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2020 vision: What does the new year hold in store for Bishop's Stortford?

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We are safely past the winter solstice; days are getting longer and the promise is of another bountiful year. We celebrate Yule in the ways of the old ones and in the turning of the year we look ahead with hope.

Herewith, therefore, Old Charlie’s Almanac, taking a light-hearted look at what the new year might have in store for us all...


Marshalling the chaos in the multi-storey car park continues. To reveal their presence, the marshals are rechristened The Jacksons and dressed in Lurex and white ten-gallon hats. Their presence is announced by overly loud renditions of Rockin’ Robin on repeat play. Drivers’ spirits are lifted, masking much darker feelings towards the car park designers and encouraging happier January sales. Until going home time, of course.


Zebra are found in Lower Street, Stansted. Uttlesford District Council admits there may have been a misunderstanding about the provision of a long-promised pedestrian crossing in the area. An earlier tolerance of peacocks hinted that local residents were happy to have animals wandering around the streets, leading to the mix-up about the zebras crossing. No new date for the provision of the zebra crossing is forthcoming.


Stortford ’Spoons staff undertake another pilot trial to determine the best time to lock themselves in the cellar of the Port Jackson. The travelling fraternity are, once again, invited to assist, posing as an unruly crowd in exchange for a few quiet pints in the warm, whilst observers, dressed in blue, are on hand to jot down possible opportunities for improvement. The exercise, codenamed Operation Teaspoon, will be rolled out nationally to all other ’Spoons later in the year, as it seems it’s the only way the staff can get a tea break.


Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) is commenced at Waitrose to catch free parking abusers. Male owners of big, expensive four-wheel-drive SUVs discover that their wives and girlfriends have been playing with their Tonka Toys whilst they are at work. Many WAGs, banned from using the SUV, refuse to be seen driving anything less into the car park, resulting in Waitrose profit warnings.


Network Rail is shocked when approached by the manufacturer of a well-known rust treatment product offering to fix the external walls of the new multi-storey station car park in exchange for free advertising. When told “It's supposed to look like that” the manufacturers fear the worst for the future of their product and consider diversification into other areas, including new clothing for emperors.


The new multi-storey car park at the station opens. Stortfordians hope the parking problems in Stortford will get easier, only to be told that this car park is for commuters and the very, very rich. The architectural merit of the building in terms of our industrial heritage resurfaces, with observations that it is a rare factory indeed that has big lamp posts sticking out of the roof.


Recently returned from investigating the infamous ‘Sawbo Queue’, Hertfordshire Highways officials are seen logging traffic movements in Stortford in an attempt to improve flows in the town centre. When challenged by local residents’ groups about the validity of such measurements when half of the population is on holiday, their response is that it’s the only time of the year when moving traffic can be found to measure.


Following the experiences of 2019, Stortford town council buys up a Ministry of Defence job lot of surplus corrugated iron Anderson bomb shelters to distribute to residents as a means of protecting themselves against the anticipated firework army invasion, expected on the streets throughout October and November.


Waitrose reintroduces its ANPR system, claiming that the quality of photography is now such that faces in the vehicles are clearly recognisable and customers might wish to purchase both a copy and the negative as a souvenir. The income from these candid shots of WAGs, seen apparently enjoying themselves in what might be interpreted as ‘whilst the cat’s away’ compromising circumstances, goes a long way towards ensuring that profit margins are restored.


The town council is shocked to find that its surplus Anderson shelters have been fitted to cars as armour plating rather than half buried in back gardens, allowing drivers to use the A120 bypass without fear of bombardment. However, the new ‘people’s tank’ needs lots of fuel. New filling stations on the bypass are proposed to cope with demand.


Attempts by the Business Improvement District (BID) team to recruit marshals to help with the upcoming seasonal parking chaos are themselves chaotic as rival teams fight for the honour of being Jacksons and wearing the Lurex. Temporary staging is erected in the car park for hourly performances. A nationally famous optician reports an excellent year’s trading from using the strapline “For 2020 vision you really should have gone to Specsavers”.


The BID team arrange VIP viewings from atop Charrington’s House to observe a repeat of Santa’s famous 2019 crash landing on the castle mound. Unfortunately, fog prevents a clear view, although a lot of crashing and banging is heard through the mist. The chairperson of the BID feels like she’s banging her head against a brick wall, so it’s hot toddy and a cupcake, and off we go to bed.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2020!

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