When I still lived in Dovecot Towers, a well-dressed, nervy gentleman lurking by the main door startled me by saying:
“You have something I want!”
I told him to go away with extreme prejudice.
“But I’m desperate!” he pleaded. “I’ll pay you!”
“Wait! Come back – I’ll give you money!” he shouted. “I need to sublet your parking space!”
Lowly tenants haven’t a hope in hell of obtaining residential parking spaces, so speculative notes pushed under the door, offering to organise parking applications so we can rent them out, are pointless. I don’t own a car. I hate driving, try to be environmentally sensitive, and as for parking nearby, I might just as well drill into my own stomach and dig out an abscess, as city centre parking will give me an ulcer regardless.
Parking wars cause night-terrors and punch-ups. In converted flats, when a building initially designed for one, solitary, Victorian carriage (horseless or otherwise) is transformed with space defying magic into five flats (an attic, a basement, and three storeys) then as many as ten car owners compete to shoehorn their runabout outside, leading to all-in, freestyle, automotive tag-team sardines between the yellow lines.
Buy-to-let newbuilds have unimaginably complex land ownership rights and deciding who is responsible for what is torture. In Dovecot Towers, the car park was owned by a different company to the building’s freeholder. Individual owners rented parking spaces, while non-resident outsiders have bought the freehold on a spot (boy, were they ever smug.)
Drivers flaunted their cars, proudly hoovering and washing windows (which they’d never do at home) while playing loud music, which is their way of saying ‘I am a real man. I own a car. And, yes, it’s a Smart Car, but laydeez love it. You don’t have one. And I do!’
We needed crowd control to marshal the armies of traffic wardens. If you ever thought, even while abroad, of parking briefly on the street, they swooped, bagging doctors on emergency call-out (although I hope they get extra points for catching fake disabled parking badges.) Contractors tried to include the ticket in the bill they gave me, despite having been warned to arrange access before starting work. There was little temporary space for them or guests to park.
Inside Nice Heights, there are two floors of car space in the basement, leased to outside businesses (as usual, tenants are last in the queue.) Outside Nice Heights, side-streets are a tangle of meters and time restrictions. City dwellers live in a transition zone, where the attainable dream of a car-free society is at odds with the primal urge to own even a modest, non gas-guzzling personal transporter.
The real luxury of living and working in the city is that I don’t need a car. There are innovative schemes for shared ownership and vehicle leasing. Public transport, supermarket delivery and taxis tide you over for the difference. I’ve even seen rickshaws for hire. Cars are a problem I avoid by walking. Others, by roller-blading.