I had a criminal conviction, albeit a minor one, all because I missed an appointment. Oh and a £60 fine with a £15 surcharge for victim support. “Victim Support” – Just who is the “Victim” here, I thought.

Anyway a bit of good news my solicitor was hopeful “they” the CPS, were going offer me a caution and I was bailed to return on 20 August.

So, back to Court in August and yep, my Solicitor had done as he said and the CPS offered me a Caution”. “So what’s a Caution?” I asked, “And what exactly does it mean?” Well it turns out that it is still a criminal record and it is an admission of guilt on my part. But I really hadn’t done anything wrong. So what is the alternative to accepting a caution – go to “Trial” and prove your innocence. If you are found “not guilty” you will get back all your costs and of course NO criminal record. Hey, I had complete faith in the British Justice system. I know the truth here, my evidence is irrefutable, someone will see the truth, common sense will prevail and of course, Justice will be done. HA!

November 24th arrives and off I go to have my day in court and “prove my innocence!” The weeks before had been fairly busy getting my Witness’s and Character witness’s arranged with the Solicitor and our last meetings did sound a little less positive, as we had no CCTV available. Something, I was sure would prove my story to be exactly true, but the other Police officers statements threw no further facts into the melting pot, either. So what was it going to come down to? – my word, against that of a “Police Inspector”. You see, although we both totally agreed that he had pulled my arm and then pushed me and that I had subsequently pushed him straight back. Our Statements then differed a bit. The Inspector said that he had observed Brett and an officer struggling and he was concerned for the officer’s safety, as others were standing around, getting in the way and pulling on Brett, and they were half in and half out of the taxi. He also said that as he was running into the situation from 50 yards away and arriving at the scene which was confined to the 4-5 feet between the taxi and the railings, that he had shouted for everyone to get away from the officer and he had positively identified me as pulling on Brett from behind, although he couldn’t be specific as to how I was grabbing him, or where. The truth of the matter is that Brett was holding onto the railings with a vice like grip, the officer was trying to pull him off and Rupert and Lewis were talking to the officer trying to get him to see reason and let go of Brett. I was at this point still in the taxi, taking my own sweet time to undo my seat belt and get out. As I got out of the taxi, still in a stooped position, I was pulled out by my arm and then pushed in the chest. I then used both hands to push my assailant away, as an immediate reaction, I didn’t even know, who this person was, all I could remember was a tall man in a white shirt. Not maliciously, not with aggression, just a simple push so that I could get the person away from me and assess the situation, after all, who was it?, was it an angry member from the taxi queue? I did not even see what was happening to Brett as it all happened so quickly. I think the Inspector and I had, in fact, arrived at the “incident” simultaneously. Talk about being, at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Of course he knew how to write his statement, so that “it sounded right”, should it go further, which of course, it did.

Anyway, after all the witnesses were done, my star witness, my Daughter Roz, having backed up my story completely and she was sober and in a great position to see what had actually happened, it appeared that the whole case rested on whether the inspector was acting in the line of his duty, in which case, I really had no right to interfere with him “doing his job”. Then the solicitors and the clerk all started getting legal books out and talking about “precedents” and “in him verses him” etc. So, did I just get there at the wrong time, or was I actually out of the car, interfering with the officer arresting Brett. It was now down to the Magistrates’ they went off to deliberate for about half an hour and I went out with the Solicitor to go over the “what if’s” as it was now, all but over. I then sat around with my family and witnesses and we all seemed to agree that common sense was going to prevail.

The magistrates eventually returned, found me Guilty, fined me £450, plus another £15 for victim support (just who is this “victim”) and of course cost’s. As my Solicitor then said, “Well it is Magistrates Court and it was your word against a Police Inspector!”

So there you are! I now have a criminal record for “Assaulting a Police Officer” and “Failing to Surrender”. I have paid out a total of about £3,500 had 5 days off work, spent more than 18 hours in a cell, put my family through a lot of unnecessary stress and my faith in the “British Justice system” has been somewhat, broken. Anyone who knows me, know’s, I am above all, a “family man”, that I like a drink (and I’m quite good at it, I think), I like a good laugh, I am pretty laid back and honest (well to a point),” I don’t do violence, I’d much rather talk about it. I’d like to think most people think of me as a “nice” chap who would always “Do the right thing!” So it’s out of character to have a criminal record, but at least now you know why and how it happened.

