Extend the hand of helpfulness...

“Welcome to the sunshine coast” proudly trumpeted a large signboard, as we crossed the Eastbourne boundary the other day.

It seemed a friendly invitation to the foreign tourist not seeking asylum but a pleasant stop.

Swiss visitors, we had just arrived off the night ferry from Newhaven and decided to pause for some breakfast and, having spotted a poster, perhaps to make a booking for the Sunday concert at the Congress Theatre.

It was 9am. We parked our car with its Swiss number plates in an absolutely empty space – perhaps 14 places – next to the Buccaneer Pub, having made some sense of the rather scrambled instructions on the ticket machine, inserted what we calculated was the requisite amount of cash for an hour’s stay, displayed, and departed to a restaurant opposite, for a hearty, therefore relatively costly, all-day breakfast.

On returning to our vehicle, we discovered an angry looking female parking warden busily writing out a ticket.

“You’ve overstayed by 10 minutes. Don’t bother explaining, it’s already gone through,” she snapped.

We politely as possible, pointed out that perhaps we had misunderstood the instructions before buying the ticket, that we had not blocked available parking space, and that our 10-minute crime was perhaps not really of penal proportions.

“That’s of no interest to me. You are depriving the people of Eastbourne of their proper revenues,” the harridan tetchily replied.

“Really? We’ve already spent some money in the town and were planning to spend more.

“Aren’t you a tourist resort then or just don’t you want to be friendly to foreign visitors?”

Answer came there none as she rapidly strode off down the road, obviously intent on bringing even more sunshine into the lives of strangers.

Alas, I was unable to get her name.

I am copying this letter to the local Tourist Office and to the municipal authorities, in the hope that they may perhaps instruct their relevant personnel, especially people like this appallingly rude employee, who I hope is a limited species, to extend the hand of helpfulness and not this kind of rampant hostility to overseas tourists and keep the signboard promise. Eastbourne deserves it.

The concert was excellent by the way.

Michael Green-Ferranini