Sandra’s eyes narrow as she walks into Stanley Road and spies her prey; a white 1998 Renault Kangoo van, the word ‘Fish’ emblazoned on its sides in blue, still just about visible through the greyness left by thousands of miles driven on grimy roads. Furthermore, Sandra notes, it is parked illegally – on double yellow lines.
She enters the registration number into her ticketing machine and enjoys the satisfying whirr of the printed ticket being expelled, much like a tongue poking out at the driver, she likes to think. She takes out her council issued digital camera and snaps the offending vehicle parked in its offending manner and whispers ‘smile please’ under her breath as the shutter clicks. Sandra always finds this moment the most gratifying of her job.
“Wait pet!” shouts a man and he runs towards her from a nearby house, his white overalls, hat and wellingtons as grimy as his van.
Though she has not yet seen the man nor given him the satisfaction of turning towards him, she seems pleased as she senses yet another battle she knows she shall win. Her olfactory system is triggered before she sees him – an oily fug of fish vapour grabbing at the back of her throat. The man reaches Sandra dangerously short of breath, his waddling gait not aided by the painful chafing of his shins against his wellingtons. “Aww love”, he gasps in a distinct North Lincolnshire accent. He takes another great draught of air then continues, “I’ve just deliv’ad fish ta number thirty too: three pounds of hoki and a tray of whiting for her cat – dornt give me a tickit.”
Sandra, queen of conflict and slayer of souls and in this case, soles, has chewed and spat out a thousand lowlife offenders like him in her time, is fully versed in the law relating to parking offences and more than capable of dealing with disgruntled motorists violence (threatened or actual), screaming (ranting or dervish), smarm, reason, pleading and/or tears with equal aplomb and inflexibility. So expecting nothing more than ‘business as usual’, she turns to see the miscreant for the first time, ready to stridently admonish him for his flagrant breaching relevant sections of the Road Traffic Act 1991 in her most sardonic and patronising tone. She lowers her eyes to see his 5ft 5 from her 5ft 11 and notices that his fishmonger’s hat is only stopped from dropping over his crooked plaice-like eyes by his fin-like ears. Frankly, he is not pretty. But this little man, uncomfortably dressed and reeking of hake, evokes a new and unlikely response deep inside her frosted centre.
“I’m sorry,” she almost chokes as she hears the generous words come out of her mouth, “but once I’ve pressed the button the ticket is issued”.
“Shhhine-a-light missus – can you not unpress it like? There’s a slab o’ pollack in it for youse if yer do”. As soon as the fishman says this he fears retribution from this fearful woman. She certainly looks capable of launching the loudest and most damning of lectures against the evils of bribery and the puritanical stance drawn by all of Newbury’s parking attendants, but instead her eyes seem to soften, an unnatural smile starts to crack out at the sides of her mouth and her complexion mellow from puce to a mere blood red. Then she says in an altogether softer tone:
“I know who you are”.
“Y’do? Me? Macca?”
“Macca?” she distains. “No no. I know who you really are”.
“Well,” says Macca, not having the first idea what she was thinking, but sensing that this overbearing ogress may well have clocked him in the past and can somehow see into his mind at a litany of previous misdemeanours and petty crimes. He is quite scared, but before he can think of anything else to add she tells him:
“You’re Tony Hadley”,
“Oh Tony,” she carries on, “I’d recognise you anywhere”.
“Me? Tony Hadley like? Lead singa of 80’s heart throbs Spandoo Ballett, Islington born renowned crooner Tony Hadley? Six feet forwah Tony Hadley? With me goould disc for, err, Goould, and me dark and sultry goood loooks?”
Sandra nods enthusiastically. “Yes Tony, yes. For years you have been one of my heroes, my pin-up boys, my fantasy man”.
“And now I get to meet you at long last, and take in your looks, your charm and your smell, your smell of…?”
“Huss? Sorry ‘bout that lass, but then that’s rock salmon and roooll I suppose”.
“Rock and Roll mop,” she giggles.
“Reet ya’ah. Noo, me bein one of yer favourites like, does that get me, err, off of ma tickit?”
“Well Tony,” she says sidling up to him. “You can get off with whoever you like.” She winks, placing one hand seductively on the belt upon which are clipped her ticketing machine and camera case, whilst tipping down her parking attendant’s hat suggestively with the other. Her thick nylon tights crackle as she extends one foot, pushing the associated knee forward to accentuate the feminine charm of her rugby player’s calf beneath.
“Oh lor,” says Macca, swallowing hard and feeling queasier than a sniff of last month’s prawn medley. Not normally a man used to receiving, and certainly not spurning the least bit of encouragement from a female, Macca now feels compromised between either going along with this ridiculous charade in the hope of avoiding a penalty of £70 (£35 if his payment is received within 30 days) but committing to, he expects, some form of emotional and/or physical bruising; or else accept his wrong doing, pays his debt to society and makes a speedy getaway to the warmth and free parking streets of Grimsby.
He ops quite correctly, for this is a moral and chaste tale concerned with law breakers receiving their comeuppance and no wanton exchanges, no matter how one-sided, Macca opts for escape with his scallops intact and goes for distraction, playing on the unerring diligence and dedication demonstrated by all parking attendants across the land:
“Whoa pet – have ya not seen that illegal parka across the road?”
He points at an ice cream van, the front bumper of which is maybe 8 or 10cm over the start of some double yellow lines. He is not wrong with his summation as Sandra, heartstrings plucked but now curbed at the kerb by a contravening vehicle, re-frosts her look and walks over to the offending van. Before she can type the first characters of its registration into her machine, there is a screech of wheels, and the fish van containing the fish man and his parking ticket pull away at the maximum rate available to a 1998 Renault Kangoo van, i.e not very fast but sufficient to have fillets of haddock, cod and coley crashing down from their shelves in the frozen back compartment.
Sandra mutters something not in keeping with the aforementioned morality of this story, and with the new ticket issued and still warm in her hand, moves to the side of the ice cream van to where the unsuspecting ice cream man sits, hand-on-chin bored, waiting for any passing pedestrian who may be interested in purchasing an ice.
“Aw no darling,” says the ice cream man in a West Country accent when he realises what is happening.
“Yes indeed Sunshine,” says Sandra, her heart and face steeled again, hardened still further if such a thing could be possible, by her sore encounter with Tony Hadley. But her eyes open widely again, as she peers through the serving hatch at the ice cream man whose hair sticks up like a Mr Whippy, and whose complexion resembles the hundreds-and-thousands on the top half of a FAB.
“I know who you are,” she squeals.
The ice cream man’s expression turns from anger to uncertainty. “I’m sorry?”
“Oh, yes. You’re Simon Lebon!”