Dragons make for an uncomfortable drive

Things have changed in the 10 years since I last sat behind the wheel of a car

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The Independent Online

I have recently returned to the land of the driving after 10 years of committed passengerdom and pedestrianism. Things have changed since I was last in command of a car. There seem to be about a thousand times more speed cameras as well as legions of cyclists to worry about.

There are also Sat-navs, although I haven't quite got to grips with those yet. At present, my husband stands in for a Tomtom and I only have to ask him which lane I should be in every five minutes.

I have also changed – I used to be perfectly confident driving up and down the country with just a foxed road atlas and a Now 28 cassette for company. Now I have to psych myself up for a 10-minute trip round the block. And my white-hot parallel parking skills have cooled rather. Still, at least I'm back behind the wheel, somewhere I feared I might not ever find myself again. Which would be a bit pathetic, if not better for the environment and my beloved's patience.

Speaking of patience, I am having to draw on great whacking reserves of it to cope with the business of parking permits. For those of you who don't need one, rejoice. Pat yourselves on the back. If you have a driveway or, holy of holies, a garage, have a drink to celebrate.

I used to be perfectly confident driving up and down the country with just a foxed road atlas and a Now 28 cassette

For you won't have to do weekly battle with, in my case, the exasperating adversary that is Camden council parking services. Despite having the magic piece of parking permit paper, I'm practically getting a parking ticket a week due to an admin error on their part for leaving my car where it should be. Cue hour-long phone calls, emails, apologies (eventually) from Andrew in customer services before it all starts again. And that's not to mention the parking tickets that never appear on the car but are somehow invisibly doled out.

The only good thing about squaring up to the villainy/ineptitude of the coves at Camden is that one of my all-time favourite authors also railed against them. Alice Thomas Ellis (the late writer Anna Haycraft) wrote a column called Home Life in The Spectator many moons ago and in one described Camden's “towing-away lorries” as “the dragons of yore. Dragons used to sit in their lairs until they fancied a maiden or two, whereupon they would make a sudden sally, seize upon their prey and return, licking their chops, to their fetid dens leaving the populace in an uproar, wringing its hands and wailing. This is exactly what happens now when the marauder bears down on an innocent vehicle.”

My vehicle is innocent, but I as have learnt, in the land of the driving, there be dragons.