Andy Richardson: Little help solving the riddle of the Skoda on my lawn
I looked out the window. There was a car. It didn’t belong to us. It had been driven onto our lawn – stop right now, if you own the car, and look away.
I called She Who Is Always Right to make sure there were no unexpected workmen, no-one hiding in the cupboard, nobody for whom it would be fine to, erm, drive up, park on the lawn, walk away, and leave the car there without so much as a bye your leave. No, she said. Nothing.
I approached the vehicle, a dirty blue Skoda, though I’ve seen worse. There was nothing to help us solve the mystery.
No note. No reason. Just a blue Skoda, parked on the back lawn, and seemingly abandoned.
I didn’t want to test the doors. There’s all sorts of trouble, I imagine, if you open another person’s door, even if that person’s decided it’s fine to use your back garden as a car park.
A solicitor once told me that if you ruffle someone’s hair, without them being obliging, it’s a criminal offence.
And so I decided not to check the door, not to touch the thing, and definitely not to ruffle its hair.
I called the police, as you do. Who else are you supposed to phone? The council’s abandoned-car-in-your-back-garden department? I would, of course, but I think that closed as part of the austerity cuts.
The first office was magnificently unhelpful. I’d dialled 101, the non-urgent line, in case the car had been nicked or, in the language of the boys and girls in blue, ‘was known’.
I got about 10 seconds into the story, after a 15-minute wait to get through, when the office terminated the call, presumably thinking I was a crank.
So an abandoned car. No manual on what to do in the event of someone literally driving into your garden and leaving their car on the lawn.
And no help from the people whose wages are paid via our annual council tax bills.
I called the police again and got through to someone who was the opposite of the first person I’d spoken to, or, more accurately, of the person I’d not been able to speak to because they’d got bored and hung up.
He spoke to colleagues. He ran a check. They had no idea who the car belonged to but it wasn’t ‘known’.
He offered advice: ‘Go to court.’ What, in the blue Skoda?
‘No, speak to a solicitor and find a garage that deals lawfully with these things – they do exist. But if you move it and damage it, you’ll be liable for the damage.’
A bad day was getting worse. Having processed the surprise that comes with someone parking an unwanted car in your back garden, having been dismissed by police office number one, I was now being told that the car was effectively a permanent fixture until I got a civil order that allowed me to remove it, at my own expense, and put it who knows where.
And so there it sat. Awkwardly. The gatecrasher at a party, occupying time and space and money and energy that could be better spent on other stuff, like paying council tax bills, or mowing the lawn where the car now sat.
I tried Google. The ‘go to court’ route sounded like it would take a lot of time and cost a lot of money. Google told me to ask the owner to remove it. Nice. I would, only, y’know, it’s a bit of an Agatha Christie situation and unless Coleen Rooney can figure it out, I’m done.
I could try leaving a note on the windscreen, Google added, though, again, you know, who’d read that, apart from myself. Google was lovely, innocent, and the least cynical person in the room.
‘The person who’s parked might not realise they have caused a problem,’ it went on.
Yeah, like parking in someone’s back garden is totally normal behaviour and what issues could that possibly cause anyone?
If all else failed, I should contact my local council, though I’m pretty sure that would lead me back to Square One.
So I’ll try another: Anyone know the owner of a blue Skoda, please?