Funny and sad, not the Parking Control of today, this is a story of another time in public services - good to remember and prompts me to think about what local government can mean. (Penultimate story from this collection!)
I Know That Goat - Stephanie Brann
Barry? You must remember Barry. Finance officer, ended up in Parking Control. Shortish, comb-over, trousers always looked a size-and-a-half too big.
Got his first job aged 14, just out of school, filling municipal coal scuttles. Imagine a grubby-kneed boy, socks round ankles, lugging a brass bucket up to the mayor’s parlour. They had a grate in every room of the town hall in those days.
That was in the 1940s. Hitler still dropping free samples on Hackney, dad in the army, mum out charring, plenty of mouths to feed, Barry doing his bit.
At 16 he got a promotion – collecting pennies from the slots in the ladies and gents. Plenty of public lavs in those days. Did you know George Bernard Shaw stood for Camden Council on that very issue? A mark of civilisation, he said.
Barry’d empty the leather collecting bag onto the desk, pile up those big brown coins. King one side, Britannia the other. Twelve pennies to a shilling, 20 shillings in a pound.
Married? Oh yes, 50 years or more. He’d known Dora since they were kids. A clever girl. Rose to be a top secretary. See, in those days councils trained the talented. Sometimes they’d dictate a report over the blower. She’d be in headphones, fingers flying. It’d always be perfect first time. Typewriters didn’t let you correct mistakes.
One kid. Lovely girl. Theresa. Wouldn’t go to university. Only cared about animals. Became an animal warden. In councils we look after everyone: pensioners, kids, animals…
The other day I was driving down Viccy Park Road when suddenly this goat came galloping towards me – middle of the road, against the one-way system. It was a blooming great billy with curly horns. Back at the office I called Theresa.
“I know that goat!” she says. “Leave it to me. I’ll deal with him.” You know what, I felt a bit sorry for old billy. He’d be no match for Theresa.
Yes, his death was a shock. Didn’t seem fair somehow, so soon after retirement. Big turnout. Not bad for someone in Parking Control.
Stephanie Brann is a London Based Writer, who worked in the voluntary sector and for a number of Councils in London