Mrs Canavan went to visit a friend of hers earlier in the week, parking her car, as you do, on the street outside.
When she emerged a couple of hours later, she found a hand-written note stuck to her windscreen.
It began: “Could I polietly (sic) ask you to consider parking more carefully!”
Grammatically speaking, that’s an inappropriate and unnecessary exclamation mark, but I’ll let it go.
“If,” it continued, “you park your car in the middle of two houses like you did today then you are effectively blocking two (the two was underlined, twice) parking spaces.”
The letter went on a little longer before, at the bottom, the author helpfully added two illustrations showing the wrong and the right way to park a vehicle, giving one a tick and the other a cross.
Mrs Canavan was miffed about this and arrived home chunnering about how she’d parked perfectly legally and questioning the mindset of someone with the time on their hands to produce a note complete with diagrams and then shoving it under the windscreen wiper of a car that doesn’t belong to them.
And while I see her point (there probably are other more substantial things to worry about - world peace, global warming, who’ll win this year’s FA Cup), I have to say that I think the note is absolutely wonderful and sums up why I love this country so much.
Nowhere else in the world, you see, would you find people who get stressed about such utterly trivial, inconsequential matter.
Do you think the French get into a lather about who parks a car outside their house? Of course not, they’re too busy having sex with their mistress and planning the next air traffic control strike.
In America they go to church and buy guns; in Switzerland they count money and make sure the trains run on time; in Australia they have barbecues and drink lager; in North Korea they casually fire nuclear missiles over nearby countries. Here we monitor how long someone’s parked their Honda Civic on the pavement.
It’s marvellous, a true trait of us Brits, and so I commend the letter-writer for his/her actions - and I also understand where they are coming from.
I mean, come on, every single one of us has done that thing where, if we see a strange vehicle parked outside our house, we look at it slightly uneasily and inwardly wonder who the hell it belongs to.
‘Darling,’ I’ll shout from the bedroom. ‘Did you see who got out of that white Nissan Juke parked outside?’
“I’ve no idea,” she’ll reply. “I didn’t even know it was there”.
This doesn’t surprise me for Mrs Canavan has no observational skills whatsoever, or any sense of potential danger.
She is the kind of woman who could retire to bed leaving the front door wide open with a neon flashing sign saying, ‘burglars this way – the iPad is on the lounge settee, help yourself’, and not notice.
I, however, am at the other end of the spectrum.
I patrol the house like an undercover policeman, checking each lock and window latch five times, and have been known to take photos of any strange car that appears on our road, just so I’ve got the reg number in case anything bad happens.
Indeed – true story this - I once spent five-and-a-half hours monitoring a beige Ford Transit van, whose driver had the audacity to park near my driveway. I had convinced myself it had been abandoned after being used in a violent bank robbery and was just about to contact the police, perhaps solving a crime and being hailed a national hero, when an elderly lady who’d been visiting her sister at number three returned to the vehicle and drove off.
I also get nervous on those occasions when I leave my car on a strange street outside the house of someone I don’t know. I have a fear of being challenged by the householder, so much so, that, after parking, I’ll spend several minutes checking no one is watching before jumping from my vehicle and sprinting full-pelt from the scene.
I think deep down this is because I am the kind of person who detests confrontation in any way. I spend half my life apologising, even when an incident occurs that isn’t my fault. For example, in a supermarket car park recently, a man opened his car door too far and hit the door of my car, leaving a mark. It was entirely his fault yet I found myself apologising for parking too close to his vehicle. I have sorry tourette’s.
So, in conclusion, well done to the writer of the letter – in my eyes you are the cog in the wheel of this fine nation of ours.
Right, must dash, someone has left their Mini Coupe outside and I need to challenge them.