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October 2009 - The Long BirthdayPerusing my notes, patiently prepared in preparation for the creation of this month's exciting epistle, I note that we're almost going right back to our roots on this particular occasion.
Those of you who have been around since the beginning, or have taken a moment to read the history of Nick Harvey's Comment and its origins, will be aware that it started out having a go at purely local issues. Even though it wasn't the original intention, we appear to be doing quite a lot of that again this month.
My faithful devotees who have read, marked, learned and inwardly digested the two previous editions would hardly be surprised if I was to tell them that I'm now very much tempted to park up the rapid racer and never go out in it ever again.
We had occasion to visit Salisbury the other weekend. Now, living as we do, only about twenty-five miles away from that fair city, you'd be forgiven for thinking that we would probably visit that location on a fairly regular basis, but that, in fact, has never been the case.
And, madam, now we've been the once, I can definitely confirm that we won't ever be going back again!
Oh, and by the way, being conscious of the wide international appeal of this monthly load of old cobblers, I should perhaps clarify that that would be Salisbury, in the county of Wiltshire, in little old England; not Salisbury, Rhodesia, or any of the other Salisburys which might be dotted about the globe.
Oh, and as a further aside, why on earth is this stupid computer now trying to tell me to change 'Salisburys' to Salisburies' in the paragraph above? Bill Gates really ought to learn English!
No, madam, we won't be going back to Salisbury, Wiltshire, England ever again; well, not unless we win the lottery and end up with a couple of million spare to pay for the parking.
We went on a Sunday afternoon, a time when, in lots of places, parking charges are suspended. Not so in bloomin' Salisbury though! Half an hour's parking cost us £2.50! It's nearly as much of a rip-off as parking in an NHS hospital car park.
The weekday charges, according to the notice board, were even higher than that. God forbid that you would want to stay all day on a weekday, you'd need to take out a mortgage.
Now, Nick Harvey, being the conscientious chap that he is, has decided to put Salisbury's parking charges under his Acme microscope for in-depth scrutiny. Scrutiny, in particular, in comparison with other locations you could visit in the same county.
Oh, welcome along, by the way, ladies, gentlemen and cardigans, to the stupendous October edition. I was getting so wound up about coming away from Salisbury penniless that I almost forgot to be polite. And don't worry too much about this month's title, by the way, we'll get round to that subject eventually. All this angry preamble is but a minor digression before the main event.
To do my detailed research, I went off to the world wide website of the brand, spanking, new Wiltshire Council.
You know Wiltshire Council, madam, the one newly formed in April of this year from the old county council and the four district councils, in order to be far more streamlined and to save council tax payers positively huge amounts of money in the process. The one, after six months in existence, facing a £3.8 million pound overspend by the end of the financial year.
Hey, perhaps I've just worked out why the parking's so soddin' expensive!
Anyway, to give a reasonable comparison, I looked at the annual charges for a season ticket to park in various locations around the county.
In Wootton Bassett, where you'd have expected them to have at least introduced a surcharge for television company satellite trucks once a week, they have the cheapest season ticket, at £220 for the year. Amesbury comes next, at £250 for the year. Calne, Corsham and Malmesbury all come in at £270 a year. My own town of Devizes comes in pretty steep, as one of the places on £718 a year.
Then we come to Salisbury, rip-off city! There are two rates for Salisbury, the 'general' one at £1,045 a year and the one for just one of the car parks at a staggering £1,320 a year.
Did you realise that you could park six cars in Wootton Bassett for the same amount as it costs to park one in that 'special' car park in Salisbury? It's bloomin' extortion, madam, bloomin' extortion!
No, we won't be going back to Salisbury. As nice as it is as a city, we simply can't afford to go there. What on earth do the traders think, I wonder? Surely they can't be very happy at all the shoppers they must be losing to other places where you can park for a reasonable time for about fifty pence?
Oh, and just before that guy in the fifth row finishes muttering 'park-and-ride' under his breath, no, sir, they wouldn't let me on the bus with my fridge under my arm.
I shall just have to stay in Devizes won't I? At least I can have a gentle stroll up into Devizes town centre from Harvey Towers. That can be quite pleasant so long all my purchases and returns are a tad smaller than your average fridge.
I just need to be a tiny bit careful where I sit, though, if I get worn out from the walk into town. If I sit on the nice seat in the little garden place, I must remember not to help out the Devizes Town Council gardener by dead-heading the flowers, or worst of all, daring to pull up a dead plant to make the place look a bit tidier.
Some poor woman did that last week and the Town Council insisted that she was prosecuted for theft and criminal damage. The criminal damage was for pulling the plant up in the first place and the theft because she was thoughtful enough to take it away and not just throw it on the floor.
The council wanted the police to fine the poor woman £80 and charge her £6 in compensation for the dead plant. Eventually, a police Inspector had to intervene to calm the stupid situation down and tell the lady that no further action would be taken against her.
Why, Nick Harvey wants to know, didn't the police Inspector go just that little bit further and charge the Town Council with wasting police time? You can be damn sure that if it had been me trying to get the poor woman arrested at ten o'clock at night, then he would have taken a different view.
As you might have gathered by now, councils aren't my most favourite of groups this month. Nick Harvey is not a happy bunny because of them. I mean, they've hardly left me time to discuss this month's exciting Comment subject with you, have they? Shall we begin?
Falling as it does, at the end of October, my birthday periodically gets specially extended. This year is one of those years when, by special statute, it is deemed to run for twenty-five hours.
The statute concerned, The 1916 Summer Time Act, as most recently amended by The 2002 Summer Time Order, insists that, every few years, we get to 2am on my birthday and then start again from 1am. It's all good fun, you know.
What I need now, is for you to send your suggestions, on the back of the usual ten pound note, as to what great things you think I ought to get up to during my extra hour of celebration this year. A prize, for the most original suggestion, is unlikely to be awarded.
Well, that seems to be just about it for this time round. I'm terribly sorry that our wayward councils rather decimated the space available for the real subject for this month. At least you are blessed with the longest period in the year between editions of Comment in which to get over this particular one. Thirty-one days and one hour!
Having adjusted all my timepieces to the time of Greenwich, I shall be back, promptly, on November the first with more words of wisdom, so please join me again then.
Oh, and please don't pick the flowers before I get back; you never know what trouble you might get yourself into. Right, I'm off where's me secateurs?
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