My affiliate links

It occurred to me that collecting all these in one place might mean I remember to tell people about them and therefore they might get used!

Curve is kind of neat.  You get one debit card in your pocket which you can charge back to almost any other credit or debit card.  To sign up download the app for your mobile device and use the code EGOOV.  You and I both get a fiver if you do.

Huel is a meal replacement product.  If you’re like me and can only rarely be bothered cooking for one then Huel gives you a quick, easy, nutritionally complete drink to chug down with very little time and effort involved.  I like the vanilla flavour and some of the flavour packs are nice.  Using my link gets you and me £10 off an order.

Top Cashback is one the UK’s most popular cashback sites.  I’ve probably got several hundred pounds from it over the years.  It requires some discipline to use and may require you to use less draconian ad and cookie blocking software.  Using my link gets us both £7.50.

Barcamp Manchester 2016: A report

Timeliness is perhaps not an attribute I can add to this post, but I self-guilted myself into finally writing about the simply amazing experience I had at Barcamp Manchester 2016.

My ticket was booked mostly on a spur of the moment, I had a rare opportunity for a few days away from Daddy Duty and I have family in the vicinity of Manchester that I see infrequently.  Efficiency with rocks and avians.

The venue, Citylabs 1.0, is superb.  Modern, bright, clean, great facilities, nearby coffee (Starbucks, 10% discount for attendees, lovely staff), ropey wifi (does any venue actually have good wifi?) and plenty of breakout space for the hallway track.

I was slightly at a loss for what to do, not because there was a lack of things to do but because I’ve almost never been to any tech event where I wasn’t part of the organising team.  It was genuinely odd not to have already been at a venue for hours before it started.

The conference was kicked with an introductory talk from Claire Dodd who did a great job of introducing the unconference concept – what people should expect and how they could participate – all stuff I was aware of, except she threw in a curve-ball.  Well, for me at least: you must give a talk.

This might be a surprise to my readers who know me personally, but I’m not actually terribly comfortable with standing up in front of a group of people and talking on any subject, not even one I know well, but I started to ponder something I could talk about that might be of interest to a techie crowd.

I sat and watched The Wall being filled in and a little idea dinged in my head.  I had brought one of my drones with me, the weather wasn’t too bad, maybe I could take some people to do a little flying.

I found a friendly local and, with the aid of Google maps, I found a bit of scrubland not too far away from the venue that might suffice and so I put up a notice entitled “Let’s go fly a kite drone!” and sat back for takers.  I got four.

A couple of hours later, Amelia, Andrea, Tom, Jack and I drove off to Stretford Meadows.  A possibly enthusiastic name for an overgrown piece of scrubland criss-crossed with rough paths that were a challenge for the wheel-chair user of our group.  However we persevered and found a passable takeoff and landing site.

The weather was cool and clear but there was a heck of a wind blowing and I was honestly slightly nervous about putting people who had literally never handled a drone before in charge of my rather expensive aerial photography rig.  I wanted the group to be as hands on as possible, so members of the group unpacked and assembled the drone and controller ready for use.

Three full batteries gave everyone a good chance to play.  There was some nervousness from some members of the group but the stability of the drone – it even impressed me with station-keeping in such winds – meant that an initially nervous pilot, quick to give up the controls, made sure she had another more lengthy go later on.  One were we all pleased to have her take.

The group were so positively responsive to tips and techniques for managing the drone that I even crossed an initial mental red line of doing all the takeoffs and landings myself.   Even an automatic takeoff and landing in high winds can be treacherous, my students who tried handled the situation well.

Battery life is finite, so after about an hour we had to go.  I had members of the group disassemble and pack the drone away and back to Citylabs we went.

It was the first time I’ve ever attempted to present drone flying at a tech event and I think it went quite well.  I was certainly blessed with intelligent and sensible participants who helped enormously.  Jack was kind enough to take all the raw footage from the day and produce a short film which you can view here.

