Wednesday, 5 November 2008

A bridge too far

The traffic trundles, albeit slowly, past my window now that the road is open. For the past six weeks or so, it has been pretty quiet here, as workmen have been busy creating a new culvert at the bottom of the street. The work involved digging up the tarmac to the stream underneath and pedestrians have had to walk around the edge on a specially-created path and bridge. The traffic, meanwhile, has had to take a diversion. And that has not pleased everyone.
The village has been divided - literally and metaphorically. There are those at the posh, leafy end, where residents have drives and can sing at least two verses of Dallas before reaching their front doors. And there are those, like me, whose houses and cottages are all higgledy-piggledy, cheek by jowl sort of places, where when we put the washing out, our neighbours can just about make out our hip size from the labels on the underwear.
Up this end, so to speak, the road closure has been bliss. Children have been gaily cycling in the middle of the road, safe in the knowledge they aren't going to be clipped by a passing car. Dogs have been enjoying being on extended leads, their owners knowing they are not going to be run over by the boy racer in the BMW with the distinctive number plate. We have even had our own village event. Where some communities open up their beautiful gardens to the public for charity, we have opened our garages, back yards and porches for ourselves, stalls lined along the street for people to rummage and hand over their hard-earned cash.
It was a Sunday and the street was thronged with punters. We had dealers first thing. You can always tell them - they arrive early, look disinterested and pick up a few items and then casually make you a ridiculously low offer for something you know is of value. But do you care? No, because you want rid of the thing anyway. One stallholder had the good sense to buy low energy bulbs in a special deal at Morrisons and then sell them for twice the price. Ha! And I think a dealer bought some of them too.
So the road closure has given us, at this end of the village, a new feeling of community. Banding together and having, in effect, our own car boot sale without having to take it anywhere.
But the closure has not been welcomed on the other side of the culvert, where vehicles have had to make a long detour or else chance their lives in muddy and narrow lanes in Volvo saloons and little hatchbacks and, heaven forbid, reverse for a tractor. They have not been happy and say the workmen have been working only a six-hour day. So when a protest was organised for the local paper, it looked like it would be well supported. However, there were about four or six residents for the photo shoot next to the gaping hole in the road. And when the sign on the diversion changed, taking the date when the road would be open even further back into the future, there were mutinous mutterings of withdrawing council tax. When the final date was announced, one couple was seen at the culvert, the woman dangling a pink pig with wings on a string over the trickling waters below and the man taking her photograph.
Meanwhile, the workmen have been keeping their heads down, terrified of more tutting and verbal abuse from people who live nearby but cannot get through and have to walk to the shop to get their Daily Mail. So those of us pleased about the road closure have been making a point of being especially pleasant to the workmen. One of my friends, a slip of a thing who works from home and lives right next to the culvert, rang up the council to thank them. The official on the other end, not used to praise, was aghast and taken completely off guard. But my friend is no fool. Despite being the wrong side of the culvert (now there's a phrase to conjure with) and putting up with the continual noise of a pump and drills, she only had to smile and the workmen would down tools and help her carry things to and from her house and car.
So now the road is open again and all is forgotten but not forgiven. Maybe we 'up this end' should consider giving our garage sale profits to the residents who have been so inconvenienced. Or maybe not.
That's about it,
Love Maddie X

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