My stomach is in knots. I seem to have spent the entire day on the phone, more often than not feeling deeply frustrated.
So, this morning started with telephones to various councils, courts and debt collection agencies which established that our car was actually clamped (by Northampton-based bayliffs) on the authority of Haringey Council. The misdemeanor goes back to September last year when we apparently failed to pay a ticket we were issued for parking on our own street. Because we had a valid permit at the time, which had slipped behind the tax disc, we appealed against the fine and heard nothing.
...It turns out we heard nothing due to a clerical error on the part of the council, who somehow managed to replace our actual address with an address ten doors down. How could this happen? We've paid council tax to Haringey Council from this address the best part of five years! Furthermore, we put our address at the top of our letter of appeal.
The whole issue also raises a rather worrying question. Why do Haringey Council take their business to Luton County Court and why do they use a Northampton-based bailiff to do their dirty work?
It's all rather dull, but the short version of the tale is that the bailiff tipped up at 10am this morning and used threats to extort £600 from us to have the clamp released. Whilst Nathan dealt with him, I was dealing with the council, who finally capitulated, and decides to let us off the charge. Sadly, the meat-head bailiff refused to talk to the man from the council. In fact, he told me he'd "back hand" the phone out of my hand if I waved it in his face any more! He used threatening gestures. He told us the tow truck was just round the corner. He said if the car was towed away it would immediately be auctioned. It was terrifying, horrifying and totally unnecessary.
The rest of the day was spent talking to all sorts of other people on the phone. Trying to sort the sorry mess out. Trying to ensure the payment we'd made came back to us. Insisting that Nathan didn't end up with a CCJ against his name. Haringey council decided to rather pathetically blame the DVLA for the error. We know the DVLA have our correct address. I know because I phoned them as well. I've spoken to more inept people at the council than I could ever imagine, culminating in a deeply patronising Canadian who just didn't seem to want to listen to anything I was saying.
This evening, I sent an email to Haringey Council, taking them through the sorry tale in grim detail and explaining that I'd accept nothing short of a written apology from them, and that compensation was something they ought to consider. I am even contemplating going to the police about the bailiff. I copied in our local MP to the email, a journalist from the Evening Standard and the press office at the DVLA. Take that and party, Haringey. Time you learned how to run a local authority.
Between the various unpleasant phone calls and the threatening visits, I was baby sitting my delightful god-daughter, Deia, who proved a wonderful breath of fresh air. We went to Waterlow Park to feed the ducks, and in the process got besieged by hundreds of pigeons who, at one stage, were sitting in a line on my shoulder. I'm not sure Deia entirely approved of all the fluttering. I'm not sure I did either! Pigeons must look enormous to a two year-old!
We had lunch in Cafe Rouge with Philippa, Lucy, Phil, Ivana and a shedload of tiny children, all with huge personalities. I was, however, utterly appalled at one stage when little Albert was told to "shut up" by a passing grumpy old man. I immediately went with Deia to play loudly at the next door table! Deia played the game brilliantly, and at one stage dropped some salt onto his foot! Go Deia!
We're now (finally) in Shropshire with Nathan's Mum, who looks remarkably well for someone who's just had a heart attack... Although she's covered in more colourful bruises than I've ever seen!
I also spoke to Uncle Bill, who's finally given birth to a beautiful baby boy. She's still in hospital, however, having had an emergency C-section due to an infection. Poor lamb is really suffering. She can't even pick her son up at the moment. It must be hell on earth.
What a horribly aggressive time it's been. There's an unnatural amount of misery out there. Thank God for the babies!