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March 2004 - Going Backwards

Well, I thought you all deserved a good laugh right at the start of this month's exciting edition, so I decided on one of those titles where all you lot in the last three rows can shout out "Isn't he always?", or some such similarly abusive heckle.

You see, after all these years, I'm beginning to get to know the sort of tirade to expect from Mrs B of Leicestershire and all her cronies from the "Let's not take this at all seriously" brigade.

What you lot down at the back don't seem to realise is the enormous import of this monthly epistle to the world at large.

I'll have you know that without Nick Harvey's Comment appearing with its customary regularity, then all sorts of adversities could be the downfall of the human race.

So all the better to get anything from a mild tittering to a monstrous belly laugh out of the way before we get on to the real reason for my wearing my fingers out on the keyboard for this month.

Have I previously mentioned the building site which appeared at the bottom of my back garden last autumn?

Ah, well it was the long dry summer last year which was to blame, in my humble opinion.  A year ago, the grass out there was a beautiful deep green, but by last September it had turned to a somewhat more unpleasant shade of brown.

I think it was this reclassification of the field from green to brown which encouraged the Department for Jaguars, Rural Fields, Planning and Deputising for the President to allow a request from some developer to place another nineteen "housing units" right in the line of site from my bedroom window.

What the heck is a "housing unit" anyway?  Don't the idiots know whether it'll be a proper house, or whether they'll bung a low roof on it before they even start building?

No need to answer that, madam in the fifth row, the total ineptitude of the builders has provided the answer far quicker than you can possibly shout it out.

Anyway, if I hadn't got round to mentioning the building site before, I seem to have now.

Eight o'clock in the morning these builders start their toil, you know.  LONG before the hour at which somebody as important as I am used to raising my weary head from the pillow.

But the problem on this, together with most other building sites nowadays, is something they refer to as "JIT", or "Just in Time".  It's all to do with deliveries, you see.

In the good old days, if you were going to build nineteen houses, a lorry would deliver all the bricks at the beginning of the project and the bricklayer would use how ever many he needed each day.

Not so today.  I gather an average bricklayer can now lay twenty-two bricks per day.  That's in between safety inspections, training sessions, safety inspections, scaffold erection, safety inspections, mortar manufacture, safety inspections, hard-hat fittings, safety inspections, ladder relocation, safety inspections, legal advice about the brick that fell on his head on the previous site and, of course, safety inspections.

This combination of "JIT" and the twenty-two per day problem means that the skinflint building contractors manage to have just twenty-two bricks delivered each and every morning, in order to delay having to pay for them as long as is legally possible.

It's not just the bricks either.   They'll also have a daily delivery of one cold tap, a ball cock, the left-hand bit of a roof truss, two thirteen amp sockets, four door hinges, sixteen roofing tiles and a chimney pot.

The trouble is, however, that all these different items appear to come from different suppliers and most certainly all come on different lorries.

Which, I'm sure you'll all be positively ecstatic to hear, finally brings us to the subject for in-depth analysis in this month's epic edition of Comment.

It's the early morning stream of lorries, you see.  Or, more to the point, the fact that the entrance to the building site is so narrow that as they stream, either they all have to reverse in, or they have to reverse out.

"No problem in that", I hear you cry.  "So they have to go in or out backwards, what of it?" you ask.

The problem is that some idiot, probably from the Department for Jaguars, Rural Fields, Lorries and Deputising for the President, has decreed that any large vehicle which so much as DARES to proceed in a direction other than forwards, has to make a very loud noise, OTHER than the normal sound of an engine revving, to indicate the fact.

Now, I could probably cope with just one reversing lorry at around eleven in the morning, just as I'm naturally stirring from my slumbers, but a stream of a couple of dozen or more, at eight o'clock, which seems to me to be the middle of the night, is just NOT my idea of fun.

Who on earth was it who came up with this stupid idea of things going backwards having to make such a dreadful noise?

It's a different noise for each vehicle too.  There's a security van which goes to one of the local banks and has a loud hailer attached to the back.  When that goes backwards, it plays a recording of a voice actually saying "Warning, this vehicle is reversing" out of the loud hailer.  Now is that a case of "statin' the bleedin' obvious", or what?

The additional problem with the voice version is the volume at which the message is played.  I heard it clearly, the other day, from about two hundred yards away.

I reckon if you were next to the thing when the driver engaged reverse, the noise would knock you over and leave you in a heap behind the thing and about to be decorated with tyre marks.

The "beep beep beep" ones are nearly as bad, as you can't seem to recognise exactly where the sound is coming from.

Do you remember the old days when telephones had proper bells in them?  In an office full of six or eight phones, you knew which one was ringing immediately it started.  With the new electronic warblers, you haven't a clue which one it is.

It's the same with the lorries and the beeping.  If you're in a lorry park and the beeping starts, God help you, as it could be ANY of them about to run you down.

BEFORE the additional noises were introduced to deafen you, you might have been able to hear which one had its engine running.  Not so any more!

It appears that the whole system has been specially designed not to give you so much as a fighting chance.

After all, did they even consider that message shouted from the loud hailer on the back of the security van?  How many extra pence would it have cost to change the message to "Warning, vehicle number WZ53 ABD is reversing".  At least that would give you a second or two to check the number plate of the thing before getting the zig-zag pattern up your frontage.

No, Nick Harvey's lengthily considered personal opinion is that this is yet another half-baked scheme that's been introduced by the powers-that-be LONG before it's been thought through properly.

I COULD offer my services to those in government to do the remaining research on the problem and come up with a set of proper, workable proposals on the subject, but I'm not sure I could stay awake long enough.  Not till the building work and all its associated night-time deliveries have finished, anyway.

I think I'll pop off for an afternoon nap now.  Well, I was up very early today.  I think it was specially to write this for you all, but I could just be wrong.

I shall endeavour to take equally great trouble in preparing a further instalment for you in December 2004, but Comment is now taking a break until then.  Please check back just before Christmas for the next episode to consume it in all its glory.  Time to back out of here just now, I think.  Right, I'm off, where's me reverse gear?

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