Anyone for tennis? Just pop a coin in the parking meter

BUNHILL
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The Independent Online
I was intrigued to see that you will soon be able to pay for a game of tennis by putting a coin in a meter. Metric Parking is putting machines in eight parks in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

How will payment be enforced, I wondered? Will you have to put a sticker on your racket, or maybe your forehead? Will you be clamped if you fail to pay - and if so, are we to see the return of the stocks?

These questions buzzed anxiously around my mind as I rang David Millett, who is in charge of such things at Metric Parking. He assured me that the equivalent of traffic wardens will be other tennis players. It seems that they like their tennis in Hammersmith and Fulham, and if they find someone on a court they have booked via their special electronic gizmo, they will batter them with their rackets. Actually, Mr Millett didn't say that, but that was the implication.

He then told me about other strange places I might find Metric Parking- type meters. On golf courses for one, so players can pay their green fees automatically. By reservoirs, so fishermen can pay for their permits at 4am. They then fill in what they have caught on the back of the ticket.

All very clever. But by replacing park keepers and water bailiffs with little boxes, are we not making parks and reservoirs a little less safe? As I walk through my park past the remains of the bowls pavilion (burned down) and the Japanese pagoda (bits floating in the water), I can't help longing for the "ancient keeper who was the whiskered snake in the grass one must keep off", who so terrified the young Dylan Thomas.

A STRANGE advertisement in Virgin Atlantic's inflight magazine. It comes from the Department of Trade and Industry and is designed to persuade foreign companies that they should set up shop in the UK.

The really odd thing is that Britain is highlighted on a globe in yellow - and so is the United States. Now I understand that the patriotic people at the DTI must be upset, having just suffered another American Insurgency Day, but I think someone should tell them that the US is not, technically at least, Crown territory any more.

Merry money

JEFF MEDDLE of Lancing, Sussex has kindly sent me this early piece of millennial fever, written by Soren Kierkegaard in 1843.

"Let us celebrate the millennium in a riot of merriment. Let us place boxes everywhere not, as at present, for the deposit of money, but for the free distribution of money. Everything would become gratis ... for when one always has money at hand everything is, in a certain sense, free."

Mr Meddle says Kierkegaard, a notoriously grumpy type, obviously has much to offer in the sphere of economics. It would be interesting to feed his theory into the Treasury computer and see what it did for money supply, inflation and the like. But if it causes a riot of merriment, what the heck, let's do it.

I HAVE occasionally wondered why the Free Trade Hall in Manchester is called that. Now it is about to close, I've found out. According to the Guardian, the original building was erected in 1856 on the site of the Peterloo massacre and was the headquarters of the campaign to repeal the protectionist Corn Laws, hence the Free Trade Hall. It was the home of the Halle Orchestra for 138 years, though those of a certain generation may remember it more for the rendition by Mr Robert Dylan of his ditty The Times They are a-Changin' (7 May, 1965, for the dewy eyed).

Funny name for a building though, isn't it? I wonder if people will be wondering in 150 years why there is a building in Chicago called Monetarist Mansions, or a ranch in Mexico called the Hacienda Referenda?

I cannot let the Guardian get away with being right about too many things, however. It says the Hall is closing for good on 19 July, with a jolly talk by the Dalai Lama. Wrong. I can reveal that on 21 July there is a special one-off concert conducted by Carl Davies in memory of a much- admired local violinist, Norman George. The music reflects his eclectic tastes, ranging from Mozart to Rodgers & Hammerstein, so venez nombreux, as we Europeans say.

God save ice cream

BEN AND JERRY, the American ice cream people, launched a new flavour called Cool Britannia last week. It apparently includes English strawberry, Scottish shortbread and vanilla ice cream (Irish, I suppose). It was supposed to have Welsh honey in it, too, but that didn't work. They should have tried leeks instead.

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