Daneshill barriers are properly down.

It started as a very frustrating morning. Plenty of spaces in Swingate and Daneshill, though plenty of cars already there. But with no warning or explanation, both car parks were closed. For what? I don’t know. Nothing got painted, lopped, trimmed or demolished, so no idea. I ended up in Southgate of all places – yeah – I know!!!

But on the way back, the random closing while some cars were already inside had obviously caused havoc. This was either an official or unofficial way to deal with the situation…

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Chip coin collection.

For some reason, my season ticket isn’t working properly. It won’t let me into Swingate. When you swipe the card the display just says “Please wait…”.

Then it won’t do anything. I buzzed the help button and the guy said reverse out (does that really reset it?) And take a chip coin. This yellow token is what non-season-ticket-holders use to get in – then when you leave, you put the coin in the machine, you pay how much you owe and away you go. Except my card still lets me out. Which leaves me with a chip coin every time.

One... two... yup, that's three.

Granted, it’s a modest collection: 3 all told. But it does leave me with a quandary. Where to return them? If I try to put them in the machine it’ll ask for some massive sum dating back to last week.

There’s a Stevenage Council van sometimes parked in Swingate. I’m half-tempted to just pop them on the roof of the van and scurry away.

I’ve come back to this post a couple of days later. I kept meaning to make a follow up call to the parking chaps to get this sorted. But being busy at work, I hadn’t got round to it.

All that became academic when I opened an envelope in Saturday’s post to discover a new pass – thanks (Mrs) Phyll Walklate! And lo, it lets me in AND out of the car park.

Maybe I could take a leaf out of their book and use this whole mail thingy to return these chip coins. There might be something in this…

As a footnote I will add that at least one regular reader will be glad of this return to this blog’s core competency: the intimate and sometimes excruciating details of parking in Stevenage. Enough of this mission creep. Let’s get back to basics. Well. We’ll see.

A moment for Fergus.

Yesterday, I got the last parking space in Swingate. Today I wasn’t so lucky. The barrier let me in but I was like a forlorn 7-year-old realising this game of musical chairs was over for me (though it didn’t stop the naughty red Focus behind me park in the illegal non-space).

Anyway, so on to Danesgate it was. Slightly further away from the station and the detour means I’d miss my train, but no matter.

On the tree by the entrance to Danesgate is a Missing Dog poster. Here it is:

I haven't seen this dog.

So I wondered if they’d had any joy. And on closer inspection there was a web address at the bottom of the poster, partially obscured by a drawing pin.

A quick Google and I’d foundĀ AlfiesLostDogs.com. It’s a site that aims to help people find missing dogs. Give them the details and they’ll put them into a template and send you flyers back so you can post them up in your area.

You can moan all you like about the art direction and typography (if you’re that way inclined) but there’s no denying Alfie (or rather Justine, his owner) has got his heart in the right place.

The site also acts as a central database that puts people who’ve found dogs in touch with people who’ve lost them. Another quick search turned up Fergus’s entry and the accompanying messages of goodwill.

Well dear reader, it doesn’t end well. Following the forum thread, Fergus’s body was found a few weeks after he went missing. He was by the side of the road, not far from where he was last seen. Touchingly, it seems he was heading back in the direction of his home but didn’t quite make it.

The web eh? A force for good, for community, for finding out that a random missing dog has gone to the big kennel in the sky.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Fergus the Scottish terrier.

There’s a spider living in the parking barrier.

Look carefully and you’ll see it; a spider’s taken up residence between the ticket machine’s display and the glass that protects it. He’s only diddy.

There he is!

There he is!

There’s a surprising amount of arachnophobia around as I discovered earlier in the year when I was proposing that we use an animated spider to front the campaign for a well-known mobile handset. Suddenly all these underground arachnophobes came out of the woodwork. They couldn’t hide their unease – even with a cartoon spider. You could see them tensing up and looking away. Fools. Wimps. Freaks. Clients and colleagues alike.

If you ever see an ad featuring spiders – good or bad – hats off because there are some serious issues and obstacles it has to get past to see the light of day. There was no way my spider campaign was ever going to get through – and it was an amazing idea, let me tell you.

A mate of mine was a confirmed arachnophobe – even a tomato stalk would freak him out. The laughs we used to have…

A breakdancing spider attacking a tomato. No hang on...

A breakdancing spider attacking a tomato. No hang on...

Wheelie suitcases: another reason to hate.

Came across reason number 4 on Friday evening:
Particularly large wheelie cases can cause problems going through ticket barriers. Unwary travellers with these unwieldy wheelies will be unaware that the barriers are likely count them as two people, not one person with an annoying suitcase.

Barriers: incompatible with idiots with large wheelies.

Barriers: incompatible with idiots with large wheelies.


Alas the luggage has no ticket for itself, so the barriers come crashing in on it, jamming up that lane and forcing the unfortunates behind (e.g. me on Friday evening) to force their way into an adjacent queue.

Meanwhile, the London Underground guy, responding to the suitcase and barrier’s distress, is himself blocking up the adjacent barrier. Were this to continue, global gridlock would occur, meaning that no one anywhere could move. At all. I imagine.

Barrier maths FAIL.

For some reason I was ahead of myself this morning, getting to Swingate a full 5 minutes before usual. Bloomin’ good job I did. There were 2 spots left. One was a real insurance job. You’d have trouble getting in and out without some serious paintwork scrapage. I’d just watched a Mini perform a 17-point turn (the last 10 or so just needless – a complete khazi – she was basically in but trying to be straight and central, but made very hard work of it).

See that last space on the left? Good luck with that one...

See that last space on the left? Good luck with that one...

There was another space next to hers that was even harder to get in. I made one attempt then cut my losses. I didn’t want to put on a show like the Mini had done moments earlier. Round the corner was an easier one. Still not straightforward – that’s why it’s one of the last to go – but 3 manouvres and I was snug.

And as I locked up and walked away, there were 2 more cars looking for spaces – a bit like musical chairs, but this time with cars and spaces. Well, the first car finds the last space and begins to find an angle to start with while the other does a fruitless circuit before heading for the exit. Now, the naughty Polo and naughty Rover hadn’t used the kerb this morning (which normally throws out the numbers). Would the black Focus (and I felt some kinship here) go semi-legal? No. It left and probably headed to Danesgate.

So there you are, Stevenage Borough Council; your Swingate barrier’s out by one spot. Is this a temporary abberation or the millennium bug (it must have had an effect somewhere…)?

+++ UPDATE +++

Arriving back at Swingate on my way home, naughty red Rover had obviously arrived a little later and bagged the half-on/half-off spot. Cheeky!

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