The second day at Barcamp was mostly recovery for me.  It had taken over 7 hours to drive up, I’d had a very full day with the drone school and then taking a rare opportunity to go to a nightclub and I was definitely low on energy and facing a long drive home.

Instead of potentially falling asleep on presenters, I spent Sunday on the hallway track and had the pleasure of spending time talking to co-organisers of the event Rick Threlfall and Sophie Ashcroft.

Rick and I share an interest in aviation, he has logged a few more hours that me in light aircraft.  Sophie is a rising star in the open source community not least in terms of event management and I was pleased to put her in touch with a jaded old ratbag who might help her with sponsor curation.

Barcamp Manchester will return for 2017, dates not yet officially announced.  I hope to attend again, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  An extraordinary event organised by an extraordinary team.

Elite Dangerous: Tips for explorers

If you’re not into, or don’t have the equipment to go bounty hunting, exploring in Elite Dangerous can be a lucrative way to make money.  Here are some tips for Commanders wanting to have a go.

You will need a detail scanner which costs CR250,000.  You can explore with just the basic scanner, but it’s much harder.  Assign the scanner to your secondary fire group. It you want to explore deeper space, then you’ll need a fuel scoop, too.   You can get by without a scoop to start with but it means you need to be careful not to stray too far from an inhabited system.  It’s a good idea to keep track of the last inhabited system you were at, if you start to run low on fuel, head back.

Pick a system where there’s no navigation information available, look for the red system information icon in the galaxy map. Systems with an actual name rather than a designation are likely inhabited.

As you jump into the system, whilst still in witchspace, set the throttle to zero. You’re going to arrive very close to the local primary and don’t want to get too hot.  As soon as you exit, press and hold secondary fire to charge the scanner, it takes a few seconds before firing.  The first object you’ll immediately pick up is the star, point the ship at it and hit your “target ahead” key.  You’ll see your ship start scanning it, this takes a little while.  If your detail scanner picks up any other nearby bodies, you’ll get an alert telling you.

Target each unexplored object in turn, working from closest to furthest away.   Anything within 5ls you can scan just by rotating your ship and pointing at it, however at some point you’ll need to start moving around the system.

Be careful near the star, it’s easy to overheat your ship.   If an object is on the other side of the star just point your ship away from the star to get some altitude and, when the heat levels decrease, gradually turn to get the target in your sights.

Learning to jockey the FSD’s autothrottle is essential.  If you keep overshooting objects then you’ll just waste time.  Once the object is in your sights, push the throttle forward until the power line turns blue and leave it there.  Your ship will now automatically accelerate and decelerate for you.  You’ll need to get each object within range to scan, the distance depends on the mass of the object.  Stars can be scanned from a long way out, gas giants from about 100ls, planets from around 20ls or 10ls and rock belts 5ls.

Not all systems contain planets, or they might be out of the range of your detail scanner.  You can try looking round the sky for objects moving relative to the background, I don’t bother and just move on the the next system.

Data you gather can be sold at any station provided you’ve travelled at least 20LY from where you got it.  The least you’ll get is a few hundred credits, however even a single star explored will usually net you around CR1200.   More interesting systems, with high metal content planets, will net you much more.  The highest I’ve seen to date is CR53000.  There seems no point in hoarding the data, the price doesn’t change regardless of distance.

Every so often, seems to be about 1 in 20, you’ll get an interdiction attempt.  It’s up to you whether you fight or flee but if you lose your ship, you will also lose any navigation data you have not sold.  If you get something juicy, it’s probably worth making a deliberate trip to an inhabited system to cash it in.

As you travel around a solar system, you’ll see blips on your scope marked Unidentified Signal Source.  If you investigate these then you may be lucky and it’s free cargo (albeit it will be marked stolen), or it may be dumped toxic waste, or it may be a trap.  The traps are not usually hard to evade if you don’t feel like a fight.  Stolen cargo can be offloaded at the black market, you might have to carry it around for a while before you find one.  I usually limit myself to investigating one USS per system, usually once I’m done with exploring.  If it turns out to be a trap then I just jump to the next system.


