No overnight sleeping
The latest in my series of Mr Alexander/Authority interfaces occurred today when I returned to the Ilfracombe coach and lorry park from a frustrating foray into the town of Ilfracombe attempting to drum up support for the Victorian Celebration to find a Parking Penalty charge notice sellotaped to my windscreen. Strange, because I had prepaid for a four day stay.
I had heard previously from other residents of this quaint sleepy seaside town that the parking wardens were ferocious and had on one occasion fallen foul of their attention when I overnight parked in the carpark alongside the Museum with the knowledge and agreement of its Curator. On that occasion I had returned from an early dog walk to find the man’s pen poised provocatively over a ticket. Using all the renowned Alexander eloquence I managed to prevent the penalty, but I had the feeling he felt cheated and had stored up my existence in some primordial memory ready for future bloody retribution. He had the sniff of me and he didn’t approve.
It’s partly my own fault. As perusers of these pages will know I am not reticent about about my itinerant state. I tell most people, as I did him, within a few minutes of meeting that I live on the road. Yesterday, for example, I was again attempting to sell the idea of the Celebration as a community event worth supporting to the town’s Rotary Club and fell into conversation with some of it cornerstone members. They also knew I was contemplating a return to being a Rotary member. (I have been a Rotarian in a previous incarnation.) Almost the first question asked is “So you are living in Ilfracombe now?” To which my reply is something like ‘Yes currently Broadgate Carpark.’ There is palpable shock in their eyes when they hear of my perfectly legal choice to live permanently as a vagabond, a vagrant, a man of no fixed abode. Of course I don’t use those words. Or any of the more pejorative ones. On my last but one visit I was called a gyppo by one resident of the town on the town community Facebook page. I have yet to be called a Pikey, but it can only be a matter of time. No, I usually try to make it sound romantic and interesting which of course I think it is, but Rotary Club members and parking wardens are not really convinced. They live in the world of solid bricks and mortar, mortgages and rentbooks and anyone choosing not to do so has to be suspect. I must be up to something. Probably at night.
So it was with great interest that I opened the sellotaped billet from the Ilfracombe Car Parks Authority. It wasn’t a ticket. Or rather it was a ticket but not a penalty. It was a little handwritten letter on a ticket paper from the little man. He wrote, ‘Please note that parking overnight is OK but no overnight sleeping in vehicle. (See main entrance sign)’. He was right of course. There is such a sign. Not a particularly obvious one but a sign nonetheless. It is next to the ‘No ball games’ sign, ignored by the local children who use the space as a football ground.
I wonder about the man’s motivation. Is he told by his line manager that he has to point this out to possible transgressors of the notice, or has he taken this mission on of his own passionate volition? I suspect the latter. He seemed to be a man of high moral stance when we last met. Morals which don’t allow for the existence of itinerant artistes. Or people who sometimes choose not to sleep at night.
Anyway I am obeying. Of course I obey when Authority dictates. I am writing this in the small hours of the night as I sometimes like to do. I occasionally enjoy the quiet and creative peace a sleepless night affords. ‘What hath night to do with sleep?’ as the young John Milton wrote. So ‘no overnight sleeping’ tonight. In a minute I shall walk down to the beach, watch the sun emerge and will sleep tomorrow afternoon before pressing on to Malvern, leaving this pretty little Devon town to its somewhat sad devices, demonic wardens and incredulous Rotarians.
All the best from a road near you,