White lines – don't do it!

| 17 Dec 2011

Conspicuously owning and enjoying classic cars may bring a lot of pleasure, but it also brings with it a burden in that every even vaguely car-related question, duty and obligation will fall to you.

I live in a cul de sac – a meaningless phrase that utterly bemuses my French wife by the way – where, I am delighted to say, the residents (or a few of them at least) take a real (some might say intrusive) interest in protecting our tranquil (except that it is under the flightpath and backing on to the main line to Waterloo) little corner of London.

Somehow, I am still not sure exactly how, a few months ago I found myself voted on to the board of directors of the road's residents' association.

I am not for a minute suggesting it was rigged, but I wasn't at the AGM and having watched how some of the long-termers try and offload their duties ("I see you have a Christmas tree," "Yes, I do", "well would you like to be gardening director then?"), it wouldn't surprise me.

Being the sort of person who studiously avoids committees and associations of any sort, and certainly never volunteers for any proactive role in them, this has been an eye-opening experience for me.

It largely involves sitting around in someone's lounge discussing the same single issue over and over again with the same basic principle: oppose everything unless there is any slight financial implication for the association in which case sign it off instantly.

Don't get me wrong, seeing how earnestly some of the directors go about this business, I am left in no doubt as to its importance and have warmed to the task, slowly starting to not only have views, but to actually express them.

And then the inevitable happened. "Any other business?" "Yes, the parking spaces."

Turns out that one of the directors – carelessly absent from this particular meeting and spookily determined he never received the invitation – had been campaigning to have the lines around the spaces (previously daubed haphazardly, to put it kindly,  by volunteer residents) professionally painted.

Apparently it was going to cost £400-plus and last three years. The old-timers had other ideas and I was sucked into their cabal like a gas cloud into a black hole.

They had already bought paint and brushes in previous years and there was no way they would even consider the pro option until that was all gone. And surely, the right person could do just as good a job of it as any pro outfit?

Five pairs of steely eyes (I suspect that glaucoma explains some of the steeliness) slowly swivelled around the room until they were focused on me. 

Why owning a large number of cars, and classic ones at that, should make me qualified to produce professional-quality line-painting was beyond me – particularly because it is various fluids dropped from my cars that more than anything else obscures them – but it seems that that was the criterion they were working to.

James = classic cars = parking tsar in waiting.

Naturally, I caved in immediately to this gang of octogenarian sherry-sipping heavies. 

So there you have it, in the Spring I will have to muster a group of reluctant neighbours to paint over the wobbly lines put down by the last lot two years ago.

Of course, in my head I know how to do it properly, I have even planned the huge wooden stencil that will do the job to perfection, but which I will never build.

I am resigned to my fate and, unless someone out there has a proper line-painting machine that I can borrow (please!), I am equally resigned to making a mess of it and them having to bring in the pros rather sooner than expected to correct my calamitous attempts to achieve crisp William Towns-style straight line brilliance.

All I know for sure is that, whatever happens and however much paint I start with, you can be damned sure there will be none left at the end so I never have to do it again.