Buying a custom gaming PC from Overclockers UK

My current workstation and gaming PC is slowly disintegrating. I built it myself from components some 6 years ago and it’s simply wearing out.  Several USB ports don’t work and Windows sometimes bluescreens with errors that suggests bits of the motherboard are getting tired.  I don’t really have the spare time needed to build a high-end PC and make a great job of it, so I decided to treat myself to a pre-built custom system.   After hunting round, I settled on Overclockers as the company to buy from.

Their system configurator didn’t quite give me what I wanted, so I contacted them and asked if they could customise further which they could.   I put together my list of requirements, they send back a price.  I paid, cash wired to their bank account, upfront and sat back and waited for my new shiny liquid-cooled PC to arrive.

The system shipped.  It shipped to the wrong address.  I had provided Overclockers with a billing address and a shipping address.  They shipped to the billing address which is almost guaranteed to be unoccupied during regular working hours.

A simple mistake.  It happens.  I contacted the courier who were unable to redeliver again that day, but promised they would deliver it to the shipping address the next day.

Next day, my new shiny PC arrives.  I opened the smaller of the two boxes, one for spare components and so on, and immediately see a problem.  The spares and cables and whatnots are not branded with anything I specified, wrong motherboard and wrong graphics card.  I call Overclockers who suggest that the component boxes may have been mixed up and can I please open the main box and check. I do.  It’s someone else’s computer.  I later learn that my system has been shipped to somewhere else.  Overclockers’ mistake?  Courier’s mistake?  It doesn’t really matter. Overclockers have a courier come and pick up this system.

Meanwhile, my system makes its merry way back to Overclockers’ HQ and I, confusingly, get an email asking what I’d like done with it.   I suggest shipping it to the shipping address and could I please have an AM delivery so I don’t potentially waste a whole day.  I offered to pay for whatever that was going to cost.  Overclockers said it was no problem.  Super.

My PC finally showed up at Friday 8pm.   The more astute amongst you will spot that 8pm is not exactly an AM delivery.  Overclockers’ mistake?  Courier’s mistake?  I have no idea, the question has not yet been answered.

I unpack my new PC.  The first thing I notice is that there is a bolt rolling around in the bottom of it.  Stuff can come loose in shipping, so what.  I find that the bolt belongs to a radiator housing in the bottom of the case, there’s a hole, a loose radiator and tool marks around the hole.  Not ideal, but the system’s not going to be moved around much so no big problem.  Despite being an SLI system, there was no SLI cable installed linking the graphics cards.  Simple to fix, but a silly thing for an expert system builder to miss.

One of the customised things I asked for was the pre-cabling of some SATA drives bays: one for a blu-ray writer and two for a pair of big SATA disks I use for bulk local storage.   None of these were done.   I call Overclockers about this, and the loose bolt, and they say there’s not much that can be done without returning the system to them.  As I’ve no interest in another game of couriers, I grumble a bit but then do the cabling myself.

Over the next day or so I had almost no chance to really push the new system.  It ticked over happily, was lovely and quiet and lovely to look at too.  On Sunday night, though, the headphones went on, the office door was closed and I got on with a bit of GRID 2, with all the visual effects turned up to maximum.  I settled down for a couple of hours of hard racing.   After about an hour, the screen froze, went black, and all the system fans kicked into life.

I powered off, reached for my mini-torch and opened the case.  What I saw sickened me: liquid coolant leaking from the CPU block, down onto a graphics card and spilling on to the motherboard.  It was impossible to tell whether the CPU had simply thermally shut down or if the coolant had shorted something expensive.  It kind of didn’t matter.

The next morning I called Overclockers who arranged to pick the system up.  I asked if they could sort of the cabling and the loose bolts while they were at it.  They agreed.

A couple of days later, I got an email saying the system had been repaired and was on its way back to me.  The next evening I get a call from the owner of the billing address saying that a courier had tried to deliver something with my name on it.   They had shipped to the wrong address. Again.

