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Old Friends and Playing I Spy (with My ‘Money Grabbing, Thieving Parking-Eye’), A Bitter Sweet Tale.

Tiredness kills, take a break. Almost sounds like an unpleasant KitKat advert? Eat our chocolate or else the kid gets it…

There was a time once when I could get in a car, drive for almost as long as I wanted, turn round and drive back. Unfortunately, I am not that young whippersnapper any more. Now, I’m pleased to say I’m (almost) a responsible adult, who drives (almost sensibly, almost all the time). I do have one or two deficiencies however, firstly I’m lopsided, my right foot weighs considerably more than my left, the other (deficiencies) well, you can work those out for yourself.

Back to the story, there is a point to this. About thirteen weeks ago, I was absolutely thrilled to be invited to a birthday party for a lady who is one of the most wonderful, friendly, genuine, helpful, considerate, timeless, not to mention hard-working and yet effortlessly elegant (almost Mary Berry-esque). The thing is, I appreciate Mavis (Baird) more (I was lucky enough to work with her), strange how they (Mavis and Mary) have the same initials and share many similar qualities.

I’d not seen Mavis for years, but I know a little of the selfless efforts she invests in her family, to work and to all those she cares about. Fortunate to work with Mavis for about five years but I suppose I’ve known her for almost twenty. I’ll never forgive myself for kicking her out of her office and moving her into a plain shared windowless office with a most singularly unpleasant feature. That being that her office chair was situated directly on top of a a manhole cover and every time she rolled over it the void beneath echoed. Great working environment and yet she still put up with me. That was a tearful day. We shared many laughs though and it is a real privilege that despite losing touch with her and her daughter for the last eight years, I was still among the select individuals to be invited to Champneys Forest Mere to share in her surprise birthday celebrations. The Purdews were really very generous but then Mavis has worked for them for over twenty years and at Forest Mere for over forty. Mavis is a true ambassador and professional.

I remember very fondly my time working for the Purdews, although there were tough days, on the whole it was a brilliant experience and a very positive ten years of my professional working life.

Back to the other aspect of the story, travelling down to the celebrations from Yorkshire was great, that wonderful trip part circumventing the biggest roundabout in Europe (the M25) is just a delight, I love being stationary on a five lane highway. Although the journey down the A3 almost felt like going home and I love the Devil’s Punchbowl’s Underpass, quite thrilling for when we lived there ten years ago. The evening was a great success, we all enjoyed celebrating Mavis’ birthday and it was great to catch up with old colleagues and old friends. Some things change and some always stay the same.

Never look a gift horse in the mouth, by the way. Bev (you’ve not changed and I knew you’d have potatoes for main course, it was great to sit with you and chat over old times) had offered a room for me to stay in rather than drive back in the same ‘day’. I used to be able to drive for more than 12 hours in any 24 hour period, and so I thought I could again. After setting off at 10:30 pm, I got part the way up the M40 and decided I needed a coffee. Sorted. Journey on. Further up the M6, I was falling asleep at the wheel. Tiredness kills, so being the now semi-sensible driver I am I decided that a catnap might help. Thank you (and I mean that in the most sarcastic way possible) Welcome Break, Richard Charnock Service North. Thank you even more Parking Eye you thieving gits. How and on what planet is it reasonable to charge someone for falling asleep in a car park? The cost is just pure extortion. It is simply an unacceptable charge, £60 to fall asleep in my car for two hours and 24 minutes at 2:30 am. I’m not taking advantage of your services, I’m not even taking up parking spaces that were needed. The joke is the original threatened charge of £100. And yet, consider this, what would the cost be to falling asleep at the wheel? What would be the price of the emergency services? The cost to industry for any blockage to a main transport artery? What would be the potential cost to human life? How are Welcome Break able to justify sub-contracting (I guess that’s how it works) their property to Parking Eye?

Motorway service stations are surely a public service amenity?  A service to help safely break up journey times whilst also making money on the services they provide. After all the cost of motorway fuel is significantly higher than that in your local town, we (Joe Public) accept that. Aren’t these facilities intended primarily as havens of safety? Clearly not for they have now seemingly become, money grabbing, unethical, relentlessly commercial machines that have no real interest in the welfare of travellers, or the patrons who frequent their services. Parking Eye certainly have no compunction about billing a bleary eyed driver for two hours asleep in their own vehicle. Their business model works though a few threatening letters automatically generated, vehicle registration identification cameras and voila almost a licence to print money. Now, from their side of things, I admit I was twenty minutes over the grace allowed by their clearly marked signs, the reason why I paid up, fair cop one might say, but is there not something fundamentally unfair about this? Hopefully, someone can help me understand and feel less resentful about their practices. I would love to hear your thoughts and a different point of view.

Welcome Break and Parking Eye, I utterly despise your businesses. I will plan my journeys in future away from anything you own and thereby avoid using your services.

Mavis, you are a treasure and I would willingly and happily make any effort I could to see you again. I always remember you with great affection.

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