Is it fair? Is it just? Didn’t we just waste a lot of time, money and effort? Isn’t it all a bit petty? Am I angry? – Just a bit. Do I think the Police have a difficult Job to do on a Saturday night? – Yes, I don’t doubt it. Do I have sympathy with them for the people they have to deal with? – Again, Yes, some Drunks are horrible! – Not me though!

Have I learned anything from all this? – OH YES! – I’ve learned that if you push anyone, (even if they push you first) look at them first, try to ascertain the situation, make sure you are not going to be further attacked, try to work out their identity, check to see if they are carrying a weapon, avoid further contact until you are absolutely sure they are not a Police Inspector. Then and only then, can you push them away! What else, oh yea I’ve learned – when asked if you would like to see a Solicitor, say yes. Oh, and take everything you hear from a Policeman with a “pinch of salt”. If you are offered a “Caution” – take it! It may be your only way out. Don’t listen to your friends – or even yourself come to that, if you think you have got to stand up against injustice. Don’t miss an appointment; make sure you diarise all the important things in your life! The rooms at the custody centre, although en-suite are fairly basic and the food is not quite up to what I remember of School dinners, the bedding is a little sparse and the bed hard, although I must say, the room service was pretty good. What else – oh yea, CCTV is never available when it might prove your innocence! Magistrates Court is probably biased towards the Police! – No it’s actually stacked against you! If they think you have some money, they will fine you more. You are Guilty unless you can prove your innocence. Life isn’t always fair and nor are the people in it, that you come across. Oh and the £15.00 I keep paying for “victim support”, that must be something to do with that letter I always get, a couple of days after I am given my crime number, (because they rarely come to actually see you) when I have in the past reported a burglary (twice), a robbery at my house, someone breaking into my car (3 times), someone vandalising my car, or breaking my shop’s front window(3 times) or stealing my shop stock! Hey, I think I may start getting bitter, if I’m not careful, so best stop there!

It’s up to you, now! Make your own mind up. Was I actually Guilty? – Well, YES – I was! Never mind aye! Luckily I’m not 18 anymore, so the effect on my life should not be “life changing”, although it might make me alter my direction a little. I may now have trouble getting into America for a holiday, but the up side is Australia welcomes Criminal’s (or at least they used to).

Well “THAT’S LIFE” so I’d best, just, get on and live it! – After all, “YOU ARE ONLY HERE ONCE!”

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Family – Part 1

This is not a good time of year for me. I’ve just had my birthday which always makes me feel a bit down (This is not the happiest of posts).

I was adopted at a very early age (about 6 weeks old) and although I’ve had loving adoptive parents I’ve always wondered what my real mum was like. Over the years I’ve thought about tracing her but not done anything about it, like most other things in my life – partly in an effort to not mess up the relationship with my adoptive parents, but after my adoptive mother died in 2000 I’ve been thinking about it more and more.

Well, after having a particularly bad day in July 2006 I decided it was time to trace my family.

The first step in getting hold of biological details is to get your original birth certificate from the adoption agency in London. This normally takes a few weeks due to the need to involve a social worker in your local borough. Mine was in Brighton, UK. It didn’t take six weeks – not even 12, but 6 months before I eventually got a letter from them. Bizarrely it was a letter inviting me to a workshop. I phoned them up to grumble about this to discover that I should have had a meeting a few weeks before but it seemed that no-one had bothered to contact me about it.

One to one meeting duly booked I wandered along to the Adoption Centre in London Road, Brighton to have a ‘chat’.

This bought on a few emotions that I wasn’t quite prepared for. It left me quite drained. I left the meeting with a birth certificate which showed who I was born as – as well as my mothers name.

It was time for a hunt.

In some ways I was glad I hadn’t searched when I was younger. Using the Internet made the whole job a lot easier than it would have been even two years before. Using a geaenology web site I was able to check the birth records for myslef as well as two potential brothers, my mother, her wedding, her husbands death as well as her parents births and deaths.

I’d gone from knowing nothing to knowing lots in three days. Phew! It was a very intense time.

From finding out all this information I’d found the wedding of my mum. I ordered a marriage certificate from the registry office and waited.

Meanwhile… being the person I am I found I couldn’t wait. I took my close friend @steaders with me and we went to Portsmouth for the day. It seemed odd trawling through the public records looking for my birth – coming away with nothing. The strangest moment was driving through the area thinking that one of the people I was looking at could be related to me.

