Saturday, 16 July 2011

Clamp camp sulk

We had a rather nasty shock this afternoon when we left the house and tried to get into the car. The damned thing had been clamped! A great big red sticker was attached to the side window which read “do not attempt to move this car.” Were we parked illegally? No. Had we forgotten to pay our road tax? No. It transpires that our car is now the possession of a Northampton-based group of bailiffs, who will, at some point soon, tow it away, and put it up for auction on behalf of Luton County Court to reclaim a debt, which is apparently close to £700. Obviously, because it’s a weekend, no one can tell us what the debt is for. The note attached to the car simply refers to it as an unpaid “penalty charge.” The same note also lists our address as one ten doors further down the road, with an entirely different post code. We can only assume, therefore, that this is an unpaid speeding fine that we picked up on the M1 whilst driving through Bedfordshire, but were never told about, because all the communication from Bedfordshire Council was sent to the wrong address. How they ended up with the wrong address, I've no idea. It all sounds incredibly suspicious. The bayliff told us on the phone that he'd called in at our address but hadn't found us there, which is probably because we live ten doors further down the street. Quite how he then managed to find our car, and take possession of it, I've no idea... particularly as it might have been easier to find a telephone number to call us on instead. I'd also suggest that it might have been easier for Bedfordshire County Council to pick up a telephone than take us to court in absentia, but who am I to suggest hundreds of pounds of tax payers' money might be spent doing something logical or reasonable?

I can gaurantee that they didn't have to wait the best part of a year for their slot to come up in a small claims hearing...

So the question becomes, where do we stand? You’d hope that when they see they’ve had the wrong address for us all this time, they’ll understand the problem is a clerical error on their part, or on the DVLA's part, and immediately offer to remove the clamp, and the exorbitant costs, if we agree to pay the original fine. But it’s not as simple as that. Nathan will now have a county court judgement in his name, which could cause all sorts of issues for us both further down the line. And then, of course, there’s the issue of our not having a car, just at the time we need one most, with Nathan’s mother ill.

The whole issue is frighteningly similar to the problem I’m having with the NHS at the moment. I can guarantee that this mayhem will all be the fault of some office clerk, who was simply sloppy with the paperwork, and will, no doubt, spend a great deal more effort attempting to wheedle out of taking responsibility for the problem than he or she ever invested in doing his or her job properly. No doubt his or her union will back him or her to the hilt and there will be no repercussions and no little slapped wrists for the bother that they've caused us, and the money they will have wasted...

I have no doubt that the people ten doors down were putting the letters back into the post, and writing “not known at this address...” on the envelopes, and that these letters were going back to Bedfordshire County Council and being thrown away because they created too much red tape for some other person at the council who didn’t take enough pride in their work.

The bailiff tells us he can’t access any information about the charge until Monday, and when we tried to explain that we’d not received a single letter about the unpaid fine, simply said; “yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before, mate...” Well, rest assured, “mate”, you’ll be hearing a great deal more from me before this business is over...

I would love to have some sense of why things at the moment seem to be in such a state of perpetual flux. It seems I spend my life on the telephone trying to sort things out, which more often than not involves countless wasted hours listening to musak whilst being left on hold, or waiting for people to call back, who have no intention of calling back because they realise the “customer” wants something much more badly than they do and, will cave in more quickly. On that note, I’m still waiting for my computer to come back from PC World (after 30 days), for someone from the Royal Ear Throat and Nose hospital to return the 3 messages I left last Tuesday, and for someone from the organisation the BBC uses to book hotels to tell me why I spent 45 minutes on the phone to them trying to sort out an error that they had made with my Travelodge booking. Grrrr...
And so to the relative safety of the 17th Century, and Pepys’ Diary, which resumed, after it’s countrified hiatus on Sunday 14th July, when Pepys made a tour of Lord Sandwich’s country estate, Hinchingbrooke, which was on the outskirts of Brampton, where Pepys’ Uncle had lived. It’s worth remembering that Sandwich was Pepys’ cousin, and that Pepys had lived in Hinchingbrooke as a child when he was sent from London to study at a school in neighbouring Huntingdon. Anyway, the place was a mess because Sandwich was having masses of work done, which Pepys felt would make the house “magnificent.” I'm sure he was right...

On July 15th, 1661, Pepys rode to Cambridge, and had arrived by 7 in the morning “to be trimmed.” He went to see his brother, John, who'd recently started studying at Christ’s College, and was vexed to find him still in bed at 8 in the morning. He was a student! What did Pepys expect? He went to King’s College Chapel, and was stunned to see how much things had changed. People were wearing surplices. There was an organ. It was a complete contrast to how things had been at Cambridge when he himself was studying there during the height of the interregnum when things were "unadorned." The people at Cambridge university made incredibly convincing puritans.

Purely by chance, Pepys then bumped into one of his colleagues from the Navy office, who was in Cambridge to settle his son into the university.

He spent the afternoon in various towns and villages on the Huntingdonshire/ Cambridgeshire borders, visiting relatives, and talking about his uncle’s problematic will, which meant he was in a fairly bad mood by the time he’d returned to Brampton. And guess what? He stopped writing his diary for another couple of days... Nothing like a good sulk in the country!

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