Opinion: Christine Tongue – The not so glamorous world of showbiz and a pavement parking grumble

Christine at the BBC to talk about the issue of parking on pavements
Did you see me on telly?
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to be on the Sunday Politics show on the local BBC. They were discussing the implications for disabled people of parking cars on pavements.
I’ve been banging on about pavements for ages now and the researchers on the show had seen one of my IOTN articles about it.
MP Huw Merriman (great name for a young hobbit I thought…) was there to introduce the topic as it was his idea and he’s on some committee in the Department for Transport.
Two other politicians were there, too. One was MP Peter Kyle who was well used to TV studios. The other was a nervous lady, Evie Martin, a complete TV beginner, like me.
Holding the ring was BBC presenter Julia George who you might also have heard on the radio. She turned up looking like a teenage rascal in a baseball cap and hoodie with no make up, and somehow transformed herself into the only touch of glamour on the show in ten minutes flat.
I’d agonised about what to wear for hours! At my age work clothes are a distant memory. My wardrobe has stuff for the beach, weddings, funerals and kids’ parties. So I opted for clean, not too gloomy and multi-patterned in case I had a coffee mishap on the way.
I had to get to BBC South East’s HQ at Tonbridge Wells really early so the BBC sent a taxi with a nice Nigerian driver. Once he’d established I wasn’t an MP (he carts around a lot of those on a Sunday) we got on really well.
A discussion on African politics, a packet of shared Polos and many miles on, we reached the BBC studios – in the middle of a closed shopping centre. Not glamorous at all.
Tip number one: don’t look disappointed when you arrive.
No fee, no food. All I got from the BBC was a taxi and a cup of terrible tea so if you’re invited to a BBC show take sandwiches.
Tip number two – eat your sandwiches AFTER you’ve been on TV. The mirrors in the lavs are too high up if you’re my size, so you won’t be able to see to put your lipstick back on! If you’re wondering why I looked a bit smudged, that’s why.
I went to the loo with anxious Evie as we had to share a key to get back in the studio.
She confessed she was nervous. I realised I wasn’t – I’m just an opinionated pensioner with no political ambitions. She was hoping to get elected and so had a lot to lose if she messed things up.
I must say you do get a bit dry-mouthed and feel like running away, as the time comes for you to take your seat. It’s a live show so no editing anything out if you dribble or sneeze or you start laughing for no reason or choking or accidentally hit one of the other guests viciously with your stick or something. I didn’t of course.
But the crew were very nice to me and sat me in the studio so I could watch the first part of the show – or maybe it was to keep me handy if I made a dive for the door.
That’s how I found out that Evie could really put up a fight. Smiley nervous lady turned into attack dog when she saw the other politicians. Accounts for a lot that goes on in Parliament I thought. Apparently civilised human beings have to behave as if the other side are so wrong they shouldn’t be allowed to walk around free.
All that arguing the politicians did ate into what I thought was the really important bit – me grumbling about disabled access and parking on pavements.
I suppose, looking back, I did sound a bit ungrateful about the proposed change in the law about parking.
But, I mean, it’s the least they can do! So I took the chance to talk about trying to get more disabled people represented at all levels in our society. In parliament as well.
Unfortunately, as I said on the show, parliament itself is a terrible place to be disabled. The place is full of steps and tripping hazards, torn carpets, bits of ancient woodwork etc etc. I’ve been on a tour there – and I saw rats running around as well. No, not the MPs. Real ones. So tripping is doubly hazardous….
I watched the recorded show with a four year old when I got home.
After the initial excitement of “LOOK YOU’RE ON TV!!!” which he shouted all the way through, he then asked rather politely: “Can we watch Three Little Pigs now?”
That’s (TV) show biz! Sigh.


  1. It’s a no brainer.
    Pavements are for people, not cars. That’s why there’s a raised kerb, to mark the edge of the road.
    Good luck with your campaign. If it’s good enough for London (where parking on pavements is illegal) then it’s good enough for Thanet.

  2. Modern day cars have computers inside to save mechanics time but still cost the vehicle owner more. My thoughts on the reason why vehicle owners park on the pavement is that if the computer is at an angle it upsets the computers hard drive and of course the operatives sight and brain.

    Many of the drivers of these vehicles that park on the pavement think like many parts of their body are bigger than they actually are. Some of course forget the width and so need a taxi to get to the curb. Forgetting that when they park in a supermarket or local authority car park space is limited but still need to open their vehicle door wide enough to let an elephant out whilst causing damage to he vehicle beside them.
    It used to be the responsibility of an officer of the laws responsibility to reprimand vehicle owners for parking on the pavement. Now days it is members of the public who appear to accidentally scrape along a vehicle with some sharp object.

    Until such times as it is impressed upon people that it is illegal to park on pavements or enter yellow zigzag boxes the trend will continue.

  3. In most places other than London it is not illegal to park on the pavement. It is illegal to obstruct the pavement, and to drive on it.
    I would never advocate criminal damage to vehicles and I can honestly say that not once have I ripped off a protruding wing mirror whilst trying to squeeze my child’s pram between a wall and a badly parked car.

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