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Mastering the fine art of parking

Mark Steel shared tales of his driving and parking misadventures... and the joy of working with Mark Moran

Mark Moran
01 October 2023
Mark Steel


The sheer brilliance of the British Parking Awards was recognised by Mark Steel, who hosted the 2023 ceremony. The comedian and author pointed out this is one of the world’s premier awards. “This isn’t one of those meaningless awards, like the Oscars and Wimbledon, where you win trophies that are just completely pointless and people just throw away, this is the British Parking Awards!

“And what a marvellous idea to have a whole day of a year dedicated to the motoring industry that quite responsibly starts by encouraging everyone to get pissed from midday!

“I really like the idea of the lovely little touch that this event could easily have got somewhere that was a big place, all summery. But rather than that gets somewhere that has a really low ceiling, is really stuffy with everybody having to leave every five minutes, so as to reassemble the lower floor of a multi-storey car park. I think that’s a wonderful touch.

“What other rude notes have I made? This is a great day for the British motorist today, isn’t it? This is marvellous. They can park where they like as you’re all fucking here!”

Our host talked about how does a lot driving as part of recording his beloved BBC Radio series Mark Steel’s In Town. “But I have to confess because I know that a lot of these awards are going to be about new technology and innovations in the car parking industry, and I am hopeless with that,” he admitted.

“There’ll be someone in here who has designed apps that I have stood there outside me car on the phone with the car parking app, listening to the message that goes: ‘Before you can download the app, make sure that isn’t covered by the other 243 apps you’ve also had to download. Before we can begin please press or key your 19 digit PIN number, which must contain three Japanese letters and two recipes for basmati rice. Now save the code again, but in a Wolverhampton accent!’ And usually after 40 minutes, I think all the shops are shut so I’ll just drive home.”

It is not only apps that frustrate him. The cleverer cars become, the more annoying they get. “I find all the new technology around driving so confusing,” he shared. “This is the most difficult thing for me: computers in cars. This should be a brilliant thing shouldn’t it. And in some ways it is. But the people who want to put computers in cars, they are just over-zealous.

“The beeping! Everything beeps. My car is a Volvo. It drives me mad. As soon as you sit in it: ‘Bip, bip, bip, bip! You want more air in your tyres’. I only did it yesterday… ‘Want a bit more. Bip, bip, bip, bip! Want more oil’. But I did that yesterday… ‘Want more. Bip, bip, bip, bip! Sit up straight. Bip, bip, bip, bip! Comb your hair. Bip, bip, bip, bip!’

“And then there’s reversing one, which could be useful, couldn’t it? In fact, when it comes to actually parking the car it has taken all the skill out of it really. That was the big male thing when I was a kid. Once you were 18 if you couldn’t park your car in a space that was smaller than the car! But now, when you start reversing my car is ‘Boop! Boop! Boop!’ And I am thinking, what, there is nothing! There is a fence that is about half a mile away. What’s the matter, I thought there was a goat trapped under the car. ‘Boop! Boop! Boop!’ We could be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and it would be going ‘Beep, beep, beep, beep! You are too near Australia!’

“I am well qualified to give out these awards, aren’t I!”

Mark Steel also shared how he had prepared for the awards with my, er, help. “Do you all know all know Mark who arranges this and edits the magazine? I have only known him a few hours, but he is great. He loves car parks. I have never met anyone who is so fond of car parks. He was on the phone to me. I was just supposed to talk to him for about 10 minutes about where to go.

“Four hours later… ‘And it’s International Parking Day… which is marvellous… and they are going have one in Venezuela soon… anyway, there is a very interesting multi-storey in Bracknell that they’re having to knock down unfortunately, but maybe you could go and investigate that… there’s lots of articles on the website…’ “No, but really, Mark’s lovely, what a lovely man.

“Thank you for inviting me to present the awards. I hope that what I am paid for this pays about three months of my parking fines.”

Thank you Mark from Mark.

Automatic Traffic Counting Engineer
Department for Transport
Birmingham, Leeds, London
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Bristol City Council
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