NOBODY likes traffic wardens. I bet even Michael Palin, surely the nicest man in the whole world ever, sticks two fingers up behind their backs whenever they interrupt one of his trips around the world to slap a ticket on his hot air balloon.

I can't imagine why anyone in their right mind would want to be a traffic warden. To have people sneer and spit and snarl at you day in and day out is hardly the stuff that dream jobs are made of.

Let's be brutally honest, if your child came home and declared they wanted to be a traffic warden when they grow up, you would have to ask yourself where you had gone wrong as a parent.

But why do we despise them so?

Well, I reckon it's partly the ridiculous, prissy little uniform - any job that requires a peaked cap is not a job I would ever actively seek - and it's partly the zeal that many of them bring to their traffic wardening duties, slapping the ticket on your windshield like it's the winning hand in a million pound poker game.

But the main reason we can't stand the sight of them is that they have caught us doing something wrong and are making us pay for it.

It's the hideous embarrassment of being caught out that makes us want to screw the ticket up and flick it, Subbuteo-style, into their face. But, much as I am loathe to admit it, that is not the traffic warden's fault.

They are just doing their job.

Granted, they might be doing it in a smug, over-zealous, nit-picking way, but they are being paid to do a job and they are doing it.

Which is why I get a bit peeved when people moan about getting a ticket. Of course, a bit of swearing and teeth-gnashing is in order - I have had to cover the kids' ears on more than one occasion when we have over-stayed our welcome in one of York's many over-priced car parks - but then it is time to shut up and pay up.

Reading the gripes of parents from the Minster School in York, who were pounced on by a marauding pack of traffic wardens as they tried to pick their children up, I found myself in the startling position of siding with the enemy.

There wouldn't have been any traffic chaos, panic and pandemonium if the parents had simply parked somewhere else. They presumably knew that traffic restrictions apply in that area, so why didn't they just set off a bit earlier, park legally and pick up their kids in peace?

If anything they should think themselves lucky that the traffic wardens aren't there the other 250 or so school days of the year, so that they can park wherever they wish without penalty (I believe you can squeeze two Audis and a Saab in the south transept of the Minster if you park close enough).

Parking outside schools is a particular problem these days, exacerbated by parents who believe that the rules of the road don't apply to them from 8.45am to 9.15am and from 3-3.30pm.

I understand that some kids don't live within walking distance of their school, but that doesn't give their parents carte blanche to drive them right up to their desks.

When a group of mums from my kids' school took it upon themselves to shut the gates at picking-up time to stop rogue parents motoring down the drive amid the inevitable chaos of raucous mums, confused dads and excitable kids, I gave a little cheer (it would have been a big cheer, but I was too busy trying to stop the little one from being trampled under foot as the big ones came rampaging out of their classrooms like a pack of rabid hounds).

Of course, cheering is not usually the first thing that comes out of my mouth when I see a traffic warden. But that's what you get if you insist on parking sideways on the top step of Clifford's Tower, I suppose.

Well, I didn't see a sign, did you?