An unceasing volley of hysterical barking which not even bellowed curses from the study could stop. Rising from my screen in seething anger I stomped to the front door to mete out retribution… and saw, through the front window, my van hanging suspended between earth and hell (aka the Park Royal Vehicle Pound).
Ok. So the tax disc has expired. And that’s because the MOT has expired. And that’s because it’s got a flat tyre. And it has a flat tyre because I have no jack and no wheel-nut thingy and am feeble. And, strangely, nobody’s pulled up on a shining white charger with the requisite tools and muscles about their person and done it for me. So I’m a criminal.
It was clamped yesterday and I peeled the penalty notice from the windscreen with the familiar feeling of nausea-trauma, death and destruction, mental and physical immobility and general existential despair which suffuses my being on such occasions.
Only half an hour before the barking started I finally nerved myself sufficiently to open the plastic wrapper and extract the bad news. Which wasn’t soooo bad. There was a number to phone and if done so within 24 hours of the clamping the fine was half as much as that levied after 24 hours.
Now I knew that the clamping had happened while I’d been on the school run the previous day so I knew I had a few hours leeway. Or thought I knew. Because not only was the 24 hours yet not up, but here was the dreaded grabber with its crushing grip of steel around my pride and joy, already in the air, swinging round over the flatbed.
Now it’s obvious that the kind of job which requires you to remove another person’s possession, especially one as invested with pride, machismo and sense of identity as the personal motor vehicle, will warp your character if it wasn’t already warped before you started. And also expose you to high levels of hostility, abuse and violence.
I approached with extreme caution.
Body language submissive, unthreatening.
Slight tearing of the eyes, judicious nervous twiddling of long blonde lock of hair.
Expecting a fight to the death, storms of sobs to be deployed, possibly screaming, kicking, biting, the raising of a mob of indignant residents against the iniquity of the car thieves, and so on. Instead of which the delightfully unwarped person at the back of the truck told me I had 10 minutes to phone the number on the card, pay the fine and if I did so they’d put the van back down.
Which is exactly what happened.
“You were lucky” the truck driver remarked. “If we’d got it to the pound it could have been £400 to get it out. You were lucky you came out when you did.” When I told him it was the dog’s barking he advised me to give her a good dinner this evening.
So instead of meting out retribution I shall be meating out reward.