Border Lines

From London to Berwick: Culture shock? Oh, yes!

Waste turns me into a Grumpy Old Woman

The Husband tells a story about his younger son being sent to wake up the older one. The lad came rushing back from his thankless errand, ‘Mum! Dad! My brother’s turned into a teenager. He told me to **** off and pulled the covers over his head!’ Well, I think I may have turned into a Grumpy Old Woman – except the covers are off!

Many things excise me these days and provoke a torrent of hurrumphing. My key topic at the moment is waste. And, I guess, in a month we’re told that between 30% and 50% of the world’s food is thrown away (in this country some 30% of veg crops are not even harvested because they don’t meet retailer standards), waste is topical.

High on my distaste at waste list are: Traffic information boards. That’s Variable Message Signs (VMS), not dot matrix as I first thought (or dominatrix as one Twitter follower thought when I canvassed for other’s views on the signs). There’s a VMS on the A1 by the border. It says things like, ‘Don’t Drink and Drive’ and, ‘Caution Low Temperatures Drive With Care’. Do such messages change anything? I doubt it. We know it is illegal to drink and drive. We know driving’s more dangerous when it’s icy. Some people use this knowledge for the good, some don’t. On motorways (slightly more useful) VMS inform of road closures and delays – but suggest no alternative routes. Cue a multi-car pile-up as umpteen motorists rifle through maps, or fiddle with SatNavs. On balance, I don’t think these signs work off the investment made in them. And they’re ugly.

Another gripe: The ‘resurfacing’ of the Co-op car park in Berwick with tarmac plugs. The car park now looks like a child’s toy where all the shapes have been put in the wrong holes. Inevitably it will have to be resurfaced again sooner rather than later. Why not do it properly first time?

Job done? Were these pot holes too small or just overlooked?

Job done? Were these pot holes too small or just overlooked?

How long will it be before all this must be redone? What a waste!

How long will it be before all this must be redone? What a waste!

I know certain pots of council revenue are allotted to certain things. In North London, where we used to live, the council was relentlessly re-doing pavements whether they needed doing or not. There was a sum of money, you see, for that job and only that job.

But why can’t we take all the VMS signage money, all the money saved by doing repairs properly first time and pour it into something useful, life-saving and life-enhancing like dualling the A1 between Berwick and Newcastle? That’s something pretty much everyone wants, isn’t it? Many people have been campaigning for it for years and years and years…

The A1 between Berwick and Newcastle is miserable and dangerous.

And, final rant: The council reducing Berwick car-parking fees by a miniscule amount whilst increasing yearly permits above the RPI. According to Northumberland Council website, Berwick has seven different parking tariffs in operation – second only to Hexham’s stonking 10. Everywhere else, including Alnwick, Corbridge and Morpeth, have one or two tariffs. Actually, the council’s website has conflicting information on tariffs – but, it seems that for 30 minutes in Morpeth you’ll pay 30p, in Berwick you can pay either 30p or 40p – although 50p is mentioned in one document, which is what you’ll pay at Wooler’s bus station. If they’re confused it’s hardly surprising that we are.

Now, when I was little and complained bitterly at the stench of muck-spreading, my grandma used to say, ‘It’s good for whooping cough. Stick your fingers in your ears and you won’t smell it.’

On the Northumberland Council website it says that parking tariffs have been set, ‘after listening to comments and observations made’ during consultations. Sometimes you can’t help feeling that the Council listens with its fingers stuck in its ears – and, to be honest, it leaves a bit of a nasty smell.

And they mean it…check the council website for more details.

Grumpy Old Woman outpouring over. Next month I shall return to my usual equable self. Unless anything gets my goat of course.

A version of this article appeared in The Berwick Advertiser on 7/02/2013

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