The Loop: Going backwards, carefully

  • 3 May 2013
Blue Peter presenter Lesley Judd driving a toy car, 1978
And easy to fit into any parallel parking space...

Welcome to The Loop, the Magazine's letters column, including the best of your thoughts on Twitter and Facebook.

The video of the woman in Northern Ireland trying, valiantly, for more than half an hour, to park her car is one of those things that will stay with people for years. Now if ever the manoeuvre doesn't go right first time, drivers everywhere will be wondering if someone is making a video of them, ready for worldwide humiliation.

So the screeds of advice from Magazine readers in response to our Who What Why article on how exactly do you parallel park could be useful.

Graeme Deas emailed from Northumberland, using the form on this page, saying: "There used to be a toy car with a little steering wheel on the roof (probably an antique now - I'm talking 1970s) and it was just fantastic for learning reverse parking. It gave you an overview of what was happening when you turn the steering wheel and you could get a 'feel' for the action. Plus of course you could do it over and over and over with no-one taking videos."

Andre Blanbecque wrote on the BBC News Magazine Facebook page that parallel parking was easy "if you've been taught".

"You only need to remember three things: stop next to the parked car in front of your spot, at most 30cm away. Reverse until your body is at the rear bumper of the parked car directly in front of your car then turn the steering wheel full on towards the curb and continue reversing. Turn your head to look through the rear window and when the headlight of the vehicle behind you reaches the left edge (right in the UK) of your rear window, turn the steering wheel full on the other way while continuing to reverse. Stop before hitting the curb or the vehicle behind you (optional in Paris) and you're in like Slim."

For Rymix, it's simpler: " The way I tend to do it is, when I need to parallel park, I parallel park it."

The revelation from our man in Paris, Hugh Schofield, that graphology is still big in France, raised a few eyebrows, though Steve Plows remains mystified: "What is this 'handwriting' of which you speak ? .... and can I get it on disc?"

Ian Fraser says: "I prefer Tarot myself. Chicken entrails aren't bad either." Ian Roberts adds: "As useful as a Magic 8 ball."

Longstanding Magazine reader John Airey observes: "I can't recall when I last had a job when they had seen my handwriting first - sometime in the 90s I think."

Dermot Riordan adds, disrespectfully: "There are many things done in France that are best not discussed openly."

But reader Margaret White, who is a graphologist herself, stands up against the sceptics. "Far-sighted and intelligent organisations employ a graphologist when recruiting because the results cannot be 'managed' or 'cheated' by the writer. Companies who employ a graphologist have a better mix of people within their organisation; a higher standard of employee and integrity."

In the week that the UK announced the end of aid to South Africa, there was some praise for our animated film about where the UK's overseas aid goes. Calum Davey tweets that the "vid is fine", but asks "Why is GDP growth important? Babies grow faster than adults but who wins in a fight?"

Anyone thinking about taking development issues into their own hands and going overseas to volunteer their time, there was pause for thought from Daniela Papi's Gap Yah article, questioning the value of "voluntourism".

Andy the Thinker, commenting on the story, said: "Not willing to lend a hand at home? There are desperate, impoverished people here in the UK. Bet not many of these people would spend a year working with people here with drug addiction, rehabilitating offenders or old people. Why not just work for Meals on Wheels for a year?" He added, by way of rider: "It's not sunny and there's no kudos attached with it."

Laura Hampson wrote on Facebook: "I got back from three months volunteering in Nigeria [on Wednesday]. I think to condemn all volunteering as bad is wrong. While I didn't change the world, we definitely made a positive impact. As long as programmes are well managed and not glorified holidays, they can be great."

Helen Shovlar added: "Well intentioned but yes, trying to be heroes. Professional charity workers can give the same impression. It can sound a bit like Victorian missionaries rushing off to 'save' people."

New format

We're aware of a technical hitch which has meant some readers see old versions of our weekly news quiz 7 days 7 questions. Not that Vicky S from East London minded. "Please will you make sure that you always put old news on the 7 days quiz? I just got a perfect score. Clearly it takes longer for things to sink in these days - about two weeks I reckon."

Debate continues about the new format for the Magazine Monitor. The verdict from Paul, from the Isle of Man is: "New letters format. TL;DR"

You might need to Google that. But let's hope he got this far so he can collect his single measure of kudos.

While the outgoing editor of the OED told us about words like Etaoin shrdlu, reader Polly Saxon emails asking Paper Monitor for some clarity about the word "snarky". "Is it a cross between snide and sarky (as in sarcastic)? Or something to do with snooty and narky - as in annoyed? Or maybe we need to refer to Lewis Carroll? Or something else altogether?"

And on a couple of housekeeping points, Mike in Cheltenham writes: "Thanks for the new loopy feature. Perfectly named and executed. I wonder if there would be any interest within the Magazine for a letters page at all? There does seem to be a gap for one."

Tres drole.

Stalwart Rob Falconer asks, reasonably: "Can you please tell me when we should write in to Magazine Monitor for your The Loop section? Should we pen our e-missive the moment we get upset, or save up all our angst for a vast outpouring on Friday mornings?"

Contrary to what you might have read elsewhere, Rob, it's always good to write an email in the heat of anger. Always.

Last word goes to GDW of Edinburgh: "All this talk of bees is simply too much. Need I remind you that without all the little worker wasps we wouldn't have Marmite?"

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