I had now run out of patience and I asked for a full refund.   To their credit, Overclockers didn’t argue on this and they said one would be arranged.  As it was convenient for me, I asked to keep the Windows 8.1 licence and the SSD.   As it was convenient for them, I agreed to pay for these again separately, they would then issue a refund for the full amount of the original transaction.  I didn’t ask, but I kind of expected they would simply wire the cash back to my bank account.

After 3 days or so, nothing had showed up, so I called and they said that processing a refund might take up to 7 working days.

Today, 10 days on, nothing had showed up, so I called them and they said a cheque had been issued on the 4th and had been sent to……. you guessed it, the wrong address.  The owner of the address had not had a cheque arrive.

They offered to send a new cheque to the right address.  I suggested they simply wire the money to my account, I was told this was impossible due to the people who would have to do that being in Germany.  No, makes no sense to me either.  I asked if the cheque could be sent by special delivery, for which I was happy to cover the costs.   This was, of course, not possible.

So, 5 weeks after placing a cash order for a high-spec custom PC from Overclockers UK, I have no PC and they have a large amount of my money.

Please consider this post next time you’re thinking of ordering from them.


(Update: 15/4/2014:  A handwritten cheque arrived from Overclockers this morning. )

Communicado update: A change of tactic

The work to make Communicado’s life as difficult as possible continues and it does seem like we’re having some success.

When I started this project, Communicado registered all their domains through DAILY mostly using faked registrant data and hiding behind the privileges granted to individual private registrants.  I established a dialog with Nominet about this and it seems Nominet did take action to the point of suspending some of these domains.   Communicado then suddenly switched to using ENOM for registering their domains, I don’t know and have no way of knowing if they were booted off by DAILY or just decided to switch.  Either way, it made no difference, I could easily find the domains they were registering via Nominet’s PRSS tool.

As of Monday 16th, they have changed tactics again.  They have apparently abandoned the namespace (I’m sure they’ll be missed) and have gone back to using a variety of .com, .net and .org domains.  Some seen in use today are:

They’re easy enough to spot in the logs, but I don’t currently have a good way of searching the whois for these TLDs. Suggestions for such a tool (non-free is fine) are welcome.

Maintaining this list and the RBL service is taking time and money.  I will absolutely never be charging anyone for the list and the RBL will be free and open access for as long as it is sustainable to do so.  In addition to the ways you can help mentioned in previous posts, a more direct way you can help is to donate a little money, preferably in the form of Bitcoin to 1F9Y1Gd3Pmmchxa7uGFd3zBQY9zVuX78Jd.

More news when I have it, you can follow @Excommunicado for more frequent updates.

An update on Communicado

It has been a busy few weeks since I first blogged about Communicado, here are some of the highlights of what has been going on.

  • Communicado are still registering somewhere between 40 and 60 new domains a week.  The blacklist is being regularly updated and currently has 5364 domains listed.
  • Communicado appear to have switched registrars from DAILY to ENOM as of yesterday.  Makes no difference to picking up their domains.
  • Nominet has been investigating and tell me that some of Communicado’s domains have been suspended and they are in the process of suspending more.
  • Please follow @Excommunicado for news and announcements on Twitter.  Low volume, only on topic.
  • The existing text file download will continue to be updated but, by popular demand, I have set up a DNS RBL containing their domains.  As of the time of writing it is open access, that may change if it becomes too busy.  Using it is easy:
martin@olga:~$ host has address
martin@olga:~$ host 
Host not found: 3(NXDOMAIN)

If anyone wants to provide working configuration examples for SpamAssassin (or other similar tools), I will cheerfully link to them or post them here.

More news when I have it, have a Communicado-free afternoon!

Cooperative Energy and password security

As a protest vote against the Big 6 energy companies, I recently switched supplier to Cooperative Energy.   Switching is painless, fill your details in online, click the button and off you go.   They do of course want a password from you and I used LastPass to generate a unique one for me and memorise it.

