Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Misguided Spiders?

Waiting at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, Leicestershire.

The Proving Ground is an old airfield, although a lot of the runway space is now given over to the storage of vehicles. The nearest town is Lutterworth, seven miles away.

I have delivered a car here this morning and am now one of four drivers waiting to get a lift with a fifth who is collecting a vehicle from the site. The vehicle is ready and waiting, (I am sitting on the bonnet), but the release note has not yet been faxed through to the right people and so we are stuck.

Platers are normally only paid by the number of vehicles we move and the miles we drive, but on occasions such as this the driver gets 'waiting time' of £7.50 per hour for the delay. The rest of us get nothing.

It is a warm morning and we pass the time leaning against the vehicle, talking shop, and blowing or brushing the money spiders from our clothes and hair. They are around in inordinate numbers today for some reason. Their reputation in folklore for bringing wealth to those whom they visit is the cause of some rather bitter humour amongst some of us.

After two and a half hours the vehicle is released and we set off. It is pitifully low on fuel and we head straight for the nearest petrol station, which turns out to be not near enough. The engine dies a quiet death before we have gone three miles. The driver phones his controller who begins to look for someone in the area who can help us out. The driver goes back on waiting time. The rest of us get nothing.

We get out of the car and stand on the grass verge, where the money spiders again descend on us. In an idle moment I count eleven of them on the car roof.

After about an hour another plater arrives to give the four of us passengers a lift to our next jobs. The driver stays behind waiting patiently and profitably for a can of fuel to be brought to him. We leave him to the company of the money spiders. It was probably him they were looking for anyway.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Dangerous Directions

Driving from Bridgnorth to Kidderminster.

Near the village of Alveley there are three new signs clustered together on a single pole at a small turning to the right. The first sign is the standard symbol for a dead end, the second says 'sat nav error' and the third says 'walk on ferry'

Having once heard a sat nav try to tell its owner that he had reached his destination when he was still hurtling along the fast lane of the motorway, and on another occasion witnessed another device try to lure a driver onto railway tracks only to be thwarted by a closed gate, it doesn't seem surprising that people are being guided down this cul-de-sac, or that it is happening often enough for the authorities to feel the need to put up a warning sign.

For me the oddest sign of the three is instead the bottom one. Why is there a ferry service for pedestrians running at the end of this single track road that seems only to lead through uninhabited farmland. Who uses it and who operates it?

It is hard not to picture a ridiculously bucolic scene in which a smock-clad man with a straw hat on his head and a separate piece of straw in his mouth sedately punts the occupants of local farms and hamlets across the water to visit and do business with their counterparts on the other side.

However, a five minute Google in the evening reveals it to be a tourist attraction. The latest news I can find on it is from last year when the signs were first put up. The article also states that the ferry had been out of action since May when heavy rainfall caused the riverbank to collapse, making the third sign as inaccurate as the advice from the sat-navs.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Better Than What?

On a bus in Shropshire, heading from Whitchurch to Shrewsbury.

We pass through the picturesque village of Wem, where we have gained a contingent of pensioners who all seem to know each other.

As we trundle along the high street we pass a newish looking shop selling, as far as I can tell, womens' underwear and nothing else. There is nothing too skimpy or risque in the window, just colourful stripey things with a few decorative bows and frills attached to them.

'Did you see the new knicker shop... the new frilly knicker shop?' chimes up one of the female pensioners.

'It's the teenagers who spend money on that,' replies one of her acquaintances.

'The teenagers all go to Shrewsbury.'

'They should put some old womens' knickers in there!'

Much laughter.

If there is any disapproval in their voices it is far outweighed by the pleasure of having something this gossipworthy appearing in their small community.

One of the men begins to venture an opinion -

'At least it's a shop. It's better than...'

He is taking his time formulating his conclusion, and before he has done so one of the women interrupts him -

'It'll be gone in twelve months anyway,' she says dismissively, and the conversation moves on.