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A slight diversion

In his weekly Ward's World column, John Ward talks signage and coffins...

In recent times I cannot help noticing assorted road signage with the those now magical words on such as: ‘Diversion’ or it’s close relation ‘Diversion End’ as in most cases it seems I have, or had, no idea as to the diversion from what exactly as there does not seem to be that bit that explains the actual problem.

I gather from others that they too are mystified by these signs cropping up all over the place but we all seem to agree that now is the best time to buy shares in the signage companies who make these things as they are obviously ‘on a roll’.

Spalding Guardian columnist John Ward (51260211)
Spalding Guardian columnist John Ward (51260211)

I fully appreciate now that my education during my school years was not that clever but I got by as I seem to think the idea or purpose behind signs was to inform, not bewilder people.

Many moons ago I patronised a small DIY shop close to my then place of work as during my lunch break I would pop in and have a look through their wood ‘off-cut’ section at the back of the shop.

This section was under the control of ‘old Len’ who cut wood to order on the large table saw there for customers as not everybody wanted a full sheet of timber or wood, so after assorted bits were sawn there was the off-cuts neatly stacked up.

Len was ‘old school’ and close to retirement – many thought he had retired as he posed no real threat to Speedy Gonzales the cartoon character where speed was concerned – as some even suggested he cut and sold wood by the mile as it took so long to come from the saw to the counter then the handing over of the money.

Say what you like about him, he had a system of sorts as each piece of wood had a label on the item plus the wall above each type pointing out what breed it was such as oak, pine, beech etc.

I was in there on one occasion as I picked up a length of wood but with no obvious label on the wall or the wood itself but I had not seen that type before as it had a nice grain to it, as then he saw me and came shuffling over as he then started into his set piece about the merits of it.

‘That is a piece of your maple is that – very nice wood is your maple and this is from Canadia (Canada) and is very good, hard wearing stuff’ but as I was taking this in, he leaned over and further added: ‘When I snuff it I have asked in my will to have my coffin made from maple as its that good, plus if they want to dig me up later for any reason I know it will be in good condition’.

Blessed with hearing all this I settled for a length of plywood that would cater for my humble needs.

A few weeks later I found myself yet again in ‘Len’s den’ as it was fondly referred to by faithful customers, to seek out a few pieces of wood.

Being a ‘regular’ Len left me to my devices. I had spotted a piece of wood that had a nice grain to it and not sure of what it was – handy to know in case I wanted any further supplies – so I shouted out for him.

He soon came over as I asked what it was as he replied thus: ‘That is a piece of dark oak is that – very nice wood is your dark oak’ followed by ‘when I snuff it I have asked in my will to have my coffin made from dark oak as its that good, plus if they want to dig me up later for any reason, I know it will be in good condition.’

The thought crossed my mind as to how many times was he planning on passing away unless he was into reincarnation and this was part of the process of having a selection on standby of assorted coffins handy.

To be fair I didn’t really like to ask him too much as most, or rather all the funerals I had attended, seemed to be a sort of permanent nature.

One moment he did show some concern was when he asked me if those ‘new fangled metric pencils were any good?’ as he was nearly running out of the old school type pencils he bought a stock of years ago because he was still using them ‘for cutting wood in feet and inches but would these new ones still be able to cope with this new metric nonsense?’ but he was deadly serious about it as Len didn’t do jokes.

As things progressed I left the company I was then working for but I learned a few years afterwards the shop and Len were no more as the shop closed and Len eventually retired for real but fate was to play a hand later on.

I was invited to give a talk at a function and while giving it I mentioned assorted places where I used to get some of my stuff from as afterwards somebody introduced himself as the grandson of the then owner, now also deceased.

The conversation got round to Len who was also now departed as I asked vaguely as to when he went etc and where was he buried only to hear that he was cremated.

On hearing that I so wanted to ask if the possible urn, with his ashes in, was wooden and if so what type or breed but felt this might be a diversion of sorts.

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