Some time later, I went to login in to the customer portal just to see what I could do and was quite surprised to find my password didn’t work.  I mentally shrugged and clicked on the Forgotten Password link and waited for the usual password reset email to arrive.  I got this instead:

Dear Customer

The information you requested is…

If you have any questions please contact our customer service team

(This is, of course, not my actual password, this is just an example that I’ll treat the same way as the Coop did.)

Here we have two immediate problems.  The first is, of course, they have sent me my password in plain text in an email.  We all know that’s a bad idea.  Secondly, what they have sent is not actually my password.  My password looks like this:


See what they did?  For whatever reason the caret has been removed and all the letters have be converted to lower case thus making my password less secure.    I sighed and went to change my password online and found I couldn’t.   If I want to change my password then I have to go talk to a human to do so.   This leads to problem three, which is that people generally pick stupid passwords and reuse them.   I’m sure Coop Energy only employ wonderful honest people, but giving them an email address and a stupid password is only ever going to end badly for someone eventually.

I’ve spoken to Coop Energy’s customer service team and they acknowledge the problems I’ve found.   Let’s hope, for the sake of a safer and more secure internet, they sort them out.

Unwanted email from Communicado Ltd

As my regular readers will know, I run an antispam and antivirus email filtering service called antibodyMX.  About two weeks ago, I started seeing some deeply weird junk traffic coming through.  A lot of it.  It was odder because it was going to an awful lot of different domains we filter.   Statistically we filter a very very tiny set of domains and to see junk mail arriving for many of them all at the same time was very strange indeed.

The domain names the mails were being sent from were also strange.  They were all domains and all not-quite-words.   Here are a few:

All the domains are registered to an individual called Chris Hepworth, a company called Communicado, or “World trading Partners BVI 1611097”, or “Phil Neck”, or some combination thereof.  I called them up and asked them what was going on.  I was asked to send an email explaining the problem, I did, no reply.

More mail from yet more domains kept arriving, the domain count got up to over 300.

Using the resources of a somewhat underground entity known to some as The Fish Tank, I spoke to someone who suggested I sign up to Nominet’s PRSS tool which would let me search for domains more easily.  I did so and started domain hunting.

I fed the list of domains I had through a trigram analyser and used the results of that to tease more domains out of the search tool; “qua” was especially useful, finding more than 80 domains.

More mail from yet more domains kept arriving, the domain count got up to over 800.

Searching the web and talking to people, I found that an awful lot of people I knew were getting unwanted email from these people.  I also found one lady who is taking them to court.  I tried calling them again, my voicemail has not been returned.

Today I have spoken to the Information Commissioner’s Office who say they are very interested in the data I have collected.  It will be interesting to see what, if anything, they choose to pursue here.  On the face of it, Communicado do appear to be breaching the DPA.

I have been told there is no immediate reason why I cannot publish the list of domains I have collected, you can find it here and it currently contains 1255 3971 4500 4539 5145 5249 domains.  An example use might be an ACL on your mail server.  If you run exim, you would add an ACL along the lines of:

deny message =
sender_domains = ${if exists{/etc/exim4/hepworth.txt}{/etc/exim4/hepworth.txt}}

The file will be updated as and when I have time.  If you want to capture it via a cronjob, you’re welcome to  but please:

  • DO email me to tell me you’re doing so, and from which host(s). You have permission when you click send.
  • DO tell relevant colleagues and friends about it.
  • DO consider donating a little money to charity.  Because of my nephew, I suggest here.
  • DON’T cron it for an obvious time like “12am and 12pm”. Spread the load, please.

You do, of course, use this list entirely at your own risk.

Some notes on laser eye surgery

I have worn glasses for over 30 years, more than three quarters of my life.  My prescription corrected both short sightedness (left: -6.0, right: -5.75) and astigmatism (left: 24°, right: 92°).  A good pair of glasses consisting of titanium frames and wavefront-cut Zeiss glass could easily cost over £700 and then you, of course, need a spare pair of glasses and then a pair of driving glasses. Without my glasses I am essentially helpless in the middle of a big, blurry world.  When my last very expensive pair of glasses finally broke in an unrepairable way, I reached for my spare pair and started looking at an alternative, laser eye surgery.

