Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life: Melissa Kite

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life: Melissa Kite

Article excerpt

'Cydney,' I have just told the spaniel, 'you had better enjoy this tin of dog food because it cost me £67.50.' I hear you ask, 'How on earth is this possible? Are you feeding foie gras to your cocker?' I might as well be. It would be cheaper than buying pet food in Streatham after Transport for London has run amok with a red line painter in a deserted street.

I had pulled up as normal outside this sleepy little pet shop on the corner of a quiet residential street to get the dog a consignment of Lily's Kitchen. I parked in the large empty bay outside, which still looked for all the world like the dedicated customer parking it has always been. Yes, I suppose if I had scoured the tarmac beneath my feet I might have seen lines. Yes, I suppose if I had looked up I might have seen cameras. But I wasn't expecting them, was I? No one ever does. No one expects the Red Route inquisition. Its chief weapon is surprise...

And so I pootled inside to buy the Lily's, not suspecting anything might be different. I selected her favourites, Goose and Duck, Beef and Potato -- are dogs meant to eat potato? -- and paid for them at the till. Then I put the carrier bag in the passenger side of the Fiat Panda and drove off.

The fine came through a week later. Contravention 46: stopped where prohibited on a red route or clearway.

Now, according to TfL's website, red routes are 'London's main roads and carry 30 per cent of the city's traffic'. Strange, then, that this red route is in a very quiet street where I have almost never encountered a single passing car.

But stranger things were to come when I rang the number on the fine to inquire about my transgression. 'I'm a bit confused,' I told the operator, 'about why I'm being fined £65 for parking outside a pet shop in what looks like a free parking bay.'

After calling up my details he said: 'Ah, yes, well, you were parked in a loading bay, madam. That space is for people to load things into their cars.'

'Well, then, it's even stranger,' I said, 'because I was loading something into my car. Dog food.'

'Yes but the camera will have filmed you. If you were loading heavy items you would not have been fined. …

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