Turns out, the Old Bakery Mews is a densely-packed development of chi-chi flats on the waste ground behind (wild guess) what used to be the bakery. The flint walls and red-bricked fascias are nicely done, but they have that earnest, rather stilted feel that high-end new-builds are prone to. Maybe it’ll work in a hundred years; for now, it just looks fake.
I park up, and head towards number twenty-two, struggling under my usual burden of rucksack, weighing scales, yellow folder and diary.
‘All right?’ says a man in black, standing at the door of a business that backs on to the car park.
‘Yep. Fine. How are you?’
‘You’re not parking there,’ he says.
‘I’m a health visitor. From the hospital,’ I say. Then add, a little pathetically, ‘There’s a sick person who needs help.’
‘Private property,’ he says. ‘You’ll have to move it.’
It’s one of the occupational hazards of working in the community, of course. Back pain. Needlesticks. Parking. I’m quite prepared to compromise on the parking, of course, but sometimes there’s very little practical alternative. Each time I’m confronted with that I don’t make the rules attitude, I’m overwhelmed with the same sense of injustice. The world’s difficult enough, for God’s sake, without these petty demonstrations of property law.
I go over to him.
‘What if it was someone in your family who was sick?’ I tell him. ‘How would you feel then?’
‘I’m going to make a phone call,’ he says.
‘Good. You do that.’
I follow him to the back door.
Inside, a young woman is typing. She risks a glance in my direction. A rough-haired lurcher gets up out of its basket and heads in my direction. She grabs its collar.
‘No, Trampus!’ she says.
‘It’s okay,’ I tell her, putting my stuff down. ‘I like dogs.’
She lets him go; Trampus trots over and gives me a thoroughgoing sniff. He helps me calm down, though I can’t think for the life of me think how such a lovely dog can exist in the same room as the Man in Black without reverting to wolf and tearing his throat out.
Meanwhile, MiB is explaining the situation on the phone.
‘He says he’s from the hospital. The Hospital. Apparently there’s a sick woman somewhere. No! One! A sick woman. He says he wants to park here.’
‘Half an hour, max,’ I tell him.
‘Half an hour, he says….. Max. No, Maximum. Hang on, I’ll ask him.’
He puts his hand over the mouthpiece.
‘Who did you say you worked for again?’
‘The Rapid Response Service.’
He relays that to the person on the other end, someone who I can only imagine lives in a castle decorated with skulls and pelts and a hundred other souvenirs of their long and compassionate time on earth.
Trampus goes back to his basket.
‘You’d think it’d be all right just for half an hour,’ I say to the girl. ‘Imagine if it was someone in your family who needed help.’
‘Yeah, but we don’t make the rules,’ she says. ‘It’s private round here.’
MiB puts the phone down and walks over again.
‘Move it,’ he says.