When I’d last researched this, prices were very high.  Someone with my prescription could pay £8000 or more for treatment on both eyes.  I was very surprised at how much prices had come down and, at the time, I even found one clinic that was offering a two-for-one deal.  Both eyes treated at the same time for £2200, lifetime after-care included and you could spread the payment out over a couple of years interest free.  I reached for the phone.

My initial appointment with Optimax took place in a small office just near Liverpool Street.  You arrive, fill in a questionnaire and then are taken through a fairly extensive eye test.  Anyone who wears glasses will be familiar with most of machinery used, the one that may be new to you is a device used to measure the thickness and curvature of your cornea.  After an hour or so, I was told my eyes were suitable for the procedure and was asked if I would like to go ahead.  No pressure was put on me to make a decision then and I didn’t.  After a chat later that day with Lynda, I picked up the phone again and booked myself in for July 19th at Optimax’s north Finchley clinic.

The nineteenth  started early as I had to be at the clinic for 8am.  You turn up, the tests are all repeated, you fill in an electronic questionnaire and you have a short consultation with the surgeon, a consent formed is read, extensively initialled by you, and then you wait.  I was in a group of 8 or 9 people being treated that morning and we talked about our hopes and worries, the general air was one of nervous excitement.

I was last. I’d watched everyone go in through a door and come out again about 30 minutes later, mostly looking somewhat dazed but peering around at the world around them.  A couple of hours ticked by and the very hard aircon began to sap my body heat.  Take a warm top with you, no matter what the weather. At long long last a nurse appeared and called my name.  Off I went.

I was taken through a door into an ante-chamber next to the operating room.  I was sat on a chair, a hairnet put on my head and asked to confirm who I was and what procedure I was here for, Intralase Wavefront LASIK. I got the answers right and some anaesthetic drops were applied to my eyes.  I sat with my eyes closed for about 5 minutes and then we headed in to the operating theatre.

In the centre of the room was a large green bed with a headrest.  To the left and right of the head end were two instruments lined up vertically above the head area.  I lay down in the middle, got as comfortable as one can be and waited.  More drops were applied to my eyes, people talked around me, occasionally checking I was okay and then they were ready to begin.

The first part of the procedure is to cut a flap in the cornea.  This is done with a laser and your eye needs to be immobilised as much as possible.  My head was moved under one of the instruments which looked, from my perspective, like the inside of a bowl covered in very bright LEDs. I was asked to look at the centre of these and a kind of suction cup was placed on my eye.  What followed next was a sensation of pressure on my eyeball.  What I could see was rather like the lights you see if you press on your eyes, bursts of light and colour, but this was more intense that you can imagine it might be.  It was very uncomfortable but totally painless.  This was repeated for my right eye.

The second part of the operation is to lift the flap that has been cut and reshape the cornea.  I was moved under the second instrument, my eye taped open and asked to look at a green light above me.  After a few moments a red light was switched on and I could see swirling patterns of dots. This lasts perhaps 30 seconds and then the flap was replaced and a bandage contact lens was put in.   Again, this was repeated for my right eye.  Again, this was all certainly uncomfortable but completely painless.

I was given a couple of minutes to recover and then I got up and walked back into the waiting area.  The world was a blurry haze, lights had enormous penumbras around them, bright lights were painful to look at.  I was given some time in a recovery room and was issued with my drops.

The Drops Regime is the most tiresome part of the whole experience.  You put in Voltarol drops every 30 minutes for 2 hours.  Then you put in an antibiotic 4 times a day for 7 days.  You also need to put in steroid drops every 4 hours for 7 days and then gradually reduce the dosage.  You must wait at least 15 minutes between the different medicated drops and on top of that you need to put in refresh drops about once an hour.

