Author writes book after drunken walk around Hastings Morrisons car park
An author spent three years travelling around the UK to wander around supermarket car parks before penning a book on his hobby.
Gareth Rees, 46, took a bizarre interest in car parks after moving to a new home overlooking the Morrisons car park in Hastings three years ago.
Since then, the author, who specialises in writing about places, has driven hundreds of miles across the UK, visiting retail park and supermarket car parks.
Dad-of-two Gareth describes car parks as ‘wildernesses’, and has a keen eye for the comings and goings and mundane litter that others overlook.
Gareth has visited around 40 car parks up and down the country, and researched even more to mention in his book, Car Park Life.
He has seen all sorts of weird car parks - from an Asda car park built in the shadow of a huge oil rig ship at the docks in Leith, Scotland, to a waterway founded by Sir Francis Drake next to a B&Q in Plymouth, Devon.
Gareth said: “It’s exciting for me, I love it.
“I feel a bit like Neil Armstrong on the moon, making unusual observations that haven’t been made before.
“I had no necessary intention of writing a book on my car park visits - but as I started realising that car parks are really interesting places, that’s when the idea came together,” he added.
Gareth’s quirky interest began with a drunken walk around the Hastings Morrisons car park in 2014, after he moved to a new home overlooking the car park.
He said: “I live at the end of a Morrisons car park, and one evening I got a bit drunk and ended up wandering around the car park.
“I realised it was as interesting a place as any other new place - all the different characters passing through it, the creepy foxes on the petrol station forecourt, and so on.
“I wrote a blog post about it, and then I thought maybe I’d carry on.
“So the next day I went to Asda in St Leonards, and I found what seemed to be a dinosaur footprint etched into the tarmac - it looked a bit Fred Flintstone-esque.
“So I thought, great, that’s two out of two car parks now that I’ve visited that have been interesting.
“So for the next three years, whenever I went somewhere, I would make sure I went to a car park.”
Gareth only visited retail park car parks or chain supermarket car parks for his book, and would spend an hour or two wandering around and making observations about each place.
He made it a rule to only stay in the car park area, and never to go into the stores.
He said: “Even if I was starving, I would never go into get myself a sandwich or anything.
“What surprised me was that nobody even noticed. I was fully prepared for someone to come out and question why I was there. I thought it would make a good addition to the book.
“But no one noticed, no one really cared that I was there.
“You think you’re being scrutinised by the company, but you’re really not. That’s why so much stuff happens in a car park - boy racing, illicit meet-ups, drugs, things like that.
“It’s a really good place to just disappear.
Gareth’s quest to visit car parks has taken him on a road trip all the way up to Edinburgh - making stops in Manchester, Lancaster and Stirling on the way - with his two daughters, aged 11 and 10, in tow.
He said: “They were quite young at the time, and I think they were quite bemused about me wandering around the car parks.
“But they were happy to just sit in the car while I had a walk around.
“I had a weird moment when we stopped in Manchester,” Gareth added.
“I remember being a little kid sat in the back of the car in that same car park, and my dad left me in the car while he went shopping.
“I was always really excited, I would pretend that the car was a spaceship.
“It was strange being in the same car park and leaving my children in the back of the car while I went for a wander around,” he said.
Gareth’s book is full of thoughts and musings that have crossed his mind while visiting car parks around the UK.
The book includes whole chapters dedicated to crime, sexual demeanours, boy racers, and other interactions he has witnessed during his countless hours outside retail parks.
Prior to writing Car Park Life, Gareth released the book Marshland: Dreams and Nightmares on the Edge of London, in October 2013, written about Hatton Marshes.
Car Park Life, which was published by Influx Press on October 22, 2019, was described by The Guardian as ‘both ludicrous and profoundly moral’.
Car Park Life can be bought for £9.99 in paperback, or £5.99 for Kindle, on the Influx Press website: www.influxpress.com/car-park-life.