Timing is Everything

February 29, 2016

Heading back from the village the other day I stopped to chat with a neighbour about the state of the potholes that have opened up in the roads thanks to the attentions of storms Abigail, Bawbag, Frank, Ignatius and Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all, or ‘winter’ as it used to be known.

Taking my duties as a community councillor seriously, I made sure to photograph the worst one, complete with welly boot and small dog for scale, to take to next Monday’s Community Council meeting.

unmended pothole

Today, as I pedalled out for the paper, I noticed it had got, if anything, worse and was wondering if even a visit from the Tarmac Fairy wouldn’t be better than hitting that thing at speed on my bike. But by the time I had returned lo and behold …

mended pothole
I am sure that the timing is entirely coincidental. But who says local politics changes nothing?

If only cycle paths could be had as easily as mended potholes apparently can…

Exciting Pothole News

May 4, 2015

I know, I know, the suspense has been killing you – I promised you news of the tarmac fairy and have been burbling on about chilli seedlings instead.* But I have news. The tarmac fairy returned last Monday and – as I discovered as I cycled home from the train station on Friday – has been joined by her bigger and uglier cousin, the chipping gnome.

patched potholes

Or rather the automated tar-and-chipping-pothole-patch-covering-machine – which was almost, but not quite, as good as the Jet Patcher, which still represents a pinnacle of the road mending art around here (and although I was sceptical at the time, its pothole mending stood up fairly well to the test of time). The other half got to watch it do its job – going around after the tarmac fairy had been, covering her traces with a spray of hot tar followed by a spray of chippings and then, rather disappointingly, having to reverse back and forward over the resulting patch to tamp it down with the wheels (you’d think it at least would have had a roller).

Given that it’s been barely six months since we last had a visit from the tarmac fairy, I hope this does a better job. In fact, the road has been patched so many times outside our house, you’d think they’d just break down and re-lay it but I suppose there’s no point doing that while there are quarry lorries bombing down our road. And as long as there’s road mending to do, there will always be quarry lorries, so we’re stuck with the potholes and the patching. I don’t think that’s quite what they mean by the circular economy.

And speaking of rare creatures spotted out of the kitchen window, the other half called me into the kitchen yesterday evening to see this

garden pests

On the whole, I think it’s an improvement on the actual flowers it was eating, but then again I’ve never really got the hang of ornamental gardening

* The little chilli that could is still hanging in there, if you’re interested, but looking somewhat less than perky


November 5, 2014

Much excitement at the Town Mouse household yesterday lunchtime as the other half looked up and realised that a shy and elusive creature had returned to these parts, long after she was supposed to have vanished.

tarmac fairy spotted through the trees

Yes – just glimpsed through the trees (we didn’t dare get any closer for fear of frightening her away) was the distinctive orange flashing light and glimpse of coonsil hi vis that signifies the fleeting appearance of the tarmac fairy – supposedly banished from these shores.*

We crept out later and examined her work. The latest potholes have gone, and for once the repair hadn’t actually made the road more hazardous for those on a bike (I have a feeling our house is now marked on a council map with a special symbol that indicates ‘stroppy cyclist who is not afraid to write to her local councillor lives here’).

repaired pothole

How long her work will last compared with last year’s supposedly ‘doing it properly’ repairs, we shall just have to see.

road repairs

I bet you can hardly wait.

* Actually what the other half was hoping for was the return of the Big Yellow Digger – he is very much in touch with his inner four-year-old.

A Weel Kent Face

October 2, 2013

I don’t know if there’s some sort of financial deadline looming, or a competition coming up, but we now have THREE separate teams of pothole fixers operating on the roads around us at the moment. There are the ones on our road (who have cunningly switched to white spray paint for marking the next batch of potholes – do you think they read the blog?), one on the road by the school and a third, rather more junior, team operating on the road into Papershop Village (their steamroller* driver has L plates. I am not making this up. Clearly it’s all hands to the pump when it comes to pothole repairs these days). This last team don’t mess around with things like spray paint, cones or road signs – clearly reasoning that two sodding great lorries with orange flashing lights was warning enough to anyone that road repairs were in progress, they park one lorry on each side of the pothole in question and set to work, having effectively blocked the entire road which is basically a lorry’s width at that point.

Well, blocked except for bikes – I was able to hop off and squeeze by on the verge whereupon one of the men stopped me and asked where I’d been cycling from. I told him and the other guy grinned and said ‘I thought I recognised you.’ It turns out he is one of the dreaded quarry lorry drivers and has got used to seeing me up by Nearest Village on his trips up and down to the quarry. They seemed impressed at the distance I was willing to cycle for a paper (‘you should have told me – I could drop off your paper on my way past’) and we parted on good terms.

It’s a little awkward, really, as we’re currently trying to get the quarry lorries banned from our road – or at least get them not to bomb up and down it when the kids are on their way to school. I still think that having a steady flow of lorries down a road that’s about the width of a lorry is not a brilliant idea – but at least I now know that one of them can not only see cyclists, but can actually recognise them, which makes me feel a little safer…

*Probably not an actual steamroller, but what else do you call those things with a big roller on the front if they aren’t driven by steam?


