Monday, September 03, 2007

What did they have to go and do that for?

The road that runs past our house here in the 'H' of nowhere Wales* is not very large or busy. It doesn't even have a number on the map, so inconsequential is it considered in the circles of those who worry about such things. When we first arrived here, it was in pretty bad shape - full of potholes and badly drained at the sides. It still is narrow, though actually wide enough for two modern cars to pass, if carefully. You have to make sure that you don't go off the edge, though. If you don't get your car stuck in the morass, you'll probably rip the suspension out on the rocks.

About five years ago, quite unannounced, the road builders turned up one day with an enormous machine that gouged away the old tarmac. Then they brought in another enormous machine and truck after truck of steaming, smelly, black hardtop which they laid in a smear about a foot deep. This new road was so smooth it was, for a while, quite dangerous. Walking the dogs I had become accustomed to being able to hear cars approaching from quite some distance. On the billiard-table surface even the most knobbly of tyres made little noise, and anything coming down the hill was virtually silent.

But we survived those dangerous times, and after a year or two the surface wore enough to generate sufficient advance warning. Sheep and cattle left their marks too, but all in all the road has born up remarkably well. It's still by far the best piece of tarmac between here and Aberystwyth.

smooth as a baby's bum bum

Over the last few weeks the council have sent the road sweepers up and down past the house at least four times. I thought this was a bit much, especially since the leaves haven't really begun to drop yet. When they turned up again this morning, I was considering complaining to my local councillor about the waste of money. However, this afternoon all became clear.

Despite the road being in perfectly good condition, someone at a desk somewhere in Ceredigion has decided it needs to be resurfaced.

Now, before they started, the road was smooth tarmac, hard packed and well laid. This surface gives good grip, drains quickly and is relatively quiet. What they are replacing it with is a thin layer of bitumen into which is pressed sharp pea-sized gravel.

rough as John Rickards' a badger's arse

As any fool knows, this stuff doesn't stick. It comes loose almost as soon as it has been put down, peppering the sills and wings of your car as you drive along. In time, the action of thousands of wheels moves the grit to the sides and centre of the road. Thus when you pull over to let a speeding nutter past (and there are a few speeding nutters around here, particularly when the Rally of Wales has just been through), his car picks up the deep layer of loose gravel and throws it at yours.

This method of road construction is much favoured in these parts, and you can see the results whenever you wash your car. The Batmobile is only two years old and yet sports acne a teenager would be proud of. Older cars carry their scars like war wounds, their low-slung fog lights punctured and bleeding.

Now, I know why they use the bitumen and gravel chip method of road repair: it's cheap and it's quick. What I don't quite understand is why they felt the need to repair the road outside the house. There was nothing wrong with it at all, and left to its own devices it would likely have lasted another ten years before needing attention. There are far worse roads around here that have been left unloved for many more years. And yet for some reason they choose this one to fuck up.

And to make matters worse, they didn't even finish it today. Half past four and they all buggered off home for their tea.

left side good right side bad

* think about it.

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