Happy Christmas from the team at haslemereparking.com
A Haslemere resident has sent us a Christmas parking story. It is a work of fiction.
At 12.01 on a Christmas morning a man wearing a loosened council tie and crumpled viscose suit exited the Town Hall and walked towards his car.
Before he could reach it, a geyser of fire lifted the Porsche Boxster seven feet off the ground, its window glass shattering against the Town Hall facade and across remembrance wreaths propped against the war memorial.
The buckled chassis fell awkwardly across the pavement. The boot lid popped, spewing fifty pound notes atop a pyramid of yellow and blue flame, the money caressed by gravity once free of the fierce heat, leaving a circle of charred cash in the snow. The street lights had blown, intensifying the dancing shadows: a view of Perdition for those jolted from their beds and now parting their curtains.
A man in overalls staggered from the Hall shading his eyes. He fell to his knees next to the prostrate form slumped on the curb.
Christmas Eve, 11.46pm, two men left the White Horse, one carrying a green canvas rucksack at odds with his Harris Tweed jacket and plus fours.
‘Who was responsible for the research?’ asked the other, a slight figure with a nervous gait.
‘Brother Jamil. I think he looked up “dress of the English” in Google images. I will have words.’
The slight man pulled at his fake Dolce & Gabbana singlet. ‘You were lucky, at least you’re warm. Can we swap?’
‘That would look good, exchanging disguises just because one of us can’t get used to a little cold! You’re determined to give us away, aren’t you?’ He placed the rucksack on a low wall surrounding the memorial. ‘Why did you ask for mint tea in there?’
‘I told the elders, I am not drinking beer.’ He patted his chest and looked to the skies. ‘My guide is Allah, not them.’
‘Be quiet!’ said the first, looking about them. ‘At least keep your voice down until we can plant this thing and leave.’
‘Somewhere to create impact.’
‘But no casualties?’
‘Yes; you heard the elders. Do I have to repeat everything?’
‘But this is not Jihad.’
‘This one is for funding. There is a sponsor and he wants to generate fear in this town of Haslemere. The arrangement suits him and it suits us.’
A girl in stilettos emerged from the pub, tottered on the cobbles and climbed into a taxi. It pulled away, leaving the town quiet. The lights in the pub blinked off.
The man in tweeds pointed towards the town hall. ‘Over there would be appropriate. A symbol of their democracy.’
‘Maybe beneath the car outside? A symbol of their decadence?’
The first looked to his companion. ‘Yes my brother, it will be fitting.’ He opened the rucksack and turned a dial. ‘Now quickly, place it beneath the boot. It is set for five minutes. By then we will be far from here, and not long after you’ll have your mint tea my friend, courtesy of Khyber Airlines.’
Four hours earlier a crowd surrounds the Town Hall, yellow placards waving in the late evening breeze, bright anti-parking tee shirts pulled over suits, sportswear and designer dresses. Inside a parking consultation meeting takes place, 48 hours before the new meters are due to be installed.
‘Please, please, let me speak,’ barks the councillor, chairman of the parking committee. ‘If we cannot have order, then I will be forced to adjourn the meeting and deem all attending to have accepted our proposals.’
A hand went up at the front of the packed meeting room. ‘But nobody said anything.’
‘Ahem, well, I will not have interruption. I demand order.’
The vice-chairman seated behind him opened a packet of monster munch and passed it to a council colleague.
The councillor continued. ‘Today’s meeting is an unprecedented and, I am sure you’ll agree, very accommodating gesture by the council to give you, the public, the opportunity to understand why the CamPark meter system will be of such benefit to Godalming.’
‘Haslemere, sir,’ whispered the vice-chairman.
He eyed the crowd. ‘Yes, it will free your town of the commuters who clog your streets every morning.’
There was a measured female voice from the back. ‘And their families, who clog the town’s shops during the day.’
‘Quiet! Your comment has no foundation,’ said the councillor, straining to see from where the voice had come.
‘The foundation for my comment comes from a survey undertaken by your own department, councillor. So why is this going ahead?’
The councillor scanned the audience. ‘You could not have seen the results of that survey… and anyway, there is more to it than freeing the town of traffic, there is also a security benefit.’
‘Yes, the CamPark system is fitted with a digital monitoring device which, whilst recording parking activity, feeds details of all observable public movement into the council security processing unit; for your safety!’
The woman emerged from the crowd. ‘That wasn’t in the proposal document you submitted to me. Security is not a part of your remit.’
‘Council Leader! I didn’t think you could make it.’
She stepped up to the platform. ‘Take your seat, councillor. Ladies and gentlemen, please be assured that there will be no such a parking programme for Haslemere, or indeed Godalming,’ she added, eyeing the figure slumped on the plastic fold-away chair next to her.
At 10am the previous morning in the 30th floor Canary Wharf office of EyeSpy Security, the councillor and another man were sitting either side of a green leather-topped desk.
‘I may not be able to get this through,’ the councillor said, ‘I’m sorry, there’s just too much opposition.’
The man with his back to the vista of south London and the Surrey Hills leant back, swiped the glasses from his face, and rubbed his eyes. ‘You said you’d have no trouble.’
‘They’ve organised themselves, they’re militant. They’ve got a website and tee shirts!’
The man shot him a look of pitiful disdain. ‘I don’t care. Go and get yourself a tee shirt if you think they’ll find it scary. The meters are ready to go in, you can’t back out now.’
‘I’m sorry, it’s no good; you can have the Porsche and the money back.’
‘No my friend, you don’t understand. There’s precious little I can do with a second-hand car, let alone one hundred and twenty five calibrated parking meters. You need to get the public on-side. Set up a consultation meeting, tomorrow!’
‘Consultation! With the public? Are you mad?’
The businessman stared coolly at the councillor.
‘That’ll just strengthen their case, I’ve got nothing.’
‘Tell them it’s a security issue. It’s about keeping their streets safe.’
‘This is Haslemere, not Humberside.’
‘Sell it in. You have to.’ The businessman replaced his glasses and flicked a finger at the door. ‘I have a meeting now.’
‘If I can’t,’ said the councillor on his way to the door, ‘you’ll have the car and the cash back on Monday.’
After the councillor had left the businessman picked up the phone and dialed a number.
‘Don’t worry councillor, you’ll be able to keep the car,’ he said listening for the international dial tone. ‘I have an idea.’