September 30, 2013

Exciting news – the village speaks of nothing else – someone has been out with a can of yellow spray paint drawing lines around some of the the tarmac fairy‘s greatest work. Either Nearest Village is home to the world’s least imaginative graffiti artist, or they are about to properly patch our road – and I can’t help but notice that once again this happens in the run up to the next community council meeting. Perhaps we should go back to meeting monthly…

Unfortunately, the yellow paint runs out about half a mile from our house – and just before the road gets really rubbish. The optimist in me is hoping this is because they’re going to actually resurface that stretch of road. The pessimist in me wonders if that marks the spot where the budget runs out. The realist in me is considering going out and investing in a can of yellow spray paint…

All Politics is Local

May 30, 2013

From the (not very) sublime to the (only faintly) ridiculous – having trod the corridors of power on Tuesday, Monday will see me back at the community council, discussing – I feel sure, because the village speaks of nothing else these days – potholes*. Oh and bus shelters, but that’s another story.

That said, while meeting with the minister leaves you with nothing but the dawning realisation that you have been fobbed off, the community council would appear to wield more power. For with the meeting looming and the agenda distributed, lo and behold we have had another visit from the tarmac fairy along our road, the road that, coincidentally, 50% of the community council will drive down to attend the meeting. And this time she has actually managed to lay some relatively flat tarmac, rather than the usual dropped-from-a-spade-and-trod-down-will-this-do job.

It doesn’t exactly amount to a properly fixed road, but it reduces the chances of me personally flying off my bike and landing in a patch of nettles by approximately 50%.

Safer cycling, indeed

* With a possible side excursion into dog poo

Embarrassing Moments in Rural Life

February 2, 2013

… such as when you realise that the perfectly nice chap (and his perfectly nice wife) that you’re sitting opposite at the village Burns Night supper is not only one of the people whom you have been randomly bombarding with emails in an attempt to get some sort of answer to the question of whether Bigtown’s cycle paths are ever going to be gritted in your lifetime – but also the tarmac fairy’s boss. It was in retrospect fortunate for both of us that I had uploaded my entire collection of badly mended pothole photos off my camera only that day and so couldn’t spend the entire evening going through them with him in detail (I gather from some of the pleasantries he was fending off from passing locals that he gets plenty of full and frank feedback on the subject as it is). I suppose it says something about the area that the road on which the pothole mending high heidyin lives is as badly mended as any other. We wouldn’t want to play favourites, now would we?

In other news, the latest excitement is that Zumba classes are starting up in the village hall. ‘It burns 800 calories an hour,’ someone mentioned excitedly. Which, given that any and all village activities are punctuated by a compulsory tea break complete with home baking, means it probably works out as calorie neutral in the end.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just need to go and work out how many miles of cycling (or Zumba classes) I need to do to work off the huge mounds of haggis, neeps and tatties we were served last night…

Speaking of Minor Deities…

January 31, 2013

mended pothole

… it would appear we’ve had a visit from the tarmac fairy!

partly mended pothole

I’ve never seen this mysterious being at work so I suspect she may operate under cover of darkness.* This may explain her rather capricious approach to her job… after all why else would you mend one pothole and leave another one completely untouched?

one pothole mended one ignored

Or just put a blob of tarmac down in the middle of a pothole and leave the edges open?

partly mended pothole

Or perhaps tarmac is being rationed? The fresh tarmac is the blob in the top right hand corner. The rest is basically stream bed. If I’m going to come off my bike, this is the spot where it will happen, I always feel. Do Schwalbe make tyres that deal with that?


Heh. Well I can’t quite believe I not only went out and took all those photos of badly mended potholes (I’m on the community council now, so I’ve got an excuse to get obsessive about road repairs) but actually made you sit through a whole blog post about it (and not for the first time, either). For those of you still reading, here’s a bonus photograph to compensate


Cute – or delicious – depending on your point of view

*Cynics say that she is in fact a council bloke shovelling tarmac off the back of a lorry as it goes along – but these are the sort of people who deny that Santa Claus exists.

As the Waters Recede…

March 25, 2012

A new contender emerges for the worst pothole repair EVAH

No one is quite sure whether this is the council’s work, or if someone just got sick of breaking their axles and chucked a couple of bags of postcrete into the hole.

In fairness, it must be quite difficult to maintain a road that’s under water 99% of the time…

… and is mostly more hole than road.

We’ve now had more than a week of sunshine, albeit interspersed with morning mists. So far I have yet to hear anyone complain of the heat, or that their garden needs a bit of rain, but it can only be a matter of time.* As it is, I have taken the following screenshot:

I’m thinking of getting it bronzed for posterity. Truly, we may never see its like again.

* we already had the ‘enjoy it, it may turn out to be our summer’ remark though. Actually we had that in January

Unmistakable Signs…

March 13, 2012

… that spring is well underway:

ickle lambs …

… the first blossom …

… a flush of astoundingly badly mended potholes along the road …
… and, in a field gate beside their badly mended potholes, two council workers parked up in their council truck, all tuckered out from the year-end-spend roadmending frenzy, both sleeping like babies

(I considered taking a photo of that too, but as they were probably on their lunch break, I decided it was a little unfair)