Pat Keenor: From Torrington lights to Listen With Mother
ALONG the A377, between Barnstaple and Fortescue Cross, are two lots of three-way traffic lights which, if you catch them wrong, leave you drumming your fingers listening to the inane blatherings of radio DJs as you wait.
So spare a thought for poor Torrington which has suffered temporary traffic lights for more than 750 days in five years – and this figure is only for utilities, no one can tell us how many days lights have been installed while roads have been resurfaced.
Now by anyone's standards that's a lot of finger-drumming and hours of airplay listening to Radio One's The Exceedingly Annoying Hyperactive Show.
Between November 2007 and November last year New Street, the main road through the town, has had temporary traffic lights for 406 days at least.
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I don't doubt for one minute that these hold-ups have all been for a good cause. According to our story, roads have been dug up for a variety of reasons, from dealing with fractured mains pipes, laying underground cables and mending gas leaks.
But town councillor Geoff Lee calls it an "astonishing statistic", and he's right. Businesses have complained about losing trade but, of course, they may as well try to get a word in edgeways on The Exceedingly Annoying Hyperactive Show.
No one in their right mind would want to put a stop to this work – probably best not to leave a gas leak festering – but couldn't the various agencies co-ordinate their activities to minimise disruption?
Devon County Council says the utilities firms already do this but you know that when a road is dug up to lay a water main and then six weeks later is dug up to put down telecommunications cables that something is going wrong.
Which leads me nicely to another road-related moan.
A few miles from my home on the A377 in a village on the way to Exeter, contractors spent days digging up grass that had spread from a field on to the pavement and then quite a few more days resurfacing the walkway, the work necessitating those ubiquitous traffic lights.
The better half comes home ranting every time he passes through this village. Unlike him, I know...
Picture this: Field. Fence. Encroaching grass. Pavement.
The grass has grown under the fence and is now spreading on to the pavement.
The other half says all it needs is one man with a shovel to scrape up the offending grass before it has damaged the pavement; like it was done in the old days of local council workmen.
He reckons a good old-style workman would finish the job in a day and still have time to clear out a few ditches. And, using a shovel, would not damage the pavement.
But no, scraping up this grass has entailed three men in mini-diggers. The diggers damaged the pavement so then a load more men had to repair it – at a cost of goodness knows how much.
ARE you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.
For those of us of a certain age those words bring back memories of a gentler and more uncomplicated time.
It's probably hard to imagine in these days of brash cartoons and reality TV, that what passed for entertainment for the under-5s in the 50s and 60s was a 15-minute radio programme called Listen With Mother, consisting of stories, songs and nursery rhymes.
The programme was every weekday at 1.45pm – the time that good little children like me had finished our lunches. I loved it.
I mention Listen With Mother nowbecause narrator Daphne Oxenford has died at the age of 93.
If I shut my eyes now, I can still recall her distinctive and distinctly plummy tones – not at all off-putting even to a little Devonshire dumpling like me.