During the recent blitz otherwise referred to in the media as Operation Stack I was merely incommoded by the indiscriminate lashing of its tail. My worst confrontation came one Tuesday when half of Europe decided to park on the M20, and the M2, while everyone else decided to go home, leave for work, go shopping, start out for that ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ holiday, or visit their parents for Christmas. That day it took me half-an-hour to cover a distance that usually consumed five minutes of my life. That apart, OpStack troubled me very little. With skill and luck I managed to circumvent its vicious excesses.
However, what has caused me a great deal of trouble this summer is a little red sign with enormous white letters on it. These letters form a blunt phrase of either two or three words which hits like the flat of a constable’s truncheon on the back of a cheeky Herbert’s head. And this delicate deliverance is invariably compounded with the inconspicuous location the sign sometimes finds itself placed. They leap out of bushes, and from behind posts and parked cars, lurk round corners, or simply stand like David in the middle of the road. How can a sheet of steel (usually) measuring 1050mm by 750mm cause such calamity? And, more importantly, how do I know the exact dimensions?
The sign’s hideous slogan, if you haven’t guessed already, reads “Road (Ahead) Closed”. That’s how this red monster causes so much heartache. And don’t you forget it. I know its typical dimensions, because I sell them. I sell them to road maintenance gangs who then dig up roads I want to use, usually it seems roads slicing up the countryside and requiring a wide detour. I feel like Elizabeth Bennett having an interview with her father. “Why, Lizzie, are you not diverted?” “I’m excessively diverted!” Aren’t we just? At least once every week, every time I place my posterior on the driver’s seat of the works van. Today, for example, I was forced, yes forced, to reverse a mile back the way I had driven, simply to avoid an argument with a blackened tarmac spreading device.
“So don’t sell those signs to road gangs”, I hear you reasonably mumble under your breath. Well, yes, that would cure me of the inconvenience, and the need to dump my derriere behind the steering wheel of a van. Alternatively, I could ask them where they’re going to place those fiery demons of the deep, uncut grass at the side of any road. I could offer extra discount for the low-down on the highways (or the back ways in my case).
Alas, I fear this would come to no avail as most of the gangs have a ready stock of these oversized imps, these mischievous minstrels. They are the playthings of Puck, and Oberon has a shed full of them. I fear their presence will plague me further this BBQ season. No, I’m afraid I’ll just have to suffer for my art and simply fantasize about running them over.