My local High Street is being renovated, or refreshed or maybe re-invigorated. Something is happening to it anyway and it seems to be happening from very early morning until night falls. There are a bunch of chaps in Hi-viz jackets who firstly dug up paving slabs to make the footpath narrower. Then they erected wire cages around their workplace and jettisoned all of the curb stones. You would think that as they are doing both sides of the road they would try to work it so that they didn’t erect the wire cages opposite each other. That would be far too simple for them though.
I’m reminded of an amusing song from my youth. By Bernard Cribbins, the song is about some workmen being approached by a gentleman in a bowler hat and the chorus goes…
Don’t dig there, dig it elsewhere,
you’re digging it round and it ought to be square.
The shape is wrong, it’s far too long and you can’t put a hole where a hole don’t belong.
There was an incident between a bus (The H22 in case you are interested) and one of those wagons that have a little pneumatic shovel on them to shovel up the waste from the workmen (soil and the like, not chocolate wrappers and coke cans). Both thought they could get through the narrow gap at the same time, narrow gap being around 20ft, bus being about 10ft and wagon being about 10ft 1 inch. They gently caressed and slowly but surely became a single beast. Waiting traffic rather amusingly encouraged their embrace by sounding horns non-stop for about an hour. It was such fun for the passing pedestrian.
The curbs have been replaced, about 12 inches from where they were and then tarmac was spread pavement–side to fill the gap between the old paving stones and the new curbs. The effect being that the road is narrower and we have a wider and far more entertaining footpath – Entertaining in the sense that it is a bit like that fairground stand where Sandy Olsson and Danny Zuko sing “You’re the one that I want” in Grease (I didn’t know Sandy’s surname was Olsson, the internet is a wonderous place).
You’d have thought that would be the end of it but no! A short while later a different gang of Hi-Viz men appeared and erected more cages. They are digging up the new tarmac and the old paving stones and replacing them all with new paving stones. This is going to look quite elegant apart from a couple of glaring errors.
They’ve beautifully trimmed the new paving stones around the bus stop but the bus stop is now cast adrift from the road that it should be bordering and so will have to make like a wildebeest and migrate across the pavement during some future digging so that it can once again service the good people of the town travelling to better places (The H22 goes to Richmond and it’s dead posh there).
They also didn’t take into account the pigeon colony that live above the High Street. Or perhaps they did and didn’t care. The old slabs were – to put it delicately – Pigeon poo coloured. An obvious benefit being that gifts from above were not noticeable for long. The new slabs could politely be called (if you squint and look at them sideways) mustard coloured. The sort of mustard that you get in very cheap hot dog stalls. It may even be called “electric mustard”. I think it is fair to say that the colour has been chosen with the express intent of highlighting what pigeons do naturally. So much so that there is a multi coloured line of fowl foul running elegantly along the street.
I do wonder if this is a deliberate act on behalf of the local council – Some sort of natural demarkation between storefront and walking area although I fear that the many charity shops, betting outlets and fingernail beautifiers may lose custom as the perils of crossing the threshold have been highlighted in a very obvious way.
Regardless. Next time you are attending a rugby match at the home of English rugby, take a walk up the hill and visit Whitton High Street. Just make sure you bring an umbrella.