Thursday, 29 April 2010


Just for the record, the picture for today is taken from a Norwegian supermarket car park.

Last week, the extremely famous British Broadcasting Corporation enlivened their news bulletin with an ‘and finally’ that only amused half of the listening population. As you will know, an ‘and finally’ is a short, cute, punchy little number situated at the end of a news bulletin to keep the listener amused, awake and ready to tune in next time for a further witticism. .

‘In China,’ said the male news-reader, ‘car park designers have been planning extra-wide spaces for female drivers, the reason being that it is thought women have less spatial awareness than men.’ WHAT? Oh, ha, ha, ha-dee-ha. I couldn’t believe my ears. Firstly, it’s not funny, secondly it’s not true, and thirdly, I’ve seen those spaces before and it wasn’t China that first came up with the idea.

I was recently in a Norwegian underground car park seeking a space when I saw a nice big one. I swept into it and read a notice attached to the wall in front of my windscreen. ‘Kvinner Parkering’, it said.

Those of you in the North East of Scotland fortunate enough to have a grasp of Doric will immediately understand that this means ‘Women’s Parking.’ I sat there, perplexed. Just what in the world was the logic behind that? I stepped out of the vehicle and conducted a quick survey. It seemed that the ‘Kvinner Parkering’ spaces were considerably wider than the surrounding spaces. How rude! Did they think we girls were rubbish parkers, or just fat?

Then I felt a pang of alarm...maybe I was meant to be pregnant to park in that space. Oh really...that was a parking conversation I’d rather not have..... I’d just have to risk it. I walked off with a flurry of parking memories sweeping across my mind. I recalled, years ago, while on that road to motherhood, being the size of a house and unable to revolve my hefty frame around with my normal athleticism to its usual degree while in the driver’s seat...that had been in a narrow one-way street in Aberdeen where I had been obliged to park on a daily basis. I managed, perfectly well, what was the problem?

However, since that day in the underground car park, I have been making a note of the thinness of Norwegian parking spaces. They often appear to be less than generous, if not verging on the miserly. The driver is required, at times, to be remarkably adept, gymnastic even, when it comes to exiting the vehicle while in one of these spaces.

If I can possibly help it, I usually try to avoid multi-storey car parks. Can’t stand them, but needs must. I was in town and I needed to park. Remembering that some obliging person had thoughtfully removed the folding canoe off the top of my car, I thought I would risk the multi-storey. I drove in, grabbed a ticket at the barrier and gingerly proceeded up various ramps looking for a nice space. There weren’t many. I drove on and on and joined the queue of hopefuls as we circled the various levels in our quest for a slot.

‘Ah ha!’ I cried at last. ‘A space. That’ll fit the bill.’ But unfortunately, it barely fitted the car. We have a perfectly ordinary-sized car that enables our family plus two guests to travel in relative comfort. That’s it. It’s nothing to write home about.

I glanced into the rear-view mirror to see how many cars were lined up behind me. Seven. All of them urgently seeking their own space and revving to get on with it. I reckoned it would be rude to hold them up by reversing into my space, so I went in nose first, only to find that I didn’t fit. I’d have to do several manoeuvres in and out, back and forth. Visions of docking the QE11 sprang to mind. The man in the car immediately behind me was staring at me, stony faced and glazed over. My palms were sweating. I felt like a trapped animal on display. Come on...I had the whole of the female population to defend here...just park the flaming car.

Suddenly, I was mid-angle into my space when the car’s gear-box succumbed to overwhelming flatulence and let out an almighty, gut-wrenching fart. The noise ricocheted around the car park, echoing like thunder through concrete ramps and alley-ways. It was hideous. I went puce, and wrestled with my gear stick, only to produce more stomach-churning, scraping, squelchy noises from my poor, windbag of an engine. I mouthed in an exaggerated fashion into the mirror in the hope the guy behind could lip-read....‘ should have seen what I had for breakfast....plays havoc with your insides.’ I don’t think he got it.

Eventually, because I am a woman and therefore undeterred by a challenge, I managed to conquer the space, and I left the vehicle, my head held high, as though everything was perfectly normal. But I’m telling you...that was a teeny weeny space. Tiny. The thing is...if you are a male driver, and you think Norwegian parking spaces are abnormally thin, I absolutely bet you’re not ever going to admit it.


  1. I totally agree with you (but I'm female...)! Don't know if this is a campain from the authorities to force the public to invest in smaller (and more eco friendly) cars as a punishment for us daring to go shopping by car rather than public transport...
    BTW, the women's parking places are not there for inept female parkers, but offered as a "safer" spot close to an Exit for those women too nervous to venture out at night alone. That's the official explanation...

  2. Anne...thanks for enlightening me, altho they were in such a dark place, I'd never have guessed! Since everyone is equal in Norway, I was rather surprised.