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Laurence Inman’s Blog

PAVEMENT POLITICS

14-08-2008

Amesbury Road

How can they put a man on the moon – but fail to sort out the pavement in Laurence Inman’s street?

We all like to think of ourselves as modern people.

In fact everyone, at every time, has thought of him/herself as modern. The caveman with his fire thought he was at the cutting edge compared to his granddad, who had to keep warm by jumping up and down. ‘Poor old sod,’ he thought, ‘having to live on seeds and nuts, while I can provide my family with a nicely cooked rat.’

And so on throughout history. And yet, strangely, at the same time, things get better and better the further back you go. It’s inexplicable.

Here I am typing stuff which magically appears on a screen. When I’ve finished I can press a few buttons and it will miraculously re-appear on someone else’s screen, possibly on the other side of the world. I could go to that person myself in less than half a day if I was so minded.

To my great-grandmother, someone I actually knew, this would be as unlikely as the Blues winning something.

And yet....how advanced am I, really ?

This question was prompted by the fact that I have just – just - noticed that the word count for anything I write appears automatically at the bottom left  hand corner of the page I am working on.

For years, literally, I have been clicking page-review and then word-count and then looking at the number and then going back to my writing and then going through the whole rigmarole again because I have forgotten the number. And all the time it was there, at the bottom of the page!

The fact is that if all this lovely technology disappeared tomorrow I wouldn’t be able to do anything.

I don’t know how sounds can be sent through the air and then heard through my radio. I don’t know how my hearing works. As for the telly! I don’t know how electricity is possible. I couldn’t fix a phone, a washing machine, a fridge or a gas cooker to save my life.

I couldn’t make the chair I’m sitting in. Where does metal actually come from ? How is plastic made ? Wood comes from trees....unless it’s MDF.

If I suddenly found myself in the world depicted by Cormac McCarthy in The Road, I think I could make a rough shelter and a rough club to hit my rough enemies with. And that would be it.

For everything else I depend on clever people in laboratories, offices, huge fields full of corn, flimsy boats on the wild ocean and oil-rigs stuck out in the world’s bleakest places.

When I’m flying in a plane my whole life depends on a million tiny things, any one of which would keep me puzzled for a decade trying to reproduce.

You often hear people say, ‘They can put a man on the moon, yet they can’t get the 50 bus into town in less than an hour.’

This presupposes that all the people who would be putting a man on the moon should instead be occupied with trivial tasks to make our lives in South Birmingham marginally easy.

But of course, those people are doing something else just as complicated, leaving the simpler tasks, like, for instance, making sure the pavements are level, to those adequately qualified to carry out those less demanding tasks.

Which brings me to the point of this article.

The pavement in Valentine Road, which was resurfaced with a mixture of gravel and rough tar a little while ago, is now wearing out, leaving large-ish stones from the primitive aggregate they used sticking up an inch or more above the surface.

It is only a matter of time before I trip on this rubbish while out running.

Meanwhile, in Amesbury Road, they’ve finally achieved Platonic perfection on the side of the road where people have actually been known to walk.

Council officials are continually on hand to ask passers-by if their pavement-experience has been satisfactory, good or outstanding. Documentary film-crews jostle for best position on the only street in Britain where house prices are going up.

Specially trained teams of cleaners crouch down with their dustpans and brushes to collect any speck of dust which might dare to settle....

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