The space that wasn’t there.

Well I suppose you buy a Smart car for a reason and here’s where it earns its corn.

It’s not even a space but can you begrudge him parking there? And how can I judge it’s a ‘him’? Because I got busted taking this photo.

So, the only other person in the car park when I took this happened to be the driver of this car.

There used to be another non-official space right next to the barriers but they put a stop to that with a cunningly placed bollard.

Swingate: a metaphor for society in general and so many other aspects of life.

New post.

This is a new post about a new post. It’s my first day in Swingate this year. Later starts have meant I’ve had to resort to Danesgate and Southgate.

Avid readers will know that some naughty cars park in spots that aren’t really spots to park in. One is right by the barriers in front of a tree. It’s only half a space, so cars parking there are half on the pavement too.

The new concrete bollard. Or 'collard'.

Well the powers that be have spotted this infringement and done something about it. They’ve erected a concrete post which puts the kybosh on that space. Naughty Rover and Toyota take note. Or face a hefty repair bill…

Last spot in Daneshill.

It’s been a while since I treated you both to the all-too-real nitty-gritty of actually parking in Stevenage.

Well, dear readers, this morning the four red capitals no one wants to see (FULL) greeted me as I approached Swingate. Two other cars were ahead of me, so around we all turned in messy 3-pointers and headed off to the alternatives.

Pulling out on to Lytton Way, you have two next-best options. Danesgate is a good bet, it fills up later and it’s not too far from the station – plus I like to think it’s a good overnight spot because it’s opposite the police station (not that it’s a factor today).

Daneshill is a bit of a loop round but you end up just as close to the station as Swingate – with the added bonus of being handier for the bingo if you’re that way inclined. In truth, it’s nearby whether you like bingo or not.

Thoughtfully, they’ve erected a sign on the corner telling you if there are spaces in Daneshill so you can make a snap decision between Daneshill and Danesgate. It sounds complicated but even after a rotten night’s sleep, I can still manage this level of split second decision-making.

As luck would have it, Daneshill was advertising spaces. Bingo, I thought (are you following me?).

There’s always a worry that the cars on front of you will take the last spaces and that just as you pull up to the barrier those for red letters will come back to haunt you. Well, blow me, if you remember as far back as the title for this post, you’ll know I bagged the last space in Daneshill. And what a curious little spot it is.

It’s an awkward little corner, tucked in behind another car. If you insist on knowing all the ins and outs, I had to pull a 5-pointer first in order to reverse in – minding the cementĀ  bollards for good measure. It’s like the Krypton Factor for parking. And THEN I have to go and spend the day at work! Lunacy gone mad.

A couple of inches makes all the difference.

East Coast Trains. Aside from my wi-fi beef, they’re alright by me. And if you can snag seats 75 or 76 (in any coach, I guess, though I’m currently in coach C) they’re even better.



To look at, the difference is imperceptible, but when you sit down, you can really feel it: glorious extra inches of legroom.

Bear it in mind – especially if you’re reserving a seat online.

That is all.

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 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.

Busy floor.

It’s fair to say I work in one of the most densely populated areas of office space in the world.

My company is rejigging the seating, so while the workmen redo the second floor, half the displaced colleagues have come and joined us on the lower ground floor.

Quiet time on the lower ground floor.

It’s more crowded and hotter than a Mumbai sweatshop. Probably. It’s only for a few weeks and it’s difficult to conceive an alternative plan. So for now I just have to breathe in and wedge myself into my desk every time my colleagues want to squeeze past my chair, nudging it just enough to be annoying but not quite enough to justify an endless stream of expletive-laden vitriol in their face (which is conveniently close at hand).

There’s only so much HR will let me get away with. And I do push it sometimes.

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!

Now you see ’em. Now you don’t.

Not even tumbleweed for company.

Not even tumbleweed for company.

Ardent followers of this blog (me) will know that it can be a struggle to get into Swingate at times, so it’s an arresting sight to see a near-empty Swingate at half-past midnight on a Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

Car parks don't have EMPTY signs, but if they did...

Car parks don't have EMPTY signs, but if they did...

The big thaw

Well the forecast was for more snow but it was more of a no-show. There’s still plenty around and if anything the roads are more treacherous than yesterday. I did the most sedate wheelspin I’ve ever done and while wondering why everyone else was going so slow, my car decided to travel diagonally for a bit. I actually used a gear setting on my car for the first time ever. It’s an automatic and I put it in 2 – it won’t go higher than 2nd – perfect for the north face of K2 or indeed Fairlands Way on a frosty Tuesday morning.

Fairlands Way - a Sherpa's eye view

Fairlands Way - a Sherpa's eye view

My son is distraught, his school is open for anyone that wants to give it a go. He’ll be getting a lift as my wife is waiting in all day for a new fridge freezer after I stabbed the old one to death. Proper movie-white gas came steaming out of it after the carving knife inadvertently went through something it shouldn’t. A hairdryer is the way forward I’m told.

If you look closely, it's easy to see... the tracks of my tyres

If you look closely, it's easy to see... the tracks of my tyres

Back to parking. Swingate is waiting for me. Nearly had to get out of my car to put my pass against the machine because my electric window had been frozen shut. It finally snapped free and we were in! Lots of unmelted snow and a massive gap in the middle where cars are normally parked. Clearly there are some people working from home again today but because you can’t see the road markings, no one’s been prepared to make the first move and play ‘guess where the spots are’.

Swingate in the snow

Swingate in the snow

I’ve given the windows a pre-freeze anti-freeze spray. It’s an experiment that may backfire but we shall see tonight.

Miracle in St Evenage: Part Two

The bugger about blogs is that the entries appear in reverse chronological order which ruins a story like this. All I can say is, read the post below and then come back up and read this entry – unless you’ve already read the one below, in which case, welcome back!

Weirdly, the car that came out of the car park then went on to Danesgate my second-choice car park. Why? I can only imagine the barriers got the numbers mixed up and let an extra car in when there no spaces left. Either that or the last space was so awkward (and there are some buggers in there) they just cut their losses, saved some scratched bodywork and bailed.

As it was, I got the penultimate space in Danesgate – in a bloody awkward space. I have taken a picture to illustrate this. Getting out of there should be fun tonight…

My silver Focus, in the corner. Wish me luck.

My silver Focus, in the corner. Wish me luck.

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