My loves, I bring you glad tidings - there is a Father Christmas! Yes, as unlikely as it seems, the Jolly Red-cheeked Rotund One is alive, kicking and bringing in, I do hope, a decent wage - at Southwark Council! I know this because I have just been let off a parking fine and there is no other rational explanation.
The story started way, way back in the summer - remember, those times long ago when hedge funds were something only impoverished gardeners talked about and you could pop into Woolworths any day of the week for pick 'n' mix, without being coshed over the head by rabid grannies desperate to get their mitts on the last Best of Val Doonican CD in civilisation.
It was in these halcyon days that the treasures and I zoomed to delightful Peckham to watch Wild Child, which, if you have any sense, you will have given a wide berth to. Ostensibly, I was going because one of the daddies from Child One's long ago NCT group had a part in the film - Jason, you were fabulous! - but of course, in reality I was taking the dears because I have a very soft spot for any old junk movie. I shall be off to see Twilight with them in a minute ...
Anyway, we parked as near as we could to the cinema, which involved broaching a carpark of unparalleled dankness. In adorable Peckham, you would have thought, car park owners would invest in the odd light and would splash a bit of paint around. But no. The place was dark, full of looming concrete pillars and matching menacing shadows, even on a summer's evening. Not the place to linger with tender young children around. I got a ticket - but the machine cut off the time at 7.30 pm, even though I was still merrily shoveling in coins. I tried again, knowing the film would finish late - and the machine cut off again at 7.30. Oh well, I thought - any warden will know I tried my best and paid over the odds, and the machine is clearly faulty. I didn't investigate the dark corners of the carpark for other machines as I had no wish to disturb the dear crack addicts/muggers/stabbers as they went about their business.
Sure enough, when we came back after a wonderful evening's entertainment, a parking fine, or Penalty Charge Notice, adorned my windscreen. I did not do my usual act, of falling to my knees, wondering why God has cursed me, and beseeching the fates to take my soul now this minute, as I had no desire to alarm the children over-much and, besides, the ground was filthy and would have ripped my tights.
Many exciting letters to and fro with dear Southwark then ensued, with them inviting me pressingly to the county court to settle the matter, while I declined with regrets, and referred them to their tiresome statutory duty to provide working ticket machines, rather than spend their every waking minute arguing with me. Ah, all those hours closeted with lawyers have certainly paid off. And Appeal Now certainly helped.
And now, just when I need it most, Santa himself has stepped off his sleigh at this busy time of year to cancel my PCN. Thank you, thank you, Santa, and I was always sure that it was really your reindeer's' footprints in the butter.
By the by, Child Two asked me the other day, as I opened the post, 'why do you get so many Christmas cards from lawyers, Mummy?' Sigh. My little ones do ask good questions. My resolution for 2009 is to have fewer cards from lawyers, and more from people.
Dulwich Divorcee is a fortysomething mother of two blundering through the legal system, Dulwich Park and life, in search of True Love. She's just like you - but maybe a bit sadder and trying to get wiser. Her first novel, Hot Chocolate, is due out in Autumn 2009. You can also read her column, Diary of a Divorce, in The Times.
Photo credit: funky pancake