Autumnal Swingate.

Just this really.

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2 cars, 1 park.

No it’s not a dogging version of ‘2 girls, 1 cup’ – though I must confess, I’ve never watched it. No really, I have not.

Today was a momentous day in my household and Swingate combined. I have 2 cars. One for my commute which encompasses parking in Stevenage,; the other is used by my wife for school runs, shopping and miscellaneous trips. Generously, the car my wife drives is worth 3 times the one I drive; however, I digress.

My wife brought the kids into London to the Science Museum, to see me in my swanky office and for a nice lunch. How does that affect this blog? Well, both of us Parked In Stevenage. Double whammy. Double bubble. Double or Drop (for those of you old enough to remember Crackerjack – didn’t think so).

Yes, today, Swingate played host to both cars. A Double-Parking in Stevenage. A first! Unfortunately I have no visual proof, so as incredible as it sounds, you’re just going to have to trust me on this.

Once again we are deeply ensconced in the original premise of this blog. For those of you who asked me to go back to basics: there, be careful what you wish for.

Nuthin’ but Swingate.

I dunno. Life used to be a little more exciting than this. I started this whole blog because I was living on a knife-edge (you’re never far from one in Stevenage).

Please disperse. There is nothing to see.

Please disperse. There is nothing to see.

I have 5 car parks to park in – FIVE, I tell you! It used to be like Russian Roulette with a Ford Focus and an electronic pass card, but now it’s just Swingate, Swingate, Swingate. Betfair have stopped offering odds.

Parking anywhere else has become too much of a long shot. Sayonara Southgate. Arrivederci Danesgate. Adios Daneshill. Seeya St George’s Way Multi-storey. Etc…

I was thinking about this today as I swung into Swingate. And do you know what? I got the last space. Skin of my teeth. And do you know something else? Someone drove in after me. As I walked to the station, I watched to see what would happen and then quickly lost interest and went about my business. Much like you in fact.

Tactical Parking

Bullseye

Bullseye

This is my first spring parking in Stevenage. Thus far the art of tactical parking has eluded me. But now the green shoots of nature’s recovery are emerging, I now see what I did not before. I am one of the last motorists to deposit my ride in Swingate. As such it is interesting (to me a least) to note the pattern of the few spaces left for me to choose from.

Certainly, the favourites are nearest the station entrance. That makes total sense. And in the main, the very last spaces are the hardest to manoeuvre one’s car into.

But wait. There are random spots left open to me and until now I hadn’t realised why. Trees. Leave your car under a tree for 11 hours and you can guarantee that a rich variety of Britain’s birds will spend that vast expanse of time using your roof and windows for target practice.

And so this is the reluctant role my car plays on a regular basis. I would have to surmise that my winged friends must award themselves maximum points for a direct hit on the driver’s door handle. Unpleasant and inconvenient in equal measure, that is the single greatest hazard when parking in Stevenage.

Birdlime removal is a hit and miss affair. Some lifts off with a cursory spray of water. Other splats require vigourous rubbing and still it seems it must have chemically bonded to the car’s undercoat (there is military use to be made of this I’m sure).

Unfortunately, looking through my toolbox and my bucket of cleaning aids, nothing I have has more efficacy than the fingernail of a thumb. Thus I have this uncomfortable duty to perform from time to time.

And only aggressive action with a nailbrush will clear it from the crevice where nail meets skin and where birdshit penetrates deepest. Joy.

Busy in the morning. But not in the evening.

Here’s a question: why are the car parks rammed in the morning but half empty when I get back to my car at 10 to 7 at night? I can part-answer this. People have clearly returned earlier and driven home (gold star for me). Assuming most people that park here commute into London, they must leave work at 5 or 5.30. On a good day, I leave at 6 and get back to Stevenage around 50 minutes later, by which time the cars have been replaced by tumbleweed. There’s a recession on you know – you’d expect a greater display of presenteeism during these hard times. Certainly some of my colleagues seem to give the idea of ‘home’ short thrift – to them it’s just the start page on their internets.

Before (lots of cars).

Before (lots of cars).

After (not quite so many).

After (not quite so many).

I can accept that it is possible they leave work earlier but for all those cars to be there in the morning, these commuters must aim to get into work for 8.30 at the latest. It all boils down to this: I work from 9 to 6. I always thought this was normal for London. Is it not?

Swingate – 7:55am

So, you’ve checked your emails, you’ve popped the kettle on in your office kitchenette, you’ve checked the news headlines and wandered off into the ‘Funnily Enough’ section, you’ve made yourself and the colleague next to you a cuppa (even though it was their turn) and checked your BeMyFaceTubeSpaceBook pages. There’s just this nagging feeling that before you stop fannying around and actually get on with the stuff you get paid to do, there’s one last thing you’ve forgotten. Ah yes – where’s Jonny parked his car this morning? What if someone asks and you didn’t know? The shame of it!

Set off a few minutes early this morning. Glorious sunny morning but still a fair bit of snow about. Got ‘LC’ a spot at Swingate this morning. There were about 6 spaces left but cars were following me in so I reckon I got there just in time. The last spaces to go are always the hardest ones to manouvre into (unsurprisingly). I’m sure some town planner’s had his compass and protractor out making sure that, mathematically at least, cars can actually squeeze into each space. Fortunately I have an audible warning system to tell me when I’m reversing into someone else: it goes “bangcrunchtinkle”.

So in summary, a result. A spot in the holy grail of my parking options, Swingate. Joy. And if I ever forget where I’ve left my motor, I can always consult my blog. God knows it needs the company…

Swingate this morning in the wintry sunshine. There's no finer sight.

Swingate this morning in the wintry sunshine.

 

Stevenage Wonderland

Sno' on the Fo'.

Sno

Snow. And a lot of it. Blanketing Stevenage. And its many parked cars. Including my Ford Focus. The best way to clear the snow off the side windows? Wind them down. Oh no. That wasn’t 100% successful. The snow formed a solid wall then caved in to my car. Note to self: do it with the door open next time…

 

Footprints in Danesgate

Footprints in Danesgate

It was treacherous on the road home. For one, I couldn’t see much out of the windscreen. It stayed fogged up no matter what I tried. Hot air. Cold air. Windows down. Recirculating air. Full blast. Off. Nothing would shift the fog on my windscreen. I even tried turning on the rear heated windscreen (even though it was already clear) just to try and coax the front one into following suit. Well, you try anything in those situations don’t you.

There were about 8 inches of clarity at the base of the windscreen, so I had to rest my chin on the steering wheel like an old lady just to see ahead of me.
Ford, what am I doing wrong?

An overview (in the form of a map)

A map of my parking options.

A map of my parking options.

This should really help you see through my eyes. I can imagine, without some point of reference, all this would seem somewhat hard to visualize or possibly even boring. Perish the thought.

Parking and blogging

For too long, these activities have been mutually exclusive. No more. Marvel at my daily update on where I parked my car. Share the tragedy as the car in front gets the last space (that happened to me last week). Lose yourself in the euphoria of me getting the last space (that’s happened once or twice too). Experience the vagaries of Stevenage Borough Council’s parking system.

So what happened today? I’ll tell you. I arrived at Danesgate car park at 7:58am and there must have been around a dozen spaces left. As a bit of background, this one’s the 3rd furthest from the station so it’s a safe-ish bet – though I’ve had my fingers burned in the past.

And that’s that. What else were you expecting?

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