It occurred to me to wonder this morning, as I started work to the accompaniment of a couple of pneumatic drills, how many organisations have the right to dig up the road. There must be a few; what with the ubiquitous BT Openreach, not to mention all the utilities plus the council and of course whoever it is now who actually maintains the bloody things (the Highways Agency or whatever they’re called this week) there must be a dozen or more groups of men with the right to come around, spray a square of yellow over a wide area and start drilling. I don’t know what these two were doing this morning but it involved digging down several feet and shifting a seriously long and heavy kerbstone out of the way. But then I went out to stand in the rain and get signatures (of which more anon) and by the time I came back the hole had been filled in and the area patched.
When I was a child asphalt used to be my favourite smell. It’s one of those questions adults always ask, expecting the answer ‘ice cream’ or ‘lemonade’ – and when I said my favourite smell was asphalt I got some quizzical looks. But I truly love the smell of tar when it’s laid on the road, and my only regret when working at the Road Materials Testing Lab in Northampton, was that it was drowned out by the stench of the chemicals we used to dissolve the tar (or bitumen) from the aggregate (or rocks) and which smelt like a combination of cheap vodka and formalin.
So having divided my morning between idly watching the diggers and doing a few bits of desultory writing, I headed into town to do a spot of petitioning about Loughborough’s children’s centres. It’s the typical story of public sector cuts; the county council – whose head, I am informed, earns more than the Prime Minister; shame on them
– are planning to close twelve children’s centres in the county which includes two out of three Sure Start centres in Loughborough. Nearly everyone I asked was happy to sign. But then alas it began to rain, so we decamped to the nearest cafe which wasn’t a chain.
And here, just for the fun of it, is Bernard Cribbins digging a hole: