WARD'S WORLD: The Whaplode lights
I was wandering around Spalding town centre recently when somebody approached me to inquire if I was local - yes, sort of I replied - then did I know ‘the date of the next Flower Parade?’ to which I replied, from memory, I thought the last one was about 2013 before the swift reply of he didn’t know it had changed to an evening event as the last one he went to ‘the other year’ (?) was an afternoon affair - he thought.
Just when you think nothing can amaze anymore, such as a ‘Buy one boxing glove, get one free’ deal (but be careful as you can end up with two lefts or two rights) I explained that the 2013 was the year and not the hour as in nearly quarter past eight in old money.
Bearing in mind he seemed to think the last one he went to was ‘the other year’ (?!) if his memory was right, I was tempted to ask if that was the case what sort of time warp had he entered just after attending it with minor points as who was running - in theory at least - the government of the day then, but more importantly were we still in with a chance of being wiped out in the Eurovision Song Fiasco with getting our usual ‘Nil ponts’ as they say in Euroland speak as we merely attend to make the number up and capitalise on the humiliation as it’s what we do best, be humiliated.
I had to ask as to where he came from as he must be either a tourist, lost or on some bizarre SAS or Special Forces type initiative course that involved bewildering the local populace with mind boggling questions followed up possibly by explaining that I could help ‘Save the Aardvark’ by donating only three pounds a month by direct debit but by sheer chance just happened to have the necessary forms on him but I am happy to say he didn’t but you can’t be too careful.
He lives in some indescribably named or pronounced place in Cheshire that sounds like some sort of herbal remedy for something you hope you don’t catch, but was passing through on his way to see a friend in Wisbech (I didn’t ask which part or what year) but had stopped off for a break as he remembered the place from the ‘other year he came to see the Flower Parade’ but was last held in 2013 but not nearly quarter past eight in old money.
I still maintain that watching repeats of TV’s ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ has been a godsend as these sort of verbal inquiries no longer pose a threat but just form part and parcel of that ‘getting old’ strategy that we used to fear but are now completely unfounded when folk of this stature are let loose among us.
I could tell he was still interested in the local entertainment or within the close area as he asked what other (?!) ‘major festive events’ were on offer as I pointed out it was not so much a festive event as such but a basic nearly every other day or week event or if enough entrants involved, a sort of free for all that is held a few miles down the road at Whaplode that is the freestyle ‘Road Up and Temporary Traffic Lights’ event and is open to all flowing traffic in either direction along the A151 road. The aim is to get a team of workmen of assorted disciplines intent on digging or breaking the road surface up in assorted sections to form some sort of ‘crazy paving’ or patchwork quilt effect.
This event is open to those from assorted utilities companies wishing to inspect or repair pipes, cables, trucking, look for a missing twenty pence piece that Elsie lost as she came out the Co-op, fibre optic cables or anything else not mentioned in the previous batch of activities.
This process or general messing about is usually conducted during the working day usually, but allowing for assorted breaks or seminars midway as anyone with a keen eye can possibly notice that at assorted times there is not a soul to be seen - mass kidnapping has been ruled out seemingly due to catering requirements - as noted while passing by (eventually..) after the lights change to green.
However, this routine can be disturbed occasionally by the appearance of the ‘Person in Clean Hi Viz Tackle’ as somebody clad in such apparel will appear clutching a clipboard or tablet in order to point out how things are going, or if its not going to plan or chance, which at the end of the finger poking or swiping is determined by the ground force team (AKA the shovel squad) nodding his or their heads in agreement.
Interestingly as the traffic can be s-l-o-w it means you can sit there playing ‘I-Spy’ to help kill the boredom while waiting: ‘S is for snail’.
The object maybe a plot to inconvenience the motoring public by these actions - my own personal ‘best’ in the Freestyle Chaos Open was three such events in one morning/session as no sooner had I got past one set of temporary traffic lights with jagged hole in the tarmac, another set of lights a few hundreds yards suddenly turned to red as once again we mere pawns in this automotive version of the board game ‘Frustration’ ground to a halt again but then after this one, just around the bend (I know that feeling oh so well now, believe me) there was yet another set which of course were on red naturally.
By now my listener was totally enthralled - I have always said you can’t beat a good ole enthrall - but then he asked assorted questions with the best of the bunch being why does this happen which can be tricky to answer I will admit but being brought up on reading the ‘Beano’ and the ‘Dandy’ as a form of reference guide to such things I explained it’s a traditional part of the English way of life that is still being kept alive by dedicated followers or worshipers of the shovel and pick-axe.
Logically Bermuda has it’s triangle but Whaplode has its constant sets of ever moving around temporary traffic lights on any given day or by arrangement when you least expect them, but they are British temporary traffic lights that we can be justifiably proud of - and curse in equal measure let it be said - but while ships, boats and planes enter Bermuda’s triangle and never appear again - allegedly - at least we have two way traffic that enters and leaves Whaplode, eventually.
One local Whaplodian told me he thinks, along with others, that it’s been chosen as an example of how to rip the road up on any pretext and is used as a form of training ground for others in other parts of the country to create their own local upheaval.
With this constant ongoing upheaval, if it’s really that bad why has Whaplode not been given ‘disaster zone’ status yet?
My avid listener finally said he might ‘give it a go’ on his way driving through to Wisbech but for all I know he’s still in Whaplode as the lights are on red.