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November 2008 - Road Works BehindI have had occasion before, in these monthly epistles, to make mention of both the never ending road works which seem to blight the travel arrangements of every innocent British driver; and the signage with which these monstrosities are advertised to the unsuspecting motorist as he approaches them.
Why the heck we need a picture of a man trying desperately to put up an umbrella to indicate that we're about to sit in a queue for the temporary traffic lights round the two men, one eating a sandwich and the other drinking coffee, I shall never understand.
I believe I might also have mentioned, on the very odd occasion, the total foolishness I, personally, perceive in much of our current, over-the-top, health and safety legislation.
Faithful devotees of Nick Harvey's Comment will, therefore, be overjoyed to find out that this month's edition is about to combine all these amazing subjects into a positive pot-pourri of post-pedestrian perambulation.
We currently have one of the major roads through our town closed, but only in a Westerly direction, so a number of men, that's a number somewhere between zero and a few, can fiddle about with a sewer for a number of weeks, that's a number somewhere between very many and an awful lot.
Although it feels as if this mammoth operation has already been going on for about six months, I think it's really only in about its fifth or sixth week as I put fingers to keyboard for this month's ramblings. Much was mentioned in the local papers at the end of the first week about the two men, yes just the two, their sandwich and their coffee.
The excuse, apparently, was that there was only room for two people to work there during that first week, yet they were working in a fenced off enclosure about the size of, but far more professionally fenced, than the grounds of the local prison.
Apparently, according to the ubiquitous spokesman for the company concerned, the excuse was that only two persons could fit in the particular portion of the sewer with which they were fiddling in that first week.
I wouldn't have thought they'd have had very much success in recruiting many more than two persons to do such a shitty job in any case. It's certainly not something Nick Harvey would want to soil his beautifully manicured typing fingers doing, thank you very much.
But, to slightly misquote that Tarrant chappie on the Millionaire show, I don't want to tell you that. Our own little excursion into road works hell, in our own little town, is but a digression on the way to the major subject for in-depth analysis in this month's exciting edition.
No, I was in a town over on the other side of the hill when this month's idea came to my attention. I spent so long in a traffic queue that I even had time to find a bit of paper in the glove box, a pencil in the door pocket and write down a few lines to start me off when it came to today, keyboard fingering day.
Oh, by the way, for those of you dear viewers out there who are following the keyboard saga, as it were, you may or may not be pleased to know that I'm back on the black one at the moment.
Well, I'm back on the black at this precise moment. Whether I shall remain on the black, all the way to the end of this month's epic, is currently something of an uncertainty. Through the wonders of modern networking, as I understand it has to be called, I can now access this, and all the other editions of Comment, from either of my many computers.
This, however, has the downside that I may be forcibly removed from the black, and pushed over onto the grey, at any moment, should 'er indoors suddenly decide to put a little more time into her highly important project.
Anyway, enough of all that. Before that nice lady in the fourth row starts to snore again, perhaps it's time to put an end to all these digressions and finally get round to the plot, proper.
There I was you see, over the other side of the hill, sat sitting in this lengthy queue of traffic, wondering to myself, like you tend to do, exactly what the obstruction was going to turn out to be, when I finally rounded the bend and came upon it.
I was half expecting it to be one of those huge, coned off areas, with a single operative right over on the far side of it, cutting the grass with a pair of those plastic, children's scissors. Well, that's what health and safety make them do nowadays, isn't it?
Heaven forbid that they're allowed to handle anything as dangerous as a lawnmower, with those sharp, blade things; and I suspect the entire health and safety world would come to an immediate and cataclysmic conclusion should said lawnmower be anything more powerful than the push-it-yourself, manual model.
It has to be the plastic scissors, really, doesn't it? If it was a push-it-yourself mower, then there'd be a good chance the poor guy in charge of it might put his back out; whilst even the idea of one of those motor-mowers, powered by that incredibly inflammable petrol stuff, just doesn't bear thinking about.
What if the operative was to break one of the other forty-seven new laws by trying to light up a cigarette and blowing himself to the four winds in the process? My goodness, the health and safety court case would go on longer than a set of road works for a sewer re-alignment.
But anyway, whilst I was musing over all these possibilities, my queue of traffic was slowly but surely nudging up, one car at a time, towards the obstruction at the root of all our chagrin.
As I got slowly closer and closer, I have to admit to becoming more and more confused. Eventually, I could see the road works, right away in the distance, with two way traffic flowing freely past them without any difficulty whatsoever.
But, at a location about half way between the road works and my own, the precise reason for all the problems suddenly hove into view.
There was a point where the road narrowed, because of a widened pavement, and there were cars solidly parked all along the opposite side. Under normal circumstances, there was just room for the normal two streams of traffic at this point, but not today.
Health and safety must decree that there has to be a picture of a man trying to put up his umbrella at this precise distance away from the road works. So some bloomin' dimwit of an operative had done exactly as it says in the manual and put a sign exactly where it has to be.
The pavement at this point is quite wide enough that he could easily have put the sign on there, but no, the manual must say that the sign has to go in the road, so in the road the sign has to go.
Those more intelligent members of my viewing public are probably very slightly ahead of my typing at this point. That's woken up my snoring lady in the fourth row as well. Yes, madam, you're quite correct.
The obstruction causing the lengthy traffic queue wasn't the road works at all. It was the bloomin' warning sign, stuck in the road at the narrowest possible point, so all the traffic had to take turns in going round it.
It comes to something when health and safety rules are so damned inflexible that you need temporary traffic lights or a man with a stop-go board just to control the traffic flow around the warning sign.
I hasten to point out, before anyone accuses Nick Harvey of exaggeration, that no temporary traffic lights nor man with a stop-go board were present on this particular occasion of which I am writing. I rather suspect that, if there had been, the traffic flow would have been all the smoother.
By the way, perhaps for completeness I should also confirm that, once past the obstructive sign, the traffic flowed so well through the actual road works, that I didn't particularly notice them and am, sadly, unable to report back to you on the exact reason for them being there.
Well, some how or other, I seem to have managed to get all the way to the end of this month's epistle without being demoted from the black to the grey in the process. Can't be bad!
I trust you'll all be back for the next one, which I suppose will be the Christmas edition, promptly on December the first. Goodness me, it only seems like about a month ago I was writing the January edition. Where has 2008 gone? No, don't bother writing in, I think I might just have an inkling myself. Right, I'm off, where's me new diary?
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