Anyway, the following day the marriage certificate turned up. It had two addresses on it. One was for my mother, the other for her husband. I did a search for both addresses. Hers wasn’t any good. His though – had listed two people living there. One male, one female. Then names matched those I had found before when searching the registry online.

It would appear I had found her!

I was over the moon (as you can imagine). I was itching to drive down to meet her there and then but managed to contain my excitement for the time being. I had been told that writing a letter was a good way to start and that’s what I did. I included a SAE for her to reply with, hoping that a letter would arrive back. I had been told that sometimes nothing returned or that no reply was sent for a number of years but I had high hopes.

No more than 5 days later I had a reply which implied that she might know of me (good to know I was on the right track) and that it was ok to write again.

Second letter written I waited with baited breath. I’d included my mobile number – just in case.

Then, I got a text message saying ‘Hi’. I had a number….. What would I say? It had been 39 years – I’d never spoken to her – Would I fluff it all up?

After an agonising hour I picked up the phone and gave her a call.

‘Hi’

‘Hi, Is that Clive?’

‘Yes, who’s this?’

‘It’s Nick, your brother’

We chatted for nearly an hour about family and other things. It felt like home. We connected so easily even though we hadn’t ever met or spoken before.

Turned out my mother had gone to the supermarket to do the weekly shop.

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What to get others for Christmas?

It’s that time of the year again – Christmas is upon us. This leads to present gathering, which leads to the pain of what to get people. People who have (nearly) everything.

When I was young (quite a few years ago) working out what to get others for Christmas was quite easy. No one had much as everything seemed so expensive. So whatever you would get them they would feel happy with (within reason). I remember getting my dad some Optics for his Gin ‘n’ Tonics. They worked well on his half barrel bar. Sadly the bar and optics have gone away.

Now it seems that we earn more money and it’s relatively cheap and easy to purchase what we want when we want it. There isn’t a real need to have a once a year present fest. Now this might not be the case for everyone – those on benefits etc – no wait, they tend to have bigger flat screen TVs than the rest of us.

So I have to work out what to get my wife, my father, his wife, my sister and her husband etc. What do you get someone who has everything? Even ‘experience’ days are hard to find for some people. My dad is a bit infirm these days so I can’t see him wanting a trip in a Ferrari – he wouldn’t be able to get out at the end.

The nearer to Christmas we get, the more I worry about the lack of presents obtained. This tends to make me bah humbug and the old fallbacks come out. Case of wine normally does for my family, but gets a bit samey after a few years.

But hooray! I’ve just sorted my sister and her husband. They now have a trip rolling down a hill together. Would like to watch that one. It should be quite fun. hehe.

So what to get for people…

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Councils and parking

I went to pick up my father last night (he was coming round for Fish’n’Chips) and whilst waiting for him to get his coat and shoes on (takes a while) he mentioned the local councils plans for parking in his area of Hove. The council want to restrict him from parking outside his own house by putting double yellow lines across the drives as well as requiring him, his wife and their two children living at home to get parking permits. 8am to 8pm restrictions were bandied about.

A bit of background about this. The council are trying to put this cock up in place due to an earlier cock up down the road just the other side of Hove Park. Over there is a new office block on the site of the old Alliance and Leicester building. Parking in the old days was easy, they had a huge car park for their staff.

Area affected by new parking issues. New buildings just above the ‘A’.

So the old building was pulled down, new ones proposed along with housing that looks quite expensive. The council blocked an application to have lots of car park spaces. So there are now 200 spaces for 2000 employees. The council says it should promote car sharing. How many cars can get 10 people in? I’ve yet to find one other than a bus.

So we now have the sutuation that the workers have to park in the streets surrounding the office which causes issues for the local residents, most of whom have lived there for years.

And what does the council do about it? Yep, restict parking even more. Sheer lunacy.

I can’t understand what sort of person the council employs to come up with these hair brained schemes. Surely someone *might* have thought that 200 spaces for 2000 people could cause issues? Or maybe not.

Anyway, I think the council people at the feedback session got more than they bargained for yesterday. But it’ll go through anyway. The only reason for getting feedback in a council is to show you *listened*.

So, thats my first blog post. Hope it wasn’t too rant laden.

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