Paying for parking now involves three apps, retinal scan and pledge of eternal fealty

LEAVING your car in an ordinary car park now demands not only advanced digital literacy but also the recitation of an ancient oath.

Driver Bill McKay only wanted to spend half an hour in a short-stay car park, but after completing the Herculean labours of paying, the car park, the shop he wanted to visit and all forms of local human civilisation had closed.

McKay said: “Downloading PARKMASTER 3000 was straightforward enough, although I did have to delete every other app on my phone to make space for it. Even giving the blood sample was okay. But I didn’t have a sword on me for swearing allegiance with.

“Then it said I needed another app to scan my face to check I wasn’t a robot, a pigeon, or an alien criminal hiding on Earth. Then I had to get a third app to verify that I had the second one, which also told me to throw my phone down a drain to appease the evil clown who lives there.

“Once I’d done all that, a winged angel finally descended to take payment, but he wanted £56 all in 2p coins. At this point I thought I’ll just risk getting clamped.”

A local council spokesperson said: “How else do you expect us to earn money except by sapping the will to live of the people we claim to serve? The only thing you twats consistently do, even in a cost-of-living crisis, is drive places.

“Really, everyone should do the environmentally-friendly thing and get the bus instead. Don’t worry, there’s one in two days at 6.02am.”

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Mulled wine, mud and overpriced churros: One family's magical Winter Wonderland experience

By Susan Traherne

CHRISTMAS isn’t Christmas without a trip to a Winter Wonderland held on a patch of waste ground behind the local B&Q. I’ve been taking my family for ten years and we always have a fabulous time, despite what the kids mutter about animal cruelty.

We all bundle into the car after school and drive to a poorly lit and badly signposted area at the back of the local trading estate. But that’s all part of the atmosphere, isn’t it? There aren’t any lamp posts in Lapland, after all. A few strings of fairy lights create a festive atmosphere, and almost stop you seeing the scrap metal yard just over the fence.

First we like to visit the animals. There’s a donkey, which is definitely festive, and a goat, which certainly could have been present at the nativity. The growling dog chained to a gate adds a frisson of excitement, and the horse with a pair of plastic antlers tied to its head is as close as we’ll get to a reindeer in this country. 

My eldest said she’d be calling the RSPCA, but teenagers are terribly oversensitive when it comes to this sort of thing. I blame Greta Thunberg.

Then we go and see Santa in his grotto. If you squint a bit you can’t tell it’s Roy from the chippie moonlighting for a bit of extra cash. My youngest Josh claims the elf is a boy from his school who’s been pressed into the role against his will, and there’s no denying he’s not the cheeriest of Santa’s helpers, but it’s all good work experience and certainly not modern slavery. That’s just Josh being silly.

The last part of our Winter Wonderland experience is the festive food tent. Well, they call it a tent, and they’re not wrong really, as a tatty old tarpaulin strung between two rusting transit vans is basically a tent. Here we are served cups of steaming mulled wine, which they’ve cleverly spiced so it tastes just like hot Ribena, and a plate of churros. My husband Stephen always moans that paying the best part of £15 each to eat four bits of undercooked dough and a smear of chocolate sauce is a rip-off, but he’s just being a Grinch. Bah humbug, Stephen!

Once we’ve eaten we’re back in the car for the journey home, usually accompanied by some lively debate on the merits of our evening and, as Stephen jokingly asks, ‘why the f**k we bother’. Because it’s Christmas, I reply, when getting fleeced by opportunistic money-grabbers is a tradition.