I left the clinic about an hour after treatment, the world seeming very foggy and bright.   The advice was to go home and rest as much as possible. The anaesthetic started to wear off about half-way home and trying to keep my eyes open was rather like the sensation you get when chopping strong onions.  Not nice, but manageable.  I spent the rest of the day in a dark room.  I was unable to read, unable to go outside, unable to use a computer.  The only real problem I had was boredom.

You might imagine you get a wonderful “I can see!” moment the next morning when you wake up.  I’m sorry, you don’t.  This is partly because you have been wearing bandage lenses for 24 hours (even seasoned contact lens wearers know how horrible accidentally sleeping in lenses can be), but mostly because you have to wear eye shields for the first 7 days.  Once I got the shields off and got refresh drops into my eyes then I began to look around the world and I knew my glasses would be going in the bin in very short order.  The world was painfully bright and a fine vaseliney haze was smeared over everything but through the murk, especially for distance, I could see.

You mustn’t get water in your eyes for the first 7 days or so, buy a pair of swimming goggles.

That was 3 weeks ago.  The distance blur and haze reduced over the first 5 days, I felt safe to drive after 2.  The near-vision blur is still with me but is improving as each day passes.  It can take 6 weeks to 3 months for this to sort itself out so I’m well with in the target window.  My eyes tire much more easily than they used to, but this is because I spend so much time in front of a monitor and this is not ideal for newly lasered eyes.  Every so often my near-vision clears completely and the whole world is beautiful and clear and pin-sharp.  One day it’s going to stay like that.

I’m very happy with the result so far and I can’t recommend Optimax highly enough.  They have been incredibly helpful, helped me make an informed choice and I felt safe putting my eyes in their hands.  If you’re thinking of getting this done, I have some £500 discount vouchers, get in touch.


An open letter to National Car Parks

Dear National Car Parks,

As it seems the existence of your call centre is to goad people into a state of rage and you insist that everything has to be put in writing, I shall put my complaint to you in writing via my blog, before sending it to you in writing.

I am a season ticket holder for the station car park at Harold Wood.  My car is parked there on a daily basis.  On return to my vehicle on February 28th, I was surprised to find I had been ticketed.  Here’s the ticket:














Note the contravention: “Parked on double yellow lines”.  This was a surprise to me because there were and are no double yellow lines present.  For the non-drivers reading this, and confused NCP parking attendants, double yellow lines tend to look like this:










This is quite clear, right?  Two parallel yellow lines at specific distances from the side of the road with a crossing bar at each end.  Now, here’s a picture of where I was parked:

See the bay to the left of the red car? That’s where my car was, wholly within the confines of the white border.  You might want to check out the full size version of the photo but, looking at the example double yellow lines above, can you see where the double yellow lines I was ticketed for parking on are? I’ll sit here quietly while you check.

Done? Good.  You didn’t spot the double yellow lines, did you? Correct, that’s because there aren’t any to spot. I can read your mind.  “Ahhh, Martin, you silly boy.  You’ve parked on a restricted area, there are yellow hatchings. Tsk.”

That’s almost true, there are indeed yellow hatchings but that’s irrelevant.  Why so?  Just this:  When NCP took over the car park many years ago, they repainted all of the bays with fresh white markings.  Here’s a closeup of part of that bay:

Note that the white line is painted over the yellow one.  Had NCP not intended for people to use this as a parking bay, why on earth would they specifically paint bay markings there?  The answer is, they wouldn’t.  Those markings used to denoted an area where you weren’t supposed to park because it’s where a fast food place used to have its bins.  Rather than scraping the old lines up, they just painted new ones over the top.

Add to this the fact that I have been parked in that exact same spot dozens of times over the past couple of years, and this is the first time my car has been ticketed, I think what we’re dealing with here is an overzealous or brainless parking attendant.I currently can’t even talk to you about this over the phone because even after 4 days, the ticket hasn’t appeared on your system. I now have to waste some of my life sorting this out.

No love whatsoever, merely tired rage,

Martin A. Brooks