Park your car. Stroll along the promenade. Enjoy a coffee or a light lunch. Pay for your parking and drive off happily. Those were our simple pleasures at Largs, that jewel of the Ayrshire coast. Until ANI SKIDATA came into our lives.
In November last year, local councillors announced that the seafront car park was to be upgraded. ANI were going to give us state of the art parking using the very latest electronic wizardry. One councillor enthused that he was over the moon at this game-changing development. North Ayrshire was not only ahead of the curve but providing a technological boost to tourism.
It would be a mild understatement to record that the course of true upgrading has not run smooth. In March, a more cautious council member forecast a summer of chaos. Regrettably, he has been proved right. Last week, for the third time in a month, we endured the 'seamless entry and exit fully supported and maintained by SKIDATA's team of local engineers'. Entry may have been smooth but exit was anything but. The 'pay on foot Skiost Smart machine' which should have been offering multiple payment options, including barcode and RFID reading technology, was instead emitting a plaintive howl. A small crowd of bemused customers were losing patience, particularly the lady whose credit card had been eaten by the payment slot.
Confidently, I pushed a speaker button at the exit gate to be told, doubtless by a robot, that North Ayrshire Council office was closed until Monday. As sunshine changed to dampening drizzle, I telephoned a helpline number and got a human. He listened not only to my complaint but to the howling Skiost. I did not quite catch his closing remarks but one word was certainly of the four-letter variety. As he ended our chat, the exit gate rose, stayed up, and released a stream of customers, free of charge. Apart from the lady with the machine-locked credit card. Her raised voice was now challenging the decibel level of the howling machine.
A glance at SKIDATA's website should have given us a warning. They offer 'parking solutions' which, as any reader of Private Eye
will know, means they are in the 'Solutions' business which never bodes well. I am sure they are nice, well-meaning people who spend happy hours with large interactive touch screen displays and real time data. I am equally sure they never get locked into wet carparks bawling at unresponsive machinery. Perhaps that should be a crucial segment to their life-enhancing career development 'training experience'? My breath will not be held.
On Sunday, I did something I have never done before – I watched I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here
. The reason was to see the arrival of Matt Hancock, the politician anxious to get in touch with ordinary people by not turning up in the House of Commons. The number of ordinary folk he meets there is arguable so maybe he has a case.
For two hours, I waited while Ant and Dec welcomed people I have never heard of let alone seen on television, including a man who had lost the buttons on his shirt, someone who had been in a soap for 23 years, a lady footballer and a splendid comedian who refused sensibly to take part in the very first test. He could win.
As for Matt, well Ant, or maybe it was Dec, said something about their having the welcome mat out for someone but someone did not turn up. They were saving their star until the last. There are times when you feel a show has come to the end of its natural life and this was one such moment. It may lead to media stardom for Matt – look what Have I Got News For You
did for Boris Johnson. It helped him become Prime Minister although that is unlikely in this case.
I am not knocking popular culture. There is nothing wrong with reality shows. It can be very entertaining watching Love Islanders
falling in and out of love, people who mostly look like the back end of buses taking all their clothes off and then going on disastrous dates where they find they have nothing to say to one another on the one nobody admits to watching, and in its prime Big Brother
was a really interesting social experiment. I can even take The Wheel,
which brings to British television the sort of show Italian TV has been doing for years and for foreigners is a good way of learning some Italian. Hopefully, The Wheel
does the same for Italians wanting to improve their English.
Anyway, I missed the arrival of Matt – I was out the following evening – and somehow, I don't think I will see him being forced by the viewing public right up to almost the end of the run to eat things that are disgusting. I speak as one who once ordered poached brains in a restaurant in Rome so I know what it is like.
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