Driving past some workmen the other day who were repairing a pothole reminded me of a sort of pantomime from years ago that happened outside my parents’ house.
Where they lived was something that started off as a small, but ever-growing, hole in the road outside their house, about a foot from the kerb, and their milkman brought the matter up as he tripped over it – his bottles of milk cascading down the road – but luck would have it that none of the glass milk bottles (remember them?) actually broke.
In this day and age of course, the first call would be to the ‘Claim-A-Blame’ brigade headquarters, visits to Harley Street and nothing to do with big American motorcycles either or their close relative in Davidson Street, then the wearing of a neck brace for a few months due to the supposed ‘whiplash injury’ incurred, although it was only a knee affected.
Back to Alec, mum’s milkman.
He dusted himself down and went to her door just as she was opening it and he explained what had happened and both of them went to peer at it and they both agreed it was indeed getting bigger just as dad arrived back from the paper shop – it’s the same as a newsagent’s but spelt different although they still have the same shape and size front door – but it was in inches then, as the draught excluders were cheaper in inches - and he too looked at the hole.
This is part of the English way of life as we have known it since time immerMuriel – get a hole in anything on the ground, pavement or road, and it attracts sightseers that huddle in groups to offer suggestions as to why it’s there, how it came to be there and how big it might get.
There was a concern that being a part of the EU glee club, these holes would have to be square or oblong to conform to their rules and regulations to be mended, but nothing became of it, unless they had mastered the art of invisible road mending and had covered their tracks so to speak, but not in this case.
Within days, the small hole had grown to the size of a dustbin lid in diameter and about three or four inches deep in places and was a danger and so mum, of the people for the people, was on the telephone to the council to speak to someone to sort it.
What could be simpler?
Mud wrestling with a boa constrictor might have been a better option at this point.
She spoke to somebody and explained the problem and was told the person she needed to speak to was ‘away on a course’ (she nudged Dad and asked him to nip up the golf club to see if there was anybody there looking vacant that might be employed by the council).
She could speak to his deputy, but sadly, he ‘was in a meeting’ with Mr Formfillerin, away in far-off So-so land, studying how rain falls and the effects on people and how wet they got and possibly was gravity partly to blame, etc.
Pencil that in as a ‘mid-term paid holiday’ then.
Next in the firing line it was suggested Mr Thingamajig, who stands in when the deputy is away, and not the deputy’s own deputy, but on second thoughts he might be busy anyway and in the end mum went for Plan B.
She popped round to see her friend whose husband was on the council as she had voted for him out of sympathy as he had nothing to do since his pigeons died and he wanted something to kill a bit of time and might be able to help.
Ray came round that evening and told mum he wanted ‘to assess the hole’ and she said that perhaps it best he used her toilet as at least it was private and nobody would be looking and if he was worried, the curtains were quite thick anyway.
He measured the hole and took the details of its location and would pass it on to the ‘right department’ and mum said they might be away that Christmas although perhaps be about at Easter if the workmen would like a cup of tea.
I had met Ray a few times and he once gave me his ‘card’ and it contained such stuff as he was on this committee, that committee and the other committee, the county one, the sub committee, anything else not covered in the other committees.
To be honest, I marvelled there was even room to get his name on it, as I have seen guarantee cards for deep fat fryers with less writing on, but I was disappointed that the back was blank, as I could see here was the space that could have a couple of words there as in, say, ‘Forthcoming Attractions’.
The end result of all this silliness was Ray did deliver the goods, sort of.
Within days, mum had Clipboard Clive from the council on the doorstep asking her if she ‘knew where the hole or indentation was’ and she pointed out he had parked his car over it.
A minor setback, but consistent all things considered as, she told me, he stood there in the then trendy safari suit of the day as she tried to remember where dad had left that souvenir pith helmet, so she could have donated it to make his set up sort of thing.
This was the pre-hi-vis clothing era you have to understand and thus one person could perform amply without a team of seven or eight to make the number up.
Clipboard reversed his car from the offending hole (nee indentation) and remarked to Mum who was watching, said in technical speak: “Its a big ‘un then!” as Mum pointed out it wasn’t when it first appeared and only now was coming a close second to the Luftwaffe’s efforts during the last war.
He measured, he did drawings and was away with a promise/threat it would be ‘rectified soon’. As mum pointed out, she was hoping to become that year’s Miss World by the same line of thought – or at least represent Miss So-so land, rain permitting.
Weeks turned into months with nothing from Clipboard Clive, no letter from the Miss World organisers and then...
The lorry arrived one morning at eight o’clock sharp. The gang of four quickly assembled their little canvas and metal hooped shelter on the pavement outside Mum’s, tools flew off the back of the lorry and then by ten past eight, they stopped for breakfast.
Play resumed just after 9.15. They surveyed the hole before the mid-morning break, put some filling in and put the kettle on for lunch which ended about half past two as they had run out of sandwiches, cigarettes and the radio battery had died.
They then slung the tools in the lorry, but left their canvas hooped shrine with an impeding threat of their return the next day.
The next morning at half past eight, they were back – had breakfast and by the time they collapsed, their shrine and back on the lorry, it was then lunch and they had managed to shoehorn in only two other breaks during this period.
End result was the hole eventually sorted, but Mum never made it to the Miss World contest.