Wright's Aerials

We arrived at Nicholas House, near Oxford Street, W1, at 2pm, after a four-hour drive. There was absolutely nowhere to park on the street, but we had been promised off-street parking if the van would fit in the lift. These places have underground car parks, with access via a vehicle lift. After about of hour of getting security clearance, etc., we went round the back and tried the van in the lift, and it fitted. Down we went to the basement. There was quite a big car park, with about a dozen parking bays, and only one car. Because of the height of the van we could only park in the small area near bays 1, 2, or 3, but it was possible to get the van right to one side, where it didn't prevent access to any bay. We started to unload, but after a short time a security man came and told us that we would have to move the van. Because of his limited English we couldn't understand what the problem was, but soon a short man with a crew cut and a Ruritanian uniform came and told us that we must park in bay 4, or 5, or 6. We explained that the height of the van precluded this. "Not my problem," he said. "The executives prefer to park in bays 1, 2, and 3, and you are obstructing bay 1 slightly." We asked if the executives, in the very unlikely event that they came in on a Saturday afternoon, could be persuaded to park, just this once, in bays 4, 5, 6, etc. "No chance, you'll have to move it."

I said that I would move it once we had unloaded. We carried half a ton (literally) of equipment across the parking area to the passenger lift. All the time the PA system was barking "You must move your vehicle immediately!" By now it was 4.30pm - two hours before parking on the street became a practical possibility. We put the van in the vehicle lift. The lift wouldn't work. After a lot of messing about we took the van out of the lift again. Security tried to insist that I moved the van away from the lift area.

" Does that mean I can park where I was before?"
" No."
" Well in that case you get the lift fixed, and then the first vehicle to use it is going to be my van."
" You are causing an obstruction."
" Well get me outta here."
" The lift might work with a small car"
" Not with my van blocking the way it won't."

Eventually I tried reversing onto the lift, and this did the trick. So there I was in the back alley that leads to the stage door of the London Palladium. There was a loading area. The wardens are not all that obvious, since they now have a black uniform - a cross between the Hell's Angels and the SS. I asked a warden if I could park there. You can stay for a maximum of 30 minutes, as long as I observe you loading or unloading once every 4 minutes 59 seconds, he said. I drove round to the front.

There were no empty meter bays. Eventually we left the van on double yellow lines, and just kept checking that the tow truck wasn't in the street. It's very difficult to get any work done in these circumstances. At 6pm a meter bay became free, so we paid £1 per ten minutes until 6.30.

On Sunday morning we found that there were no meter bays. I cruised up and down for a while, and eventually parked in a disabled bay. I kept going out to look for a meter bay. The closest I got was when I was just backing into one when three Japanese tourists in a Merc roared up the street and dived into it. After a couple of hours I got a ticket, and the 'kiss of death', the tow-away notice. I hastily removed the latter and then Paul had to sit in the van for the rest of the afternoon looking out for the tow-truck, in case they'd noted the reg no.. At one point the truck came, drove up and down the street peering at vehicles, but then drove away. I finished the job as quickly as I could and we headed for the best thing in London: the sign at Junction 1 that says 'M1, The North'.

Such is life in central London. What a nightmarish place! Thank God I don't go there very often. How very superior is life in the North!

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