ON FEBRUARY 26 I turned the ripe old age of 30.
On Saturday, my sister whisked me into Uxbridge for some girly pampering; actually, to get me out of the house so everyone could prepare for my surprise birthday bash at the Auberge later that evening.
What I didn't quite bank on, and neither did my husband who arranged the whole thing, was a bill for £555 to pay off the clampers outside the Auberge - it was a very expensive birthday party.
My husband, mum and family friend drove into Uxbridge as they had to drop off all the food and decorations for my party. There were numerous platters, vases with flowers and so on and they had to get as close as possible, so decided to park up on the side of the Auberge so they could unload and be on their way.
Our family friend would keep an eye on the cars as it was to be no more than a five-minute job while they took in all the essentials. By the time my husband and mum returned, the clampers were clamping our car right in front of their very eyes.
My husband confronted them and insisted they were not parking and leaving their cars, merely unloading all the items for his wife's surprise party.
But while explaining this, the clamper then ran over to my mum's car and clamped her. He literally ran in order to get there before my husband, and the only way to release them was to pay up the £555 for the two cars.
My husband called the police as no one could quite believe what they were doing was in fact legal. Surely if you are standing right there, that shouldn't be allowed? Even traffic wardens give you a few minutes' grace.
The police were not overly interested, so my husband called the appeal number on the noticeboard, and it sounded like it was just some guy sitting at home, as his kids were screaming in the background.
What sort of organisation is this exactly? And where is this £555 fee actually going? At least with traffic tickets given around Hillingdon, you know they go back into the borough, but where do these clamping fees go?
As I'm currently on maternity leave, this £555 is not too shy of my monthly salary right now, so it was a bitter pill to swallow when my husband had to cough up.
My mum, a pensioner, tried to appeal to the clampers' better nature by asking how he would feel if it was his mum being clamped while simply trying to arrange his sister's surprise birthday, never mind the fact she was a pensioner.
Funnily enough, he wanted nothing more than to get his money. We are going to do all we can to appeal this as we feel literally as though we have been mugged, legally.
If we don't get our money returned, but have raised awareness to the public never to park there and give these guys the satisfaction, then we have won.