I’d finished Dublin Road and was starting on Donegall Pass, opposite the Police Station. My day hadn’t got off to a great start: some gent had caught us parked on the double yellows outside our office earlier and had passed a comment, which irked me a bit. I mean, we had to park there while we got the van ready – what did he expect us to do? But things had improved from there: it was a dry day, chilly, but not bad for January in Belfast; what was even better was that I’d not had any abusive customers, and it was already lunchtime. There are always motorists round here who park up for half an hour while they nip into the shops, and they often stay longer than they mean to, so they over-run the meter. If I’m writing them a ticket when they come out, I always say to them to stick an extra 30p in, to give themselves fifteen more minutes in case they get chatting and lose track of the time (women are *by far* the worst for doing this, I’ve noticed). I mean, what’s another 30p compared to a parking fine? To be honest, I don’t think many of them pay much attention to my advice though (sometimes they shout at me). Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a big one for writing out tickets; I only do it when it’s a clear violation of the rules. I’m scrupulously fair.
I’d just written out a ticket for a Belfast-registered black Honda (which was *way* over the maximum) when I encountered her. I heard the pinging of her bicycle bell in the distance first, and looked up. There was a couple walking along hand in hand on the pavement near me, the girl carrying a violin and the man a small black box (maybe he was a DJ?). She obviously knew them, because they stopped and looked round when they saw her, and she dismounted and fell in line with them, chatting away. She was wearing some kind of woollen shawl, with a big scarf, and had reddish-brown (auburn?) hair down to her shoulders. I suppose she was in her late fifties. Anyway when she saw me, she just launched straight in, asking was it alright to park in that space, because she would need to bring the car down some day. Well, I like to be helpful, so I explained to her that you could park for up to two hours. While I was telling her the rules she delved into the basket on the front of her bike (it was one of those old-fashioned black bicycles), and pulled out this plastic bag with what looked like a jar in it. She gave me a wide smile and thrust it towards me. Instinctively, I recoiled, of course. She was insistent, though: it’s jam, here, take it! She pulled it out of the bag to show it to me. This was most unexpected: why was she trying to bribe me? The ticket was already written; and there would be no going back on that, *no chance.* And anyway, it wasn’t even her car (was it?). To be honest, I was a bit flustered, but I didn’t show it. I maintained my professional coolness, just like I would with an angry motorist: Nowhere to put it, I said, can’t carry it. I held up my hands to show her my lack of pockets (that did the trick). She just grinned, put it back in the basket, and the three of them went on their way, up towards Botanic Avenue. Some people.
Nice jam though: Baxter’s Rhubarb and Ginger.