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October 2007 - Single Track Road

So here we are, folks, just moving into the last week of the annual seaside binges which collectively form the Party Conference season.  As summer gently turns to autumn, the politicians and journalists gently turn to Bournemouth, Blackpool and Brighton.

Why is it, I have to wonder, that the main political parties always seem to have to have their conferences at the seaside, and always in resorts which begin with the letter "B"?

After many years of thought, the only suggestion that I've ever come up with for that one is that towns beginning with a "B" are a lot easier to precede or follow with an expletive.  After all, much of the discussion at these conferences seems to come under the general heading of male cow excrement, does it not?

I was reminded of this, somewhat boring, fact as I mused over the policy differences of the parties on the subject which I've chosen for in-depth analysis in this month's exciting edition of Nick Harvey's Comment.

Would you like a by-pass for your own village, town or city, dear viewer?  If you live in the latter, then I'm pretty sure that you've probably already got one, but if you come from either of the two former, then you may have, or you may not have.  It will depend.

It will probably depend on the flavour of the local council that you've elected over the last few years.  A point which brings me quite speedily back to the party conferences and the policies discussed thereat.

I'm sure you must have already noticed that one particular party, not mentioning the lot that are in at the moment, specifically, by name, are all in favour of cramming us all on a bus to go about our business.  A bus which is uncomfortable, inconvenient and reportedly, far too hot.

They appear to think that this bus must have its own lane in all the existing traffic, and that it will never require the building of anything so grand as a by-pass around anything whatsoever.

The other lot, not mentioning the lot who were in before the lot who are in now, by name, are far happier with us going about our business by car, and are, therefore, much more likely to arrange for the building of a by-pass or seventeen whilst they're in power.

To complete the trilogy, simply for correctness, the third lot, if they ever wake their leader up long enough for him to make a decision, will just build fences down all existing central reservations, so they can sit on them.

I suppose I ought, in the interests of even more correctness at this point, to discuss the by-pass policies of the major parties in the devolved areas of the United Kingdom, but as I haven't a clue what they might be, I don't think I'll bother.

Please feel free, however, to share any information which you may have about party political policies towards the Dundee by-pass, the Pembroke by-pass, the Ballymena by-pass or anything similar, by writing, on the back of the usual ten pound note, to the Correspondence Column.  Larger value notes may have a better chance of publication.

So, dear viewers, here we have it.  The subject to go under the Nick Harvey, Acme microscope this month is the by-pass.  Not just any old by-pass, don't you know, but the by-pass around the town in which I currently reside.

Whilst I'm clarifying that which I shall be discussing, once I've finished all this preamble, perhaps now is also an opportune moment to welcome you all along to this month's epistle.  I do notice that I've failed to do that, thus far.

Now, here in the jolly old west country, we can be a funny old lot, you know.  Our wonderful county council have been arguing about a by-pass for one, particular, local town for about as long as I've been alive.  The people on the council want to build it on the eastern side of the town, right under the famous white horse.

Please note, by the way, that I'm deliberately not mentioning any particular town by name, but if you happen to be following the clues accurately, then so be it.

All the traffic actually needs to be on the opposite side of that town, because that's where the trading estate happens to have been built, no doubt with the original blessing of the county council, amongst others.  Will the current council listen to sensible arguments about putting the by-pass on the same side of the town as all the heavy traffic?  Will they heck as like?

Anyway, I just thought I'd mention that other little debacle, purely as a prelude to the main attraction.  That story is, after all, about a different town to my own, so of practically no relevance whatsoever to the matter in hand.

Please also note, that, in the interests of better quality writing, Nick Harvey's digressions shall now be described as preludes.  Well, I thought the word prelude sounded more professional.  Gives the place a more authoritative air, don't you think?

Right then, the by-pass for my own town.  We haven't actually got one.  We thought we had one about a month ago, but it appears that we're not allowed to have one, so it's been removed.

Those of you who've been following all the clues must now be at the point of total desperation.  Don't worry, folks, all will become crystal clear quite soon.  You don't need to worry about a thing.

A recent traffic survey has told us that our town will grind into total gridlock in something between a quarter of an hour and a quarter of a century; and that something needs to be done about the problem rather urgently.

I have to say that I'm slightly puzzled as to who it was who provided the eggs for the luncheon of the toothless grannies who surely must have carried out this amazing survey, but that's another matter altogether.

Purely because the aforementioned gridlock, at certain times of the day, actually started many years ago, a rather convenient lane, around the north side of the town has been being used as a by-pass for quite some while.

It's one of those lanes which has always been almost two cars wide for the majority of its length, but has, over time, become fully two vehicles wide, as drivers have, without any conscience whatsoever, regularly passed each other by driving slightly up the verge and flattening it.

Imagine my surprise, recently, when it was announced that the lane would be closed for three weeks for "maintenance".  I think everyone, except the odd councillor in the know, assumed that in a whole three weeks we would be treated to a brand new surface, right along the entire length of it.

After all, there have been regular letters in the local papers complaining about the quality of the surface, so three weeks seemed a reasonable length of time for them to do a proper job, as they'd say down Bodmin.

The lane reopened last weekend, but to a chorus of disapproval.  Whatever the political colour of your local council, have you ever heard of a council completely removing a by-pass?  Well, that's what our lot have managed to do!

The "maintenance" announced on their lovely diversion signs turned out to just be the patching of a very few of the very worst bits of the original road surface, the remainder being left in a condition best described as "only fair".

The remainder of the work turned out to be the mammoth task of importing many, huge loads of soil to build up the banks on each side of the road so that it is now truly only one car wide over the huge bulk of its length.  They've also built a few official passing places, here and there, but in the most inconvenient positions they could possibly find.

It was, quite obviously, always their intention to, effectively, shut down what they consider to be an unofficial by-pass for the town and, thereby, increase the existing gridlock in the middle of the town at every peak period.

Now, we also have a bit of a problem, round this neck of the woods, with the drivers of four-by-fours churning up the tracks on the tops of the local hills.  Well, following on from this by-pass fiasco, I think I might have thought up a little plan for all these four-by-fours.

Can we not encourage their drivers to keep going back and forth along our lovely by-pass, flattening out all these huge banks of soil that nobody wanted put at the sides of the road in the first place?

We could return our by-pass to its, proper, two-lane glory and even, possibly, produce a dual carriageway while we're at it.  At least if we make it a dual carriageway, we can put a fence down the middle, so the councillors have somewhere to sit while they plan their next move against us.

Phew!  After all of that, I'm told that, in what's become "proper" internet etiquette, I ought to finish with the phrase "rant over", whatever that might mean.

Oh yes, and, whilst I'm on the subject of finishing properly, I believe I'm supposed to be giving you the answers to last month's little quiz before I leave you this time, am I not?

Albuquerque albatross and avocados were the three words you were all trying so desperately to identify in last month's epic.  A couple of people got as close as two out of three, but nobody succeeded in being sufficiently specific to win anything, I'm afraid.  Well, you didn't seriously think Nick Harvey was going to let anybody win a proper prize, did you?

Now, if I don't get caught up in another traffic jam and end up running late again, I'll try to be just a little calmer by the time the next edition of Comment appears on November the first, so I trust you'll make sure you're around to join me then.

I think its time I popped out to that meeting of the Land Rover owner's club now, don't you?  Right, I'm off, where's me low ratio shift?

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